Spain, officially the Kingdom of Spain (Spanish: España,
Reino de España, is a country located in Southern Europe,
with two small exclaves in North Africa (both bordering
Morocco). The mainland of Spain is bounded on the south
and east by Mediterranean Sea (containing the Balearic
Islands), on the north by the Cantabrian Sea and on the
west by the Atlantic Ocean (containing the Canary Islands
off the African coast). Spain shares land borders with
Portugal, France, Andorra, Gibraltar and Morocco. It is
the larger of two sovereign states that make up the
Iberian Peninsula — the other is Portugal.
Different cultures have settled in the area of modern
Spain, such as the Celts, Iberians, Romans, Visigoths, and
Moors. For just over five centuries, during the Middle
Ages, large areas were under the control of Islamic rulers,
a fragment of which survived as late as 1492, when the
Christian kingdoms of Castile and Aragón completed the 770
years long process of driving the Moors out. That same
year, Christopher Columbus reached the New World, leading
to the creation of the world-wide Spanish Empire.
Spain became the most powerful country in Europe, but
continued wars and other problems gradually reduced Spain
to a diminished status. The 20th century was dominated in
the middle years by the Franco dictatorship; with the dawn
of a stable democracy in 1978, and having joined what is
now known as the European Union in 1986, Spain has enjoyed
an economic and cultural renaissance.
There are a number of hypotheses as to the origin of the
Roman name "Hispania", the root of the Spanish name España
and the English name Spain.
Spain is a democracy which is organized as a parliamentary
monarchy. It is a developed country with the
eighth-largest economy in the world.
At 194,884 mi² (504,782 km²), Spain is the world's
51st-largest country. It is comparable in size to
Turkmenistan, and somewhat larger than the US state of
On the west, Spain borders Portugal, on the south, it
borders Gibraltar (a British overseas territory) and
Morocco, through its cities in North Africa (Ceuta and
Melilla). On the northeast, along the Pyrenees mountain
range, it borders France and the tiny principality of
Spain also includes the Balearic Islands in the
Mediterranean Sea, the Canary Islands in the Atlantic
Ocean and a number of uninhabited islands on the
Mediterranean side of the strait of Gibraltar, known as
Plazas de soberanía, such as the Chafarine islands, the
isle of Alborán, the "rocks" (peñones) of Vélez and
Alhucemas, and the tiny Isla Perejil. In the northeast
along the Pyrenees, a small exclave town called Llívia in
Catalonia is surrounded by French territory.
Mainland Spain is dominated by high plateaus and mountain
ranges, such as the Sierra Nevada. Running from these
heights are several major rivers such as the Tajo, the
Ebro, the Duero, the Guadiana and the Guadalquivir.
Alluvial plains are found along the coast, the largest of
which is that of the Guadalquivir in Andalusia.
Due to Spain's geographical situation and orographic
conditions, the climate is extremely diverse; it can be
roughly divided in three areas:
A temperate version of the Continental climate takes place
in the inland areas of the Peninsula (largest city,
The Mediterranean climate region, which roughly extends
from the Andalusian plain along the southern and eastern
coasts up to the Pyrenees, on the seaward side of the
mountain ranges that parallel the coast (largest city,
An Oceanic climate takes place in Galicia and the coastal
strip by the Bay of Biscay (largest city, Bilbao). This is
an area often called Green Spain.
Territories claimed by Spain
Spain has called for the return of Gibraltar, a small but
strategic British overseas territory near the Strait of
Gibraltar. An overwhelming majority of Gibraltar's 30,000
inhabitants want to remain British, as they have
repeatedly proven in referenda on the issue. UN
resolutions call on the UK and Spain to reach an agreement
to resolve their differences over Gibraltar.
Spanish territories claimed by other countries
Morocco claims the Spanish cities of Ceuta and Melilla and
the lesser plazas de soberanía off the northern coast of
Africa. Portugal does not recognize Spain's sovereignty
over the territory of Olivenza.
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