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Spain CruisesView all tours
From riotous fiestas and sizzling cuisine to world-class museums and cutting-edge art galleries, there’s a reason why Spain endures as one of the world’s most popular destinations. Like the country’s famous tapas, Spain itself is a tempting smorgasbord of bustling cities, scenic countryside and sunny islands, which visitors can nibble away at on repeat trips or consume in one giant feast. Either way, it is one appetising nation.
In spite of its myriad attractions, most come to Spain for sun, sand and self-indulgence, flocking to the likes of the Costa del Sol and Costa Brava to while away days on beaches and nights in clubs. An early pioneer of package holidays, Spain’s leading resorts have long been geared up for the mass market – from the Balearics to the Canary Islands – but it’s not all sprawling hotel complexes; quaint fishing villages, bijous retreats and secluded beaches abound if you’re looking to veer off the tourist trail.
Spain is much more than holidays in the sun, though. Away from the beach there’s an extraordinary variety of things to do; from climbing snow-capped peaks in the Pyrénées to hiking the ancient pilgrimage route of St James’s Way; from diving in the protected Medes Islands to stargazing in Tenerife. Alternatively, you could drop in on one of the country’s many festivals (think Running of the Bulls, La Tomatina and the Baby Jumping Festival) which are madder than a box of frogs.
And then there are the cities; Madrid, Barcelona, Bilbao, Seville, Valencia, the list goes on. Each one of these vibrant metropolises has their own distinct flavour; the Dali architecture and sweeping beaches of Barcelona seem a long way from the wide boulevards and soaring skyscrapers of Madrid (though the Catalans wish it was further).
But for all their disparities, these cities are bound by Spain’s remarkable history and enviable cultural feats, which are proudly displayed in the country’s museums, galleries and UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Suffice to say, its popularity shows no sign of waning.
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.Head Of State:
King Felipe VI of Spain since 2014.Head Of Government:
Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy since 2011.Electricity:
230 volts AC, 50Hz. European plugs with two round pins are standard.Timezone:
Central European Time: GMT/UTC +1 (GMT/UTC +2 from 27 March to 30 October 2016)
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 = 1.16 EUR
- 1 USD = 0.89 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.