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The Regions                                                    


Andalusia - Aragon - Asturias - Balearic Islands - Canary Islands
Cantabria - Castile - La Mancha - Castile - Leon - Catalonia - Ceuta
Region of Valencia - Extremadura - Galicia - Madrid - Melilla - Murcia
Navarre - Basque Country - La Rioja



Andalusia

Andalusia is a fascinating place for its spectacular Moorish monuments, beautiful white hill towns, sparkling blue coast and natural beauty of its mountainous country. The Moors were a mixed race of Berbers and Arabs that occupied Spain (Al-Andalus) for almost eight hundred years. They developed the most sophisticated civilization in the Middle Ages, centered in Seville , Cordoba and  Granada.

Every city, town and village, is a wonderful mixture of Christian and Muslim influence. Granada preserves the most beautiful Moorish monuments, the Alhambra palace, being the largest and most sensual building in Europe.

Cordoba's old mosque with a cathedral built inside it and the spectacular remains of the ancient Moorish city of Medina Azahara should be regarded as a must-see whilst Seville boasts the most spectacular of all Gothic cathedrals and largest church in the world as well as its Moorish Alcazar.

The white towns surrounding Ronda , offer an unspoiled view into Andalusia life with their surrounding natural beauty, delicious home-cooking and stunning appearance-clustered beneath Moorish/Christian castles and churches.

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Aragon

Aragon is one of the northern regions of Spain and is crossed by the river Ebro. If you are a fan of hiking or skiing, you can go to the Pyrenees (here at their highest) or the seldom explored mountains in the south of Aragon. In the Pyrenean valleys you might see sword dances, which are still performed here.

Visiting Aragon you can't miss the beautiful roman city Saragossa, the capital of this region, mudejar's art in Teruel and medieval cities Albarracin and Sos del Rey Católico.

Saragossa
is the capital of Aragon. It is a city full of custom and culture. Only small numbers of non-Spanish find their way to this large and lively city between Madrid and Barcelona.

Teruel's
glory lies in its Mudejar architecture which is as good as any in Spain, not excepting Toledo. Places to visit are the superb Provincial Museum and the Renaissance aqueduct based on the Roman pattern.

Huesca
lies at the foot of the Pyrenees. It is the second biggest city of the Community of Aragon. The city is picturesque and a stroll through the streets of the old town gives you the opportunity to visit some museums and sights that testify of the long history of Huesca.

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Asturias
 
More eastward you run into a more mountainous landscape with a romantically beautiful coastline that carries the name Asturias. This region has a lot in common with Wales. A real attraction is Oviedo , the capital of this region where you can see two of Europe's most exquisite pre-Romanesque churches, but there is no beaches in Oviedo, so you can find it at Gijón, the real capital of Asturias because it is the most cosmopolitan, cultural and popular city, and its two magnificent beaches makes the better choice.

Asturias is only 100 km wide, between the coast and the Cantabric Mountain, so you can find the best meat from calf's and the most varied types of fishes.

About gastronomy, you can find lots of typical sidrerías, where the sidra (apple-wine) is the most important drink. if you like cheese, there are about 300 types of in the region. The more important is the Cabrales one, it looks like a blue cheese, but with a strong smell and taste.

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Balearic Islands

The Balearic Islands are an autonomous province of Spain about 100km off the east coast between Barcelona and Valencia and they're a very popular holiday destination for sun-worshippers. The most important islands are Mallorca, Menorca, Ibiza and Formentera.

Palma de Mallorca or La Ciutat as the locals call it, is quite a nice city with a lot of history and many things to do and see. Highlights are the cathedral and La Almudaina, the "Royal Palace", which was constructed over the remains of the Muslim Alcazar and was the residence of the early kings of Mallorca. Palma also has good shopping and a great nightlife scene.

Ibiza, an island which is one in a thousand! It is undoubtedly popular within the international club life scene. Every one who loves nightlife clubbing should have been at least once on this magical island.

