- Region: Cantabria
- Local towns and villages: Bárcena Mayor, Arenas de Iguña, Cabuérniga, Cieza, Hermandad de Campoo de Suso, Ruente and Los Tojos
- Declared a Natural Park: 1988
- Park surface area: 23,932 hectares.
Points of interest
The Saja-Besaya Natural Park is located in an area between the hydrographic basins of the Saja and Besaya rivers extending from Monte Río los Vados in the extreme north to the Fuentes-Palombera and Sierra del Cordel (Campoo) mountains in the south. The largest protected area in Cantabria, the entire park is also integrated into the Saja National Hunting Reserve .
The only urban area located within the natural park boundaries is Bárcena Mayor, an ancient town and a superb example of mountain architecture.
The geography of the Saja-Besaya natural park is characterized by deep valleys that have been excavated by the abundant rivers and streams tributaries of the Saja and Besaya. The diversity of its ecosystems is determined by the contrasting altitudes ranging from around 200 meters to the higher peaks of Cueto Iján (2,084 m) and Cueto Cordel (2,061 m).
Find a hotel close to the Saja-Besaya Natural Park
The main attraction of Saja-Besaya is its deciduous forest, the largest contiguous forest of the entire Cantabrian mountain range.
A quarter of the park is covered by beech (Fagus sylvatica) and oak groves. The oak area of more than 6,000 ha. harbors three types, the most abundant is the common oak (Quercus robur) but also Quercus pyrenaica and Quercus petraea.
The forest is characterized by a diversity of trees and associated shrubs such as chestnuts, ash, maples, hazelnuts, honeysuckle, and varied flowering and herbaceous plants. With increasing altitude between 700 and 1,500 m the beech appears under which few species are able to thrive apart from the eye-catching anemone (Erythronium) and some orchid species.
Above 1,300 m. of altitude the holly trees (Ilex aquifolium) and birches (Betula pendula) take over.
The extension of the park is classified in several zones of uses: recreational, forestry, agricultural use, reserve and pasture. Tudanco cattle stand out in the areas where livestock is used. This is a breed of cow closely linked to the history and tradition of the area.
This protected area has a great wealth of fauna and flora. Among the numerous species, the wild boar, otter, Iberian wolf, golden eagle and roe deer stand out .
In the southern part of the park the Cantabrian brown bear is present.
Over 150 bird species have been recorded in the area including, golden eagle, eagle owl, griffon vulture and peregrine falcon.
Day trips and excursions from nearby Santander
The Saja-Besaya Natural Park has a visitor center and six recreational areas:
- La casa del Monte – (Ucieda)
- Llano Castrillo – (Bárcena Mayor)
- Cambillas – (Saja)
- Cieza – (Cieza)
- El Prauco – (Los Llares)
- El Vaho – (Los Llares)
There is also the view point La Cardosa which is located on the CA-280 in direction of the mountain pass of Palombera, 4 km from the top at an altitude of 1000 meters.
Centro de Interpretacion del Parque Natural Saja Besaya, Los Tojos
The Interpretation Center of the Saja-Besaya Natural Park is located immediately to the south of the town of Saja at PK 13 of the regional road CA-280 (Cabezón de la Sal-Reinosa), at the beginning of the ascent to the mountain pass of Palombera.
The spacious facilities have a projection room and a generous exhibition space in the old forest house and the old warehouse now houses a permanent photography exhibition on the ecological and landscape values of the Natural Park. The staff are well informed and can give you good information on hiking in the area and other activities.
- January to March from Wednesday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and weekends and holidays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
- April to June: Wednesday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and weekends and holidays from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
- July and August: Monday to Sunday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
- September: Tuesday to Sunday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
- October and November: Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and weekends and holidays from 10am to 6pm.
- December: Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
- Closed on 01/01, 06/01, 24/12 and 31/12
Website: https://redcantabrarural.com/ (In Spanish)
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