Spain, officially the Kingdom of Spain, is a sovereign state largely located on the Iberian Peninsula in southwestern Europe, with archipelagos in the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea, and several small territories on and near the north African coast. Its mainland is bordered to the south and east by the Mediterranean Sea except for a small land boundary with Gibraltar; to the north and northeast by France, Andorra, and the Bay of Biscay; and to the west and northwest by Portugal and the Atlantic Ocean. Along with France and Morocco, it is one of only three countries to have both Atlantic and Mediterranean coastlines. Extending to 1,214 km (754 mi), the Portugal–Spain border is the longest uninterrupted border within the European Union.
Modern humans first arrived in the Iberian Peninsula around 35,000 years ago. Iberian cultures along with ancient Phoenician, Greek and Carthaginian settlements developed on the peninsula until it came under Roman rule around 200 BCE, after which the region was named Hispania. In the Middle Ages, the area was conquered by Germanic tribes and later by the Moors. Spain emerged as a unified country in the 15th century, following the marriage of the Catholic Monarchs and the completion of the centuries-long reconquest, or Reconquista, of the peninsula from the Moors in 1492. In the early modern period, Spain became one of history’s first global colonial empires, leaving a vast cultural and linguistic legacy that includes over 500 million Spanish speakers, making Spanish the world’s second most spoken first language.
Spain is a democracy organised in the form of a parliamentary government under a constitutional monarchy. It is a middle power and a developed country with the world’s fourteenth largest economy by nominal GDP andsixteenth largest by purchasing power parity. It is a member of the United Nations (UN), the European Union (EU), the Council of Europe (CoE), the Organization of Ibero-American States (OEI), the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the World Trade Organization (WTO) and many other international organisations.
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(“places of sovereignty”, or territories under [Spanish] sovereignty), such as the Chafarinas Islands and Alhucemas. The peninsula of Vélez de la Gomera is also regarded as a plaza de soberanía. The isle of Alborán, located in the Mediterranean between Spain and North Africa, is also administered by Spain, specifically by the municipality of Almería, Andalusia. The little Pheasant Island in the River Bidasoa is a Spanish-French condominium.
Mainland Spain is a mountainous country, dominated by high plateaus and mountain chains. After the Pyrenees, the main mountain ranges are the Cordillera Cantábrica (Cantabrian Range), Sistema Ibérico (Iberian System),Sistema Central (Central System), Montes de Toledo, Sierra Morena and the Sistema Bético (Baetic System) whose highest peak, the 3,478 m high Mulhacén, located in Sierra Nevada, is the highest elevation in the Iberian Peninsula. The highest point in Spain is the Teide, a 3,718-metre (12,198 ft) active volcano in the Canary Islands. The Meseta Central (often translated as “Inner Plateau”) is a vast plateau in the heart of peninsular Spain.
There are several major rivers in Spain such as the Tagus (Tajo), Ebro, Guadiana, Douro (Duero), Guadalquivir, Júcar, Segura, Turia and Minho (Miño). Alluvial plains are found along the coast, the largest of which is that of the Guadalquivir in Andalusia.
The fauna presents a wide diversity that is due in large part to the geographical position of the Iberian peninsula between the Atlantic and the Mediterranean and between Africa and Eurasia, and the great diversity of habitats and biotopes, the result of a considerable variety of climates and well differentiated regions.
The vegetation of Spain is varied due to several factors including the diversity of the relief, the climate and latitude. Spain includes different phytogeographic regions, each with its own floristic characteristics resulting largely from the interaction of climate, topography, soil type and fire, biotic factors.
The Iberian lynx is an endangered species of felid living mainly in the Iberian Peninsula in southwestern Europe. They are categorized as endangered by many institutions, including the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. The Iberian lynx is a rabbit specialist with a low ability to adapt its diet.
Bullfighting, also known as tauromachia or tauromachy, is a traditional spectacle of Spain, Portugal, parts of southern France and some Latin American countries (Mexico, Colombia, Ecuador, Venezuela and Peru), in which one or more bulls are fought in a bullring. Although it can be defined as a blood sport, within the areas where it is practiced, it is not considered a sport but a cultural event and art form. As there are no elements of competition in the proceedings.
There are fifteen national parks in Spain: ten in the Iberian Peninsula and five in the Canary Islands and the Balearic Islands. Twelve of the seventeen autonomous communities of Spain have national parks. Canary Islands has the most (four), followed by Andalusia, Castile-La Mancha and Castile and León (two each). There are five autonomous communities that have no national parks: Basque Country, La Rioja,Murcia, Navarre, Valencian Community.
About 10 million people visited Spanish national parks in 2009, with Teide accounting for about 30% of all visitors. The second most visited park was Picos de Europa (18%), followed by Timanfaya (13%). The least visited parks were Cabrera Archipelago (0.60%) and Cabañeros (0.90%). With more than 2.5 million visitors in 2013, Teide was the most visited national park in Europe that year, and sixth most visited in the world.