Spain , officially the Kingdom of Spain (Spanish: Reino de España), is a sovereign state largely located on the Iberian Peninsula in southwestern Europe, with two large archipelagos, the Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean Sea and the Canary Islands off the North African Atlantic coast, two cities Ceuta and Melilla in the North African mainland and several small islands in the Alboran Sea near the Moroccan coast. Its mainland is bordered to the south and east by the Mediterranean Sea except for a small land boundary with Gibraltar; to the north and northeast by France, Andorra, and the Bay of Biscay; and to the west and northwest by Portugal and the Atlantic Ocean. It is the only European country to have a border with an African country (Morocco) and its African territory accounts for nearly 5% of its population, mostly in the Canary Islands but also in Ceuta and Melilla. Along with France and Morocco, it is one of only three countries to have both Atlantic and Mediterranean coastlines.
With an area of 505,990 km2 (195,360 sq mi), Spain is the largest country in Southern Europe, the second largest country in Western Europe and the European Union, and the fourth largest country in the European continent. By population, Spain is the sixth largest in Europe and the fifth in the European Union, after Italy. Spain's capital and largest city is Madrid, other major urban areas include Barcelona, Valencia, Seville, Bilbao and Málaga.
Modern humans first arrived in the Iberian Peninsula around 35,000 years ago. Iberiancultures along with ancient Phoenician, Greekand Carthaginian settlements developed on the peninsula until it came under Roman rule around 200 BCE, after which the region was named Hispania, based on the earlier Phoenician name Span or Spania. In the Middle Ages, the area was conquered by Germanic tribes and later by the Moors. Spain emerged as a unified country in the 15th century, following the marriage of the Catholic Monarchs and the completion of the centuries-long reconquest, or Reconquista, of the peninsula from the Moors in 1492. In the early modern period, Spain became one of history's first global colonial empires, leaving a vast cultural and linguistic legacy that includes over 500 million Spanish speakers, making Spanish the world's second most spoken first language, after Chinese and before English.
Spain is a democracy organised in the form of a parliamentary government under a constitutional monarchy. It is a middle power and a developed country with the world's fourteenth largest economy by nominal GDP and sixteenth largestby purchasing power parity. It is a member of the United Nations (UN), the European Union (EU), the Council of Europe (CoE), the Organization of Ibero-American States (OEI), the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development(OECD), the World Trade Organization (WTO) and many other international organisations.
With great beaches, mountains, campsites, ski resorts, superb weather, varied and fun nightlife, many cultural regions and historic cities, it is no wonder that Spain is the most popular tourist destination in Europe for any kind of trip. A country of large geographic and cultural diversity, Spain may come as a surprise to those who only know of its reputation for great beach holidays and almost endless sunshine. There is everything from lush meadows and snowy mountains to huge marshes and deserts in the south east. While summer is the peak season, those who wish to avoid the crowds should consider visiting in the winter as not only is it normally mild and sunny, attractions such as the Alhambra Palace in Granada and La Gran Mezquita in Cordoba will not be overcrowded. However the ski resorts of Sierra Nevada do get very crowded. The Mediterranean climate that predominates in Southern and Central Spain is noted for its dry summers and (somewhat) wet(ter) winters, so visiting in the winter or spring brings the added benefit of the vegetation looking much more healthy. Northern Spain (e.g. Asturia) on the other hand gets quite a bit of rain year round and is ripe with lush green vegetation even in August.
At 505,992 km2 (195,365 sq mi), Spain is the world's fifty-second largest country and Europe's fourth largest country. It is some 47,000 km2 (18,000 sq mi) smaller than France and 81,000 km2 (31,000 sq mi) larger than the US state of California. Mount Teide (Tenerife) is the highest mountain peak in Spain and is the third largest volcano in the world from its base.
Spain lies between latitudes 26° and 44° N, and longitudes 19° W and 5° E.
On the west, Spain is bordered by Portugal; on the south, it is bordered by Gibraltar (a British overseas territory) and Morocco, through its exclaves in North Africa (Ceuta and Melilla, and the peninsula of Vélez de la Gomera). On the northeast, along the Pyrenees mountain range, it is bordered by France and the Principality of Andorra. Along the Pyrenees in Girona, a small exclave town called Llívia is surrounded by France.
Extending to 1,214 km (754 mi), the Portugal–Spain border is the longest uninterrupted borderwithin the European Union.
Spain also includes the Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean Sea, the Canary Islands in the Atlantic Ocean and a number of uninhabited islands on the Mediterranean side of the Strait of Gibraltar, known as plazas de soberanía ("places of sovereignty", or territories under [Spanish] sovereignty), such as the Chafarinas Islands and Alhucemas. The peninsula of Vélez de la Gomera is also regarded as a plaza de soberanía. The isle of Alborán, located in the Mediterranean between Spain and North Africa, is also administered by Spain, specifically by the municipality of Almería, Andalusia. The little Pheasant Island in the River Bidasoa is a Spanish-French condominium.
