Lush nature and relief, a landscape with a strong personality.
Natural and man-made scenes work together in this valley as nowhere else: always green grasses, surrounded by walls and cottages. The forest juts out between properties and steep slopes, which could not be converted into pastures. On sunny days, seeing the light glaring through the green tapestry of these grounds and turning it into a velvety scene is a true spectacle.
Human settlement in Pas Valley has been going on for more than 120.000 years. Back in the Lower Palaeolithic, “Cueva del Castillo” (Castle Cave) must have been an ideal location, because of its high placement at the Pas Valley exit, where the flow of wildlife towards high pastures was steady.
The caves “Cuevas de Las Monedas y las Chimeneas”, in Puente Viesgo, considered as “shrines”, are also to be highlighted.
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Puente Viesgo may be the reference point from which start learning about Pas Valley. From here, visits can be done to Fuentes Pila palace, from 17th – 18th centuries, or the “Iglesia de San Miguel” (Church of Saint Michael), of a neo-Romanesque style.
Towards the South, there is the “Monasterio Franciscano” (Franciscan monastery) and, in Villasevil, a good example of 12th century Romanesque can be seen: the Church of Santa Cecilia. In Corvera de Toranzo is located the Casa Solariega of Díez Villegas (a manor house), in Acereda there is the parish Church of Asunción, from the 17th c. Further on, we can find Vejorís, town of Spanish Golden Century writer Francisco de Quevedo, with the Renaissance Church of Santo Tomás.
This area is ideal for fishing, thanks to the abundace of trouts in Pas river and of salmon pits in Vargas and Puente Viesgo. Hunting is another option, and many businesses offer horse-riding promenades, trekking, canoeing, etc.
For hiking lovers, the valley has unlimited possibilities. Some of the routes are:
- Castillo Pedroso – Bostronizo (16 Km)
- Castillo Pedroso – Cohiños
- Quintana de Toranzo – La Molina (9 Km)
- Quintana de Toranzo – La Virgen de Gracia
- Castillo Pedroso – Corrales
- Castillo Pedroso – Castañeda
- Castillo Pedroso – Barriopalacio
- Castillo Pedroso – La Serna
- Castillo Pedroso – Helguera
- Castillo Pedroso – Silió (16 Km)
- Castillo Pedroso – Yuso
- Castillo Pedroso – Entrambasmestas
- Walk through Toranzo Valley
Other routes are:
- Climb to La Capía Peak from Las Presillas
- Climb to Castillo Peak from Puente Viesgo
- Paseo Verde (Green Walk) from Puente Viesgo to Soto
- Campo las Cercas, La Collá y La Cuera from Alto de Hijas
- La Turba y la Cuera from Molina
- Aés to Hijas through El Cerrao
- Poyuelo Peak and Millajo Camplé from Aés.
- Humilladeros route, in Las Presillas, with most of its stone constructions dating from 18th century.
Although the main economic activity in Pas Valley is livestock farming, the benefit from milk products and other natural elements has allowed the development of small to medium transformation businesses (cheese, “sobaos”…).
Rural tourism and thermal activity, a bathing tradition that dates from long ago, are the second economic focus. Waters from Puente Viesgo, coming from two different springs, have been exploited for their therapeutical characteristics since 19th century. At first, most treated illnesses where those of rheumatoid aspects, followed by digestive, nervous or gynaecological unbalances. It isn’t until the end of 19th c, that the spa started treating heart diseases.
The primitive bath house was a simple building, with scarce installations and council-owned. In 1867, after a town-favourable ruling, it became privately owned, was reformed and began its upsurging until becoming one of the region’s most prestigious bath houses.
Thermal use of Ontaneda waters dates back to Roman ages. Coins have appeared with coats of arms from Nero, Tiberius, Constantin and Vespasian, which show that back in 1st century a.D. Romans and Cantabrians already knew about thermal properties of these waters.
The first bath house, a three-stores building and a lodging one, was built next to the high waters in 1833. Conversely, Alceda spa, was built in 1842 and explanded in 1859 with a spa and a big hotel. In one of its lower rooms, there is an engraved text that says: “This spa of Alceda of sulphurous thermal water hydrogen sulphide nitrated, is the mightiest and richest in thermality and minerality of those existing in Europe; it casts more than 3.640.240 liters per day and its steady and proven heat is of 26.87ºC (80ºF)”
Nowadays, Alceda spa keeps an important flow of activity and offers a variety of services and spa treatments. Old Ontaneda spa, however, finished its activity a few decades ago, although the primitive building is still conserved.
The “muda” is the most identifying cultural aspect of Pas culture. During summer, inhabitants take their living stock to mid-mountain pastures, until the cold forces them to go back down to the valley. When there is no more green grass in a property, the farmer grabs his animals, his things, and moves to another property, in which there always is a cottage.
Aside from farming, pasiegos had other professions, such as mason, blacksmith, carpenter or forger. The singularity of livestock culture continues alive through work-tools such as the “cuévano”, a big basket made of braided hazelnut tree rods that was back-carried and used to move grass and firewood.
