Location and Geography
Officially the Kingdom of Spain (in Spanish Reino de España), commonly known just as Spain, is a country in Southwestern Europe. Spain is located between the longitudes 19° W and 5°E, and latitudes 26° and 44°N.
Spain is bordered on the North by Bay of Biscay, on the Northeast by France and Andorra, on the East by Mediterranean Sea, on the South by Gibraltar (belongs to the UK) and Morocco, and on the West by Portugal and the Atlantic Ocean.
Spain is a member of NATO, European Union, Eurozone, United Nations, OECD and WTO. After France, it is the second biggest country in both the European Union and Western Europe.
The kingdom of Spain is divided into 17 autonomous communities (comunidades autónomas in Spanish) which have executive and legislative autonomy with their own parliaments and regional governments. The communities are Galicia, Asturias, Cantabria, Basque country, Navarre, La Rioja, Aragon, Catalonia, Valencia, Castile and León, Madrid, Castile-La Mancha, Extremadura, Andalusia, Murcia, Balearic Islands and Canary Islands. There are two autonomous cities that belong to Spain, Ceuta and Melilla in the North African coast.
Spain includes the Canary Islands (Tenerife, Gran Canaria, Lanzarote, Fuerteventura, La Palma, La Gomera, El Hierro, la Graciosa, Alegranza, Montaña Clara, Roque del Este, Roque del Oeste, Isla de Lobos) in the Atlantic Ocean, the Balearic Islands (Mallorca, Menorca, Ibiza, Formentera) in the Mediterranean Sea and Plazas de soberanía which are the uninhabited islands in the Mediterranean side of the Straight of Gibraltar (Alhucemas, Alborrán, Chafarine, Isla Perejil). A small exclave town of Llívia surrounded by France in the Pyrenees is a Spanish territory as well.
Spain is the 51st largest country in the world. It is a mountainous country. The main mountain ranges are: the Pyrenees in the North, Cordillera Cantábrica, Sistema Ibérico, Sistema Central, Montes de Toledo, Sierra Morena and Sistema Penibético (with 3,478 m high mount Mulhacén – the highest Spanish mainland peek).
The highest peek is Pico de Teide (3,718 m) in Tenerife, Canary Islands. Teide is the world’s third largest volcano and it’s still active. The major rivers are the Tagus, the Ebro, the Duero, the Guadalquivir and the Guadiana.
Official language – Spanish/Castilian (with recognized regional languages of Basque, Catalan/Valencian, Galician and Occitan)
Capital – Madrid
Anthem – Royal March (Marcha Real in Spanish)
Area – 504,030 square kilometres
Currency – Euro
Religion – Roman Catholic
Time Zone – UTC +1, in Summer UTC+2 (Canary Islands Time Zone is UTC 0 and in Summer UTC+1)
Drives on the right
Calling code +34
Internet TLD .es
The biggest city is the capital Madrid.
The second biggest city is Barcelona in Catalonia. Then Valencia, Seville, Zaragoza, Málaga, Murcia, Palma de Mallorca, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria and Bilbao.
The largest metropolitan areas are those of Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia and Seville.
Climate and nature
There are three main climatic zones in Spain. The dominant climatic zone is the Mediterranean climate with dry and warm summers. Then the semiarid climate in the Southeast of Spain, especially in the Ebro valley and Murcia where it’s dry not only at summer time. The oceanic climate in the North of the country (so called Green Spain, i.e. Galicia, Cantabria, Asturias and Basque country) is influenced by the Ocean, so it is colder and with a higher precipitation.
The Pyrenees and Sierra Nevada are characterized by the alpine climate, while the Canary Islands by the subtropical climate with nice warm weather throughout the year.
1,226 square kilometres out of the whole Spanish area of 504,030 are National Parks. They are Tablas de Daimiel, Doñana, Ordesa, Covadonga, Aigües Tortes and Lago de Sant Maurici, Cañadas del Teide, Timanfya, Cabañeros, Caldera de Taburiente, Garajonay, Sierra Nevada, Picos de Europa, Islas Atlánticas de Galicia, Monfragüe and Maritimo-Terrestre of Cabrera Archipelago in the Balearic Islands which is the largest non-populated island in the Mediterranean.
