Last updated: 01:52 PM ET, Thu May 16 2019
Port de Soller, Mallorca, Spain (photo via pixelliebe / iStock / Getty Images Plus)


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Sharing the Iberian Peninsula with Portugal in the west, Europe’s second largest country, Spain, inevitably evokes images of paella, bullfights, flamenco dancing and siestas. Let’s not forget the annual Running of the Bulls festival in Pamplona either.

Spain is also well known for its relaxed lifestyle, late night evening meal of tapas and sangria and all night party scene. You can dance in the clubs or watch a flamenco dance show. While all are a part of traditional culture, Spain’s regions offer a variety of landscapes based on geography, climate and culture.

There are five snow capped mountain ranges for skiing, Galician green estuaries, shepherd wandering with their flocks in the interior, a rugged Atlantic coast and parched central plains, punctuated with prehistoric cave paintings, temples, Roman aqueducts and churches, Moorish baths, mosques and fortresses and medieval castles.

A stay in Spain is not complete without an overnight stay at some of the paradores, hotels in restored castles, convents or palaces, or pensiones (inns).

The historic cities of Spain are entrenched in the past, but offer modern amenities. The capital Madrid has open plazas and top art museums, from The Prado to the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia. Seville has traces of its 500 years of Moorish occupation; its cathedral is the largest Gothic building in the world.

In Granada, buy tickets in advance for the popular Alhambra, a palace/fortress built in the 13th to 14th centuries. Valencia is famous for its orange groves and enormous vegetable market. See Don Quixote’s windmills in La Mancha.

Highlights of Barcelona are its Gothic Quarter, Seu (old cathedral) and Las Ramblas, the main shopping and dining thoroughfare. The Balearic and the Canary islands are also part of Spain, as are Ceuta and Melilla.

Spain’s Mediterranean beaches are its top attraction. The resort areas lining the Mediterranean coastline through Catalonia and Andalusia are Costa del Sol, Costa Blanca and Costa Brava.