GENERAL INTRODUCTION TO SPAIN


Geographical Location.
Spain, together with Portugal, forms the westernmost of the three major peninsulas of southern Europe, an enormous octagonal promontory, at the extreme southwest of the continent.

It is situated in a temperate area, between latitudes 43 47' 24''N. (Estaca de Bares) and 36 00' '3'' S. (Punta de Tarifa) and between longitudes 7 00' 29'' E. (Cabo de Creus) and 5 36' 40'' W. (Cabo Tourinan). Out of a total of 580,825 square kilometres, Spain occupies four fifths of the Peninsula. It borders to the North on the Bay of Biscay, France and Andorra; to the East, on the Mediterranean; to the South, on the Mediterranean and the Atlantic, and to the West on the Atlantic and Portugal.

It was the Romans who hit on the name of Hispania, a word which is apparently of Phoenician origin, derived from shepham which probably means coast or island of rabbits'.

The perimeter of peninsular Spain totals 5,849 kilometres. Of this distance, 3,904 are coastline and 1,945 land frontiers. The French and Andorran frontier account for 712 kilometres; the Portuguese frontier extends for 1,232 kilometres, while the border with Gibraltar is just a kilometre.

The Canary Islands, to the south, in the Atlantic, off the African coast, comprise Lanzarote, Ferteventura, Gran Canaria, Tenerife, Gomera, Palma, Hierro and a few islets.

Spain's Peninsular Condition.
Highlands, mountains and plateaux predominate over lowlands. Apart from Switzerland, Spain is the highest country in Europe, with a mean altitude of 600 m. With the exception of the Galician coast, the Spanish coastline is not particularly indented. A straight coastline, without inlets, is the predominant type, owing to the fact that the mountain ranges lie parallel to the coast.
Although Spain lies in the temperate zone, its rugged relief gives rise to a great diversity of climates.


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