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Spain, officially the Kingdom of Spain, is a sovereign state located on the Iberian Peninsula in southwestern Europe, with two large archipelagoes, the Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean Sea and the Canary Islands off the North African Atlantic coast, two cities, Ceuta and Melilla, in the North African mainland and several small islands in the Alboran Sea near the Moroccan coast. The country's mainland is bordered to the south and east by the Mediterranean Sea except for a small land boundary with Gibraltar; to the north and northeast by France, Andorra, and the Bay of Biscay; and to the west and northwest by Portugal and the Atlantic Ocean.
It is the only European country to have a border with an African country (Morocco)and its African territory accounts for nearly 5% of its population, mostly in the Canary Islands but also in Ceuta and Melilla.
With an area of 505,990 km2 (195,360 sq mi), Spain is the largest country in Southern Europe, the second largest country in Western Europe and the European Union, and the fourth largest country in the European continent. By population, Spain is the sixth largest in Europe and the fifth in the European Union. Spain's capital and largest city is Madrid; other major urban areas include Barcelona, Valencia, Seville, Bilbao and Málaga.
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From its famous Mediterranean beaches to the buzzing streets of Madrid and Barcelona, Spain is a country devoted to living the good life. Bordered by the Pyrenees at the north with beautiful mountain views in summers and adventurous skiing in winter; by beautiful cliffs on the Atlantic in the Northwest, and by charming creeks on the Mediterranean sea. Spain is the world’s third most-visited country, and therefore attracts a lot of pickpockets and other scammers, especially around its main cities.
Barcelona, the country’s second-largest city, is a cosmopolitan urban center known for its throbbing youthful energy and stellar architecture. Very modern yet incredibly old, the city manages to preserve and celebrate its ancient elements, while showcasing new developments at the same time. With an extensive and reliable public transportation system, even places to visit that are relatively far from the historic section are easily accessible. There are also numerous opportunities for leisurely sightseeing on foot or by bicycle. Barcelona’s award-winning restaurants, trendy bars, and swanky clubs pack in both the long-time residents and passing tourists, who relish the relaxed atmosphere ideal for soaking up local culture.
Madrid is known for its cultural and artistic heritage, lively nightlife, and a dynamic culinary scene. Though the capital city lacks the architectural reputation of Barcelona, there are plenty of historic buildings here to fill your itinerary with. The city’s numerous medieval mansions, royal palaces, and Gothic churches provide a picture-perfect backdrop for everyday life as you holiday in this modern metropolis. Madrid’s world-class chefs create dishes that skillfully blend traditional Spanish cooking with ingredients brought from around the world. There’s something for every palate and budget here, from the famous tapas to gourmet delicacies hard to find anywhere else in the world.
A city of rich Moorish heritage, Seville is the cultural and financial center of southern Spain, and the site of numerous festivals throughout the year. Modern truly meets ancient here, and it’s not unusual to find the trendiest bars and swankiest nightclubs in the most medieval of settings. Narrow winding streets and hidden squares are lined with contemporary shops, award-winning restaurants, and innovative art galleries. Stunning architecture blends materials and elements from styles as varied as Gothic, Islamic, and Baroque. Flamenco and bullfighting traditions are still a big deal, but it’s the people, fun-loving and friendly, that may be the city’s biggest attraction.
Granada boasts numerous well-preserved examples of exquisite Moorish architecture, not the least of which is the Alhambra, an ancient citadel and royal palace. Though its historical buildings attract the most tourism, Granada is much more than just an ancient city center. Home to one of the country’s biggest universities, Granada has a population of about 80,000 students, spread over five sprawling city campuses. Its outlying districts are known for their youthful energy, innovative bars, and hip flamenco clubs. Also offering exciting skiing and hiking opportunities in the nearby Sierra Nevada, there’s no shortage of things to do. This hill city is a welcome break from the rest of Andalucía’s summer heat.
Toledo is a World Heritage Site that embodies the complex cultural history of Spain while remaining a forward-moving, modern city. The city is known as the City of Three Cultures for its blending of Islam, Jewish, and Christian influences. With its close proximity to the nation’s capital and dramatic hilltop location surrounded by the Tagus River, the city draws travelers year-round. The walled city’s winding, narrow streets, its dozens of towering structures, and its famed sword-making industry all add to Toledo’s medieval charm.
Modern, cosmopolitan, and very trendy, the Canary Islands are a major center for European tourism. With a total population of about two million, these seven diverse islands are as distinct from each other as they are from the mainland of Spain. The first settlers arrived from North Africa, building an economic system loosely based around farming. Invaded by Europeans in the 14th century, the islands gradually developed a more European feel, but with a mixed population of ethnicities rarely found anywhere else in the world. While agriculture is still alive and well here, the tropical beaches and vibrant nightlife tend to top any vacation itinerary.
