Cabárceno Park: a Kenyan safari in northern Spain.

Sara Rodriguez Romo | Live the World

May 29, 2024

Welcome to the awesome Cabárceno Park, home of elephants, giraffes, lions and other 120 animal species from all over the planet! This gorgeous Natural Park is located in Cantabria, only 17 kilometres away from Santander and its great beaches. So, if you want to visit true Cantabrian nature, exotic animals in their habitat, and you do not necessarily want to go on a very expensive safari overseas… then this is your place! Come and meet Cabárceno Park: a Kenyan safari in northern Spain.

© iStock / nicholas_dale

Animals from five continents

Cabárceno Park is located on an ancient open-air iron mine, exploited since Roman times. For centuries, its iron flowed, and it was often used for the Spanish artillery. Then, in 1989, the mine stopped being profitable and it was closed. However, the Cantabrian government had already had a great idea: they decided to turn the place into a very special zoo. Therefore, they brought in over 120 animals from all continents and allowed them to be in this fantastic surface in semi freedom. At Cabárceno Park you will run into elephants, white rhinos, Bactrian camels, gorillas, cheetahs, jaguars... Many of them coexist in the same enclosure, except, of course, the predators with their favourite preys!

© iStock / Vicente Suarez Belloch

Obviously, they do not need to worry about survival, because the Park provides for them. However, the rest of their instincts are there: for instance, during the rutting season there will be fights for the control of the females.

© iStock / ados

Because these species are under control, scientists are able to study their behaviour, a fact sometimes impossible to watch in their natural environment. Also, at Cabárceno Park they can fight the extinction of some endangered animals like tigers, Somali wild ass, Rothschild giraffe, zebras, lynx and many, many kinds of really scary snakes. 

© iStock / Banu R

Nevertheless, for me the best is that you can visit all this and feel like in a Kenyan safari, except that you are in Cantabria! There are over 20 kilometres of roads that you can do by bus, by car or by bike -the park has electric bikes at your disposal. 

© iStock / Lydia Castro

Since 2016, there is also a cable car that allows you to browse around 70% of the park’s surface, only 15 metres above the animals. But even this close, I found it difficult to know what I was looking at. This is why I advise you to take this tour if you want to know exactly what animals you are seeing. Some are so rare! 

© iStock / Wirestock

Cabárceno, a Natural Park

After 2,000 years of extracting iron, the 750 hectares of open-cast iron looked like a desert. Consequently, the Cantabrian government decided to plant local species of trees and bushes and from 1990 this land also became a Natural Park, a huge botanical garden where you can find indigenous trees like yews, birches, acacias, alders… 

How to get there and where to stay

Being so close to Santander, you can get to Cabárceno Park by car in no time. Therefore, one option is to stay at Santander, near the beach and the city centre, for instance in this amazing hotel, an ancient palace close to all the touristic attractions. However, if you travel and work and need more quietness, you can choose the Peñas Blancas Hotel, with a desk in your room and surrounded by gorgeous nature. No matter your budget, you can find your ideal lodgement next to Cabárceno Park!

© iStock / nicholas_dale

I hope I have fulfilled every item on your checklist. If you ever watched a Discovery Channel documentary and wondered what it would be like in real life… here is your opportunity! When in Santander, do not miss Cabárceno Park: a Kenyan safari in northern Spain.

Book a nearby experience

Let our AI assistant help plan your trip

Create a personalized plan and share it with your friends

Never run out of things to do! Sign up to our newsletter today, what are you waiting for?

live the world logoMaking travel planning easy.
Supported bykbc logo
instagram logotiktok logo facebook logo pintrest logo