Spain Geography and Population

By | January 8, 2023

Spain – geography

This article only discusses the conditions on the Spanish mainland. Mht. conditions in the Balearic Islands and the Canary Islands, see these articles.


In the middle of the Iberian Peninsula, it travels approximately 211,000 km2 large plateau La Meseta reaches an average altitude of approximately 600 m and dominates most of the Spanish countryside. The plateau, which stretches west into Portugal, includes in Spain the regions of Castilla y León, Castilla-La Mancha, Madrid and Extremadura. The plateau is shaped like two flat basins with surrounding mountains and rivers in the middle.

The northern part of La Meseta is bounded on the north by the Cantabrian Mountains and on the east by the Iberian Border Mountains. The plateau is divided in the northern and southern part of the Cordillera Central mountain range with the Sierra de Guadarrama and the Sierra de Gredos, where the highest points are respectively. Peñalara (2430 m) and Almanzor (2592 m). The river Duero runs in the northern part of La Meseta and continues into Portugal to flow into the Atlantic Ocean.

The southern part of La Meseta is bounded on the south by the Sierra Morena mountain range, and through the flat, high-lying karst landscape of the plateau La Mancha to the east, the rivers Tajo and Guadiana run in a westerly direction towards the Atlantic Ocean.

The Iberian Rand Mountains with the highest peaks in the Sierra de la Demanda at 2304 m separate in the east La Meseta from Valencia in the coastal foreland to the Mediterranean. In northwestern Spain, the Cantabrian Mountains rise with the highest point in the Torre de Cerredo (2648 m) in the Picos de Europa massif.

North of the mountains of Asturias, Cantabria and the Basque Country, the landscape falls abruptly down to the coast of Biscay; to the west in Galicia, the coastline, the so-called Ria coast, is lobed and marked by steep cliffs, deep valleys and fjords.

In the northeast, the Pyrenees mountain range borders Spain on France and Andorra. Between the Pyrenees, where Pico del Aneto (3404 m) is the highest point, and the Iberian Rand Mountains to the south is the large river plain Ebro brook, in which the river Ebro with its source in the Cantabrian Mountains runs southeast to the Mediterranean and along the way has numerous tributaries from the Pyrenees. Ebro is very watery and drains with tributaries approximately 1/6 of the total area of Spain.

Administrative division
Region/Province capital city area (km2) population (1996)
Andalusia Seville 87268 7235000
Almería Almería 8775 501800
Cádiz Cádiz 7440 1105800
Córdoba Córdoba 13771 761400
Granada Granada 12531 808100
Huelva Huelva 10085 454700
Jaén Jaén 13498 648600
Málaga Málaga 7276 1249300
Seville Seville 14001 1705300
Aragon Zaragoza 47650 1187500
Huesca Huesca 15685 206900
Teruel Teruel 14804 138200
Zaragoza Zaragoza 17252 842400
Asturias Oviedo 10565 1087900
The Balearics Palma de Mallorca 5014 788000
Basque Country Vitoria 7261 2098000
Álava Vitoria 3037 281800
Guipúzcoa San Sebastián 1997 676200
Vizcaya Bilbao 2217 1140000
Cantabria Santander 5289 527400
Castilla-La Mancha Toledo 79230 1712600
Albacete Albacete 14863 359000
Ciudad Real Ciudad Real 19813 478700
Cuenca Cuenca 17140 201700
Guadalajara Guadalajara 12190 157300
Toledo Toledo 15368 515900
Castilla y León Valladolid 94193 2508500
Ávila Ávila 8050 169300
Burgos Burgos 14292 350100
Leon Leon 15468 517200
Palencia Palencia 8029 180600
Salamanca Salamanca 12336 353000
Segovia Segovia 6949 147800
Soria Soria 10287 92800
Valladolid Valladolid 8202 490200
Zamora Zamora 10559 207500
Catalonia Barcelona 31930 6090100
Barcelona Barcelona 7728 4628300
Gerona Gerona 5886 530600
Lérida Lérida 12028 353500
Tarragona Tarragona 6283 574700
Extremadura Merida 41602 1070200
Badajoz Badajoz 21647 656800
Caceres Caceres 19868 413400
Galicia Santiago de Compostela 29434 2742600
La Coruña La Coruña 7951 1110300
Lugo Lugo 9803 370300
Orense Orense 7278 346900
Pontevedra Pontevedra 4477 915100
Canary Islands Las Palmas and Santa Cruz de Tenerife 7242 1606500
Las Palmas Gran Canaria 4065 834100
Santa Cruz de Tenerife Santa Cruz de Tenerife 3208 772400
Madrid Madrid 7995 5022300
Murcia Murcia 11317 1097200
Navarra Pamplona 10421 520600
Rioja Logroño 5034 264900
Valencia Valencia 23305 4009300
Alicante Alicante 5796 1379800
Castellón de la Plana Castellón de la Plana 6662 456700
Valencia Valencia 10763 2172800
rural areas of Morocco
Ceuta 19 68800
Melila 14 59600