Minorca is the second largest of the Balearic Islands, located to the northeast of Mallorca. The harbor at Maó, the island capital, is the second largest natural deep water port in the world - the only larger being Pearl Harbor. The whole island is a European Biological Reserve which means that big hotel building has been kept to a minimum in most of the resorts. It is a relatively quiet, family oriented island although there are some great clubs to visit if you know where to go, but be prepared to travel to them as most resorts don't have much more than a few late bars.

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Canary Islands

The seven islands that comprise the Canary archipelago are located more than one thousand kilometers (620 miles) south of the Iberian peninsula, and only 115 kilometers (71 miles) from the closest point on the African coast. Their volcanic origin and special position in the Atlantic ocean have granted them some unique features with regard to geology and vegetation, resulting in a landscape that is unlike any other found in Europe or Africa. These natural characteristics favor the existence of a temperate climate with mild temperatures (22ºC - 72ºF average on the coasts) with little seasonal variation in temperatures between day and night.

The climate of perpetual springtime, which permits enjoyment of the beach during all the seasons of the year without extreme oppressive heat, has also shaped the easy-going and good-natured character of its inhabitants.

Since ancient times, the mild climate has been the most outstanding attribute of the Canary Islands. The Greeks located the Garden of Hesperidins here, and during centuries, they were known as the "Fortunate Islands". The fame of the Canaries as a travel destination began with the great scientific explorations of the 18th and 19th centuries, when European naturalists frequently visited the unique volcanic landscapes and the varied native flora.

At the close of the last century, the fame of these islands was increased as a place to rest, and they were recommended for the treatment of a variety of illnesses. Presently, the Canary Islands are one of the leading destinations of European tourism, welcoming more than eight million
visitors annually who are drawn to the irresistible charm of these islands.

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Cantabria

Cantabria is a region of Spain, located on the northern coast. Santander is the capital and also the largest city of the province of Cantabria.

Santander is an elegant city which extends over a wide bay with views of the Cantabrian Sea. Its historic quarter includes a group of majestic buildings which are situated against an incredible natural backdrop of sea and mountains. Its marine and commercial tradition is linked to a century old history of tourism, which has its main attractions in the famous El Sardinero beach, the promenade and the La Magdalena peninsula. The cultural wealth of the Cantabrian capital is enriched with the passage of the Pilgrim's Road to Santiago de Compostela and the neighboring Altamira Caves, both of which have been declared World Heritage.


Torrelavega is the Cantabrian region's second largest town, and is situated 25 kilometers from Santander. It is outstanding for its natural surroundings. It is barely 10 minutes from the Suances coast, and very close to beautiful villages like Santillana del Mar and Comillas.

Laredo is one of the main tourist towns on the Cantabrian coast. It has one of the biggest and most beautiful beaches in the region: La Salvé, an immense stretch of sand of measuring some five kilometers.

Santillana
del Mar is a beautiful medieval town which was developed around the collegiate church of Santa Maria. Its various defense towers and Renaissance palaces make Santillana one of the most important historical areas of Cantabria.

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Castile - La Mancha

The autonomous region of Castile - La Mancha includes much of the southern part of the Iberian peninsula. The autonomous region of Castile-La Mancha is made up of the provinces of Albacete, Ciudad Real, Cuenca, Guadalajara and Toledo.

Toledo and Cuenca are very historic and monumental centers but there are other wonderful cities and villages like Almagro, Talavera de la Reina, Campo de Criptana, Mota del Cuervo or Almansa.

La Mancha is Don Quixote land where Cervantes located the most important book in Spanish language. Don't forget to visit the giant-mills in Campo de Criptana or Consuegra.


Toledo is known as the City of the Three Cultures, a name that refers to the Christians, Islamic and Jewish cultures that coexist during centuries. This union of traditions is reflected on the architecture, where it can be seen the Mudejar style, a mixture of Islamic and Christian styles, which predominates in the city.

