Spain is a storied country of stone castles, snowcapped mountains, vast monuments and sophisticated cities. It is the fourth largest economy in Europe and returned to democracy in 1975. It has a wide-ranging industry including oil, natural gas, automotive, food, pharmaceuticals and textiles, but tourism is its main driver.
In the heartland lies a broad central plateau half a mile above sea level, traditionally given over to ranching and grain production. This landscape gave rise to the legend of Don Quixote, whose tilting at tall windmills can still be seen in many places. The mountains of the Pyrenees dominate the northeast, while the Baetic Cordillera runs parallel to the coast in the southeast. Inland, rivers like the Ebro and Guadalquivir cut through hilly plains.
The inland Mediterranean and Atlantic coastal waters are rich in fish and shellfish. They support a diverse marine ecosystem, with species such as red mullet, tuna, mackerel, octopus and bluefin tuna. In the southeast, where Atlantic and Mediterranean waters mix (the Alboran Sea), there is an even greater diversity of species. Striped dolphin and long-finned whale inhabit the waters around southeastern Spain, while demersal species include hake and whiting.
Some of the world’s finest wines come from Spain. Limestone, the omnipresent sun and skilled labor have fueled a number of prolific wine-producing regions such as Duero Valdepenas, Rioja and Navarra. White Galician wines resemble those of Alsace, while the arid mountainous terrain of Navarra produces its own distinct style.
Away from the tourist centers, many of Spain’s villages and towns retain their traditional architecture and culture. Cadaques, the beautiful Mediterranean port town where surrealist painter Salvador Dali built his house, is a fine example. Inland, the hilly, forested region of Extremadura is a haven for nature lovers with its hiking and horseback riding, as well as its exquisite gastronomy.
Travel within the country is relatively easy, thanks to efficient train and bus services. In addition, car-sharing services like BlaBlaCar are popular and a cost-effective way to get around the country’s urban and regional hubs.