• Spaanse vlag
  • Paella
  • plaza-espano

Spain and its cultural & historical gems

Spain just across the Portuguese border


Spain is a popular destination for beach tourists. Culture lovers find their way to Barcelona or Madrid. Perhaps Bilbao is also on the list of cities to visit.

Unfortunately, the interior of Spain and the region just across the Portuguese border are not usually thought of. However, these regions are more than worth discovering. So read our free tips for short trips and our free tips for longer, themed tours so that you too can enjoy many hidden gems.


Spain, the largest portion of the peninsula

Together with Portugal, Spain forms the Iberian Peninsula in southwestern Europe. Spain also includes the Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean Sea, the Canary Islands in the Atlantic Ocean and the Spanish exclaves in North Africa.

The Spanish territory on the Iberian Peninsula covers an area of 505,992 km2, almost five times the size of neighbouring Portugal. Its capital, and immediately its largest city, is Madrid.

Spain has five official languages (Spanish, Catalan, Basque, Galician and Aranese) and two unofficial languages (Asturian and Aragonese). Spanish is the official national language.

Spain and its different communities

Spain's territory on the Iberian Peninsula is divided into autonomous communities:

  • Andalusia: in the south. Seville, Malaga, Marbella, Córdoba and Granada are some of the famous cities in this region.
  • Extremadura: in western Spain and bordering its Portuguese neighbour with the cities of Cáceres and Mérida
  • Castilla y León: in western Spain and bordering its Portuguese neighbour, including the city of Salamanca
  • Galicia: to the north and bordering Portugal with, among others, Santiago de Compostella
  • The other communities are: Asturia, Cantabria, Basque Country, Navarre, La Rioja, Aragon, Catalonia, Valencia, Castile-La Mancha, Madrid, Murcia and the islands that also belong to Spain

About 50 million people live in Spain (2020).

The climate in Spain

The climate in Spain varies greatly from region to region and can be broadly classified as follows:

  • Northeast, Mediterranean coast: Mediterranean climate with warm to hot summers and mild winters, approx. 600 mm of precipitation per year
  • Southeast, Mediterranean coast (Alicante, Murcia, Almería): Mediterranean climate with hot summers and mild winters, 150 mm of precipitation per year, making it the driest region in Europe
  • South, Mediterranean coast (Málaga, Granada coast): subtropical climate with warm, sometimes hot summers, extremely mild winters
  • Quadalquivir Valley (Seville and Córdoba): desert climate with long, extremely hot and dry summers, mild winters, almost no precipitation
  • Southwest, Atlantic coast (Cadiz and Huelva): warm, but not extremely hot summers, mild winters, relatively high precipitation
  • Spanish plateau (Madrid, Castile-La Mancha and Castile and León): Mediterranean climate with strong influences of a more extreme continental climate. Long and very hot summers and cold winters, low precipitation
  • Valley of the Ebro (Zaragoza and inland Catalonia): almost a continental climate with very hot summers, cold winters, low precipitation.
  • North, Atlantic coast (Galicia, Asturias, Cantabria, Basque country): maritime climate with mild summers and winters, high precipitation (up to 1,200 mm per year)
  • Pyrenees: high-mountain climate and temperate wet climate with cool summers and cold winters

So, all year round, you can enjoy one or the other Spanish region.

Nature in Spain

Nature in Spain is very diverse: from mountains, remarkable rocky areas and wetlands to forests and beaches. Something for everyone!

On average, Spain is situated 660 metres above sea level, making it the second highest country in Europe after Switzerland. The three largest mountain ranges are the Pyrenees, the Picos de Europa and the Sierra Nevada.

The main rivers are the Ebro, the Duero, the Tagus and the Guadalquivir.  The Tagus rises in Spain (called Tajo here, but Tejo in Portugal) and flows out into the Atlantic beyond Lisbon. The Douro also originates in Spain but flows into the Atlantic beyond the city of Porto.

