1. It’s said to be the second most mountainous country in Europe.
That claim might or might not be true — it’s a widespread belief on the Internet, but no official sources seem to agree — but we do have plenty of
2. Spain has the third most UNESCO World Heritage Sites of any country.
3. A lighthouse and dam built by the Romans are still in use today.
Speaking of the Romans…they’ve always been praised as skilled engineers, and we have proof: The
4. You’ve seen Spain’s diverse landscapes in the most unexpected movies.
Remember Doctor Zhivago? All that snow providing the atmospheric backdrop for Omar Sharif and Julie Christie could only be in Russia, right? Wrong. The film was shot in Soria, Spain, and “Moscow” was built from scratch on the outskirts of Madrid.
5. We have the most Blue Flag beaches in the world.
6. You can practice almost every adventure sport here.
Surfing? Check. Climbing? Check. Scuba diving? Check. Paragliding? Check. The diversity of landscapes and nature in Spain allows for all kinds of outdoors and
Watersports like surfing or waterskiing are popular in most coastal areas; if you’re looking for good waves, you’ll find them in the Basque Country, Galicia, and the Canary Islands. You can ski and snowboard in places like the Sierra Nevada or the Pyrenees (for much cheaper than at other European ski destinations). Rock climbing is popular wherever there’s a good wall, most notably in Picos de Europa in Cantabria and Asturias, the White Coast in Alicante, El Chorro in Andalucía, Sierra de Albarracín in Teruel, and both the Canary and Balearic archipelagos.
7. Spaniards have the world’s second highest life expectancy.
According to the World Health Organization, Spain has an overall life expectancy of 83 years — only the Japanese live longer. Experts say this is thanks to our
8. Spanish gastronomy is so much more than paella (which is Valencian, by the way).
Paella isn’t even that popular outside Valencia — and Valencians will say what we call paella in the rest of Spain has nothing to do with the real dish. Each region has its beloved dishes: calçotadas in Catalunya, cocido in Madrid, pulpo á feira in Galicia, pescaíto frito in Andalucía, and marmitako in the Basque Country. With a foundation of fresh vegetables, fish, pork, and beef, and olive oil for everything (no one here cooks with butter),
Are you still searching for a dish to represent the whole country? That would be tortilla española, a potato omelette absolutely everyone loves.
9. The world’s oldest restaurant is in Madrid.
10. Every year, more than 200,000 pilgrims walk across Spain to Santiago de Compostela.
2016 is a good year to walk (or ride; you can do the Camino by bike or horse) to Santiago, as the year has been declared an Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy. That means it’s a holy year, so the Cathedral’s holy door will be open and there’ll be special festivities and events all throughout 2016 to celebrate. When you’re on the trail, keep an eye out for the scallop shell symbol (seen above), which marks the way.
11. Café culture is big here.
You might’ve heard that Spain has a high bars-per-capita ratio (a 2013 study found one bar per every 132 people), but it’s important to understand what “bar” means in Spain — it doesn’t have the mildly negative connotation of being a place where all you do is drink. People go to bars for breakfast, for their coffee break, for lunch, for their afternoon coffee and snack, and for dinner. Some bars are almost restaurants, some look like nightclubs, and many others are classic cafés with different coffees and teas to choose from, lots of newspapers, and the understanding that you’ll go there to spend some time sipping your beverage and catching up with your friends, reading, or working.
12. You can zipline from Spain to Portugal.
And now it’s the only way you’ll want to enter Spain’s neighbor. You can do it in Sanlúcar de Guadiana, Andalucía. Take the
13. Spain has been producing artists since the Paleolithic.
Goya, Picasso, and Gaudí? They’re newcomers if you compare them to the unnamed artists who left their paintings in the
14. There are more festivals in Spain than days of the year.
It doesn’t matter when you come, there’s always a festival going on somewhere in Spain.
15. You don’t need to go to the big cities to experience what Spanish nightlife is all about.
If countries were people, Spain would define itself more as a night owl than an early bird. We tend to do things later — we have lunch at 2pm, dinner at 10pm, and when we go out at night, we start dancing at 2am. And this happens pretty much everywhere, not just in the big cities like Madrid or Barcelona. Wherever you are, ask what people do for