Route “Diecisiete” through an unknown Cantabria

If the film “Diecisiete” (2019) shows us anything, it is that Cantabria is infinite because it has much more than you can imagine. This film by Daniel Sánchez Arévalo presents us with a road movie in which a troubled young man who is coming of age reconciles with the world, while searching for a dog called Oveja, accompanied by his older brother and his grandmother.

Héctor is a 17-year-old boy who has been in a juvenile detention centre for two years and who participates in a reinsertion therapy with dogs. The day Oveja is adopted, Héctor begins a journey towards maturity in which he will travel through a Cantabria that you may not yet know. Those who dare to follow in the footsteps of the van in which the protagonists travel, will discover a destination that goes beyond the major tourist attractions to enjoy the cliffs, beaches, culture, traditions and gastronomy in a different way. Who could resist such a proposal?

Film cliffs

Cantabria Film Commission designed an itinerary of locations that provide the perfect context for this intimate story, produced by Atípica Films and currently available on Netflix. Without these specific locations where the action takes place, the result would probably not have been the same. This is what the director tells us in the video describing the itinerary, which can be seen on the website that features the route. 

Moving from east to west, the first stop we suggest is Arnuero, and the first thing we suggest is that you savour the pleasure of good food in Cantabria. Although the protagonists only pass through during the petrol station refuelling scene, this municipality and its surroundings have enough attractions to make you want to spend much more time there. It is made up of four towns: the capital of the same name, Castillo, Isla and Soano. You may be familiar with Isla peppers, but what you can’t miss on your table are its excellent fish and seafood, with Isla lobster and lobster from the nearby natural nurseries being the main exponents of a gastronomic culture with a long tradition.

Now that you are in this area and to digest this first feast, we suggest you visit the Transmiera Nature Reserve or visit such unique places as the Ajo Lighthouse. The former is an open-air museum, which includes everything from the beaches of Isla and its historic quarter to the cliffs. The Joyel Marshes, Mount Cincho, the Quejo and Castellano estuaries. All of them constitute an exceptional natural landscape that is suitably completed with the Ecopark’s interpretation centres, its activities and its routes.

Beach of San Martín, in Trasmiera / CANTUR

As for the Ajo lighthouse, you should know that it was the last lighthouse to be designed and built in Cantabria. In fact, its construction was planned for 1907, although it was not completed until 1930. The reason? The electrification of the Cabo Mayor lighthouse halted the process in 1914 as it was no longer considered necessary, but three shipwrecks in the following years meant that it was resumed in 1921. But apart from its history, the most striking thing about this lighthouse is its appearance since, in August 2020, the Cantabrian artist Okuda San Miguel was in charge of remodelling its façade and decorating it in his own style. The result is spectacular.

The next stop on our proposal for screen tourism is Langre, whose beach is known as one of the most beautiful in Cantabria. In this town in Ribamontán al Mar, the protagonists take their last swim, and it is here that you can embark on a spectacular route along the cliffs that lead to Loredo. And if we continue along the coast, from there we can pass by the tranquil viewpoint, with views of the island of Santa Marina, and then continue on to Somo. This town near the Cantabrian capital is, in addition to being a reference point for surfing enthusiasts, known as the “Town of Ceramics”, since several craft workshops have been set up in this area, where excellent pieces are made.

View of Langre beach / CANTUR

Jumping to the other side of the Bay of Santander is the animal shelter where Oveja, the canine scene-stealer of the story, comes from. Specifically, it is located in San Román, one of the most rural neighbourhoods of the capital. Together with Cueto, Monte and Peñacastillo, they constitute a treasure away from the city and are endowed with a special charm. In Monte, we recommend a visit to La Maruca, one of the places in the municipality with the most seafaring atmosphere, where you can see small boats moored in the small estuary of San Pedro del Mar and enjoy some of the delicacies prepared in its seafaring taverns. 

