Trips to Spain

The sun-drenched lands of Spain are often associated with overdeveloped resorts, crowded beaches and rowdy tourists. Yet beyond this stereotype is a land brimming with a diverse and eclectic mix of culture, history, art and exotic landscapes. This is a country of mouth-watering cuisine, colorful fiestas, age old museums, golden beaches, soaring cathedrals and cutting edge contemporary design. It has a tempting array of bustling cities, scenic countryside and majestic mountainous landscapes which continue to delight and intrigue visitors.

The unique diversity found in Spain is instantly obvious due to the obsessive regionalism across the country which led to the creation of seventeen autonomous regions in the 1970s, each with their own traditions, dialect and cuisine. As the birthplace of Pablo Picasso, Antoni Gaudí and Salvador Dalí, Spain also has a rich artistic culture which has inspired many of the world’s prolific artists. It is a marriage of various historical cultures – roman churches standing alongside baroque buildings and Renaissance Palaces.

The Southern regions in particular hold many reminders of ‘old world’ Spain. Cadiz is regarded as one of the oldest inhabited cities in Western Europe with remnants of Roman settlement still remaining. The magical city of Seville which is the cultural heart of Spain has three UNESCO World Heritage buildings which date back to the Reconquista of 1248, including The Giralda Minaret which is the largest gothic building in Europe and contains the tomb of infamous explorer Christopher Columbus.

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As a country of such large geographical and cultural diversity, Spain is certainly a surprise to those who often expect only beach holidays. The combinati

on of world renowned food, differing landscapes, regional differences, modernized and traditional ways of life and a turbulent and varied past; offer a truly exotic and exhilarating destination for exploration.

Geography and climate
Spain is located in southwestern Europe and occupies 85% of the Iberian Peninsula in addition to the Balearic Islands and the Canary Islands in the Atlantic Ocean. The majority of the country's peninsula region consists of the Meseta Central, a highland plateau in the heart of Spain, rimmed with mountains and containing rivers which form some of the borders with Portugal.

Mainland Spain is the second highest, and most mountainous country in Europe. The foreboding Pyrenees mountain range stretches roughly 400 Km and cuts a natural barrier between France and Andorra, whilst the Sierra Nevada, which lies to the southeast of Granada, contains the highest point of the Spanish Peninsula. Other geographical features include narrow coastal plains and lowland river valleys, the most prominent of which is the Andalusian Plain in the South West.

Spain’s size and diverse geographical landscape have resulted in three distinct climate zones all with differing features. On the peninsula, the Mediterranean climate leads to dry hot summers with temperatures frequently exceeding 35°C. The winters are mild and can suffer from high levels of rainfall. In contrast the southeast region of the country is semi-arid, causing long dry seasons that stretch beyond the summer and sees very little rainfall in comparison. An oceanic climate surrounds the northern part of the country and temperatures are often determined by the winds sweeping the Atlantic Ocean.

Food and drink
The key hallmarks of Spanish gastronomy are deceptively simple – innumerable variety, traditional recipes that have come down through generations and a willingness to experiment. The Spanish diet is rooted in the products of an agrarian, pastoral and horticultural society which has resulted in fresh and vibrant produce.

Spanish cuisine is defined by differences in geography and climate, as well as the obsessive regionalism which has split the land into various autonomous territories. A combination of these factors has led to a breathtaking range of gastronomic experiences where food and wine are seemingly a national obsession. Locals dine deep into the night and a collection of the world’s most famous chefs hail from Spain.

In terms of region, the Mediterranean and coastal areas of Spain rely heavily on the ocean which is teaming with marine life and offers an abundance of freshly caught seafood for both locals and tourists alike. Colorful rice based dishes like paella are the very essence of this area as are cold refreshing soups like gazpacho. Food in central Spain on the other hand is a blend of Jewish, Muslim and Christian traditions which has created a rustic style of cooking. Popular dishes in this region range from simple and hearty garlic flavoured broth, to fine cured hams and impressive cheeses such as Manchego.

Following Italy and France, Spain is the third largest producer of wine in the world and has an abundance of natural grape varieties including Tempranillo and Garnacha. As well as classic red and white wines, Spain is also famed for its Sherries from its southern regions and Cava from Catalonia.

Culture, history and economy
Spain has one of the most distinctive cultures in Europe. Known for its colourful and vibrant festivals, traditional flamenco dancing, afternoon siestas and controversial bull fighting,

Spain is a land of immense variety. One of the most important aspects of Spanish life is family as it is the basis of the social structure. Most celebrations and fiestas in Spain are attended by the extended family and it is not uncommon to have older relatives living in the family home with their sons or daughters.

Modern humans first arrived on the Iberian Peninsula some 35,000 years ago, beginning a captivating history on the path to modernity. The country came under Roman rule around 200 BC, before being conquered by first Germanic tribes, and later by the Moors and Islamic tribes, all of which left an indelible mark on the country. Visitors to Spain can witness examples of this culture of conquering in its numerous Roman ruins, Moorish buildings and stunning examples of Islamic architecture where great civilisation’s have risen and fallen.

Spain emerged as a unified country in the fifteenth century and in the early modern period it became one of history's first colonial empires, leaving a vast cultural and linguistic legacy that includes over 500 million Spanish speakers. Spain’s modern history is marked somewhat by the bitterly fought civil war between 1936-39 which resulted in the 36 year dictatorship of General Franco. Today, Spain shows strong regional variation, with Spaniards taking great pride in their locality and, despite this long, and at times, turbulent past, modern Spain lives very much in the present and is changing culturally with each generation.


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