Best of the best
- 1Finca Amapola
- 2Finca/Hotel Ca'n Canals
- 3Seaside Grand Hotel Residencia
- 4Bungalows & Appartements Playamar
Puerto del Carmen
- 5Hotel Rural Son Trobat
San Lorenzo / Sant Llorenc
- 6Villa Chiquita
Colonia Sant Jordi
- 7Hotel Hipotels Gran Conil
Conil/Conil de la Frontera
- 8Hotel Son Amoixa Vell
- 9Hotel Serrano Palace
- 10Gloria Palace Royal Hotel & Spa
- 11Hotel Don Leon
Colonia Sant Jordi
- 12Finca-Wellness und Physiohotel S´Hort d...
Facts and information about Spain
Tourism Information Official tourism information of Spain can be found at www.spain.info/en
Spain With its shores swept by the cold waters of the Atlantic Ocean on one coast and by the warmer waters of the Mediterranean Sea on the other (resulting in a variety of climates ranging from cool continental air on the inland plateaux to intense heat in the southern regions), Spain covers a great part of the Iberian Peninsula, flanked by Portugal. Its fertile soil, its wealth of underground mineral resources, the abundance of fish in its seas and its typical, pleasant scenery have all contributed over the centuries to making this land a much sought after place for many populations. Man started living here at around 800,000 BC; the first inhabitants were groups of hunters, followed many years later by tribes of sheep-farmers and, around the year 5000 BC, by agriculture farmers. Later on, colonisers from farther afield arrived, creating not only colonies here, but also bringing their own particular forms of culture with them: the first to land on the Spanish shores were the Phoenicians, around 1100 BC, who founded prosperous settlements particularly along the South-East coastline; the Greeks were the next to arrive, coming here in the VII century and settling along the North-East coast of the country; the last to land in the peninsula were the Carthaginians who came in 228 BC and began their surge of conquests in Andalusia. However, these highly evolved 'foreigners', who intended transforming Spain into one of their colonies, soon found themselves facing the native inhabitants and resident cultures: like the powerful Tartessian Kingdom, which appeared in the southern part of Spain in the VIII century BC and which was conquered by Hamilcar Barca's strong Carthaginian army only at the end of the III century BC; or the tough, bellicose Celtiberians, who were a mixed-blood race generated from native tribes and the Celts who had come down from the North many years previously to conquer the Spanish plateaux. It was these Celtiberians and the Carthaginian troops of Hamilcar's son, Hannibal, that Scipio Africanus had to face when he landed at Emporium (now Empúries, on the North-East coast of Spain) in 218 BC, giving rise to the Second Punic War and the Roman conquest of the peninsula. However, while the Carthaginians were completely overcome by 206 BC, conquering the rest of the country that was so fiercely defended by the local people proved to be a much more arduous task, so much so that Augustus was able to proclaim the conquest completed only in 19 BC. In 74 AD, Vespasian granted Roman citizenship to all the cities in the country, and for centuries thereafter Spain was the granary of the Roman Empire, thanks to the vast areas where cereals were extensively grown, and it became one of its principal sources of minerals. However, Spain also produced many famous people for Rome, from the Emperor Trajan to Seneca, the philosopher, and in return the cities were extended and embellished, facilities (roads, aqueducts etc.) were created, new centres were founded and majestic monuments were erected. Nevertheless, when Roman supremacy began to decline, Spain, which was a peripheral part of the Empire, was one of the first provinces to pay the consequences: halfway through the III century there had been already numerous incursions by the Franks coming down from the North, but the finishing blow came from the Vandals, Swabians and Alanians, who crossed over the Pyrenees in 409 and ransacked the peninsula. It was the Visigoths, another Germanic tribe, who took over from the Romans after conquering the peninsula in 415: once they had established their court at Barcelona they left the political, juridical and administrative structures created by the Romans practically untouched, imposing only their supremacy supported by a solid military regime. On the other hand, they tried in vain to force Aryanism on a country where Christianity had been spreading since the III century: as a matter of fact, the Visigoth King Recaredo actually converted to the Roman Catholic Church at the end of the VI century and became the first Christian sovereign of Spain; he promoted the first serious contacts between the Hispanic people and their former invaders, thus leading the way to unification of the rich Hispanic-Roman culture with the rougher, more uncouth culture imported by the Visigoths. By the VII century, however, the strength of the Visigoth kingdom in Spain began to decline, undermined by the internal disputes that tormented the aristocratic ranks: in this situation they were unable to ward off the advancing Arabs and Berbers, who landed on the southern coasts of the country in 711. These very quickly conquered the whole of Spain, except for a small strip of land in the Asturias mountains where the Moors – as the Muslim invaders were soon called – were opposed by a large group of Christians and Visigoth noblemen: the victory of the Visigoths over the Arabs at Cavadonga in 722 was considered a message from Heaven and was actually the first step towards the future, heroic Reconquista of Christianity in the whole country. In the meantime, however, the Moors, frustrated by the ambitious project of