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Spain - Country Profile

Summary

Spain is one of the most visited countries in Europe. However most tourists only visit the coastal resort areas and only get a glimpse of Spain. The southern coastal areas are fantastic though with year round sunshine and warm, calm sea. The northern coast is green and verdant along the Atlantic coast and rocky coves replace the beaches of the Mediterranean.

The interior of Spain is a different world. The central plain, punctuated by mountainous areas is harsh with hot summers and freezing winters. The wide open landscapes are dotted with small towns, seemingly unchanged for hundreds of years.

Madrid and Barcelona vie for attention as the cultural capital of Spain. Both have their highlights and are worth visiting. Smaller cities like Valencia, Bibao and Segovia also have their attractions.

The southern province of Andalucia is almost a different country. The Moorish influence is still visible in Cordoba's Mezquita and the Alhambra Palace in Granada.

Highlights

  • Barcelona
  • Granada
  • Andalucian Coast

Weather and times to visit

Spain has a mediterranean climate on the coast and continental inland. The best time to visit is April to June and September - the summer months can be unrelentingly hot. The Andalucian coast stays warm through the winter, while Madrid and the central plains freeze. The north and far west has most of the rainfall during the winter.

Language

Spanish (Castillian) is the official language and spoken across the country. However three major regional langauages exist - Catalan in Barcelona, Catalunya, and the Balearic Islands, Galician in the far north west and Basque in the Pais Vasco and Navarra. There are also several regional dialects - Valencia has a version of Catalan, while pretty much every valley in the region speaks a different dialect of Basque.

English is widely spoken in tourist areas on the coast - many resorts are English language orientated, while others have mainly German or Scandanavian visitors. English is much less spoken in the interior - foreign visitors are less common here.

Currency and money matters

Spain uses the Euro. ATM machines are common, and credit cards are widely accepted in larger establishments.

Business Hours

Banks tend to open from 8.30am to 2pm Monday to Friday and Saturday mornings. Shops and most businesses open from 9am to 2pm then again for a few hours from 4.30 or 5pm. Town centres, even the larger cities, can be deserted during this siesta time where most Spaniards take a long lunch.

Visas

Visas are not generally needed for stays under 90 days - South African visitors are the exception.

General Campsite Conditions

Spanish campsites are generally well equipped - those along the coast are semi-permenant holiday parks often opening directly out onto the beach.

Destinations