Spain Cities with Hotels
Spain (Spanish España), constitutional monarchy of southwestern Europe, occupying the greater part of the Iberian Peninsula, and bounded on the north by the Bay of Biscay, France, and Andorra; on the east by the Mediterranean Sea; on the south by the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean; and on the west by Portugal and the Atlantic Ocean. The British dependency of Gibraltar is situated at the southern extremity of Spain. The Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean and the Canary Islands in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Africa are governed as provinces of Spain. Also, Spain administers two small exclaves in Morocco-Ceuta and Melilla-as well as three island groups near Africa-Peñón de Vélez de la Gomera and the Alhucemas and Chafarinas islands. The area of Spain, including the African and insular territories, is 504,750 sq km (194,885 sq mi). Madrid is the capital and largest city.
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Land and Resources
Spain occupies about 85 percent of the Iberian Peninsula and is bounded by water for about 88 percent of its periphery; its Mediterranean coast is about 1660 km (about 1030 mi) long, and its Atlantic coast is about 710 km (about 440 mi) long. The long, unbroken mountain chain of the Pyrenees, extending about 435 km (about 270 mi) from the Bay of Biscay to the Mediterranean Sea, forms the border with France on the north; in the extreme south the Strait of Gibraltar, less than 13 km (less than 8 mi) wide at its narrowest extent, separates Spain from Africa. The most important topographical feature of Spain is the great, almost treeless, central plateau, called the Meseta, sloping generally downward from north to south and from east to west, and with an average elevation of about 610 m (about 2000 ft) above sea level.
The tableland is divided into northern and southern sections by irregular mountain ranges, or sierras, of which the most important are the Sierra de Guadarrama, the Sierra de Gredos, and the Montes de Toledo. Between many of the mountains are narrow valleys, drained by rapid rivers. The coastal plain is narrow, rarely as much as 30 km (20 mi) wide and, in many areas, broken by mountains that descend to the sea to form rocky headlands, particularly along the Mediterranean coast, where the sole excellent harbor is Barcelona. The northwestern coastal area has several good harbors, particularly along the Galician coast. The six principal mountain chains have elevations greater than 3300 m (greater than 11,000 ft). The highest peaks are the Pico de Aneto (3404 m/11,168 ft) in the Pyrenees and Mulhacén (3478 m/11,411 ft) in the Sierra Nevada in southern Spain. The highest point in Spain and its insular territories is Pico de Teide (3718 m/12,198 ft) on Tenerife Island in the Canary Islands. The lowest point is sea level along the coast.
The principal rivers of Spain flow west and south to the Atlantic Ocean, generally along deep, rocky courses that they have cut through the mountain valleys. The Duero (Douro), Miño, Tagus, and Guadiana rivers rise in Spain and flow through Portugal to the Atlantic. The Guadalquivir River, flowing through a fertile plain in the south, is the deepest river in Spain and the only one navigable for any extent. The Ebro River, in northeastern Spain, flows into the Mediterranean Sea, and is navigable by small craft for part of its course. Most Spanish streams are too small for interior navigation, and, with courses below the general ground level, are of little use for irrigation. The rivers are, however, a good source of electric power.
The climate of Spain is marked by extremes of temperature and, except in the north, generally low rainfall, and the variegated physical features of the country ensure pronounced climatic differences. The climate is most equable along the Biscayan and Atlantic coasts, which are generally damp and cool. The central plateau has summers so arid that nearly all the streams dry up, the earth parches, and drought is common. Most of Spain receives less than 600 mm (less than 24 in) of precipitation per year; the northern mountains get considerably more moisture. At Madrid, winter cold is sufficient to freeze surrounding streams, while summer temperatures in Seville rise as high as 49° C (120° F). By contrast the southern Mediterranean coast has a subtropical climate. Málaga, in the extreme south, has an average winter temperature of 14° C (57° F).
"Spain," Microsoft® Encarta® 97 Encyclopedia.
© 1993-1996 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.
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January 15, 2010 03:05 PM.