The Balearic Islands
The Balearic Islands offer both varied landscapes and a temperate climate ideal for long trips to the beach. On Mallorca, the biggest member of this island family in the Mediterranean Sea, that means everything from mountain scenery attractive to hikers and cyclists to beaches featuring traditional seaside resorts. Ibiza is Europe’s favorite party island, drawing thousands of young visitors with its vibrant club scene and nighttime raves. For a quieter itinerary, Menorca is a haven of serenity, featuring secluded beaches and secret bays. Quaint Formentara highlights the simple charms of island life, like sharing a sunset meal of roasted fish with friendly locals.
Three main climatic zones can be separated, according to geographical situation and orthographic conditions:
The Mediterranean climate, characterized by warm/hot and dry summers, is dominant in the peninsula. It has two varieties: Csa and Csb according to the Köppen climate classification. The Csa zone is associated to areas with hot summers. It is predominant in the Mediterranean and Southern Atlantic coast and inland throughout Andalusia, Extremadura and much, if not most, of the center of the country. The Csa zone covers climatic zones with both relatively warm and cold winters which are considered extremely different to each other at a local level, reason for which Köppen classification is often eschewed within Spain. Local climatic maps generally divide the Mediterranean zone (which covers most of the country) between warm-winter and cold-winter zones, rather than according to summer temperatures.
The Csb zone has warm rather than hot summers, and extends to additional cool-winter areas not typically associated with a Mediterranean climate, such as much of central and northern-central of Spain (e.g. western Castile–León, northeastern Castilla-La Mancha and northern Madrid) and into much rainier areas (notably Galicia). Note areas with relatively high rainfall such as Galicia are not considered Mediterranean under local classifications, but classed as oceanic.
The semi-arid climate (BSk, BSh), is predominant in the southeastern quarter of the country, but is also widespread in other areas of Spain. It covers most of the Region of Murcia, southern Valencia and eastern Andalusia, where true hot desert climates also exist. Further to the north, it is predominant in the upper and mid reaches of the Ebro valley, which crosses southern Navarre, central Aragon and western Catalonia. It also is found in Madrid, Extremadura, Castilla-La Mancha, and some locations of western Andalusia. The dry season extends beyond the summer and average temperature depends on altitude and latitude.
The oceanic climate (Cfb), located in the northern quarter of the country, especially in the Atlantic region (Basque Country, Cantabria, Asturias, and partly Galicia and Castile–León). Additionally it is also found in northern Navarre, in most highlands areas along the Iberian System and in the Pyrenean valleys, where a humid subtropical variant (Cfa) also occurs. Winter and summer temperatures are influenced by the ocean, and have no seasonal drought.
Apart from these main types, other sub-types can be found, like the alpine and continental climates (Dfc, Dfb / Dsc, Dsb) in the Pyrenees as well as parts of the Cantabrian Range, the Central System, Sierra Nevada and the Iberian System, and a typical desert climate (BWk, BWh) in the zone of Almería, Murcia and eastern Canary Islands. Low-lying areas of the Canary Islands average above 18.0 °C (64.4 °F) during their coldest month, thus having a tropical climate.
Traveling in Spain is generally safe: it is ranked 17th out of 162 on the safest and most dangerous countries ranking. Most travelers will never face any kind of serious threat or danger, but petty theft is a serious problem in urban areas and many have lost their passport, cash or credit cards to pickpockets and bag snatcher.
There are many scams in Madrid and Barcelona’s touristic places, with small groups of thieves working together to distract you in order to steal you wallet. Some of these distractions include making you sign a fake petition, asking you directions on a map, and even throwing a white liquid looking like pigeon poo on your clothes before starting to clean it off (while emptying your pockets). There are also reports of old ladies offering free flowers for “good luck”, while their accomplices pick your pockets. If you travel by car, never leave any valuable in it – especially if it is a rental car : thieves occasionally operate on parking areas.
Beaches are also common targets for thieves: never leave any valuable unattended when you go swimming. Be especially vigilant for bag and phone thieves at transport hubs like train stations, airports, restaurants, outdoor cafes, beaches and on public transport. Protect your personal belongings at all times, especially your ID and passport. Petty crime, like bag snatching and pick pocketing, is a serious problem around touristic areas and on public transport.
For any emergency, call the free European-wide number 112.
OVERALL RISK : LOW
Spain is a very safe country. It is ranked 17th out of 162 on the ranking of the safest and most dangerous countries.
PICKPOCKETS RISK : HIGH
As a top tourist destination, pickpocketing is the major risk for tourists in Spain. A few simple precautions will minimize your chances of being pickpocketed.
MUGGING RISK : LOW
Spain is a safe country regarding mugging and kidnapping risks, although some areas are best to be avoided at night.
SCAMS RISK : HIGH
There are a lot of scammers and con-artists trying to take advantage of tourists, particularly in large cities and around major landmarks in Spain. Be aware of “gold ring” tricks, fake petitions, groups of teenagers acting strangely or trying to distract you; and people offering help with your luggage.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : LOW
Transports and taxis are generally very safe in Spain.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : LOW
There is very little risk regarding natural disasters in Spain, other than avalanches which can be a significant threat when skiing in the Pyrenees.
TERRORISM RISK : MEDIUM
Spain has not recently been targeted by terrorist attacks, but it is best to stay alert since other countries in Europe have been targeted.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : LOW
Spain is generally very safe for women travelers.