Following the valleys of the Asón and Gándara (Soba) rivers round the Sierra de Hornijo with an optional jaunt up to the border with Burgos at Portillo de la Sia this route is a dream for the touring cyclist or a great day out in the car.
The two rivers start with 2km of each other, go their separate ways and join up again at Ramales de la Victoria. This is rural Cantabria at its purest so there’s very little traffic indeed but the road itself is excellent. The western side, the Asón valley, is glacial and forms the eastern limit of the Collados de Asón nature park; the river Asón has its source in the valley wall, forming a spectacular waterfall when there’s sufficient water on the high ground. The eastern side, the valley of Soba, is more typically Cantabrian but offers beautiful highland scenery almost entirely dedicated to cattle farming, dotted with small hamlets with a very traditional, unspoilt feel.
Should you feel inclined the 8km climb up the Portillo de la Sía is well worth the trip with some lovely stone ‘brañas’ in the high pastures and a nice view from the top into Las Merindades in the province of Burgos – if you make it by bike you’ll have crowned one Cantabria’s classic mountain passes, a regular feature in the Vuelta de España!
Practicalities: For lunch or refreshments try Bar Rufaco in La Gándara or Hotel Casa de la Puente in Regules. For lunch the camping at Ramales comes highly recommended (take the road out to Arredondo and turn in on the left under the wooden sign into the riverside park, carry on left through the park and the camping is on the right at the end). For picnics try the park mentioned near Ramales or the area next to the visitors centre in La Gandara.