Spain is a country in Southwestern Europe with some pockets of Spanish territory across the Strait of Gibraltar and the Atlantic Ocean. Its continental European territory is situated on the Iberian Peninsula. Its territory also includes two archipelagoes: the Canary Islands off the coast of Africa, and the Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean Sea. The African enclaves of Ceuta, Melilla, and Peñón de Vélez de la Gomera make Spain the only European country to have a physical border with an African country (Morocco). Several small islands in the Alboran Sea are also part of Spanish territory.
An enclave is a territory (or a part of one) that is entirely surrounded by the territory of one other state.
This map (in Spanish) shows Spain’s territory in Africa:
Mainland Spain is a mountainous country, dominated by high plateaus and mountain chains.
Spain has three main climates: a Mediterranean climate with hot and dry summers, a semi-arid climate in the southeast (and other areas), and an oceanic climate where temperatures are influenced by the ocean.
Spain has one of the highest degrees of biodiversity among European countries; this is because of its four varied, major biogeographic regions, Atlantic, Alpine, Mediterranean and Macaronesian. The country is considered to be one of the world’s biodiversity hotspots.
In the early modern period, Spain ruled one of the largest empires in history which was also one of the first global empires, leaving a large cultural and linguistic legacy, making Spanish the world’s second-most spoken native language, after Mandarin Chinese. Let’s watch a history video to see how Spain played a pivotal role in Europe and the world:
Spanish is the official language of the entire country, but there are four other official languages: Catalan, Galician, Basque, and Occitan.
Basque is spoken by an ethnic group that lives in an area known as the Basque Country, a region that is located around the western end of the Pyrenees on the coast of the Bay of Biscay and straddles parts of north-central Spain and south-western France.
An interesting thing about the Basques is that their language is unrelated to any other language in the area and it has been spoken continuously locally, in and around its present territorial location, for longer than other modern European languages.
Spanish culture is marked by strong historic ties to Catholicism, which played a pivotal role in the country’s formation and subsequent identity. Spanish art, architecture, cuisine, and music have been shaped by successive waves of foreign invaders, as well as by the country’s Mediterranean climate and geography. Here are some things Spain is famous for:
Spanish cuisine is heavily influenced by historical processes that shaped local culture and society in some of Europe’s Iberian Peninsula territories. Geography and climate have had a great influence on cooking methods and available ingredients. Traditional meals vary depending on the region of Spain. For example, in Andalusia, olive oil is frequently used. In Aragon, lambs are raised on the slopes of the Pyrenees Mountains, so lamb dishes are popular. In the Canary Islands, fish and potatoes are staples.
Portugal is the oldest nation state on the Iberian Peninsula and one of the oldest in Europe, its territory having been continuously settled, invaded and fought over since prehistoric times.
A nation state is a state in which a great majority shares the same culture and is conscious of it.
The pre-Celtic people, Celts and Romans were followed by the invasions of the Suebi and Visigoths Germanic peoples. After the Muslim conquest of the Iberian Peninsula, most of its territory was part of Al-Andalus (the name given by the Muslims to the Iberian Peninsula during the Middle Ages). Portugal as a country was established during the early Christian Reconquista.
Portugal is split by its main river, the Tagus.
The northern landscape is mountainous towards the interior with several plateaus indented by river valleys, whereas the south is characterized by rolling plains. The Azores islands are an autonomous region of Portugal and are located in the North Atlantic Ocean.
The Azores is an archipelago (chain of islands) composed of nine volcanic islands.
Portugal has a Mediterranean climate for the most part and receives snow regularly in the winter in the north and center of the country. In the South of the country, snowfalls are rare but still occur in the highest elevations. Despite the fact that humans have occupied the territory of Portugal for thousands of years, something still remains of the original vegetation.
Portugal is an important stopover for migratory birds, in places such as Cape St. Vincent or the Monchique mountains, where thousands of birds cross from Europe to Africa during the autumn or in the spring (return migration).
Serra de Monchique is one of the two mountain ranges of Algarve, the southernmost part of Portugal.
Some things Portugal is known for:
Portuguese cuisine is very diverse. The Portuguese consume a lot of dry cod and other fish recipes. The country has Europe’s highest fish consumption per capita. Cod is almost always used dried and salted because the Portuguese fishing tradition in the North Atlantic developed before the invention of refrigeration—therefore it needs to be soaked in water or sometimes milk before cooking. Olive oil is one of the bases of Portuguese cuisine, which is used both for cooking and flavoring meals.
Many words like marmalade, caramel, molasses and sugar have Portuguese origins.
✎ Spain owns territories off the coast of Africa and touching the African country of Morrocco.
✎ Spain ruled one of the largest empires in history and Spanish is the world’s second-most spoken native language.
✎ Spanish culture is marked by strong historic ties to Catholicism.
✎ Portugal is the oldest nation state on the Iberian Peninsula.
Next: Italy and Greece
Image and additional info credits:
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Spanish enclave map
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By Miguel González Novo from Melilla, España – palma de mallorca Vista desde Melilla la ViejaUploaded by ecemaml, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=22942423
Monte Perdido National Park
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Wildlife of Spain info
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Woman in Hat and Fur Collar
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Running with the bulls
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Spanish cuisine info
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Nation state info
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Peneda-Geres National Park
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Rooster of Barcelos
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Vasco de Gama’s voyage map
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Portuguese bread soup
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Fried pork and clams
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