Bay of Santander

Coordinates: 43°28′N 3°48′W / 43.467°N 3.800°W / 43.467; -3.800

The Bay of Santander is both a comarca of Cantabria and the largest estuary on the North coast of Spain, with an extension of 22.42 km2 (9 km long and 5 km wide). Due to the influence of Santander and its metropolitan area,[2] nearly half of the population of the autonomous community of Cantabria is gathered around it,[3] which makes the anthropic pressure on this area of water quite notable.

Comarca de Santander.PNG
Country Spain
Autonomous community Cantabria
Province Cantabria
 • Total263.0 km2 (101.5 sq mi)
 • Total269,335
 • Density1,000/km2 (2,700/sq mi)
Time zoneUTC+1 (CET)
 • Summer (DST)UTC+2 (CEST)
Municipalities officially part of the comarca of the Bay of Santander are in red; those not part of the administrative comarca are in light red, but the natural one - they actually lie in the comarca of Trasmiera.

The entrance to the bay is lined by the Sardinero beaches, where the Isle of Mouro with its lighthouse can be found. The access to its interior is through a narrow channel of water between the Magdalena Peninsula, near to which are the Isle of the Tower and Horadada Island; and the sandbanks of the El Puntal, a long series of beaches and dunes that protect the tranquil inner waters of the bay.

The morphology of the bay has suffered important changes in the last centuries. It is estimated[citation needed] that more than 50% of the original extension has been filled up, drying up a large amount of marsh area for grasslands, to expand the Port of Santander, and to create new industrial and residential areas. At the moment, work is going on to recover the seaside ecosystem in some areas of high ecological value.


The municipalities within the administrative comarca are as follows, listed below with their areas and populations:

Name Area
Camargo 36.6 24,498 31,498 30,263
El Astillero 6.8 14,353 17,854 18,108
Miengo 24.5 3,629 4,664 4,713
Penagos 31.7 1,703 1,926 2,108
Piélagos 83.3 13,035 23,036 25,223
Santa Cruz
de Bezana
17.3 9,149 12,094 12,964
Santander 34.8 180,717 178,085 172,044
Villaescusa 28.0 3,323 3,735 3,912

Rivers and riasEdit

Several rivers empty into the Bay of Santander. The most important is the Ria de Solía, in the South. The Ria de San Salvador empties in the center of the Bay via the Ria de Astillero while in the East flow the Rias of Carmen and Raos; to the West is the Ria de Cubas, which is the mouth of the Miera River.


The Santander Bay is formed by a diapir generated during the alpinotype orogeny of the Tertiary period. Its materials are composed of clays and salts (specially Keuper's gypsums) that ascended taking advantage of the faults. This movement generated an increase of the fracturing and an important dragging of rocks from the outer layers. The weakness zone generated by the Keuper's clays made easier its erosion compared with other sandstone or limestone areas, which involved the advance of the sea and the formation of the bay.

Spectral image of the Santander bay taken by the NASA satellite LandSat.

Flora and faunaEdit


  1. ^ Estimate at 1 January 2018: Instituto Nacional de Estadística, Madrid.
  2. ^ Article from newspaper El Diario Montañés El área de la bahía estará integrada por nueve ayuntamientos según la Universidad de Cantabria
  3. ^ Article from newspaper El Diario Montañés El 50 por ciento de la población
  4. ^ Census at 1 November 2001: Instituto Nacional de Estadística, Madrid.
  5. ^ Census at 1 November 2011: Instituto Nacional de Estadística, Madrid.
  6. ^ Estimate at 1 January 2018: Instituto Nacional de Estadística, Madrid.

External linksEdit