Our last coastal stop will take us to the cliffs of El Bolao, in Cóbreces (Alfoz de Lloredo). This location is undoubtedly home to one of the most emotional moments in the film, when Héctor definitively connects with his brother. This place, where the roar of the waves mixes with the scent of saltpetre, is one of the most beautiful spots in Cantabria and has been the setting for numerous commercials and filming. Moreover, despite its privileged tourist location between Santillana del Mar and Comillas, this little village still exudes the calm of a rural setting, where we recommend you try the delicious cheese made by the monks of its Cistercian abbey

Towards an inner landscape

Just as Héctor goes on an emotional journey in which he grows as a person, on the Diecisiete route we take a look at some of those villages that increase your connection with the destination. Cantabria is a well-known refuge for holidaymakers in search of idyllic beaches, but now we take you inland to the region of Saja Nansa, whose main quality is precisely its ability to bring together landscapes ranging from the sea to the high mountains.  

On the way to the old people’s home in Carrejo, where the grandmother of the protagonists lives, there is an obligatory stop beforehand. When you reach the municipality of Cabezón de la Sal, you will come to the redwood forest. Be sure to visit this resource, declared a Natural Monument in 2003. You can go on your own, but we recommend you contact Naturea Cantabria, which organises free guided tours. A more recent curiosity located on this route is the first Cinema Forest, a project that was presented at the last Goya Gala and which aims to become a tool for the audiovisual industry to develop its activity in a responsible way, contributing to the compensation of the carbon footprint of filming and sustainability. The first plantation of indigenous trees, which has served to offset the impact of the great Spanish film festival, is in Udías and in the future will be a tourist attraction that can be visited.

The redwood forest in autumn / CANTUR

The next stop we suggest is Carrejo, one of the villages that form part of Cabezón de la Sal, a municipality that combines deep-rooted customs such as the Tudanco Olympics, a festival of Regional Tourist Interest based on the Tudanca cow (a breed native to this region), with a thriving commercial life. The latter gives rise to businesses such as a honey shop, several second-hand shops, wine shops, textile handicraft shops, etc. 

If you are a nature lover, from Carrejo to the next point on the Diecisiete route, Carmona, we suggest a couple of unforgettable stops. One is Monte Aa (Ruente), a mature oak forest dominated by cajigas, ideal for hiking. Next, you will pass the Carmona Viewpoint, which offers spectacular views over the valley where the town of the same name is located.

Carmona from the viewpoint / CANTUR

Finally, when you arrive in the village, you will have the sensation of landing in a place almost painted in the mountains, whose streets and mansions transport you to another era. Declared a Historic-Artistic Site, it is also the ideal place to enjoy the local gastronomy and try a good plate of cocido montañés (mountain stew). Here you will find a restaurant (El Puente) where you have to give advance notice, not only to find a table, but also so that they can prepare this wonderful stew with a good cooking time and the right amount for the expected number of diners. Moreover, its owner, Aparicio, is a magnificent craftsman, a well of traditional wisdom and one of the last albarqueros in the area. Meeting him is the privilege of talking to one of the few wooden shoemakers who have continued to make authentic works of art to dress the feet of those who worked in the fields. Thanks to the albarcas, farmers and stockbreeders were protected from damp, cold and mud. Nowadays, they are a legacy.

We are in the final stretch of this trip through this other Cantabria and that is why we would like to recommend a couple of complementary stops to the famous El Soplao Cave, which is about 20 minutes from Carmona. El Soplao is considered one of the great international geological wonders and its name refers to a mining term that refers to the air that is perceived when entering a gallery from another with less oxygen. But 10 minutes away by car there are other caves, those of Chufín, which were declared a World Heritage Site by Unesco and contain cave art 18,000 years old. To close this section of the route we have another essential recommendation. This is the Cades Forge, one of the few forges that can be visited in Spain where the machinery is set in motion during the guided tour. Not to be missed!

Viewpoint of the Cueva del Soplao / CANTUR

We reach the end of our journey, moving on to a point that is the beginning and end of the film. This is the Juvenile Centre in the Viérnoles neighbourhood of Torrelavega. In this case we leave the rural world and approach one of the most important urban centres in Cantabria (and not just because Antonio Resines is from there). Don’t be fooled by the industrial past of this town and visit its wine area, distributed in different points along the old quarter, but especially in the vicinity of the Plaza Roja. And if you want to leave with the best taste in your mouth before returning home, be sure to try the polkas, a typical Torrelavega sweet made from puff pastry dough and covered with a thin layer of icing sugar.

The Cantabria that you still don’t know is waiting for you. Do you dare to live your own Diecisiete route?

By Ana Alonso

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