Spain is also home to several national parks with very diverse nature. Some parks have peaceful, flat landscapes, while others show off their wild, rugged nature. Some examples:

  • Parque Nacional Coto de Donaña
  • Parque Nacional de Aiguestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici
  • Parque Nacional de Cabaneros
  • Parque Nacional Ordesa y Monte Perdido
  • Parque Nacional Picos de Europa

Spanish history and culture in a (very small) nutshell

Like its Portuguese neighbour, Spain is an old European country with a rich history and culture. We limit ourselves here to listing the all-important sights from the Moorish rule in the early 8th century AD.

  • Early 8th century - 1492: the Iberian peninsula is dominated by the Moors. In Spain, the Reconquista (reconquest by Christians) took place in 1492 with the fall of Granada. A beautiful building that unites Islam and Christianity in a special way is the Mezquita in Córdoba.
  • 1504 - 1700: Spain became a world power under the Habsburgs. The Spanish empire stretched across the globe.
  • 1700 – 1868: Spanish Succession War (1701-1713) and Napoleonic Wars (around 1800).
  • 1931: Spain becomes a republic after King Alfons XIII was forced to abdicate.
  • 1936-1939: Spanish civil war; Franco remains in power as dictator until 1975.
  • 1975: monarchy is restored, and Juan Carlos becomes the new king, to be succeeded by his son Felipe in 2014.

Due to the different cultural influences over the centuries, Spain has a lot of cultural-historical finds, sights and architectural styles. Discover more via our tips for short trips and tips for longer trips.

The typical and traditional Spanish music is Flamenco.

Spain, the land of fiestas

Spain has many public holidays, both national and regional. Some fiestas and traditions are part of UNESCO intangible/cultural heritage. One of the internationally known traditions is the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostella.

Below are some of Spain's best-known fiestas:

  • Semana Santa, the holy week before Easter
  • Feria de Abril in Seville, a cheerful and colourful folk festival
  • Feria del Caballo in Jerez de la Frontera, which always takes place a week after the festivities in Seville
  • Hogueras de San Juan is the magical festival that ushers in summer
  • La batalla del vino in La Rioja, the Battle of the Wine, is held every year on 29 June in the northern Spanish medieval village of Haro
  • La Tomatina in Buñol, is the largest tomato fight in the world held every last Wednesday of August
  • San Fermin in Pamplona, an entire week in July of dancing and open-air concerts, street theatre and the giant parade. The apotheosis is the encierro, the running of the bulls
  • Las Fallas Valencia's biggest celebration. Fallas or Falles refers to the giant puppets made especially for the festivities and set on fire at the end
  • During the Festival de los Patios in Córdoba in the month of May, enjoy the many flower-decorated patios
  • De Semana Grande in Bilbao starts every year on the next Saturday after 15 August and lasts for 9 days.

There are many more celebrations and festivals in Spain, too many to list here.

Food, beverages and prices

Tapas and pinchos, tortillas, churros, paella, gazpacho, cocidos and calamares, chorizo, jamón, fish and seafood… Spanish cuisine is as diverse as its communities, cultures and climates, and is part of the basis of the Mediterranean diet. Spain is the world's largest olive oil producer. A dash of olive oil combined with delicious spices can undoubtedly be expected in every dish. Wine with meals is a daily habit and just like in Portugal, you will also find a wide variety of wines in Spain. And of course, a real Spanish sangria as an aperitif should not be missed..

Would you like to enjoy all these Spanish delights? Definitely do so, as consumer prices in Spain are usually lower than in northern Europe.

Practical information about Spain

  • Time zone: Spain is in the Greenwich Meantime +1 time zone (GMT +1), just like Belgium and the Netherlands.
  • Traffic: in Spain people drive on the right-hand side of the road.
  • Toll roads: most motorways in Spain are toll roads.
  • Electricity: the same plugs, sockets and voltage as in the Netherlands and Belgium. But different from those in the UK and the USA.
  • Emergency services: police, fire brigade and ambulance services can be reached via 112.

Fancy exploring this beautiful country?

Jinah Trans has a wide range of services and ideas to make your holiday a lasting memory. Discover what we have in store for you, your partner, friends and/or family:

  • Airport transfers from Lisbon to the Silver Coast and back
  • Day trips in the Silver Coast region and central Portugal
  • Tips for short trips: 3 to 5 days Portugal & Spain with your own car or a rental car
  • Tips for longer trips: with different themes,  with your own car or rental car