Geographic map of Spain
Spain is a country of the European Union, in the form of a parliamentary monarchy.
Spain is located in southwestern Europe and has an area of 505,514 km². This country has 47,431,256 inhabitants (as of 2020) and occupies 84.5% of the territory of the Iberian Peninsula, shared with Portugal, Andorra and Gibraltar.
From a geographical point of view it borders to the north-east with France (from which it is separated by the Pyrenees chain) and Andorra, to the south with the Mediterranean Sea and Gibraltar (a small possession of the United Kingdom), to the west with Portugal and with Morocco (through the autonomous cities of Ceuta and Melilla, its exclaves).
The capital of Spain is Madrid, which with more than three million inhabitants (about six million in the metropolitan area) is also the most populous city.
The official language of the state is Spanish and at the local level Catalan, Valencian, Aranese (a Gascon dialect of Occitan) in a Catalonian valley, Galician and Basque, all enjoy a guaranteed co-official status. by the Spanish Constitution and by the autonomous legislation in the respective territories of diffusion in the autonomous communities. Even the Asturian, the Leonese and the Aragonese, while not enjoying, respectively, in Asturias, Castile and León and Aragon, a co-official regime with the Spanish, are the object of particular protection by the local authorities. Other languages spoken in the country have no official recognition.
Spain is characterized by a plateau, called Meseta, which extends for about 400,000 km2. It is surrounded by various mountain ranges: the Cantabrian mountain range to the north, the Pyrenees to the north-east that separate Spain from France and whose peaks exceed 3,000 meters, the Central System in the center, the Betico System and the Sierra Morena to the south. , to the east the Iberian System. The highest mountain in mainland Spain is that of the Betic System: Mulhacén with its 3482 m of height.
The largest plain is the Baetic Depression in Andalusia, and all of them are located along the coastline that stretches for 4000 km
Off the Iberian Peninsula there are several other Spanish areas: the Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean Sea, the Canary Islands in the southwest, about 108 km northwest of Africa; there are also five other lands of Spanish sovereignty (plazas de soberanía) on the coast of Morocco: Ceuta, Melilla, Chafarinas Islands, Peñón de Alhucemas and Peñón de Vélez de la Gomera.
Spain can be divided into three geographical macro-areas:
– The central plateau of the Meseta: It is of ancient formation and occupies a large part of the central area of the country. It is divided into two parts. It is crossed by mountain ranges and is bordered to the east by the Iberian Mountains and the Sierra Morena to the south. In the heart of this area is the capital Madrid;
– The northern ranges: they consist of the Pyrenees and the Cantabrian mountain range that runs along the coast. The Pyrenees range is young, while the Cantabrian Mountains are older.
– The Betic System, to the south: it consists of a series of mountain ranges, including the Sierra Nevada (Mulhacén). The plains, not very extensive, are on the thin coastal strips.
The main islands are grouped into two archipelagos: the Balearic Islands and the Canary Islands. The Balearics are located in the Mediterranean, not far from the coasts of the Valencian Community and are made up of four main islands, Majorca, Menorca, Ibiza and Formentera. The Canary Islands, on the other hand, are located in the Atlantic, off southern Morocco and over 1000 km southwest of the Iberian Peninsula. Geographically they belong to the African continent. They are Gran Canaria, Lanzarote, Fuerteventura, Tenerife, La Palma, La Gomera and finally El Hierro. Then there are other smaller islands, much smaller, such as the Cíes Islands.
From the hydrographic point of view it has numerous rivers that have a torrential regime, which limits their exploitation as communication routes.
Most of these large rivers head towards the Atlantic, with the exception of the Ebro, which is joined by the Turia, the Júcar and the Segura which flow into the Mediterranean Sea. Proceeding from north to south, the other main rivers that flow into the Atlantic are the Duero, the Tagus, the Guadiana and the Guadalquivir, which crosses the Andalusian depression and collects the waters of the Sierra Nevada and part of the Sierra Morena and is perhaps the river economically important for its regularity of water flow and the climatic conditions of its basin.
As for the lakes in Spain, there are no large natural lakes, but numerous artificial basins, intended to ensure the energy and water needs of more or less large areas of the country.
The Spanish climate can be divided into three main climatic zones. We therefore have:
– The Mediterranean climate, characterized by dry and hot summers. According to the Köppen climate classification, it is dominant in the peninsula, with two varieties: Csa and Csb.
– The steppe climate (Bsh, Bsk), is found in the south-eastern part of the country, especially in the Murcia region and in the Ebro valley. In contrast to the Mediterranean climate, the dry season extends beyond the summer.
– The oceanic climate (Cfb), which is found in the northern part of the country, especially in the region of the Basque Country, Asturias, Cantabria and partly in Galicia. In contrast to the Mediterranean climate, winter and summer temperatures are influenced by the sea and do not exhibit seasonal drought.
In addition to these main types, other sub-types can be found, such as the alpine climate of the Pyrenees and Sierra Nevada, and a typical subtropical climate in the Canary Islands.
