Spain attracts tourists with beaches, historical sights, warm climate, delicious food, wine and ... can be continued indefinitely.
From my point of view, the symbol of Spain is a stork. These birds are everywhere, nests meet in the most unexpected places. But I do not even remember the bulls, I've seen ... :)
Spain as a whole, like most other countries, can not be fully described.
Well, except that I will say about Spanish public transport. By the way, it is relatively inexpensive (compared to the rest of Europe).
Tickets for the train are bought in vending machines, everything is clear, there are no problems. Be prepared for the fact that at some stations the ticket will be needed not only for the entrance, but also for the exit.
It is interesting that in Spain (and Portugal) the railway track is wider than the European one, as in the former Russian Empire (in fact, it is even wider). But wheel pairs on the border with France do not change - instead, trains with a sliding axle are used.
The main transport in Spain is a bus. Bus routes are more ramified and tickets are cheaper than a train (sometimes, much cheaper). But here to buy a ticket for a bus is not so easy as a train. There are a lot of companies serving different directions. A typical large Spanish bus station is a hangar with windows on both sides. In practice, this means that you first need to find a window in which to sell tickets for the desired route, and then the place from where the buses of this company are sent.
Another nuance - it is very difficult to predict how many will be willing to leave on a particular bus. Perhaps it will be a couple of people, but it can also happen that all the places in the nearest buses are already occupied. Therefore it is advisable to buy tickets in advance. I do not mean for a month via the Internet, although sometimes this is possible, but, for example, on the eve of the forthcoming move.
Large companies at large bus terminals have ticket machines.
Sometimes it happens that there is no representation of a particular company at the bus station, or the window is closed - then the ticket is purchased directly from the driver.
With me there was such a case. I planned to go from Valladolid to Salamanca. I found out on the Internet what bus company I needed, I came to the bus station to buy a ticket, but I could not find the window of this company. And no one could explain anything to me, although there was even a reference at this bus station. It's good that these cities are connected by a railway branch too, and the train was soon (in the province it happens that trains on some routes run 1-2 times a day). Then, from Salamanca, I again went by bus and at the station the window of that same company was present and even the buses Salamanca-Valladolid and back were available. Where from Valladolid these buses went, remains a mystery.
By the way, buses are often late. For a long time, of course, only in the case of force majeure, but for 10-20 minutes in the nature of things.
In general, all this is not as difficult as it may seem. In the search engine we score the required route, for example, Linea Valladolid-Salamanca. As a rule, the site of the company servicing this line is in the first results. And then we already look at the details. With large companies that have good sites, there are no problems.
Problems can be further, already on arrival. The fact is that in Spain, almost do not know English. Those in places like tourist information centers or popular sea resorts, where there are many tourists, people who communicate with tourists on duty, speak English. But that's all. At the same bus station, in a provincial hotel or, especially, in communicating with passers-by, in English you can speak with the same success as in Russian. So it does not stop at least to install a phrasebook on the smartphone. Globally, this, of course, does not solve the problem - it is not enough to ask - we still need to understand what you were told. Therefore, the most necessary words are still better to learn.
But, the biggest problem for a tourist in Spain is siesta. Somewhere from 13: 30-14: 00 to 16: 00-16: 30 (in different places in different ways) everything is closed - from museums to churches. And, if it is possible to understand this in the summer - after all, it is really the hottest time of the day, then the meaning of such a break in the cold seasons is unclear. It remains either to live according to the Spanish routine and sit at this time in the hotel (I really do not know whether it is necessary to sleep or you can just relax :), or be satisfied with sightseeing outside. I chose the second option for myself - it's somehow offensive to lose almost half a day.
Fortunately, there are no siestas at resorts and in large supermarkets.
And, speaking of visiting the sights, another Spanish feature is that most churches are open only for the duration of the service. This applies, of course, only to the existing temples.
Yes, and there is also the Holy Week (Semana Santa) - the week preceding Easter. This is a time of many religious holidays and solemn processions, so you can just not go where you want. But most importantly - almost everything is closed, even supermarkets.
By tradition, about alcoholic beverages.
In my opinion, in terms of price-quality ratio, Spanish wine is the best.
Well, we will not talk about beer either - it's normal, and it's not a Spanish drink.
There are different fortified wines, such as sherry, as varying degrees of sweetness, and dry. It's an amateur, I did not like it.
Brandy is also different, in addition to aging different strength - not always it is the usual 40 degrees. Here it should be noted that brandy is not at all what cognac. And not because cognac can be called only what is produced in the corresponding region of France. It's just another drink, with a different taste.
Well, now, let's go through the regions.
AndalusiaIf to speak about beach rest, it is Costa del Sol - coast from Malaga to the south - Torremolinos, Benalmadena, Fuengirola, Marbella, Estepona. Buses run along the whole coast, and from Malaga to Fuengirola there are trains.
The climate is excellent. Because around the mountain, there is no suffocating heat. You can even do without air conditioning.
In Andalusia a lot of interesting places.
Excursion from Spain to Morocco (Tangier).
Africa is relatively close, you only need to get to the Spanish port of Tarifa. How long it takes to get there depends, naturally, on the place of departure. Malaga is about 3 hours, but this is an extreme case.
From Tarifa by ferry through the Strait of Gibraltar - another 40 minutes.
Visa for this trip is not needed. More precisely, we need a Schengen multivisa, but since we got to Spain, you already should have it. :)
The Strait of Gibraltar is not so wide - from 14 to 45 km, Africa is very clearly visible. The narrowest point, of course, near Tarifa. But Tangier is not directly opposite, but to the west, so that it is necessary to swim diagonally and takes it a little more time.
