The region of Liébana is a perfectly defined highland territory, including impressive mountain ranges in some areas. It is irrigated by the river Deva and its two main tributaries, the Quiviesa and the Buyón.
It is a closed territory which can only be accessed, from the north, through the Hermida gorge. This is, along a scenic road which follows the river Deva and runs parallel to it, boxed by rugged and almost vertical limestone walls, some of them more than 600 m high.
This is a region of a surprising climatic variety, where a properly Mediterranean micro-climate contrasts with the rigours of the alpine meteorology in the highest areas.
A natural reserve where some autochthonous tree species still remain like: evergreen and cork oaks, Pyrenean oaks and beech trees, which form intricate and beautiful woods in which a few protected species survive, like the brown bear, the road deer or the cappercaille.
|SITUATION AND ACCES||
The district of Liébana is located on the SW of Cantabria, limiting with León, Palencia and, Asturias, with an approximate extension of 550 km2. The high summits mark and define its geographical situation, since its locked in a circle of around 35 kilometres diameter.
On the north, the Picos de Europa massif, declared National Park, with the peacks of Santa Ana (2,.596 m) and the Tesorero (2,570 m); on the west, Peña Remoña (2,247 m) and the Coriscao (2,234 m); on the south, the highland passes of Pineda (1,738 m); San Glorio pass (1,609 m), Sierras Albas (1,306 m) and Piedras Luengas pass (1,373 m); and, finally, on the east, Peña Sagra (2,042 m) and Taruey pass, conform the main heights.
Liébana is located inside this knot of mountains, defined by their municipalities: Camaleño and Cillorigo, crossed by the Deva river; Vega de Liébana or Cereceda, where the waters of the Quiviesa river flow through; Pesaguero and Cabezón de Liébana, crossed by the Bullón river, and, in the center, the village of Potes.
To Liébana you can arrive by means of three important communication roads; the San Glorio pass (1,609 m), from León; the Piedras Luengas pass (1,313 m), from Palencia, and following the coast, through Unquera and Panes, crossing the impressive gorge of La Hermida.
Three rivers, the Deva, the Quiviesa and the Bullón, with their corresponding tributaries, are the most important ones crossing the different district valleys. The Deva sprouts in Fuente Dé, passing by the municipality of Camaleño, the village of Potes; where it receives the waters of the Quiviesa river, and entering the municipality of Cillorigo. Through the town of Ojedo, receives the waters from the Bullón river, then crossing the Hermida gorge, until it joins the Cares river, where trout and salmon fishing reserves stand out.
The Bullón river, with its source in Peña Labra, descends through the municipalities of Pesaguero and Cabezón de Liébana until it joins the Deva in Ojedo. Finally, the Quiviesa river, born in San Glorio´s pass, flows down through the municipality of Vega de Liébana and joins the Deva river in the village of Potes.
In the geological aspect, mountain limestone stands out in the over slate and sandstone; with a great and important landscape value. Liébana, geology wise, is mainly constituted by Paleozoic rocks (Primary Era); but without any doubt, the Carboniferous rocks are predominant. From the early Carboniferous, limestones make up the Central and Eastern Massif of Picos de Europa as well as the northern area of the district, and from the late Carboniferous are the slates and sandstones in the centre of the region.
Limiting with Palencia the slate and sandstone appear, belonging these to the Silurian, Devonian and Carboniferous periods and are, without doubt, the eldest rocky formations in Cantabria. The red brownish sandstones from the Triassic, and the compact conglomerates from the Carboniferous are in the north-eastern area of the region. Also, one can contemplate a series of material deposits of glacial and fluvial origin, mainly in Fuente Dé, Aliva, Peña Vieja and the Hermida gorge.
|CLIMATE, VEGETATION AND FAUNA||
The situation of Liébana´s region, surrounded by huge heights, gives it to have a very special microclimate, meeting here a dry and sunny "island" amid the Atlantic mountains. The summer is luminous and dry, refreshed by the NE winds; the winter is soft, without important abrupt temperature falls; dominating the NE winds during the summer time, and the NW winds during the autumn and winter. South winds also appear in the region, although in a more sporadic way.
During the months from November to January frosts are usual, although under this conditions there is less snow. Finally we should make special mention to the autumnal season, with dry weather and soft temperatures, and when nature in the region acquires a very special beauty, which shows mainly in its wood colours, with a variety of worthy to mention tones.
The vegetation here is very peculiar, characterised by the presence of typically mediterranean species, like the holm cork oaks, mingled with Atlantic type forests, like beech and oak woods. Holm oak, together with ilex, have an important presence in the low areas of the region; the pyrinean oak (tocio) or (rebollar), is also very extended. This is a resistant tree to ice and late snowfalls, located preferably on the sunny slopes, from 400 to 1,300 meters. The wider leafed durmast oak (Quercus petraea) is located in the valleys or soft and shady hillsides, where it can be found from 500 to 1,400 meters; although mainly between 600 and 900 meters.