Largest inhabited islands of Spain:
Mountains and rivers
Mainland Spain is a mountainous country, dominated by high plateaus and mountain chains. After the Pyrenees, the main mountain ranges are the Cordillera Cantábrica(Cantabrian Range), Sistema Ibérico (Iberian System), Sistema Central (Central System), Montes de Toledo, Sierra Morena and the Sistema Bético (Baetic System) whose highest peak, the 3,478 metres (11,411 ft) Mulhacén, located in Sierra Nevada, is the highest elevation in the Iberian Peninsula. The highest point in Spain is the Teide, a 3,718-metre (12,198 ft) active volcano in the Canary Islands. The Meseta Central (often translated as "Inner Plateau") is a vast plateau in the heart of peninsular Spain.
There are several major rivers in Spain such as the Tagus (Tajo), Ebro, Guadiana, Douro(Duero), Guadalquivir, Júcar, Segura, Turia and Minho (Miño). Alluvial plains are found along the coast, the largest of which is that of the Guadalquivir in Andalusia.
Three main climatic zones can be separated, according to geographical situation and orographic conditions:
- The Mediterranean climate, characterised by warm/hot and dry summers, is dominant in the peninsula. It has two varieties: Csa and Csbaccording to the Köppen climate classification.
- The Csa zone is associated to areas with hot summers. It is predominant in the Mediterranean and Southern Atlantic coast and inland throughout Andalusia, Extremadura and much, if not most, of the center of the country. The Csazone covers climatic zones with both relatively warm and cold winters which are considered extremely different to each other at a local level, reason for which Köppen classification is often eschewed within Spain. Local climatic maps generally divide the Mediterranean zone (which covers most of the country) between warm-winter and cold-winter zones, rather than according to summer temperatures.
- The Csb zone has warm rather than hot summers, and extends to additional cool-winter areas not typically associated with a Mediterranean climate, such as much of central and northern-central of Spain (e.g. western Castile–León, northeastern Castilla-La Manchaand northern Madrid) and into much rainier areas (notably Galicia). Note areas with relatively high rainfall such as Galicia are not considered Mediterranean under local classifications, but classed as oceanic.
- The semi-arid climate (BSk, BSh), is predominant in the southeastern quarter of the country, but is also widespread in other areas of Spain. It covers most of the Region of Murcia, southern Valencia and eastern Andalusia, where true hot desert climates also exist. Further to the north, it is predominant in the upper and mid reaches of the Ebro valley, which crosses southern Navarre, central Aragon and western Catalonia. It also is found in Madrid, Extremadura, Castilla-La Mancha, and some locations of western Andalusia. The dry season extends beyond the summer and average temperature depends on altitude and latitude.
- The oceanic climate (Cfb), located in the northern quarter of the country, especially in the Atlantic region (Basque Country, Cantabria, Asturias, and partly Galicia and Castile–León). Additionally it is also found in northern Navarre, in most highlands areas along the Iberian System and in the Pyrenean valleys, where a humid subtropical variant (Cfa) also occurs. Winter and summer temperatures are influenced by the ocean, and have no seasonal drought.
Apart from these main types, other sub-types can be found, like the alpine and continental climate (Dfc, Dfb / Dsc, Dsb) in the Pyrenees as well as parts of the Cantabrian Range, the Central System, Sierra Nevada and the Iberian System, and a typical desert climate (BWk, BWh) in the zone of Almería, Murcia and eastern Canary Islands. Low-lying areas of the Canary Islands average above 18.0 °C (64.4 °F) during their coldest month, thus having a tropical climate.
The below-listed list covers the average temperatures of the largest cities in four different parts of Spain; Madrid (central peninsula), Barcelona (Mediterranean coast), Bilbao (north coast) and Cádiz (south Atlantic coast). Santa Cruz de Tenerife which has a significantly different climates to the predominant climate in Spain. More information regarding temperature can be found in city articles and the main article about the Spanish climate.
|Location||Coldest month||Warmest month|
|Madrid||9.8 °C (49.6 °F)|
2.7 °C (36.9 °F)
|32.1 °C (89.8 °F)|
19.0 °C (66.2 °F)
|Barcelona||14.8 °C (58.6 °F)|
8.8 °C (47.8 °F)
|29.0 °C (84.2 °F)|
23.1 °C (73.6 °F)
|Bilbao||13.4 °C (56.1 °F)|
5.1 °C (41.2 °F)
|26.0 °C (78.8 °F)|
15.7 °C (60.3 °F)
|Cádiz||16.0 °C (60.8 °F)|
9.4 °C (48.9 °F)
|27.9 °C (82.2 °F)|
22.0 °C (71.6 °F)
|Santa Cruz de Tenerife||21.0 °C (69.8 °F)|
15.4 °C (59.7 °F)
|29.0 °C (84.2 °F)|
21.9 °C (71.4 °F)
Fauna and flora
The fauna presents a wide diversity that is due in large part to the geographical position of the Iberian peninsula between the Atlantic and the Mediterranean and between Africa and Eurasia, and the great diversity of habitats and biotopes, the result of a considerable variety of climates and well differentiated regions.
