Spain Overview
Spain
Spain cannot fail to appeal to the Australian sensibility. The people are proud - but like to joke around too - and they sure know how to party! The nightlife in Spain is legendary and their many and varied fiestas are a delight of colour, passion and tradition.

 

It really does pay to learn a few words and key Spanish phrases to engage people in a bit of ‘cachondeo’ (mucking around) – at the very least, you’ll win some smiles! Remember, many Spaniards do not speak English, particularly outside the main cities. Don’t be put off by their sometimes aloof demeanour - they are generally very approachable and helpful even when there is a language barrier. 

When planning your trip to Spain, bear in mind that the differences between Andalucia in the south and Galicia and Asturias in the north are vast. It is like going from Ireland (in the green, misty north-west of Spain) to Greece (in the dry, rocky south). The extremes of temperature can be as varied as well. The south of Spain will bake in glorious sun from April to October, but if you want relief from the intense heat in the main summer months of June to August, you can find cooler climes and even summer rain in the misty, lush green of the north-west of the country.

Spain features an incredible diversity of landscapes – ranging from the deserts of Almeria in the south to the lush green of Galicia and Asturias, to the sunbaked plains of Castilla La Mancha, from the wilds of Extremadura to the fabulously rugged mountains of Picos de Europa. More than half of Spain is made up of enormous elevated tablelands called the mesetas. Five major mountain ranges stretch across the country linking these mesetas – the Pyrenees bordering France; the Cordillera Cantabrica along the Atlantic coast; the Cordillera Central; the Cordillera Iberica and the Sierra Nevada in Andalucia. In Granada in Andalucia, the locals like to brag that in April you could go skiing in the morning in the Sierra Nevada and to the beach in the afternoon! 

Madrid lies smack bang in the middle of this vast country in a fairly rugged, inhospitable area. The dry landscape is reminiscent of vast tracts of Australia. Travelling around Castilla La Mancha and Madrid almost feels familiar at times!

For the purposes of this website and our tours, Spain is divided into these main regions:  

  • Madrid & Toledo
  • the North-West (including Galicia, Santiago de Compostela, Cantabria and Asturias)
  • the Basque Country, Navarra & La Rioja
  • Barcelona & Catalonia
  • Castile
  • Extremadura
  • Valencia & Murcia
  • Andalucia
  • the Balearic Islands (Islas Balearicas).

Around the Sun currently runs tours to most of these regions and can organise tours to any corner of the country you fancy.

History & Background for Planning Your Tour

Spain is a fascinating country which has had an enormous influence on the shape of our modern world. But in order to understand Spain as a destination, you must have a basic knowledge of its history. Located at the crossroads between Europe and Africa, the Iberian Peninsula has long been a target for invaders. Tribes from North Africa settled there around 300BCE, Celtic tribes entered northern Spain around 1000BCE and the Phoenicaians and Greeks were establishing settlements along the Mediterranean coast around the same time.

Basically, after the Roman occupation in the second century BCE Spain gradually became unified under Roman rule and their customs and language were adopted. One of our favourite examples of this period is the superb Roman aqueduct in Segovia to the north of Madrid. After the decline of the Roman Empire, the Iberian Peninsula was invaded by marauding German tribes in 409 AD and the Visigothic Kingdom ruled until the Muslim invasion of AD 711.

The region of Andalucia covering most of the south of Spain is full of great Moorish monuments. The Moors were a mixed race of Berbers and Arabs from North Africa. Even the name is Arabic – Al-Andalus. They first landed in Tarifa in 710 and within 4 years had conquered virtually the entire country. The 3 great cities of Andalucia – Cordoba, Sevilla and Granada bear witness to the sophisticated civilisation that existed there in the Middle Ages. It is Granada’s palace – the Alhambra which is surely one of the most impressive buildings in Europe. 

Spain Journeys & Suggested Itineraries

Barcelona to Santiago De Compostela

This tour provides an overview of four stunning regions in Spain's north - Catalunya (Catalonia); Euskadi, which is the name the Basque people give to their own land; Asturias, which begins in Unquera; and Galicia and the Atlantic Coast.


Days:12
Luxury:medium to high
Type of Tour:Small Group Guided Tour
Experience: Culture by car
Challenge: Easy to Moderate
Cost: from $4,995
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All ATS itineraries can be run for private groups or adapted to meet your interests.

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Planning a Holiday?

Congratulations on finding Around The Sun! We’d love to talk to you about your next holiday adventure.

Around The Sun trips are based on the expertise and knowledge of Richard Everist and Lucrezia Migliore – and the expertise and services of a select group of friends who operate the best tour companies in the world.

Around The Sun showcases a careful selection of small group trips (with guides and expert leaders), and we design customised private journeys (both guided and self-guided).

All our suggested itineraries can be run privately, or customised, so the departure dates and itineraries completely suit you. Many of our itineraries can be adapted for those who wish to to travel completely independently. See Create Your Own Journey.

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