If you come from the east, take the first motorway exit to Laredo and follow the signs to the town centre. When descending, take a break, park your car and walk over to the balustrade. From there you have a perfect overview to the area. To the right the old town centre of Laredo leans to the steep flanks of the hill. The town dates back to roman times and has gather the status of “villa” (city) in the middle ages but most buildings in the old town are from the 16th century, with the church Santa María de la Asunción the most prominent building.
The old town also marks the beginning of a large stretch of beach bending for about 5 kilometres called "La Salvé". That beach is the eastern end of a large promontory that cuts off the vast wetlands of the “Ria de Treto” (mouth of the river Treto) from the open ocean. That Ria cuts deep into the coastal hills / mountains. The resulting landscape is stunning, mountains in the back, rolling hills to the west, a prominent hill with steep cliffs marking the river mouth, a mountainous coastline to the east and in the middle off all this the marshes of the Ria.
But nature is not untouched here. In fact, human impact is clearly visible from that viewpoint up the hill. East of the old town centre of Laredo begins the modern part with an almost brutal change of architecture. From here on it´s all large blocks square and even, a seventies futurist city planners dream. Could be a town in the ex GDR or Soviet Union or the Banlieus of Paris too. Very socialistic style. These blocks stretch along the whole promontory and all along the beach and they build a heavy contrast to the stunning nature. Like at so many places in Cantabria, the whole town is built in the “humans conquer nature” attitude of the seventies of the past century.
Once down on the peninsula, things look even stranger. At least during the off-season that part of the town is deserted, the buildings have a strong patina and when driving along the straight streets through the regular blocks you stumble upon a sort of park, which is even stranger. Heroic, again very socialist and – for modern taste - very large sculptures are spread throughout this area. It is a bit as if you fall through a wormhole in the space – time continuum and land in let´s say Dresden of 1971. But the reason for the existence of this strange town is the reason to visit it at all: the beach. As said before, it stretches for about 5 kilometres, starting at the harbour at the old town centre, bending for about 90 degrees and running almost straight until it reaches the river mouth in front of that rocky hill north of the river. It is a fine sandy beach with a promenade running along it and with showers at almost every entrance through the dunes. And this beach gets its share of waves.
The beach faces west and the rocky headland to the north gives it some protection from westerly swells. But do your maths and think about a winter gale with westerly winds and a large north-westerly swell and you get the reason to visit this place. Can be very nice for surfing and has potential for good windsurfing and kiteboarding sessions too.
More photos in the galleries (Oct. 2014, Oct. 2015, Feb. 2018, the town)
the Cantabria part of the Odyssey story
Chapter 3 from the Golden October story.