Spain – key data
Area: 505,370 km² (of which land: 498,980 km², water: 6,390 km²)
Population: 46.8 million (July 2011 estimate, CIA)
Population density: 93 people per km²
Population growth: 0.574% per year (2011, CIA)
Capital: Madrid (3.3 million residents, 2007)
Highest point: Pico de Teide on Tenerife (Canary Islands), 3,718 m, highest point on the Spanish mainland: Mulhacén, 3,482 m
Lowest point: Atlantic Ocean, 0 m
Form of government: Spain has been a parliamentary monarchy since 1978. The Spanish constitution dates from the same year, the last constitutional amendment was made in 1992. The Spanish Parliament (Cortes Generales) consists of two chambers, the Congreso de los Diputados (House of Representatives, 300 to 400 Members) and the Senado (Senate, 259 Senators). Spain has been a member of the European Union since 1986.
Administrative division: 17 Autonomous Communities (comuniad autonoma, plural: comunidades autonomas): Andalucia, Aragon, Asturias, Baleares, Canarias, Cantabria, Castilla-La Mancha, Castilla y Leon, Cataluna, Comunidad Valenciana, Extremadura, Galicia, La Rioja , Madrid, Murcia, Navarra and Pais Vasco
and 2 autonomous cities (ciudad autonoma, plural: ciudades autonomas):Ceuta as well as Melilla.
Head of State: King Juan Carlos I, since November 27, 1975
Head of Government: District President Mariano Rajoy, since December 21, 2011
Language: the official language in Spain is Spanish (Castilian, 74%). Regional official languages are Catalan (17%), Galician (7%), Basque (2%) and Aranese. In regions frequented by tourists, English and sometimes German are common foreign languages.
Religion: Catholic 94%, Other 6%
Local time: Mainland and Balearic Islands: CET. Between the last Sunday in March and the last Sunday in October there is summer time (CET + 1 hour).
The time difference to Central Europe is 0 h in both winter and summer.
Canary Islands: CET – 1 hour. Daylight saving time (CET) applies between the last Sunday in March and the last Sunday in October.
The time difference to Central Europe is 1 hour in both winter and summer.
International phone code: +34
Mains voltage: 220 V, 50 Hz
The Kingdom of Spain is a state in south-western Europe that stretches across most of the Iberian Peninsula. The Balearic Islands also belong to Spain Canary Islands and the North African possessions such as Ceuta and Melilla. Spain borders France and Andorra to the northeast and Portugal to the west. The total area of Spain is about 505,000 square kilometers and thus takes about four fifths of the Iberian Peninsula.
The Iberian Peninsula moved along the western edge of Europe for many millions of years until it settled in its current location about 70 million years ago. By clashing with the African and the European mainland land masses were unfolded from which the mountain ranges of the peninsula arose.
About 40% of Spain is covered by the Meseta, a relatively sparsely populated high plateau on which mainly grain is grown. The only exception in this barren area is the Spanish capital Madrid. However, the meseta, known as the “plain”, is by no means consistently flat. A large part of this region consists of rolling hills. In addition, the Meseta is made up of the Cordillera Central massifcut in two. The Duero, Tajo and Guadiana also flow westwards through the Meseta to Portugal, where these three of the five largest rivers in Spain finally flow into the Atlantic. The meseta is not only divided by mountains, mountains also frame it on three sides. Only in the west does the hilly country gradually descend towards Portugal.
On the Bay of Biscay in northern Spain, the Cordillera Cantábrica stretches with its always humid climate due to the sea location. The peaks, which are up to 2,500 meters high and are among the most impressive mountains in Europe, rise here. The mountain range of the Sistema Ibérico runs along the eastern edge of the Meseta to the south of Aragon. This mountain range is repeatedly interrupted by bizarrely weathered rock formations, raised bogs with steep gorges and plateaus. The southern border of the Meseta forms the relatively low and forest-covered Sierra Morena, which extends into the north of Andalusia. In the Pyrenees, which form the border with France over a length of 400 kilometers, the most impressive mountains in Spain rise. In Catalonia and Aragon, for example, there are numerous “three-thousand-meter peaks”, which are led by the 3,408 meter high Pico de Aneto. But the highest mountain on the Spanish mainland is in the Cordillera Bética; here the Muhacén rises with 3,479 meters from the Sierra Nevada in the southeast of Granada. At 3,718 meters, the highest mountain in Spain, Pico del Teide, is located about 1,400 kilometers from the motherland on the Canary Island of Tenerife.
Around and between the mountain regions lie the five great lowlands of Spain: the fertile basin of the Rio Ebro, the likewise very productive Catalan plain, the dry coastal areas of Valencia and Murcia and the basin of the Guadalquivir.
The Spanish Mediterranean coast is characterized by large and small rocky bays, which alternate with some flat stretches of beach. In contrast, the somewhat cooler Atlantic coast consists mainly of long sandy beaches and dune landscapes.
In addition to the Duero, the largest rivers in Spain are the Tagus and the Ebro. Many Spanish rivers are dammed and used to generate electricity and water.
Best travel time for Spain
The travel time in Spain naturally depends on what holiday activities are planned. The ideal times to visit are May, June and September (in the south also April and October). At these times the weather is good to very good without the sometimes extreme heat. The Spanish and foreign tourists are not yet as numerous as in July and August, when temperatures in Andalusia can rise to 45 ° C. At this time it is almost unbearably hot in Madrid too, most of the city’s residents are away from home.
In some parts of Spain there is good weather almost all year round. According to bridgat, the winter (December to February) along the southern and southeastern Mediterranean coast is mild, while in midsummer (June to August) you can retreat to the beaches or mountains in the northwest to escape the extreme heat.