Cuenca
is a beautiful city surrounded by two rivers among beautiful mountains and pine forests. The main monuments are the cathedral, the hanging houses, numerous churches. The Holly Week is very known all around the world.

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Castile - Leon

Castile y Leon is an autonomous community of Spain, the country's largest — in fact, it is the largest sub national political division in the European Union. It is formed by the union of two ancient kingdoms: Old Castile and the Kingdom of Leon, which were separated and reunited several times in the Middle Ages.

Castile and Leon contains much farmland, splendid cathedrals and palaces. It is the ideal place to practice active-tourism activities, complementing the interior wealth of the region, due to its rich mountain geography, natural spaces, rivers, valleys, scarped mountains, caves, gorges, extensive plains, in short: the diversity of its overwhelming landscape.


In Castile y Le
on, the active tourist offer is completed with the accommodation available in the rural surroundings. Horse-riding, potholing, climbing, water-skiing, paragliding, ballooning and canoeing add to the innumerable list of sports of a land, equestrian, snow, water and air-type offered by the companies in Castile y Leon.

Activities all of which combine leisure and nature in an impressive landscape drawn by scarped mountains, serene valleys, mountain passes and forests with an incredible wealth of fauna and flora.

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Catalonia

Catalonia is situated under the French border and is a very prosperous region. In the north you find the Pyrenees which end in the famous white coastline of the Costa Brava.

The biggest single attraction in Catalonia is the city of Barcelona. It is a fun city, with lots of great sights. Furthermore, the region offers good beaches (Sitges) where one can sun and tan as well as great hiking opportunities in the hinterland. Good options to bring a visit are Montserrat, Tarragona, Figueres and the very popular place for the youth Salou. Boi Valley and Aiguestortes National Park in the Pyrenees provide some stunning scenery. In summer time Catalonia offers a dozen of must see cultural Festivals.

Barcelona is the capital of Catalonia. The city, Spain's second largest, has a wealth of unique historic architecture and has emerged as one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe during the 1990s.

Other places to visit in Catalonia are: Figueres - home of the impressive Salvador Dalí museum, Montserrat - visit the monastery nestled high in the mountains to see the Black Madonna or hike to the peak to earn a fantastic view of the surroundings. Sitges - a traditional beach side destination for the locals. Girona - a quiet town with an ancient Jewish section, narrow streets, imposing walls and plenty of cafes. The Pyrenees - A mountain range around 150 km north from the city. San Cugat del Valles has one of the most interesting Romanesque cloisters in Catalonia, with many interesting carvings

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Ceuta

Ceuta had several sovereigns before the Portuguese in 1415 took control of this city east of Tangiers. Since 1580 it is under Spanish administration but holds the status as an autonomous city. The city is located on the African continent.

Situated beside a bay, the fortified city of Ceuta has watched over the strait of Gibraltar since long ago. The walled area presides over the old quarter of this Cosmopolitan Mediterranean city.

Since ancient times, Ceuta's strategic location has encouraged the settlement of different civilizations. Phoenicians, Greeks, Carthaginians, Romans, Visigoths and, later, Arabs and Portuguese occupied this place for commercial or military ends. Finally, by its own will, it came to form part of the Spanish crown.


M
onte Hacho is an important hill that dominates the city. For this reason, it is a strategic spot, it being in itself a fort, because of its height. In this hill sit the forts of Hacho and Desnarigado, the latter being the present Army Museum. Monte Hacho is crowned by seven peaks. In one of them there is a lighthouse, which gives it its name: La Farola. At the top we find the hermitage of San Antonio, a place where popular pilgrimages are celebrated. Also at the top is San Amaro Park, home to a diverse flora.

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Region of Valencia
 
On the Region of Valencia you find some of the best beaches in Spain and much more quiet than the ones in Catalonia or Andalusia. This area is orange country - orange trees everywhere - although around Elche you find many date palms as well.