The vegetation of Spain is varied due to several factors including the diversity of the relief, the climate and latitude. Spain includes different phytogeographic regions, each with its own floristic characteristics resulting largely from the interaction of climate, topography, soil type and fire, biotic factors.
In 2008 the population of Spain officially reached 46 million people, as recorded by the Padrón municipal(Spain's Municipal Register). Spain's population density, at 91/km² (235/sq mi), is lower than that of most Western European countries and its distribution across the country is very unequal. With the exception of the region surrounding the capital, Madrid, the most populated areas lie around the coast. The population of Spain more than doubled since 1900, when it stood at 18.6 million, principally due to the spectacular demographic boom in the 1960s and early 1970s.
Native Spaniards make up 88% of the total population of Spain. After the birth rate plunged in the 1980s and Spain's population growth rate dropped, the population again trended upward, based initially on the return of many Spaniards who had emigrated to other European countries during the 1970s, and more recently, fuelled by large numbers of immigrants who make up 12% of the population. The immigrants originate mainly in Latin America (39%), North Africa (16%), Eastern Europe (15%), and Sub-Saharan Africa (4%). In 2005, Spain instituted a three-month amnesty programme through which certain hitherto undocumented aliens were granted legal residency.
In 2008, Spain granted citizenship to 84,170 persons, mostly to people from Ecuador, Colombia and Morocco. A sizeable portion of foreign residents in Spain also comes from other Western and Central European countries. These are mostly British, French, German, Dutch, and Norwegian. They reside primarily on the Mediterranean coast and the Balearic islands, where many choose to live their retirement or telecommute.
Substantial populations descended from Spanish colonists and immigrants exist in other parts of the world, most notably in Latin America. Beginning in the late 15th century, large numbers of Iberian colonists settled in what became Latin America and at present most white Latin Americans (who make up about one-third of Latin America's population) are of Spanish or Portuguese origin. Around 240,000 Spaniards emigrated in the 16th century, mostly to Peru and Mexico. Another 450,000 left in the 17th century. Between 1846 and 1932 it is estimated that nearly 5 million Spaniards emigrated to the Americas, especially to Argentina and Brazil. Approximately two million Spaniards migrated to other Western European countries between 1960 and 1975. During the same period perhaps 300,000 went to Latin America.
Roman Catholicism has long been the main religion of Spain, and although it no longer has official status by law, in all public schools in Spain students have to choose either a religion or ethics class, and Catholicism is the only religion officially taught. According to a June 2016 study by the Spanish Centre for Sociological Research about 68% of Spaniards self-identify as Catholics, 2% other faith, and about 27% identify with no religion. Most Spaniards do not participate regularly in religious services. This same study shows that of the Spaniards who identify themselves as religious, 59% hardly ever or never go to church, 16% go to church some times a year, 9% some time per month and 15% every Sunday or multiple times per week. Recent polls and surveys have revealed that atheists and agnostics comprise anywhere from 20% to 27% of the Spanish population.
Altogether, about 9% of the entire Spanish population attends religious services at least once per month. Though Spanish society has become considerably more secular in recent decades, the influx of Latin American immigrants, who tend to be strong Catholic practitioners, has helped the Catholic Church to recover.
There have been four Spanish Popes. Damasus I, Calixtus III, Alexander VI and Benedict XIII. Spanish mysticism was an important intellectual fight against Protestantism with Teresa of Ávila, a reformist nun, ahead. The Society of Jesus was founded by Ignatius of Loyola and Francisco Javier. In the 60s of the 20th century, Jesuits Pedro Arrupe and Ignacio Ellacuríawere inside the movement of Liberation Theology.
Protestant churches have about 1,200,000 members. There are about 105,000 Jehovah's Witnesses. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has approximately 46,000 adherents in 133 congregations in all regions of the country and has a temple in the Moratalaz District of Madrid.
A study made by the Union of Islamic Communities of Spaindemonstrated that there were about 1,700,000 inhabitants of Muslim background living in Spain as of 2012, accounting for 3–4% of the total population of Spain. The vast majority was composed of immigrants and descendants originating from Morocco and other African countries. More than 514,000 (30%) of them had Spanish nationality.