subjecting the continent after the defeat suffered by Carlo Martello's troops at Poitiers in 732, dedicated themselves to reorganising the Spanish territories they had already conquered and which they collectively called Al Andalus: this gave birth to the powerful caliphate of Cordoba and a rich, refined culture began to flourish, one that was to reach heights of splendour unrivalled elsewhere in Europe and destined to leave indelible traces in Spanish history. Moorish Spain asserted itself as a mighty power, to the forefront in all branches of knowledge, from mathematics to architecture, from astronomy to decorative arts, from warfare to navigation techniques. Meanwhile, Christian resistance was becoming organised in the northern parts of the Iberian Peninsula: in 744, Alphonse I of Asturias was very successful in León, occupying part of Galicia and Cantabria; in the IX century, Alphonse II established the capital of the new Christian kingdom in Oviedo, forming an alliance with the Basques who had always been proud of their independence and were obstinate opponents of the Moors; in 905 it was the turn of Navarra to become a Christian realm under Sancho I, whereas García I transferred the capital of the Asturian kingdom from Oviedo to León in 913. In 976, though, when rule in Cordoba was taken over by Al-Mansur, a strong-willed military dictator, all the internal struggles that had weakened Moorish domination were appeased and Arabian vengeance fell upon the Christian kingdoms: Barcelona was set on fire and its inhabitants were either killed or captured, while devastating raids upset Asturias and Catalonia, Navarra and León, Aragona and even Santiago de Compostela, where the Cathedral was completely destroyed; only the doors and bells were saved, but they were taken to Cordoba and used for making ceilings and lamps in the Great Mosque that was being built there. However, on the death of Al Mansur in 1002, the situation was not long in changing: aided by the disintegration of the Arabian State that was breaking up into small independent kingdoms, the taifas that were devoted to secessionism, the Christians advanced compact towards the South and while the Count of Barcelona marched towards Cordoba, Sancho III the Great, King of Navarra, was acknowledged sovereign of Aragona and Castile, as well as of the city of León. From then on, everything seemed fated: in 1013 the Caliphate of Cordoba fell at last, in 1037 Ferdinand I united León and Castile under the one crown, in 1085 Alphonse VI of Castile reconquered Toledo, in 1094 El Cid overcame Valencia, while the marriage performed in the middle of the XII century between the Count of Barcelona, Ramón Berengario IV and Petronila, daughter of the King of Aragona, led to the unification of Aragona and Catalonia under the rule of their son, Alphonse II. In the meantime, the Almohads, a Berber tribe that had come over from Morocco, landed in Spain and joined another North African tribe, the Almoravids, who, in spite of their decline, still kept vast possessions in the South of the peninsula. These Almohads invaded Andalusia in 1195, forcefully driving out thousands of Mozarabi (Christians who had continued to live and work in Saracen territory) and establishing their capital in Seville. But the reaction of the Christian world was quick and determined: Pope Innocence III proclaimed a crusade and in 1212, at Las Navas de Tolosa, the combined armadas under Alphonse VIII of Castile, Pedro II of Aragona and Sancho VII of Navarra overthrew the Almohad armies. Therefore, while James I conquered Valencia and the Balearic Islands, Ferdinand III united Castile and León under his crown (1230). And six years after, Cordoba surrendered to this king. Nevertheless, there were still many places in the hands of the Muslims – so many, in fact, that from then on the Reconquista proceeded at a gradual pace, performing one small step after another: in 1246, Ferdinand III conquered Jaén, in 1248 Seville fell, whereas Granada and Malaga became part of a new Muslim state protected by the Christians, under the Arabian Nasiridi dynasty which offered asylum to thousands of fleeing Moors. The fact that so many different Christian monarchs reigned in Spain, all inevitably divided by rivalry and dispute, was not exactly an advantage for the final Reconquista: this is why it could not be considered completed until all the different crowns had become united. This took place in 1469 when Ferdinand, King of Aragona, Valencia and Catalonia, married Isabella, Queen of Castile, Murcia and Almería. In effect, once the feudal system had been abolished and the solidity of a sole monarchy had been established, the 'Catholic Monarchs' gave the country a new configuration: through Pope Sixtus IV they introduced the Inquisition in 1478, then in 1492, the same year as the fall of Granada (which was the final act of unification in Spain), they ordered the expulsion of all Jews and proceeded, in 1502, to banish all the Moors who had not converted to the Catholic Church. However, 1492 was also the year when America was discovered by Christopher Columbus, whose caravels sailed under the Spanish Royal flag: conquering these new, immense territories (after landing in the Caribbean Islands, the Conquistadores reached the continent where they occupied Mexico in 1519, Peru in 1532 then Chile in 1541) meant the importation of enormous quantities of products and resources that were fundamental for the future of the Spanish kingdom. Furthermore, navigation and shipping was greatly stimulated and Seville became one of the most important ports in Europe while, over and above all the gold, silver and precious stones that were brought into Spain, new products were