Spain is a storied country of stone castles, snowcapped mountains, vast monuments and sophisticated cities. Its landscape is as varied as its culture. To the north are the flat lands of Castile and the rain-swept sand dunes of Andalusia. In the south lie irrigated citrus orchards and the fertile valley of the Guadalquivir River, celebrated in the poems of Federico Garcia Lorca and Antonio Machado. Beyond the arid plains and sand dunes are snowcapped mountains of the Sierra Nevada, a natural extension of the Sahara, familiar to Americans from their appearance in Western movies.
Spain’s rich legacy of exploration and colonisation has made it one of the world’s most diverse countries, both geographically and culturally. Since the expulsion of the Moors in 1492, a succession of Castilian, Aragonese, Habsburg and Bourbon rulers claimed huge territories around the globe.
The country’s capital, Madrid, is a sophisticated and culturally vibrant city, home to the magnificent Royal Palace of Madrid, the sprawling art museum El Prado, the iconic Sagrada Familia and the stunning opera house El Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia. The city is a hub of science and technology and is also a major centre for contemporary Spanish art, with many important museums and galleries located here.
In recent years, Spain has consolidated its position as one of the most developed European economies, with high levels of GDP and employment, low inflation and substantial current account surpluses. The economy depends heavily on services and manufacturing, particularly electronics and automobiles.
A modern transport network connects all parts of the country, with railways and roads linking the main cities. The major airports are located in Madrid, Barcelona and Seville. The national carrier, Iberia Airlines, and its low-cost subsidiary Vueling regularly offer domestic flights with competitive fares.
Bus travel is the preferred mode of transport among locals. The bus service is relatively efficient and affordable, especially if you book your tickets in advance. Several companies operate the service, and a range of amenities such as wifi on board, reclining seats and on-board refreshments make the trip comfortable. The most popular routes tend to fill up early, so booking your ticket in advance is recommended.
Car-sharing is a popular and environmentally friendly way to explore the country, with the most popular app being BlaBla Car. The service allows you to post your trip details and set your price, and you can search for ride-sharing partners to share the cost of gas and mileage.
The Sagrada Familia is one of the most recognizable landmarks in Spain and a must-visit on any ten-day itinerary. Arrive early to avoid the crowds and ensure you have enough time to appreciate the intricate detailing on every surface of this fascinating structure. It is recommended that you take a guide to learn more about its origins and history.