The recent waves of immigration have also led to an increasing number of Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs and Muslims. After the Reconquista in 1492, Muslims did not live in Spain for centuries. Late 19th-century colonial expansion in northwestern Africa gave a number of residents in Spanish Morocco and Western Sahara full citizenship. Their ranks have since been bolstered by recent immigration, especially from Morocco and Algeria.
Judaism was practically non-existent in Spain from the 1492 expulsion until the 19th century, when Jews were again permitted to enter the country. Currently there are around 62,000 Jews in Spain, or 0.14% of the total population. Most are arrivals in the past century, while some are descendants of earlier Spanish Jews. Approximately 80,000 Jews are thought to have lived in Spain prior to its expulsion.
Spain's capitalist mixed economy is the 16th largest worldwide and the 5th largest in the European Union, as well as the Eurozone's 4th largest.
The centre-right government of former prime minister José María Aznar worked successfully to gain admission to the group of countries launching the euro in 1999. Unemployment stood at 7.6% in October 2006, a rate that compared favourably to many other European countries, and especially with the early 1990s when it stood at over 20%. Perennial weak points of Spain's economy include high inflation, a large underground economy, and an education system which OECD reports place among the poorest for developed countries, together with the United States and UK.
By the mid-1990s the economy had recommenced the growth that had been disrupted by the global recession of the early 1990s. The strong economic growth helped the government to reduce the government debt as a percentage of GDP and Spain's high unemployment began to drop steadily. With the government budget in balance and inflation under control Spain was admitted into the Eurozone in 1999.
Since the 1990s some Spanish companies have gained multinational status, often expanding their activities in culturally close Latin America. Spain is the second biggest foreign investor there, after the United States. Spanish companies have also expanded into Asia, especially China and India. This early global expansion is a competitive advantage over its competitors and European neighbours. The reason for this early expansion is the booming interest towards Spanish language and culture in Asia and Africa and a corporate culture that learned to take risks in unstable markets.
Spanish companies invested in fields like renewable energy commercialisation (Iberdrola was the world's largest renewable energy operator), technology companies like Telefónica, Abengoa, Mondragon Corporation, Movistar, Hisdesat, Indra, train manufacturers like CAF, Talgo, global corporations such as the textile company Inditex, petroleum companies like Repsol and infrastructure, with six of the ten biggest international construction firms specialising in transport being Spanish, like Ferrovial, Acciona, ACS, OHLand FCC.
In 2005 the Economist Intelligence Unit's quality of lifesurvey placed Spain among the top 10 in the world.In 2013 the same survey (now called the "Where-to-be-born index"), ranked Spain 28th in the world.
In 2010, the Basque city of Bilbao was awarded with the Lee Kuan Yew World City Prize, and its mayor at the time, Iñaki Azkuna, was awarded the World Mayor Prize in 2012. The Basque capital city of Vitoria-Gasteizreceived the European Green Capital Award in 2012.
Crop areas were farmed in two highly diverse manners. Areas relying on non-irrigated cultivation (secano), which made up 85% of the entire crop area, depended solely on rainfall as a source of water. They included the humid regions of the north and the northwest, as well as vast arid zones that had not been irrigated. The much more productive regions devoted to irrigated cultivation (regadío) accounted for 3 million hectares in 1986, and the government hoped that this area would eventually double, as it already had doubled since 1950. Particularly noteworthy was the development in Almería—one of the most arid and desolate provinces of Spain—of winter crops of various fruits and vegetables for export to Europe.
Though only about 17% of Spain's cultivated land was irrigated, it was estimated to be the source of between 40–45% of the gross value of crop production and of 50% of the value of agricultural exports. More than half of the irrigated area was planted in corn, fruit trees, and vegetables. Other agricultural products that benefited from irrigation included grapes, cotton, sugar beets, potatoes, legumes, olive trees, mangos, strawberries, tomatoes, and fodder grasses. Depending on the nature of the crop, it was possible to harvest two successive crops in the same year on about 10% of the country's irrigated land.
Citrus fruits, vegetables, cereal grains, olive oil, and wine—Spain's traditional agricultural products—continued to be important in the 1980s. In 1983 they represented 12%, 12%, 8%, 6%, and 4%, respectively, of the country's agricultural production. Because of the changed diet of an increasingly affluent population, there was a notable increase in the consumption of livestock, poultry, and dairy products. Meat production for domestic consumption became the single most important agricultural activity, accounting for 30% of all farm-related production in 1983. Increased attention to livestock was the reason that Spain became a net importer of grains. Ideal growing conditions, combined with proximity to important north European markets, made citrus fruits Spain's leading export. Fresh vegetables and fruits produced through intensive irrigation farming also became important export commodities, as did sunflower seed oil that was produced to compete with the more expensive olive oils in oversupply throughout the Mediterranean countries of the EC.