Valencia's geographical landscape can be divided into two parts: inland and coast. Mountains and rock formations integrated into the Iberian mountain range and the Subbetica range dominate the landscape inland. Some of the most notable mountain formations include the Maestrazgo, Martes, Espina, and Espadan sierras as well as Caroig Massif. The areas highest peak is in Penyagolosa and reaches 1,813 meters high. The Penibetico range penetrates the region from the south in Alicante forming various other sierras including Crevillente, Carrascal and Aitana, whose peak reaches 1,558 meters tall.

The second part of the region is located around the flat coastal area, mainly comprised of low sandy beaches and coastal lagoons and pools, some of which have dried up.

The region is divided into three provinces: Alicante, Castellón and Valencia. The most notable natural landmarks are Salinas Point, Cape Irta, Cape Oropesa, the Columbretes Islands (of volcanic origin and declared a nature reserve in 1998), Benavides Ravine, Estany, Colomer and Palos passages, the tourist beaches of Canet, Puig, Natzaret, Pinedo, Saler and others very close to the city of Valencia, Cullera Point (with the small island of Peñeta del Moro in front of it), Xeresa Beach, Oliva Beach, Gandia Beach, Venecia Beach, Piles Beach, Almadraba Point, Cape San Antonio, Cape Nao, Ifach Rock, Cape Las Huertas, the Bay of Alicante, the Cape and Bay of Santa Pola and Cape Cervera.

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Extremadura

Extremadura is one of the less visited areas, but with the cities of Caceres, Trujillo, Badajoz & Mérida it has one of the best kept secrets of Spain.

Badajoz rose to importance under Moorish rule. It was founded by the Galician Muslim Ibn Marwan around 875 and after 1022 it became the capital of a small Moorish kingdom Taifa de Badajoz, and, though temporarily held by the Portuguese in 1168, it retained its independence until 1229; when it was captured by Alfonso IX of Leon.

Mérida was one of the most important cities in Roman Spain, or Hispania. Its patrimony includes one of the world's largest classical theatres, an amphitheatre, tow aqueducts, a bridge, several churches and other buildings. It's Museum of Roman Art has a valuable collection for the classic era.


Cáceres, lies on a hill and is characterized by its constant evolution in history from Roman times until the present day. Two periods in it development have left their mark on today's city: the Arab stronghold before it fell to the Christians in 1229, and the feudal city between the 14th and 16th C, when it was swamped with palaces and towers of aristocratic families.

Its urban complex full of its own personality became part of World Heritage in 1986. The city's history of battles between Moors and Christians is reflected in its architecture which is a blend of Roman, Islamic, Northern Gothic, and Italian Renaissance styles. From the Moslem period remain about 30 towers, of which the Torre del Bujaco is the most famous.

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Galicia

Galicia looks out over the Atlantic Ocean and the Bay of Biscay with over two thousand years of history behind it. Largely undiscovered by foreigners, it is very picturesque and mostly unspoiled. It also offers some of the prettiest Spanish landscapes.

To explore these lands in the north-west of Spain means a chance to live the adventure of a lifetime, full of tradition, lush landscapes and unique cities. In Galicia, the frontiers between sea and land cancel each other out. Both blend together along the 1,300 kilometers of coastline, 772 beaches, and five large rias (long sea lakes that stretch inland) where, tradition has it, the right hand of the Creator shaped the dramatic coastline that now defines part of this land.

A traveler coming to Galicia soon discovers that, in this territory situated in the north-west of the Iberian Peninsula, over two thousand years of history have endured. Local history offers every visitor its enigmatic castros (Celtic dwellings) with their peculiar citadels; and in them, perhaps, discover the Celts, ancient occupants of an evocative granite world (the castros at Baroña -Porto do Son-, Viladonga -Castro do Rei- or Santa Tegra -A Guarda- are the best-preserved).