introduced, like potatoes, maize, tobacco and cocoa. Nevertheless, there was also a dark side to this moment of great splendour: while the converted Moors in the country began protesting vehemently against persecutions and unjust taxes, outside of Spain much clamour was manifested against the extermination of the American natives. And though Charles I, grandson of the Catholic Monarchs and Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire as Charles V (since he was also heir to the Hapsburgs) had led the Spanish troops into battlefields all over Europe, Philip II, his son and successor to the dominions of Spain, Flanders and Italy, while being a competent administrator was faced with a kingdom that was only apparently opulent since it was on the verge of financial ruin because of the many wars that had been fought; and in 1588, Philip witnessed the destruction of the famous Invincible Armada, the feared naval fleet that had set forth in vain to conquer England. The powers of Spain and its monarchy in Europe began to decline from this sad event onwards: in fact, though the monarchs did much for fostering the arts and sciences all through the XVII century, embellishing and enriching cities and buildings as well as founding the Siglo de Oro for art and literature (Cervantes, Lope de Vega and El Greco are but examples), they also involved the country in exhausting wars in the Netherlands and in Italy without taking into account either the financial difficulties of the country or its practically drained economy, since agriculture was undergoing a period of critical recession, foreign debt was astronomical and industry was completely neglected. Worn out by many years of conflict with France, the last of the Hapsburgs in Spain, Charles II, died heirless in 1700, leaving the crown to Philip of Anjou, the future Philip V and grandson of Louis XIV, the Sun King. This created much anger among the Austrians who, fearing that France would consequently have excessive power, opposed it by appointing another pretender to the throne, Archduke Charles, to whom Catalonia, Valencia and the Balearic Islands swore their loyalty. This led to the lengthy, arduous War of Succession (1702-1714) which ended when Philip V was acknowledged the rightful king without, however, Flanders, Italy and Minorca, and losing Gibraltar which became English (Treaties of Utrecht). This first Bourbon king – just like those who came after him – had precise targets in mind: a stronger State with less powers to the Church, revival of the economy of the land by first of all invigorating its industries, reorganisation of military spheres and incentivation of the arts and culture. His successor, Charles III (1759-1788), was also very actively involved in this difficult task of restoring the spirit and substance of Spain, and though a fervent Catholic he resolutely expelled the General Inquisitor from the land and then, in 1766, the Jesuits. The Royal Palace in Madrid was completed thanks to him, and the Prado Museum and reorganisation of both the river system and network of roads throughout the country were other important features in the programme he carried out; moreover, he was also responsible for the progressive aperture of Spain towards the new philosophy that drifted in from France in the wake of the Enlightenment Movement. Charles IV proved to have a completely different personality since he was first of all a victim of his despotic wife, Maria Luisa of Parma, and tormented by Napoleon who was already strongly present in the country and who convinced him in 1808 to banish his rebel son, Ferdinand, and to abdicate in favour of Bonaparte's brother, Joseph. Spain, however, already humiliated by the defeat of its fleet, which had been practically annihilated by Nelson in the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, reacted vehemently: the peasants were the first to revolt and insurrection gradually extended to all the regions, causing the War of Independence that continued until the fall of Napoleon in 1814. Just before this, in 1812, the Spanish Court met in Cadiz and proclaimed the country's first liberal Constitution. However, the Spanish Restoration soon met with the determination of Ferdinand VII who, having refused to acknowledge this Constitution, established rigid absolutism in the country and reinstated both the Inquisition and the Jesuits once more, as well as opposing all initiatives. Nevertheless, while on one hand the king's intemperate and repressive conservatism first caused the revolt and then the secession of the American colonies, on the other hand his late marriage to the liberal Maria Cristina de Bourbon of Sicily and his decision to change the laws of royal succession in favour of his daughter Isabella, engendered the wrath of the conservative extremists in Spain, who responded by counterattacking him with his brother, Don Carlos: hence, in 1833 the so-called Carlist Wars commenced and resulted in many decades of violent civil conflicts between liberals and conservatives supported by the Church, with some particularly ferocious episodes; there was an interval in 1873 when the First Republic took place, but schism within Spanish society was serious and lasted until the end of the XIX century when Alphonse XII brought the conflicts onto a purely political plane. Therefore, at the dawn of the XX century, in a country that was substantially declining, the few cautious attempts at recovering its economy and finances were insufficient for keeping at bay the discontent that rippled through Spain and that expanded after the loss of Cuba and the Philippines (1898). In spite of the flourishing revival of the arts and culture, the continual bloodshed caused by the