Worldwide, Spain ranks as the number two tourism destination. In the early 1950’s German, French and British tourists discovered the inexpensive and lovely beaches of Spain. The rest of Europe soon followed, along with Americans. Many opt for self-drive vacations, facilitated by excellent road infrastructure. The rail system is also well developed, though concentrated on Madrid. Independent travelers also take advantage of the paradores, government owned accommodations often situated in converted monasteries or castles.
- Spain is the second largest country of Western Europe, with only France being larger.
- The high plateau known as the Meseta is the predominant landform of the Iberian Peninsula, separated from the coast by the mountain ranges, or sierras.
- The vast land mass and the mountains on the interior created great cultural diversity over the centuries with regional languages such as Galician, Basque and Catalan along side the more standard Castilian Spanish.
- The great Pyrenees mountains in the north separate and, historically, isolated Spain from the rest of Europe.
- Only a narrow waterway separates Spain from Northern Africa and at one time all of Spain was dominated by Islamic culture.
- The long domination by Islam and the Moorish culture came to an end in 1492 and caused a deep resurgence of and devotion to Roman Catholicism.
- The great Catalonian city of Barcelona is home to avant-garde artists and fashion designers. The 1992 Summer Olympics were there are brought the city great reviews.
- The Valencia region is one of Spain’s most important agricultural areas.
- It is in the Andalucia region where the Moorish influence can be most readily observed in the picturesque architecture of the villages.
- The 1992 World Expo was held in Seville. Holy Week processions here are particularly well attended and travelers from all over Spain and Europe descend on the city.
- The Costa del Sol is that region extending from Gibraltar to Adra and is the focal point for much of the European package tourism. Protected by the Sierra Nevada mountain ranges this area receives generous and warm sunshine nearly year-round.
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