Spain is a big country, filled with history, culture, and stunning nature. Its cities are historic and beautiful, and its countryside is vast, empty, and full of awe-inducing natural beauty. From the running of the bulls in Pamplona to Gaudi’s as yet unfinished Sagrada Familia, from Moorish architecture to flamenco dancing, and the white villages of Andalucia to the mountains of Navarra and the wine regions of Rioja and Ribera de Duero, there is much to see and do.

The country’s many diverse climate zones, along with its coastline, create a huge variety of different landscapes and experiences. The Mediterranean coast is sunny and warm, while the Atlantic side of the country is drier and cooler. The interior is a patchwork of historic towns, sweeping vineyards and plains, and mountainous landscapes with rushing rivers and streams.

The Spanish government is dedicated to preserving the country’s extraordinary cultural heritage, both traditional and modern, through a series of laws and initiatives. In addition, the country is home to some of Europe’s most important science and technology centers. It also participates in a number of international peacekeeping operations, and is the third largest contributor of troops to the NATO-led coalition to defeat ISIS.

From the end of the 14th century until well into the 17th, the Spanish monarchy was one of the world’s most powerful empires. It controlled a huge swath of the planet, from the Americas to Africa, and accumulated immense wealth. Poignantly windswept Roman ruins, cathedrals of rare power, and incomparable jewels of Islamic architecture speak of this rich legacy.

A few days in Spain is a great way to sample the country’s rich culture. In Madrid, visit the Royal Palace of Madrid (Palacio Real), where several kings lived, and the Almudena Cathedral. The city is also home to two of the world’s best museums, the Prado and the Reina Sofia.

If you’re in Catalonia, take a cava winery tour to learn about how this Spanish version of sparkling wine is made, and then check out the Picasso Museum and the Miro Museum. You can also take a train to Figueres, where Salvador Dali was born, to explore his intriguing Theater Museum and the other artworks in this charming city.

Spain doesn’t tip like most other European countries, but you’ll likely be surprised at how generous Spanish restaurants can be when it comes to food and drinks. In many bars, you’ll get a free appetizer or tapas with your drink. Ask for a cana of beer on tap to drink like a local, and make sure you try some of the country’s most popular dishes, including paella, jamon iberico, and tortilla espanola.

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