Europe > Iberia
The Iberian Peninsula is the westernmost section of the European continent, lying between the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. It is separated from France by the snow capped Pyrenees mountains.
A tiny land-locked country in the Pyrenees mountains.
This stunning country is bordered by Spain and the picturesque Atlantic Ocean.
This country is one of Europe's best loved destinations for holidays and living : the culture, nightlife, beaches and history all give human beauty to a country that has so much natural beauty.
Britain's stronghold on the Spanish coast since the days of Napoleon.
- Barcelona - Gaudi's home and the capital of the region of Catalonia.
- Bilbao - On Spain's northern coast, this is one part of Spain which has 4 definite seasons.
- Braga - In northern Portugal.
- Lisbon - Portugal's capital and most beautiful city. Situated within a natural harbour, perfect for a city break.
- Madrid - Spain's imperialistic capital in the centre of the Spanish mainland. Madrid has plenty to offer the common visitor for however long they have to spend .
- Porto - On Portugal's northern coast, it was here that voyagers left to explore Africa and India.
- Seville - One of Spain's most southerly cities, Seville is the home of explorers who found the Americas.
- Valencia - Culturally amazing, Valencia is dynamic and changing, with beautiful beaches.
- Zaragoza - This is the capital of Spain's region of Aragon.
- Algarve — long beaches at the southwestern edge of Europe
- Azores — out in the Atlantic half-way to North America, these beautiful volcanic islands have a lovely climate year-round
- Benidorm — high-rise resort town on Spain's Costa Blanca, "the White Coast"
- Gran Canaria — the most populated one of the Canary Islands is also the most diverse of them—verdant forests and sunwashed deserts can both be found on this island
- Ibiza — the partying capital of not only Europe but also the whole world, this small Mediterranean island also has historic towns and pine woods packed on it
- La Rioja — wine region in northern Spain, home to sleepy and scenic old towns
- Madeira — off the African coast, Madeira is also known as the "island of the eternal spring", and "the floating garden of the Atlantic"—and there is hardly any hyperbole in this
- Mallorca — too many tourists may be flocking to the beaches of this Balearic island for a sunbath, but step inland, and you'll have impressive mountain vistas all to yourself
- Tenerife — deserts seemingly straight out of the Moon, mountains, volcanoes, spectacular beaches, and a lively nightlife are all abound on this island, which was once the last familiar piece of land for the explorers of the New World
Separated from France by the Pyrenees mountains, its history has frequently taken a different path from the rest of Europe, giving the region a separate identity. The Basque people settled here millennia ago, retaining their culture to this day. The Roman Empire expanded into it in the 3rd century BCE, before being supplanted by the Germanic tribes in the 5th century. The peninsula again took on a non-European character when the Islamic Berber and Arabic Moors took over in the 8th century, ruling parts of it as recently as the 15th century. As Christian rule gradually took back the peninsula from the Moors, its people then looked outward, seeding the Americas – and more – with their languages and laws. Although their then-dictatorial governments kept them out of World War II, Spain and Portugal are now full members of the European Union.
- Spanish - Official language of Spain, with status of co-officiality in some regions with historic languages
- Portuguese - The official language of Portugal
- Basque - Co-official language in some regions of Spain, unrelated to any other European language, spoken in the Basque Country and Navarre in the northern part of the peninsula.
- Catalan - Co-official in several regions of Spain and the only official language in Andorra, mainly spoken in Andorra, the Balearic Islands, Catalonia and as Valencian in Valencia.
- Galician - Co-official language in Galicia, Spain, mainly spoken in Galicia and a small part of Asturias and Leon province. It is closely related to Portuguese
- Astur-Leonese - Not official, but spoken in several provinces of Spain: Asturias and part of the provinces of Leon, Salamanca and Zamora.
- Aragonese - Not official, but spoken in several valleys in the North of the region of Aragon, Spain.
- Mirandese - Co-official in the Portuguese city of Miranda do Douro, Mogadouro and Vimioso. Part of the Astur-Leonese languages.
- English - Official language of Gibraltar
With the exception of Basque, all the languages of the Iberian peninsula are from the Romance family of languages which has its roots in Latin, so if you speak one of those languages, you'll find it fairly easy to pick up the rest.
While most younger people have learnt English in school, it is not widely spoken or understood outside the small British exclave of Gibraltar, where it is the official language. As elsewhere in the world English proficiency improves the closer you get to major tourists centres, especially in the coastal resort cities along the Mediterranean coast and in Barcelona, where English proficiency is much higher than in the rest of the country. English proficiency is generally better in Portugal than in Spain, as Portuguese in the European context is a minor language, and English-language films and television shows are regularly screened in their original language with subtitles instead of being dubbed into the local language as in Spain.
The Iberian peninsular is Europe's main hub to South and Central America, Madrid's Barajas airport is the most important of the hubs, while Portela airport in Lisbon is the main gateway to Brazil due to the two countries historic ties. The situation is much the same with the two flag carriers: Spain's Iberia has an impressive South/Central America network, and Portugal's TAP flies to 10 destinations in Brazil and 9 African cities with colonial ties to Portugal.
- Madrid Barajas
- Lisbon Portela
While the conventional rail network has a different gauge (the distance between two rails) from that in most of Europe and thus running cross border trains was difficult in the past, the new Spanish high speed rail network operates on the same standards as the French one and thus through trains can be run from the French city of Perpignan to Barcelona and from either endpoint to the French or Spanish high speed rail network. RENFE and SNCF together run two daily direct trains from Paris to Barcelona and one train from Madrid to several destinations in the south of France. A connection at the Northern end of the Pyrenees has also been proposed, but the recent economic downturn makes construction in the immediate future seem unlikely.
Having long coastlines, Spain and Portugal are known for their seafood dishes. In Portugal, Cod Fish is among the most appreciated dishes. Spain is also known for jamón ibérico, literally "Iberian ham." Spain — especially Valencia and Catalunya - are the wellspring of tapas, small plates to be eaten with wine. In addition, Spain has been at the forefront of new directions in international super-high-end cooking.
Sangria is wine usually mixed with a collaboration of fruits and some added spices like cinnamon.
However, although sangria is popular with tourists it is rare to see Spanish people drinking it. The locals drink tinto de verano - red wine diluted with lemonade or carbonated water. Spain is also known for Rioja and Jerez (Sherry).
Portugal is known for its Port wines, among others.
- France — over the Pyrenees to north, France is the leading destination in the world, with its innumerable well-known cities, towns, attractions, and sights
- Morocco — so what you need is more of an "exotic" destination—then head south across the Strait of Gibraltar into Morocco
- Caribbean — if you are sailing around the world, your landfall in the western hemisphere will likely be somewhere in the Caribbean