Strait of Gibraltar and the coast of Africa
The city of Tarifa is very small, but very old. Among the buildings, the remains of the fortress wall are constantly seen, and the whole fortress is preserved in the port.
Local townspeople were the first to guess the duty from merchants bringing their goods to the port (hence the name of the fee is the tariff). And the city itself was named after the leader of the Arab detachment, landed here in the early VIII century (the so-called - Tarifa), with what actually started the Muslim conquest of Spain.
Ferry in the port of Tarifa
The ferry service is quite busy, flights approximately every half hour.
Ferry from the inside
On the way to Tarifa and back you can see the state of Gibraltar. This possession of Great Britain is a military base on the rock.
There, too carry on excursions, but, as far as I understood, the main local attraction is the monkey, and there is nothing particularly interesting. Yes, Gibraltar is also named after the Arab military commander, although in this case, the similarity is not quite obvious - that was called Tariq ibn Ziyad, and the mountain in his honor is Jebel Tarik.
I took an excursion to Cordoba, about this, again, in a special section.
You can also visit Granada, Seville, Ronda, etc. In addition, almost every coastal town has something interesting, well, you can drive along the coast to the neighboring towns. You will not miss.
On the coast, two water parks - larger in Torremolinos and a smaller one in Mijas.
Even in Torremolinos there is a park La Bateria - a good place to relax. These are not attractions, but simply a landscape park in which a children's playground, an observation tower, several old cannons and a pond where you can go boating are located.
La Bateria in Torremolinos
The most interesting places in Benalmadena, but this separately.
As for general impressions - in principle, everything is fine. I so liked most of all that a lot of interesting things around. Well, in general, there was no problem. The food is excellent, lots of fish and seafood (not always Spanish, but always fresh and not too expensive). In general, the prices are quite moderate. Wine, you know ...
The only thing that strained a little - it would be nice to clean the streets better. It's not that the mountains of garbage are lying, but, for example, all kinds of fruits fall from the trees, which then trample down and quickly begin to rot (hotly), the local residents do not clean up their dogs for themselves, etc. In tourist places such, of course not, but a little deeper ...
But this particular, otherwise everything was excellent.
Geographically this region is to the north-west of Madrid, and administratively it is part of the province of Castile and Leon. With the unification of Castile and Leon with Aragon (1469) began the history of Spain as a single state. The language that we call Spanish is actually Castilian (in Spain itself, it's exactly what it's called). In short, Castile is the most Spanish Spain.
The terrain is mountainous, the climate is continental, and sometimes it is quite cold, not even in winter. For example, at the end of March the weather can be comparable to Moscow, and when the wind blows from the mountains, it is colder. But summer comes quickly and, as a rule, very hot.
Almost every city here is something remarkable and interesting. Architecture, in my opinion, sometimes lacks the variety - usually everything is quite strict and, at times, even heavy. But this also gives its own historical flavor. Arab motifs are often encountered, although Castile was conquered by Muslims only partially and briefly. Nevertheless, Muslims and Christians lived side by side for a very long time (by the way, they were not always hostile) and interpenetration of cultures was not avoided.
The more surprising that there are not so many tourists here, especially if you move away from Madrid.
The most tourist destination of Castile is Segovia, incl. and because it is close enough to the capital to have time to see the city for a day and return to Madrid.
There is another important tourist point, also about an hour's drive from Madrid - Toledo, but it's the capital of the region, although belonging to Castile but autonomous - Castilla la Mancha (Don Quixote - remember?). This is to the south and southeast of Madrid. I did not notice any distinctions from Castile.
This area is south-west of Madrid, right up to Portugal. The capital is Merida.
The mountains are almost gone, the climate is much warmer than in Castilla - I was at the end of February and during the daytime the temperature sometimes rose to twenty degrees.
Many of the cities of Extremadura were either founded by the Arabs, or became cities themselves under the Arabs, whose dominion lasted more than 500 years (711-1230). Hence the incorrect, from the standpoint of the Spanish language, stresses in the names - Merida, Badajoz, Cáceres.
The proximity to Portugal leaves its imprint on the border cities - often their appearance is quite Portuguese, in characteristic white and yellow tones. At the same time, the communication by public transport between neighboring Spanish and Portuguese cities is developed, for some reason, very badly.
The main tourist centers are Trujillo, Caceres and Merida. In other places, too, there is something to see, but, not so much, because there are practically no big cities here. The largest inhabited point of Extremadura is Badajoz (slightly less than 150,000 inhabitants), followed by Cáceres (about 100,000) and Merida (about 60,000). All other cities have a population of less than 40 thousand inhabitants.
The smallest province of Spain - a little more than 300 thousand inhabitants. The capital and the only major city is Logroño. There are no special historical sights here. Popular pedestrian and, to a lesser extent, cycling tourism. Special trails are laid, and tourists, wandering around them, many - of different ages and in different size groups. The nature is really beautiful - the middle mountains, around the green. Rioja is famous as the main wine region of Spain.
Navarra and the Basque Country
The main thing that distinguishes the north-west of Spain is the local population. Basque language as like on Spanish as chalk and cheese. For example, the capital of Navarra Pamplona in Basque is called Iruna, San Sebastian - Donostia. Signs everywhere in two languages. In cities, most still talk in Spanish, and in the villages - on the contrary. I even saw a couple of times men in national headdresses - big berets.
Navarra was once a great kingdom on both sides of the Pyrenees, and now the Pyrenees it is divided into Spanish and French parts. By the way, French Basques are called Gascones - D'Artagnan was born in French Navarra. :) Navarra from the Basque Country in terms of population and traditions is no different, just separated historically.