Spanish cuisine is famous all over the world. Especially some dishes. The cuisine is influenced by the Mediterranean area, seafood is part of many meals, then prevail meat, vegetable and olive oil. The well-known are Spanish tapas which are small portions of food served with the drinks.
The most famous dishes even among the tourists are: paella, patatas bravas, jamón serrano, tortilla de patatas, cocido, gazpacho, churros, flan, turrón, Cabral cheese, Manchego cheese. Alcoholic drinks, such as wine sangría and sidra (cider), and horchata (sweet non-alcoholic drink of almonds or tigernuts) are one of the most served.
The same as in many countries, in Spain the cuisine varies with the regions. We can speak about three main types of cuisine: Atlantic one in the North (cod, anchovy, octopus a feira, marmitako, dry ham lacón), Inner cuisine (Manchego cheese, cocido madrileño, Castilian soup) and the Mediterranean cuisine (seafood, pescaíto frito, paella, cold soups, arroz negro, chicharrones).
The Spaniards eat more times per day, usually five times. Merienda is the fourth meal of the day followed by dinner which is always very late, around 10 – 11pm.
Since 1970’s, the Spanish tourism has growth so much it became the second biggest (after France) in the world in 2007. More than 60 million tourists came to Spain in 2007. In 2010 Spain with 53 million tourists was the forth most visited country in the world after France, USA and China. Tourism is now one of the main national industries in Spain due to the geography, climate, history and culture of this beautiful country.
- beaches, e.g. Barcelona, Costa Brava (Lloret de Mar, Blanes), Costa Dorada (Salou, Sitges) and Costa del Maresme in Catalonia (Mataró, Pineda de Mar, Arenys de Mar), Costa de Valencia, Costa Blanca (Alicante, Benidorm), Costa del Sol in Andalusía (Marbella, Torremolinos, Nerja, Málaga), Costa Verde (Gijón, Santander)
- cities, e.g. Madrid, Toledo, Bilbao, Pamplona, Zaragoza, Granada, Valencia, Jerez, Nerja, Mijas, Cuenca, Elche, Santiago de Compostela, Santander, Sevilla, Jaén, Cádiz, Segovia, Almería, Tarragona, Lleida, Pontevedra, Palma de Mallorca, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria
- islands, e.g. Mallorca, Menorca, Ibiza (for fun, parties), Tenerife, Lanzarote, Gran Canaria, Fuerteventura (beautiful white sandy beaches)
- architecture, e.g. taking one of the Alhambra tours you will explore the famous fortified palace in Granada, la Sagrada Familia cathedral in Barcelona (and all the other buildings designed by Gaudí), walls of Ronda, Grand Mosque in Córdoba, cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, Science museum of Valencia, Guggenheim museum in Bilbao, Royal Palace in Madrid, Cathedral in Burgos, Ávila city walls, Loarre castle in Huesca, La Giralda of Seville cathedral, Roman theatre in Badajoz
Spain is visited by millions of different tourists every year which means there are plenty of things to do. Some of them are the following:
- swimming at the beach
- sailing, yachting
- jet ski
- visit aquariums (e.g. in Barcelona, Valencia)
- visit a local market (e.g. La Boqueria in Barcelona)
- take an active holiday in Tenerife
- play golf in Costa del Sol or around Alicante
- running with the bulls (in Pamplona)
- watching bullfights (e.g. in Madrid, Andalusía)
- watch the best football in Europe (Barcelona, Madrid)
- island hopping (Canary Islands, Balearic Islands)
- watching of dolphins (in Canary Islands)
- visit the museum and art galleries
- hiking and trekking
- observe fauna and flora in the national parks
- skiing in Sierra Nevada
- enjoy siesta after lunch
- be a part of typical Spanish fiesta
- learn Spanish
- watch and learn flamenco
- eat tapas
- skydiving (e.g. in Gran Canaria)
- visit theme parks