Spain is the cultural center of Europe and the third most popular tourist destination in the world; furthermore it is home to an ever growing eclectic mix of expatriates from around the globe.
Those who choose to visit or relocate to Spain are drawn by the country's charm, beauty and passionate people: this rough guide to Spain will give you an introduction to this fascinating, rich and diverse country.
The Environment and Climate
Mainland Spain is located in South Western Europe. It makes up about 80% of the Iberian Peninsula which it shares with Portugal and Gibraltar.
The Pyrenees form the north-eastern edge of the Peninsula, and the Peninsula is bordered by the Mediterranean Sea on the south and east, and by the Atlantic Ocean on the north and west. Mainland Spain also borders Andorra and France.
Mainland Spain enjoys a beautiful Mediterranean climate with hot summers and with the winters being divided into relatively cold in the interior, temperate on the coast and fair on the islands that make up the Kingdom of Spain.
Further Spanish territories and tourist hotspots are the Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean Sea: the main islands making up the Balearics are Majorca, Minorca, Ibiza and Formentera – and the Canary Islands in the Atlantic Sea: the seven islands making up the Canaries are Gran Canaria , Tenerife, Lanzarote, La Palma, La Gomera, El Hierro and Fuertaventura.
The Kingdom of Spain also consists of two cities in North Africa called Ceuta and Melilla.
Spain's Historical Background
Spain was once the most powerful nation in Europe and derived most of its wealth at the time from its colonization of the Americas which began with the arrival of Christopher Columbus in the Americas in 1492.
After that time Spain suffered a long history of wars, revolts and conflicts which were responsible for a steady decline in the country's wealth, status and position.
In 1939 General Franco was able to take over as dictator of Spain. He ruled a politically and economically exhausted Spain until his death in 1975.
During the 1960s and 1970s Spain thankfully began to regain its economic strength through industry and tourism.
When Franco died in 1975 Prince Juan Carlos became the king of Spain and the Head of State. He instigated important political changes and turned Spain from an authoritarian regime into a democracy and from a weakened European state into one of the most politically and economically strong countries in Europe today.
Spain today is economically and politically stable and divided into 17 regions which function as a Federation of Autonomous Communities. Each region is geographically and culturally different and even different in personality. For example, you can visit the southern Spanish region of Andalusia and bask on beautiful beaches in the 3000 hours of sunshine the region enjoys a year, or you could travel north to Asturias where some of Spain's most interesting popular customs come from and where magnificent mountains dominate the landscape and the climate.
You can ski in Spain, and sunbathe in Spain, you can mountain climb and dive, surf and snorkel, you can enjoy flamenco, bull fighting, tapas and wine, you can relax or party for a week, bask in the cultural center of Europe or just bask on a sun drenched beach – whatever kind of experience you're after Spain offers it all!