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SPAIN

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Montserrat Monastery near Barcelona
Montserrat Monastery, © Can Stock Photo / olgysha

Spain is officially the Kingdom of Spain, though it is actually a parliamentary government.  It is a member of the European Union.  Spain is located on the Iberian Penisula with Portugal and has significant exposure to both the Atlantic via the Bay of Biscay and to the Meditteranean.  Where the penisula joins the main body of Europe, Spain is bordered by France and Andorra.  The Canary Islands belong to Spain, while Gibraltar is a British protectorate within the borders of the country.  Spain was part of the Roman Empire.

From the 700s to 1400s AD Spain was dominated by the Muslim Moors.  Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon are the two most prominent figures in the history of Imperial Spain and their investment in the voyages of Christopher Colombus solidified Spanish power around the world.  In 1494 Spain split the New World with Portugal, resulting in Brazil becoming Portuguese, while the rest of South America and Central America are Spanish speaking.  From the 1500s to the 1700s, the Hapsburgs ruled Spain and gave the country a distinctive Austrian flare.  The population of Spain is near 50 million.  Madrid is the capial and largest city.  The most popular destination in Spain in 2017 was the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, while the Alhambra in Granada dropped to the second most popular destination for visitors.

View a map of Spain.

Visas:

Spain participates in the Schengen Zone and Schengen Visa requirements.  That means there are no border controls between members and no border inspections by rail or vehicle when traveling from Spain to Portugal or France.  Some countries that are not members of the Schengen Zone require a Schengen Visa to enter Europe.  More than 40 countries outside the Schengen Zone do not require a visa.  Exemptions include citizens of Australia, Canada, Mexico, Japan, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States.  Check your specific country at VisaHQ.  For a list of exempt countries, visit Project Visa.

Currency:

Spain uses the Euro as its currency.

Climate:

The climate of Spain is influenced by location.  Along the Mediterranean, summers are warm and dry.  In the north, the Atlantic produces cooler temperatures and the absense of a dry season.  Summer is the preferred season for international tourists, but spring and fall offer better temperatures.  Some Europeans choose to visit during the height of winter and escape the cold of the rest of the continent.