Most of the Iberian peninsula, which includes both Spain and Portugal, has been inhabited since early prehistoric times. In fact evidence has been unearthed at Atapuerca in northern Spain which reveals that this particular area has been populated for over eight hundred thousand years but modern man didn’t make his appearance until about 35,000BC.
In the centuries which have elapsed since his arrival, Spain has had many very different groups of settlers, all of whom had their own part in shaping the country’s history. Its central position on the peninsula between Europe and Africa meant that it was invaded frequently and had no choice but to follow the dominant religion and principles of the different groups of conquerors. Evidence of the influence of the Phoenicians, the Romans and the Germanic tribes can still be seen throughout Spain but those who had the greatest artistic and intellectual input into its development were the Islamic conquerors who ruled Spanish lands for over five hundred years – the Moors. In fact, their spectacular architecture and abstract designs continue to attract visitors from all over the world.
And, since this unique mélange of European and North African artistic style and flair began many centuries ago, Spain has continued to flourish in the world of the arts. Artists including El Greco, Goya, Picasso and Miro, writers such as Seneca, Cervantes and Nobel Prize-winner Camilo Jose Cela and singers including Montserrat Caballe and Placido Domingo have helped Spain become a major artistic player on a worldwide scale. Furthermore it is home to one of the most famous art galleries in the world, the Museo del Prado in Madrid as well as the site for the new and much talked about Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao.
Its natural landscape also helps maintain Spain’s enviable position in world tourism. It is Europe’s second most mountainous country after Switzerland and true alpine conditions in the north of the country make it one of the most popular ski destinations in the world. As well as the slopes, it also has many of the continent’s most impressive beaches, some of which are warm all year round including those on the Canary Archipelago. The perfect combination of both snow and sun holiday destinations all year round, as well as numerous man made attractions, clearly explain why Spain continues to remain such a popular choice.