anarchists, the revolt of the workers, the disastrous results of warfare in Morocco and the brutal repression of the protests which followed, merely exasperated the people even more. This led to a convulsive series of events: strikes and public demonstrations kindled by anarchist and socialist workers' unions; order reinstated by the resolute dictatorship of Miguel Primo de Rivera (1923), which did not survive the 1929 great depression, however; the 1931 elections, won by the left-wing, which resulted in the removal of Alphonse XIII – on the throne since 1902 – and the proclamation of the Second Republic; the increasingly fierce conflicts between Right and Left wings that led to the outbreak of a terrible Civil War on 18th July 1936; after three years of fighting and bloodshed, the victory of General Francisco Franco's Nationalists openly backed, not only by the Spanish Army, but also by Italy and Germany; the consequent slaughter of thousands of supporters of the republican movement, many of whom were well-known intellectuals; the substantially neutral bearing kept during World War II except for the support the new dictator offered the German-Italian alliance; the Francoist regime, (backed by both the Church and the Military and only initially contrasted by NATO and the United Nations), with its policy of progressive recovery of Spanish economy, sagacious social politics and particular attention focused on the diffusion of culture; and, lastly, when Franco died in 1975 and one the Bourbon heirs, Juan Carlos, grandson of Alphonse XIII, sat once more on the throne. Under this new, farsighted sovereign with clearly liberal ideas, Spain has marched along the road to democracy with determination and speed, establishing itself in the Europe of the Third Millennium, not only as a modern and economically sound nation, but also as a land that has experienced a civil, political, social and intellectual awakening.
The official language of Spain for many years under the dictator, General Franco, was Spanish, but in the last few decades other cultures and languages, especially Catalan, have emerged and are freely spoken. However, Spanish is understood by all citizens in Spain.
Best travel time
It is almost impossible to fault the climate in Spain. In the winter, the Costa del Sol in the south of Spain has the most wonderful warm weather but if you want to ski, Spain offers skiing in the mountains of the south and also in the mountains of the north that separate Spain from France. In the summer, all of Spain is hot but the tourists mostly visit Spain’s very long Mediterranean coastline.
Spain has embraced cell phone technology and there is good coverage in most of the more densely populated towns and cities.
Country and People
Traditions and Culture
General Franco tried to destroy many of the local traditions but now Spain rejoices in its various cultures whether it is Flamenco dancing, running with the bulls, watching football, playing golf and tennis, or swimming with the fish in the Mediterranean’s clear water. The family is probably Spain’s most important tradition and eating lunch together is an event that most families share at least once a week. Spain is also renowned for its brave matadors but bull fighting, these days, is not as popular as soccer and has been banned for reasons of cruelty in some regions. Spain’s people have enjoyed freedom since the death of General Franco in 1975 and tremendous wealth since joining the European Union. Unfortunately, Spain has allowed its property boom to be a way for foreign criminals to launder money, especially Deutchmarks, before the imposition of the Euro in Germany, and roubles from Russia. Today, Spain has many half-built developments and too many golf courses that require copious quantities of water. Unemployment is high and life is proving to be quite tough for the Spanish people although tourists are always very welcome.
Roman Catholicism is taken very seriously in Spain and wherever you go you will find numerous churches and magnificent cathedrals. Membership of the European Union prevents Spain from being a theocracy but there is no doubt that Christianity plays a major role in many people’s lives.
Buses and trains have never operated that well between towns and cities in Spain, but within the major centres such as Madrid, Barcelona and Seville, there are very good local bus services.
Spain is a country that has been hit hard by the global banking crisis and recession but, during the last two decades, it built up its infrastructure so that today, visitors can fly to airports that are locally placed and drive on roads that have been built or radically improved. Renting a car in Spain is simple and, apart from during the high season, cars are usually available for rent at most airports.
Discover and Enjoy
Stretching from the magnificently rugged Costa Brava in the north to the soft sands of the Costa del Sol, there is much natural beauty to be admired in Spain. In Barcelona, there are parts of the city that are truly historic including the city’s magnificent cathedral. In the south of the country there are Islamic symbols and monuments built by the Moors and in Madrid there is the Prado, Spain’s finest museum.
Spain is famous the world over for its paella – a peasant dish that is rice based and enriched with seafood and vegetables. The country may not be as revered for its food as much as France and Italy but the quality of both meat and fish in Spain is superb and is complemented by Spain’s fine selection of domestically produced wines.
- Basque Country
- Castile and Leon
- Castile la Mancha
- Costa Blanca
- Costa Brava
- Costa de Almeria
- Costa de la Luz
- Costa Del Sol
- Costa Dorada
- Costa Tropical
- El Hierro