Spain is more than bullfights, flamenco dancers and crowded beaches. It's a spectacular and diverse country, the north resembling the rolling, green hills of Ireland and the south giving you a taste of Moroccan landscapes and architecture. Its tremendous history is reflected in its prehistoric cave paintings, Moorish palaces, crumbling castles, Roman ruins, Gothic and Renaissance cathedrals as well as some very unique modern architecture. The uniqueness of Spain lies in the separate kingdoms which made up the original Spanish nation. These regions remain diverse in their language, culture, cuisine and art. These regions include: Andalucía, Aragon, Asturias, Basque Country, the Balearic Islands, the Canary Islands, Cantabria, Castilla La Mancha, Castilla León, Catalonia, Extremadura, Galicia, La Rioja, Madrid, Murcia, Navarra and Valencia. Areas of interest are not limited to each region, here are some highlights:
The Moorish influence (the Moors from Morocco were the dominating civilization for 800 years) in Andalucía can be seen in the sumptuous Alhambra palace in Granada, the mezquita , a former mosque in Córdoba and the Alcázar and Giralda tower in Sevilla. The White villages are hidden joys, as the small villages surrounded by natural beauty can not fail to impress.
Remarkable Christian monuments, from Romanesque to contemporary, can be found throughout Spain. A possible tour to the most fantastic cathedrals will take you through Toledo, León, Salamanca, Burgos and Segovia. The pilgrim route to Santiago is lined by gorgeous Romanesque churches.
Excellent and quiet beaches can be found near Cádiz and Almería in the south as well as near the coasts of Galicia, Asturias, Cantabria and Euskadi. If you enjoy extremely developed resort towns, there are plenty of crowded beaches on the Costa de la Luz and the Costa del sol.
Fantastically preserved medieval towns are places not to miss and Toledo should be at the top of the list. Toledo is the capital of medieval Spain, at its best, with synagogues, an incredible cathedral and former mosques. Other interesting medieval towns include: Baeza and Úbeda (Andalucía), Ciudad Rodrigo (Salamanca), Trujillo and Cáceres (Extremadura), Albarracín, Sos del Rey Católico and Teruel Mudejar's Unesco's World Heritage (Aragon), and Santillana del Mar (Cantabria).
The most spectacular Roman sites are based in Mérida, where you can also find an interesting museum on Roman era. There is also a remarkable aqueduct in Segovia and other fascinating Roman ruins in Carmona, Tarragona, Empuries, Italica and Caesaraugusta ( Zaragoza, Aragon).
Very unique modern art and architecture can be found in Barcelona and Madrid. The visionary architecture of Antoni Gaudí and the Picasso museum are in Barcelona while Madrid is home to Spain’s top three art museums.
If you would rather get some fresh air, Spain is filled with opportunities to visit wildlife parks as well as trekking. The Pyrenees, especially around the Aragón area, are the best areas for trekking. Andalucía has smaller mountain chains, though still spectacular. The Picos de Europa in Cantabria and Asturias are also worth a trek. Beautiful parks include Monfrague in Extremadura and Ordesa in the Aragonese Pyrenees.
Information gratefully provided by World 66