Barcena Mayor

View of Bárcena Mayor

Barcena Mayor

Located in the Cantabrian municipality of Los Tojos, Bárcena Mayor is the only inhabited town of the wonderful Saja-Besaya natural park. It is almost five hundred meters high and has 84 inhabitants. Like other towns in Cantabria such as Santillana del Mar, seems anchored in time, with its mountain-style houses and cobbled streets.

The whole town is Historical-Artistic Set since 1979 and, if you want to know what life was like in rural Cantabria many decades ago, we recommend that you visit it. Without forgetting, in addition, to try the culinary delights of the local gastronomy. We are going to propose a complete tour of the mountain town.

How to arrive

This beautiful town is located about seventy-five kilometers from Santander. To get there from anywhere in the north, you must take the road to Cabezón de la Sal. Other nearby and no less beautiful towns are Santillana del Mar, Comillas and San Vicente de la Barquera.

What to see in Bárcena Mayor

As we said, the first thing that will catch your attention in this beautiful town is its housing, which respond to the architectural style of the mountain field. They are stone buildings with wooden balconies and cantilevers that start from the dividing walls. In turn, these stand out to form the sunny spot where the corn was kept.

They are houses with one or two floors that are distributed in narrow cobbled streets that seem to transport you back in time. In fact, it is said to be the oldest town in Cantabria.

Houses of Bárcena Mayor

Houses of Bárcena Mayor

However, today it is conditioned for tourism so you will find in it everything you need to enjoy a pleasant stay. There's a car park, restaurants and accommodation. And also several artisan shops who carry out and sell works in wood and wicker, mainly useful for cooking and agriculture.

You should also visit the church of Santa Maria, built in the seventeenth century although its precious baroque altarpiece is from a century later. And also, the hermitage consecrated to the Virgen del Carmen, which is on the outskirts, going towards the mountain.

What to do in the Cantabrian town

The mountain town is also a great starting point for you to do hiking trails through the Saja Besaya natural park. Specifically, there are four tours that will show you the wonders of mountain nature.

The best known and most traveled is the one that goes to Alto de la Cruz de Fuentes and go through the Well of Arbencia. This port is located at an altitude of 1270 meters and from it you will be able to appreciate extraordinary landscapes of the Campoo area. It is a grassland area for cattle that is integrated into the Place of Community Interest of the Valles Altos del Nansa, Saja and Campoo. In addition, if you like ornithology, you should also know that it is a Special Bird Protection Area.

As for the well of Arbencia, it does not detract from the beauty of the previous port. It is a natural pool with a waterfall that is shaped like a horsetail and is surrounded by oak and beech forests. You can even see a large yew tree that is signposted along the route. Next to the pool, the Hormigas and Fuentes rivers meet. The walking route from Bárcena Mayor to it is approximately seventeen kilometers long and has a height difference of 280 meters. To travel it you will invest about four hours between the round trip.

More difficulty requires you route to the high Birches, which is 1400 meters high. It starts from Bárcena Mayor and follows the course of the Argonza river and then begins the ascent through a beech forest and continues through brañas and pastures until reaching the top. From here, on clear days, you can even see the sea and also mountains belonging to other provinces. The journey lasts about seven hours with a drop of 1000 meters through forest tracks and trails.

Image of the Saja-Besaya natural park

Saja-Besaya natural park

What is the weather like in Bárcena Mayor

The entire area of ​​the Cabuérniga valley has a Oceanic climate. Winters are cold, although the mountainous barriers in the area soften temperatures, which rarely drop below five degrees Celsius. On the other hand, summers are pleasant, with average temperatures of around twenty degrees. Regarding rainfall, they are abundant and occur throughout the year. In any case, it is quite a pleasant climate for the north of Spain.

What to eat in the area

The mountain gastronomy is forceful and delicious. A diet rich in calories and fat was necessary to be able to face hard work in the fields with energy. And that tradition has remained to this day.
A dish that you must try in Bárcena Mayor is the Mountain stew, a stew that has collards, white beans and compango. The latter is made up of chorizo, blood sausage and bacon. As for example with fabada, it is eaten together on a plate.

Another common food is red beef tudanca, which is native to Cantabria. You can also try a wild boar or venison stew. And, as for desserts, the Santander mountain has a wide range of cheese both sheep and cow. Among them, the one made by Gomber stands out, with a creamy texture and which has obtained several international recognitions.

Reinosa calf photo


Regarding the confectionery, it is also very rich in the area. Typical of all Cantabria are sobaos and cheesy pasiegas; the frisuelos and the canon; the palucos and the calf or cottage cheese. Very famous are also the chamarugas picayas, which have sugar, puff pastry and almonds.

And, to wash the food, you can drink wine from the designation of origin Land of Liebana, white or red. Finally, to make a good digestion, you can drink a little of the pomace from the area, handcrafted.

In conclusion, Bárcena Mayor is a wonderful town that deserves your visit. You will see a precious typical mountain town, you will be able to do excellent mountain routes and you will enjoy an exquisite gastronomy. We recommend that you visit it, you will not regret it.

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