The way out of Galicia by sea is through its rias. Altas (high) or Baixas (low) which nestle into the landscape making an incomparable backdrop for water tourism. Mountains, lush valleys and the most dramatic piece of coastline you are likely to find in Spain can be found in the four districts which make up the region. The district of Orense is by far the most mountainous with peaks reaching up to 1800m.

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Madrid


Madrid is a lively city - nobody is really sure when the Madrileños sleep. It may be the afternoon siesta that gives them the endurance to keep things going well into the night. Try it. It is one of the best cities to visit in Spain.

Plan several hours to see San Nicolas de los Servitas, then go shopping at Calle Serrano and the Gran Via. Visit the Victory Arch, the Palacio Real (the royal palace, with its own art treasures and crown jewels), and the Plaza de las Cibeles and Puerta del Sol (major intersections with fountains, monuments and shops). On Sunday, you must visit the Rastro Flea Market, located in La Latina, where you will find the Madrileño's real essence!

Madrid is a museum-gore's paradise. Including the Royal Palace, it has 15 important museums, dozens of galleries and several private collections. See the section on the art walk for more details about the three famous museums in Madrid: the Prado, the Thyssen Bornemisza and the Reina Sofia museum. You might end up spending more than one day just seeing museums. In fact, days could be spent in the halls of the Prado alone.

It is, however, actually quite possible to grow tired of all the museums in Madrid. If this happens, take a break, sit down at a terraza (outdoor cafe), and watch the world go by, or visit one of the many beautiful parks and lakes in the city.

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Melilla

Melilla is one of the two Spanish enclaves that lies on the coast of Morocco. It has been in Spanish hands since the late 15th century. The autonomous city of Melilla lies in North Africa, on the south eastern coast of the Tres Forcas peninsula.

Melilla measures 12.4 square kilometers, and lies on the Mediterranean coast with over two kilometers of fine sandy beaches. The coastline is flat and becomes slightly hilly further inland especially around the Gurugu massif. The small peninsula is a quirk of nature and home to Ciudad Vieja on the coast. The majority of the land is built-up.


Since 1995 Melilla has had a unique Autonomy Statute, that bestows upon it the category of autonomous city, as approved by the Spanish parliament in accordance with the 1978 Constitution. As a result the city has a type of self-government, along with the central government that rules the lives of the inhabitants of Meliila. The majority of Melilla's population is Spanish, although approximately 15% are Muslim.

Melilla
has excellent land, air and sea networks. It is also has its own airport. The most notable part of its infrastructure is its port, with its high level of passengers and goods. The port of Melilla receives fishing boats and is a free trade zone. Melilla's airport has regular and daily flights to the Spanish mainland.

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Murcia

The region of Murcia, located between the Community of Valencia and Andalusia, was the site of powerful Carthaginian and roman settlements in antiquity, while the long presence of the Moors determined its history throughout the Middle Ages. Famous today for its excellent fruit and vegetables, its coast is another major Spanish tourist zone.

Murcia, the capital of the region, is located inland. In the city itself the old quarter is made up of a maze of narrow streets huddled together around the Cathedral. This labyrinth is only broken by some main roads crossing through it such as the Gran Vía Escultor Salzillo. The most pleasant parts of the city, indeed the most typically Murcian, are to be found around the gardens on the banks of the River Segura.

La Costa Calida (The Warm Coast) rims the region of Murcia. Its climate is particularly temperate and it has fine-sand beaches. Of special interest are the Mar Menor, a salt-water lagoon that is part of the Mediterranean and is especially apt for certain water sports. Its most important tourist centers are: Santiago de la Ribera, La Manga del Mar Menor, Puerto de Mazarron, Aguilas and Cartagena.

Cartagena is the leading port in Murcia. Founded by the Carthaginians in 221 BC and originally named Carthago Nova, Cartagena has maintained its importance through the centuries. Its museum has excellent pre-Roman and Roman collections that testify to the transcendence of the great historical role played by the city.

