Smaller than France and larger than California, Spain is replete with impressive mountain ranges and high plateaus, which provide a source for major rivers such as the Ebro, Tagus and Guadalquivir. To the west, the country shares a border with Portugal, whilst to the north, the Pyrenees separate Spain and France. On the African continent, borders are also shared with Morocco through the cities of Ceuta and Melilla, which remain Spanish territory.
Apart from many uninhabited islands in the straits of Gibraltar, including Perejil, the Kingdom rules over larger islands such as the Balearics in the Mediterranean and the Canary Islands in the Atlantic Ocean. One of the more unusual territories is Llivia, which is entirely surrounded by France. After the treaty of the Pyrenees in 1659, the comarques of Capcir, Conflent, Northern Cerdanya and Vallespir were ceded to the French, however the treaty specified that villages only would pass into French hands. Llivia, though small, was considered a city due to its status as the ancient capital of Cerdanya, so remained Spanish.
Spain's climate differs dramatically from region to region. A continental Mediterranean climate prevails in the inland areas of the peninsula, whilst an oceanic climate exists on the coastal strip near the Bay of Biscay. This area is known as Green Spain, and for good reason, as it is the wettest part of the country. The region around Tabernas in Murcia is regarded as the only true desert in Europe, yet not many miles away, on the coastline of the Granada and Malaga provinces, a sub-tropical climate is enjoyed by numerous holidaymakers and locals alike. The Canary Islands also bathe in a sub-tropical environment. Add to this, the mountain regions and we can see how diverse the weather can be.
The country's history has been much influenced by the Moors, especially in Andalucía, where evidence of Moorish architecture is abundant. If you are within striking distance of Granada, I wholly recommend a visit to the Alhambra, the former residence of the Muslim rulers of Granada. The architecture and decoration within the palaces are typical of the Moorish era in Spain. Another striking place to see is Cordoba and its mezquita, or mosque.
It is now a Roman Catholic cathedral, but was formerly a mosque. The building began life in approximately 600 A.D. as the Christian Visgothic church of St Vincent. One theory is that the Emir Abd ar-Rahman 1 bought the church and turned it into a mosque, however some believe that the church was demolished by the Christian community. Whatever the truth, the legacy is a magnificent building which reflects the changing face of its past.
If you're thinking of touring in Spain, Andalucía in July and August is best avoided, unless you like it really hot. Any other time of the year is fine, although you could be unlucky and drop on a rainy week. Northern Spain has some beautiful scenery, but remember to keep away from the mountainous regions in winter, unless you are well prepared.