The most culturally rooted and popular fervent festivities are:
- In Vargas, “San Sebastián la Fiesta de La Perola” is celebrated with great cultural interest (Jan 20th)
- In Puente Viesgo, there is San Miguel Arcángel, with a great recreational and festive offer (Sept 29th)
- In Las Presillas, people celebrate San Lorenzo with a traditional Livestock Pulling Contest (Aug 10th)
- In Villasevil, San Agustín is celebrated with a Livestock Competition and Exposition (Aug 28th)
- In Vega de Pas, there is the festivity of Nuestra Señora de la Vega (Sept 8th)
Pas Valley history goes back around 120,000 years, to Inferior Palaeolithic. First inhabitants of these valleys settled in the cave of “Castillo de Puente Viesgo”. For this period, the inhabitant was, like in the rest of Europe, the Neanderthal man, who lived out of hunting and harvesting. This cave must have been then the ideal location, in an elevated spot at the exit of Pas Valley, where fauna movement towards high pastures was a constant.
Somewhere between 90,000 and 35,000 years ago, cave occupation became the norm and new settlements appeared, like those of La Flecha. Hunting became more selective towards animals like deers, horses and big bovids, tools were diversified and improved, and figurative representations of Palaeolithic art began to appear. Neanderthals and Sapiens Sapiens are believed to have lived together for around 3,000 and 5,000 years.
20,000 years ago from now, and as a result of big glacier formations, an important marine regression took place, moving the coast line seven kilometers further north than today. During this stage, aside from living settlements, others considered as “sanctuaries” have been found, to which access was only for cave painting. This is the case of Las Monedas and las Chimeneas caves, in Puente Viesgo.
Men living in these caves continued a survival livestyle, based on hunting, fishing and colecting molluscs and vegetables. But, undoubtedly, the most striking aspect of these cultural compounds are artistic manifestations.There are five caves in the Pisueña – Pas – Miera county with parietal representations, the four in Puente Viesgo: El Castillo, La Pasiega, Las Monedas and Las Chimeneas, plus one in Miera, the cave of Salitre.
In daily life objects, most hunted animals were carved, like deers, horses, bisons and goats. Cave paints, painted in red and black or stone carved with lithic tools, were believed to have a magic-religious component.
Aproximatedly 13,000 or 10,000 years ago, there was a progressive warming that made disappear glaciers in the mountain chain, simultaneously transforming the different ecosystems. Resource use became equilibrated and intensive, and human group movility reduced. At this stage, Castillo caves in Pas Valley are still occupied, although former cave painting is left behind.
Pas Valley offers an energetic and full of contrast relief, a lush nature, a landscape with strong personality, a varied and rich cultural and ethnographic heritage, and countless excursionist possibilities.
Its biggest characteristic is the way in which natural and man-made sceneries merge: always green grasses splattered with walls and cottages, the forest filling in between properties and hills. On sunny days, seeing the light glaring through the green tapestry of these grounds and turning it into a velvety scene is a true spectacle.
Oak and beech trees form forests of certain personality in medium and high valley areas. Oak groves of Marroquín, Andaruz, Aldano, Troja, El Ronquillo, Ballabantes and Cabaña and beech forests of Andaruz, La Lastra and Las Garmas are to be pointed out.
Puente Viesgo is the first reference when accessing Pas Valley from the Cantabric sea. Aside from striking cave paintings in Castillo caves, other activities are visiting Palace of Fuentes Pila, of a “montañés” style, or Church of Saint Michael, of neo-Romanesque aesthetic.
Going towards Soto Iruz, there stands the Franciscan Monastery, ancient pilgrims hospital, with a strange octogonal tower from the 16th century. Villasevil has a good example of Romanesque temple from 12th c., the Church of Santa Cecilia; in Corvera de Toranzo is located Manor House of Díez Villegas, declared as a cultural interest good in 1992. In Acereda we find the parish Church of Asunción, from 17th c. Further on the way, there is Vejorís town (where Francisco de Quevedo was born) with Renaissance Church of Santo Tomás, whose unvaluable altarpiece made in Limoges with enamel can now be found at the Diocesan Museum of Santander.
In Alceda town-centre, Cultural Interest Good, there are palaces and manors of “montañesa” architecture from 12th c., like Palace of Rueda Bustamente or Manor and Tower of Ceballos. The Man and Country Museum in San Vicente de Toranzo, offers a big range of tools related to farm life and traditional craftsmanship of the countryside.
Vega de Pas and San Pedro del Romeral, developed from the second half of 17th century, are a leisure and services reference for pas comunity and its visitants, who will here find a diversity of restaurants. The extention of intensive use pastures from the 16th century and generalisation of cottages are identity traits of both municipalities.
The Pas cottage is the most relevant of heritage values in the region, a building adapted to living needs and cattle shelter. In the Ethnographic Museum of Pas Villas a traditional cottage and exposition offering a broad perspective of the physical and cultural Pas worlds can be visited.
Pas cottages stand out due to their simplicity and funcionality, with stone walls and a slate gable roof. The ground floor is divided in cattle spaces with mangers paralel to the walls, a central corridor and a wedge to evacuate manure. The first floor is dedicated to dry grass storage. The “vividoras” are bigger. Fitted with more spans, a fireplace, a clear partitioning in the higher floor, with a cooking area, modest rooms divided by wooden planks and, most often than not, a closed balcony made of chestnut wood.