Beech woods are the most numerous in Liébana, located on shady hillsides from 600 to even 1,700 meters. Birch is found in small groves, in the top limit of some beech woods and the chestnut tree shows up in mixed forests or as isolated and centenarian individuals; cork oaks or (sufras) are generally located on sun exposed hillsides, from 400 to 800 meters.
Liébana also presents a wide variety of vegetation. Yew trees, alders, hollies, hazels, black poplar, ashes, etc., are some of the many species we can find. Finally, between 1,600 and 2,000 meters altitude, are the highland pastures, surrounded by the high peaks and, where livestock feeds during the summer months.
The region has a rich and important variety of fauna, standing out some species in danger of extinction like the brown bear, cappercaille, golden eagle and the sporadic presence of wolf individuals. Roe deer, red deer and, the Chamoi in the peacks, are also very abundant, the same as wild boar, which is hunted in a regulated way in all the different valleys. In the rivers, the trout, the eel and the salmon, are very appreciated species.
Cattle raising is the main source of revenue the people in Liébana live on, being the brown-alpine cow the most numerous race. Within the autochthonous races the cow called (tudanca) stands out, very appreciated by the cattlemen of the region. The sheep and goat livestock are fundamental raw materials for the elaboration of the famous cheeses with origin designation.
Liébana´s underground is very rich and there has been an important succession of mining exploitations, mainly in Picos de Europa, highlighted by the presence of the caramel blende (zinc sulfurate), and some locations of calamine (zinc carbonate) and galena (lead sulfurate). The last exploitation was the mine of Aliva, closed up some years ago.
The surface area in Liébana is 57,483 hectares, distributed the following way: working lands, 566 hectares; grasslands, 12,294 hectares; forest land, 37,768 hectares; barren, 253 hectares; unproductive, 5,929 hectares and, other surfaces, 673 hectares.
Tourism has experienced a spectacular growth. Taking advantage of the area´s magnificent nature, multiple outdoor activities are practised, which are getting more and more popular among arriving visitors every day. Horse-riding routes, with adapted to the terrain horses; mountain bike, to ride through villages and paths; quads, or four-wheel motorbikes; trekking; four-wheel-drive vehicle routes; canyon descent; climbing or simply valley contemplation from a paraglider, are some of the most attractive activities for people who want to enjoy total contact with nature in an exceptional region.
|PRODUCTS AND GASTRONOMY||
Liébana; because of its microclimate singularity, has been a region where, even not many years ago, wheat was cultivated, as well as barley and rye. Some vineyards are still conserved, mainly in the valley of Bedoya (Cillorigo), verified in one of the district's documents from the IX century. Potatoes, chickpeas, green beans, lettuces, tomatoes, onions, garlic, peppers, etc., together with a great variety of fruit trees, like apple, cherry, pear, peach, hazel, plum, walnut trees, etc., offer the visitor the possibility of acquiring the most diverse and good quality products in Liébana.
The artisan cold meat selection is excellent: "chorizos" (spicy sausages), pork loin, black and local black pudding, bacon, etc., as well as other exquisite meats, since livestock is bred in green and rich pasture lands.
The region is also a cheese paradise, with two of them having the spanish origin designation: "Picón Bejes-Tresviso" and "Quesucos de Liébana". The "Picón Bejes-Tresviso" is elaborated with mixed cow, goat and sheep´s milk. It is a fatty cheese, with a cylindrical shape and flat faces, soft and with a thin grey bark, with yellow-greenish parts. Inside it is made of a compact spreadable paste with holes, white but with blue-greenish coloured veins, which determine an exquisite and slightly spicy flavour. Matured in natural limestone caves between 500 and 2,000 meters altitude, where the "penicillium" develops, gives this cheese an incomparable flavour.
The "Quesucos de Liébana" are also smaller cheeses with a mixture of different milks, using cow, sheep and goat´s, which can also come smoked or without kippering. They have a cylindrical or discoidal shape, are quite fatty, and have a firm and compact paste. When the "quesuco" is kippered it acquires a colour, scent and characteristic flavour.
The "orujo" from Liébana is another of the very popular products. Since 1985 is elaborated in fixed stills and appropriate facilities, continuing with the same handmade process which has been transmitted through generations. A glass of "orujo" is always appreciated after a meal and its nice scent and palate can be tasted so much in the natural "orujo" as in its several liquors: honey, tea, herbs, fruits, etc. We shouldn´t conclude this sentence without mentioning the "tostadillo", sweet and liquorish wine, elaborated by selecting the best grapes of the crop, is magnificent to accompany desserts or sweets.
Traditional cooking in Liébana is of extremely good quality, due to the fact that its raw materials are of unquestionable prestige. Full of flavour meats, exquisite to visitors; vegetables from the market gardens; trout and salmon from the rivers; legumes from the land; seasonal mushrooms; delicious lebaniego stew; home-made desserts, elaborated through generations; a variety of superior quality cheeses, and the mountain tea with "orujo", make the arriving visitor enjoy traditional cooking with first quality products. Traditional cooking is always present at the great variety of hostelry establishments distributed through the different municipalities in the district of Liébana.
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