Spain, despite the decrease in biodiversity that involves the entire world biosphere, has exclusive species with diverse and well-preserved forests and a spectacular geology populated by a great variety of landscapes. Spain stands out for the variety of its woods and for the presence of an exclusive endemic flora that derives from its position between Europe and Africa.
Its large mountain ranges offer the ideal habitat to a large number of species that live only on its territory. Furthermore, it is the second country in the world with the largest number of spaces declared a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO.
Its network of 15 National Parks concentrates the best of Spanish nature, from imposing alpine landscapes to Mediterranean woodlands.
Spain encompasses spectacular mountains, volcanoes, river canyons, underground caves, fossil beds and significant places like Atapuerca.
The naturalistic diversity of the territory allows the survival of numerous plant species that grow only in Spain. This is the case, among others, of the Canary Islands, where it is estimated that 30% of the flora and fauna are endemic. Examples are the Teide violet, the viperine grass or the Teide broom, to name a few.
Important is the endemic flora of the highest peaks of the Sierra Nevada, the Pyrenees and the Picos de Europa, as well as that of the wetlands of Castile La Mancha. To visit are the best preserved woods, such as the beech forest of Irati in Navarre, the forest of Oza in Aragon, the fir forests of Bonaigua in Catalonia, the oak forests of the Cantabrian mountain range, the pine forests of the Guadarrama mountains, the expanses of sorghum and the riparian woods. of Castile and León and Castile La Mancha.
In Spain it is possible to identify the 5 great Iberian fauna in nature reserves ”: brown bear, Iberian lynx, wolf, Iberian imperial eagle and bearded vulture.
You can observe hundreds of bird species, admire the unique flora of this country, enjoy the deer show during the mating season, spot pilot whales and dolphins or learn about conservation programs of the species that have been successful, as in the case of the Iberian lynx and the imperial eagle, are some of the many experiences you can experience while discovering the “wild life” of Spain.
It is the best country in Europe for the observation of wild fauna for the great variety, for the protection of endangered species and for the concentration of specimens in certain particularly accessible places that make the experience easy and attractive.
The passage of the migratory routes between Europe and Africa makes the Strait of Gibraltar a paradise for ornithologists, who should not miss the opportunity to visit the Andalusian mountain ranges. The winter concentrations of European populations of cranes and ducks, as well as large numbers of waterfowl in wetlands of international significance, are unique sights to behold.
In spring you can spot a species of larger birds, the bustards. More than half of their world population lives in the Iberian steppes, from Villafáfila in Castile and León, passing through the plains of Toledo in Castile La Mancha, those of Cáceres, the Serena in Extremadura and even the countryside of Madrid.
In summer, on the Picos de Europa, the Central System (Gredos, Guadarrama) and the Aragonese and Catalan Pyrenees, you can spot birds that populate forests and high mountain habitats. Without forgetting the seabirds on the beaches and coasts of Galicia, Asturias, Cantabria, the Basque Country, Catalonia, Valencia, Murcia, the Canary Islands and the Balearic Islands.
Among the mountain landscapes you can see the wolf and his relationship with men. With the help of experts you can spot this mythical animal in the Sierra della Culebra (Zamora) and on the Cantabrian mountain range and the Picos de Europa.
The Iberian lynx lives in Spain, the feline most at risk of extinction in the world and which lives only in the Iberian Peninsula. A recovery program is underway for the species whose specimens are bred in captivity to be released in their natural habitat. Currently there are four breeding centers in Spain and it is possible to see some specimens of lynx in captivity at the Zoo and Botanical Garden of Jerez de la Frontera (Cadiz).
Unique is the flora of the Canaries which are one of the most important marine areas in the world for the conservation of cetaceans.
Here it is possible to spot dolphins throughout the year, especially near the southwestern coast of the island of Tenerife and very close to La Gomera. But in any case, all the islands organize excursions for sighting because their waters are populated by over twenty different species of cetaceans.
Other areas for whale watching are Asturias, Galicia, the Basque Country, the Balearic Islands and Andalusia. In the latter region, for example, at the beginning of summer it is possible to see groups of killer whales in the waters of the Strait of Gibraltar, in Tarifa (Cadiz).
It is a show that is repeated in many places in Spain every year in the months of September and October. During this period it is easy to hear the guttural sounds emitted by deer and to see males in heat, especially at sunset, so we recommend that you wear warm clothing.
Some of the places to observe them are: the Toledo Mountains and the Cabañeros National Park in Castile La Mancha, the Sierra de San Pedro and the Monfragüe National Park in Extremadura, the Doñana National Park, the Cordillera de Cazorla Natural Park Segura and las Villas, the Hornachuelos Natural Park and the Alcornocales Natural Park in Andalusia, the Sierra de Cameros in Rioja, the Picos de Europa National Park in Asturias, the Saja Reserve in Cantabria, the Boumort Nature Reserve in Catalonia , the Sierra della Culebra in Zamora and the Fuentes Carrionas and Fuente Cobre-Montaña Palentina Natural Park in Castile and León.
Finally, the fish species that populate the Cabrera National Park in the Balearic Islands and the algae forests in the Atlantic Islands National Park in Galicia live in the most preserved seabed of the Mediterranean.