Geography and Climate
At 504,782 km2, Spain is the world's 51st-largest country. It is some 47,000 km2 smaller than France and 81,000 km2 larger than the U.S. state of California.
On the west, Spain borders Portugal; on the south, it borders Gibraltar and Morocco, through its cities in North Africa. On the northeast, along the Pyrenees mountain range, it borders France and the tiny principality of Andorra.
Spain also includes the Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean Sea, the Canary Islands in the Atlantic Ocean and a number of uninhabited islands on the Mediterranean side of the strait of Gibraltar, known as Plazas de soberanía, such as the Chafarine islands, the isle of Alborán, the "rocks" (peñones) of Vélez and Alhucemas, and the tiny Isla Perejil. Along the Pyrenees in Catalonia, a small exclave town called Llívia is surrounded by France. The little Pheasant Island in the River Bidasoa is a Spanish-French condominium.
Mainland Spain is dominated by high plateaus and mountain ranges, such as the Sierra Nevada. Running from these heights are several major rivers such as the Tagus, the Ebro, the Duero, the Guadiana and the Guadalquivir. Alluvial plains are found along the coast, the largest of which is that of the Guadalquivir in Andalusia.
Due to Spain's geographical situation the climate is extremely diverse; discounting the mountain climate, it can be roughly divided into five areas:
- A Continental Mediterranean climate in the inland areas of the Peninsula (largest city, Madrid).
- An Oceanic climate in Galicia and the coastal strip near the Bay of Biscay or (largest city, Bilbao). This area is often called Green Spain.
- A Semiarid climate or arid Mediterranean in the southeast (largest city, Murcia).
- A Mediterranean climate region extends from the Andalusian plain along the southern and eastern coasts up to the Pyrenees, on the seaward side of the mountain ranges that run near the coast. Also in Ceuta and Melilla (largest city, Barcelona). Localized Subtropical climate areas exist in the coasts of Granada and Málaga (Costa Tropical).
- A Subtropical climate in the Canary Islands (largest city, Las Palmas).