Iberia

The Iberian Peninsula is the westernmost section of the European continent, lying between the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. It is separated from France by the snow capped Pyrenees mountains.

Countries

Andorra
A tiny land-locked country in the Pyrenees mountains.
Portugal
This stunning country is bordered by Spain and the picturesque Atlantic Ocean.
Spain
This country is one of Europe's best loved destinations for holidays and living : the culture, nightlife, beaches and history all give human beauty to a country that has so much natural beauty.

Dependencies

Gibraltar
Britain's stronghold on the Spanish coast since the days of Napoleon.

Cities

View of Lisbon

Other destinations

Wineyards in La Rioja

Understand

History

Separated from France by the Pyrenees mountains, its history has frequently taken a different path from the rest of Europe, giving the region a separate identity. The Basque people settled here millennia ago, retaining their culture to this day. The Roman Empire expanded into it in the 3rd century BCE, before being supplanted by the Germanic tribes in the 5th century. The peninsula again took on a non-European character when the Islamic Berber and Arabic Moors took over in the 8th century, ruling parts of it as recently as the 15th century. As Christian rule gradually took back the peninsula from the Moors, its people then looked outward, seeding the Americas and more with their languages and laws. Although their then-dictatorial governments kept them out of World War II, Spain and Portugal are now full members of the European Union.

Talk

Aragonese text on a sign at a hiking path

With the exception of Basque, all the languages of the Iberian peninsula are from the Romance family of languages which has its roots in Latin, so if you speak one of those languages, you'll find it fairly easy to pick up the rest.

While most younger people have learnt English in school, it is not widely spoken or understood outside the small British exclave of Gibraltar, where it is the official language. As elsewhere in the world English proficiency improves the closer you get to major tourists centres, especially in the coastal resort cities along the Mediterranean coast and in Barcelona, where English proficiency is much higher than in the rest of the country. English proficiency is generally better in Portugal than in Spain, as Portuguese in the European context is a minor language, and English-language films and television shows are regularly screened in their original language with subtitles instead of being dubbed into the local language as in Spain.

Get in

By plane

View to Madrid from Barajas Airport

The Iberian peninsular is Europe's main hub to South and Central America, Madrid's Barajas airport is the most important of the hubs, while Portela airport in Lisbon is the main gateway to Brazil due to the two countries historic ties. The situation is much the same with the two flag carriers: Spain's Iberia has an impressive South/Central America network, and Portugal's TAP flies to 10 destinations in Brazil and 9 African cities with colonial ties to Portugal.

By train

While the conventional rail network has a different gauge (the distance between two rails) from that in most of Europe and thus running cross border trains was difficult in the past, the new Spanish high speed rail network operates on the same standards as the French one and thus through trains can be run from the French city of Perpignan to Barcelona and from either endpoint to the French or Spanish high speed rail network. RENFE and SNCF together run two daily direct trains from Paris to Barcelona and one train from Madrid to several destinations in the south of France. A connection at the Northern end of the Pyrenees has also been proposed, but the recent economic downturn makes construction in the immediate future seem unlikely.

By boat

Eat

Three kinds of paella

Having long coastlines, Spain and Portugal are known for their seafood dishes. In Portugal, Cod Fish is among the most appreciated dishes. Spain is also known for jamón ibérico, literally "Iberian ham." Spain — especially Valencia and Catalunya - are the wellspring of tapas, small plates to be eaten with wine. In addition, Spain has been at the forefront of new directions in international super-high-end cooking.

Drink

Sangria is wine usually mixed with a collaboration of fruits and some added spices like cinnamon.

However, although sangria is popular with tourists it is rare to see Spanish people drinking it. The locals drink tinto de verano - red wine diluted with lemonade or carbonated water. Spain is also known for Rioja and Jerez (Sherry).

Portugal is known for its Port wines, among others.

Go next

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Wednesday, March 09, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.