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Spain

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From sizzling cuisine and riotous fiestas to cutting-edge contemporary art, age-old museums and a palpitating beach culture, Spain sure packs a punch. It’s feisty, sexy and extremely hot – almost like a sensual flamenco dancer who captivates with her mesmerising moves. Whether you are a culture vulture, history buff or beach bum, it’s almost inevitable that with Spain, it’ll be love at first sight.

Spain is a country as diverse as it is eclectic: futuristic buildings stand alongside ancient Roman cathedrals, while traditional flamenco tablaos abut stylish boutique hotels. In a country with this much historical background, the marriage of distinctive cultures is evident from its flurry of Romanesque churches, baroque buildings, Moorish fortresses and Renaissance palaces.

As versatile as a chameleon, Spain’s multifaceted personality is further highlighted by different corners of the country: from the golden sun-kissed shores of Costa del Sol to the snow-lathered peaks of the Pyrénées; from the futuristic architecture of Valencia to the medieval towns of Catalonia; from the expansive boulevards of cosmopolitan Madrid to the rural countryside of Galicia.

In the food department, Spanish cuisine has kicked up a storm worldwide, and it’s easy to see why. Whether you’re hopping from bar to bar to sample tasty tapas, or splurging on an exquisite gourmet meal, Spanish cuisine promises to stir up your soul. Home to the highest number of Michelin-starred restaurants in the world, Spain is the birthplace of nouveau cuisine and naturally the epicentre of the culinary world. Treat yourself to a fine-dining experience in Barcelona, sample pintxos (miniature bread-based tapas) from bar to bar in Bilbao, tuck into rich traditional stews in the countryside of Asturias or snack on tapas in a lively market of Seville – the variety of Spanish gastronomy is simply endless.

Nightlife in Spain buzzes, with a raging party scene that goes on till the wee hours, the after party continuing through the day. Night owls will not be disappointed in Madrid and Barcelona, where you’ll find the best jazz bars, techno clubs and hip-hop joints in the country. Foam parties and rave festivals are massively popular with the clubbing set, on the island of Ibiza.

Eternal sunshine and endless stretches of golden beaches are certainly part of the sultry charm of this country, but Spain’s allure clearly stretches beyond the coastline. In the north, the mountainous national parks of Asturias offer scenic hiking in alpine environments, while the craggy coastline of Galicia surprises with isolated bays and picturesque fishing villages. Head west to find your way through the Roman ruins of Extremadura, or weave your way eastwards to marvel at the architectural wonders of Valencia and Tarragona. Down South, a plethora of ancient monuments, wonderful cities and traditional arts await in Andalucía. Take your time to explore, because Spain will surprise you.

  • Capital:

    Madrid.

    Geography:

    Spain shares the Iberian Peninsula with its smaller neighbour, Portugal, and is bordered to the northeast by the Pyrenees mountain range that cuts across France and Andorra. Surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, Spain has numerous stretches of coastline that are extremely crowded especially in summer.

    Spain has two main groups of islands that are popular with tourists: the Balearic Islands (Mallorca, Menorca, Ibiza and Formentera) located 193km (120 miles) southeast of Barcelona, and the Canary Islands off the west coast of Africa (mainly Tenerife, Gran Canaria, Fuerteventura, Lanzarote and La Palma). Located in continental Africa, the tiny enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla also form a part of Spain.

    Mainland Spain is the second highest and most mountainous country in Europe, with an average height of 610m (2,000ft). The Pyrenees stretch roughly 400km (249 miles) from the Basque Country's Atlantic coast. In places the peaks rise to over 1,524m (5,000ft), the highest point being 3,404m (11,169ft).

    The main physical feature of Spain is the vast central plateau, or meseta, divided by several chains of sierras. The higher northern area includes Castile and León and the southern section comprises Castile-La Mancha and Extremadura. In the south, the high plains rise further at the Sierra Morena before falling abruptly at the great valley of the Guadalquivir.

    Southeast of Granada is the Sierra Nevada, which runs parallel to the Mediterranean. Its summit Mulhacen, at 3,718m (12,198ft), is the highest point on the Spanish peninsula. The highest peak in Spain is the Pico del Teide on Tenerife in the Canaries, measuring a height of 3,718m (12,198ft).

    Government:

    Parliamentary monarchy since 1977.

    Head Of State:

    King Felipe VI of Spain since 2014.

    Head Of Government:

    Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy since 2011.

    Electricity:

    230 volts AC, 50Hz. Round two-pin plugs are in use.

    Timezone:
  • Currency Information:

    Euro (EUR; symbol €) = 100 cents (céntimos). Notes are in denominations of €500, 200, 100, 50, 20, 10 and 5. Coins are in denominations of €2 and 1, and 50, 20, 10, 5, 2 and 1 cents.

    Credit Cards:

    MasterCard/Cirrus and Visa/Plus are accepted in nearly all ATMs, which are common throughout the country. These credit cards can generally be used outside main towns and cities, although cash is your safest bet.

    ATMs:

    American Express, Diners Club, MasterCard/Cirrus and Visa/Plus are accepted in nearly all ATMs, which are common throughout the country. There are usually at least one bank and ATM in each village.

    Travellers Cheques:

    Traveller's cheques are disappearing from use fast, and it's far more convenient to travel with credit cards these days. Nevertheless, you can still change them in main bank branches and exchange bureaux, and they are accepted in major hotels. It is advisable to bring them in sterling or dollars as there have been increasing reports of Euro cheques being refused.

    Banking Hours:

    Generally Mon-Fri 0830-1400. Some branches open Saturdays too, from October to April.

    Currency Restrictions:

    There are no restrictions on the import or export of local or foreign currency. However, amounts exceeding €10,000 or equivalent must be declared if travelling from or to a country outside the European Union.

    Currency Exchange:

    Money can be changed in any bank, and at most travel agencies, major hotels and airports.

    Currencies: Exchange Rates:

    • 1 AUD = 0.71 EUR
    • 1 EUR = 1.00 EUR
    • 1 GBP = 1.28 EUR
    • 1 USD = 0.79 EUR

  • Best Time To Visit:

    Spain's climate varies from temperate in the north to dry and hot in the south. As it is a big country with varying terrain and altitudes, climate can be extremely distinctive from one corner to another. Overall, the coastal regions in the South and Eastern parts of Spain are excellent to visit all year round thanks to the Mediterranean climate (mild temperatures and long days). Northern Spain generally experiences colder temperatures than the South, while Central Spain stays hot and dry due to its location on a plateau.



    The best time to visit depends on the region and type of travel experience you’re seeking. For a beach vacation, the best months for guaranteed sunshine are June to August. Naturally, these are also the busiest months for tourism along the coast and on the Spanish islands, so be prepared for high prices and crowds. If you’re looking to escape the crowds, head inland to cities like Seville, Madrid and Granada where temperatures are sizzling but streets are empty.



    The shoulder season for travel in Spain is usually late spring and autumn: from April to end of May and October to November. These are when tourist destinations are least crowded and weather is still pleasant. January to February is the best time to ski, as snow is ample and the sun is shining. Especially in the Sierra Nevada, the sun can be quite overwhelming even in the snow – come prepared with snow goggles and sunscreen.

    Required Clothing:

    From June to August on the coastal areas, casual beach wear like flip flops, vests, loose fitting clothing and shorts will suffice. It can get unbearably hot in the city, so be prepared to brave the weather with plenty of water, a hat and sunscreen.

    In between high and low season (April-May; October-November) climate can be unpredictable in certain parts of the country– be sure to pack your umbrella, raincoat and a light jacket for the night.