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Navarre

First of the kingdoms of Spain, and almost the only one in Europe not created by Germanic warriors, it has many interesting historic towns. The capital of the region is Pamplona. This one province region can be divided into three different areas: mountain, central and the Pamplona basin and riverbank. These three areas are further divided into regions. The Pyrenees are in the north separating Navarre from France. The highest peaks lie in the east and decrease in altitude westwards coinciding with the Basque mountains, in the Bidasoa river depression. The highest summit in the region is the Mesa de los Tres Reyes (The Three Kings' Table) that reaches 2,434 meters. In between the Pyrenees lies the vast valley of the Aragon river.

The mountains that rise just before the Pyrenees are the Huesca mountains. The south of the province is dotted with lower peaks that include the Olivete and San Gregorio mountains.

The waterways of Navarre are dominated by two river basins: the Mediterranean that flows via the Ebro river, and the Cantabrian that includes the Araxe, Leizaran, Urumea and Bidasoa rivers. The Ebro forms a vast valley in the south, with Tudela as its capital. Las Bardenas, an extensive stretch of plains lies in the northern part of this area bordering with Aragon. The beautiful valleys throughout the region attract frequent tourist visits. Particularly worthy of note are the valleys of Baztán, Roncal, Salazar, Bidasoa, Cinco Villas-Malerreka, Ultzama-Basaburua and the valley of Larraun.

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Basque Country

The Basque Country lies in the north of Spain and basks on the Cantabrian coast. It borders the Cantabrian sea in the north, Navarre in the east, La Rioja in the south, and Castile and Leon and Cantabria in the west.

The Basque coast has abundant cliffs and sheer rock faces. The most important feature of its orography is formed by the so-called Montes Vascos (Basque Mountains), to the south of which stretches the plain called the Vitoria Plain or the Concha de Álava (Shell of Álava). The northern part of the region has numerous valleys that run parallel with the coast. The final spurs of the Pyrenees can be found in the north east of the region on the border with France.

The region is comprised of three provinces that include: Alava (Araba), Guipuzcoa (Gipuzkoa) and Biscay (Bizkaia). Set on the banks of the Nervion River, Bilbao the largest city in the Basque region and this city is rapidly working at re-inventing itself as a tourist center and warrants at least a day's visit to see its attractions. The new futuristic- looking Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, devoted to modern art, is the cornerstone of a major redevelopment project of the city's waterfront.

San Sebastian (Donostia) lies in the shelter of the Monte lgueldo, Urgull and Ulía, and the river Urumea flows through the middle of it. San Sebastian is an important beach resort, but that's not all that there's to the city. The cosmopolitanism of the modern town with its large avenues and elegant tree-lined boulevards and picturesque old quarter are two important attractions.

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La Rioja

The autonomous region of La Rioja lies in the north of Spain. It borders the Basque Country and Navarre in the north, Aragon in the east, and Castile and Leon in the south and east.

As a crossroads, La Rioja is a medley of different styles of art and cultures. Right from the Celtiberians up to the Christian civilization, passing through the Visigoths, Romans, Arabs … The very atmosphere of La Rioja is that of a mixture, highly spiced with sharply contrasting traditions. All the cultures of the Iberian Peninsula have a share in La Rioja.

Logroño is the capital of the Autonomous Community of La Rioja. Seat of the Parliament of La Rioja and of the Presidency of the Government of La Rioja.

The Way of St James, the leading European Cultural Route and a Heritage of Humanity, is one of the tourist routes that is most used by travelers to discover the history, art and culture of La Rioja. Since the discovery of the Apostle's grave at Santiago de Compostela in the 9th Century, the Way of St James has served as a communication route for new ideas, techniques, cultures and life styles between the different regions and communities it crosses through.

In Logroño the French Route, coming from the Pyrenees through Navarre and Aragon, converges with the Jacobean Route of the Ebro Valley, which starts from the Mediterranean and follows the Roman road between Tarragona and Astorga, passing through the once-Roman towns of Alfaro, Calahorra and Varea in La Rioja

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