Spain, which occupies the southwestern corner of Europe, borders Portugal to the west and France to the north. It has an extensive Mediterranean coast and a large, mountainous interior of pine forests, rugged hills, and rushing rivers. Visitors can explore historic, beautiful cities—from Barcelona to Santiago de Compostela and Don Quixote country of Castilla-La Mancha—as well as vast plains planted with vineyards.
Spain returned to democracy in 1975 and is now the eurozone’s fourth-largest economy. Domestic political turmoil has intensified in recent years as the government has struggled to rein in the deficit while addressing popular discontent over corruption and economic policies. Its diversified economy includes manufacturing, financial services, pharmaceuticals, textiles and apparel, footwear, chemicals, and a burgeoning tourism industry.
In the east, Valencia is home to a spectacular UNESCO World Heritage Site: La Lonja de la Seda, which was once the center of the silk trade. Its Barrio del Carmen district is a great place to stroll and shop.
The Spanish capital, Madrid, offers many museums of interest. The Prado Museum—which features a massive collection of works from the 14th to 17th centuries—is one of the most-visited art galleries in all of Europe. The Mercado de San Miguel—a covered market that dates to 1916—is also a favorite stop for foodies, as it has numerous vendors serving traditional dishes and drinks from throughout the country.
Almost half of the nation’s land is used for agriculture, with livestock farming and forestry accounting for nearly 80% of the total agricultural area. The rest is devoted to irrigated crops and grazing, which provides habitat for a wide variety of animal species.
Environmental issues are a concern in Spain, where there are concerns about air and water pollution, soil erosion, and deforestation. The government promotes conservation through a system of protected areas, community-based environmental initiatives, and volunteer stewardship programs. Several organizations work to protect the wildlife and natural landscapes of the country, including Ecologists in Action (a network of 300 grassroots environmental groups), SEO, and Cambera Network.
The armed forces maintain internal security, with the Civil Guard and national police responsible for immigration and border controls. The government has mechanisms in place to identify and punish officials who commit human rights abuses or engage in corruption. Spain continues to seek the extradition from Belgium of rapper Valtonyc, who was convicted in 2018 for glorifying terrorism and insulting the monarchy. The Constitutional Court upheld the High Court’s conviction of the group La Insurgencia for glorification of terrorism, lese-majeste, and threats to a regional politician.