South of La Meseta, below the Sierra Morena in Andalusia, the Guadalquivir River flows from east to west in a flat and fertile lowland, which to the west becomes the marsh landscape of Las Marismas. The river empties into the Atlantic Ocean north of Cádiz.

South of the river plain rises the Sierra Nevada mountain range, where the highest peak of the Iberian Peninsula, the 3478 m Mulhacén (3482 m is also mentioned), is located.

South of the Sierra Nevada lies the Mediterranean Costa del Sol. The total Spanish coastline is approximately 4964 km long.

The majority of the rocks in Spain, ie. especially plateau areas formed in the Paleozoic Era (545 to 245 million. years before present) and consists of eroded sandstone, slate, granite, gneiss and quartzite.

Younger rock formations are the Pyrenees in the northeast and the Sierra Nevada in the south, formed by the alpine fold for 110-5 million. years ago.

Spain has only a few natural lakes, but many are established artificially using dams such as water reservoirs. irrigation and for hydropower.


The climatic conditions in Spain can generally be divided into three main groups with the Atlantic climate at the coastal areas in the north, the Mediterranean climate along the coasts to the east and south and the continental climate on the central plateau.

In the regions off the Biscay and the Atlantic coast to the north and northwest, the climate is mild, temperate and humid, with an annual steady rainfall of over 1000 mm and cool, humid winds from the north.

Average temperatures fluctuate from 9 °C in winter to 18 °C in summer. The rich rainfall makes the landscape fertile and the conditions for cattle breeding, agriculture and forestry ideal.

The Mediterranean climate of the east and south coasts gives dry and hot summers (with an average temperature of approximately 25 °C) and mild, partly rainy winters (approximately 11 °C on average).

However, the annual rainfall varies from approximately 800 mm on the Costa Brava in the northeast to 220 mm on the Almería on the Costa del Sol. The Ebro Valley and the hinterland of most of Andalusia and Extremadura also have a Mediterranean climate.

The plateau of central Spain has a dry continental climate with an annual rainfall of only 400-600 mm, which predominantly falls in spring and autumn. The hot summers have average temperatures of approximately 25 °C, and in winter it can drop to around 2-4 °C.

The warmest regions of Spain are located in Andalusia in southern Spain, which is affected by the warm winds from North Africa and the Sierra Nevada, which provide shelter from the Mediterranean winds.

Spain – Geography (Population)

The population of Spain is mainly concentrated in the coastal areas along the Mediterranean, the Biscay and the Atlantic Ocean, along the Ebro River and around Madrid, while La Meseta and the mountainous regions are rather sparsely populated areas. Since the 1800’s. the country has experienced extensive urbanization and internal migration. Today approximately 80% of the Spanish population in cities with more than 10,000 residents; the largest are Madrid, centrally located in the country, and Barcelona, Valencia, Seville, Zaragoza, Bilbao and Málaga. The internal migration has been greatest in Andalusia, Galicia and the areas around the rivers Duero and Ebro, while the migration has mainly taken place in Madrid, Barcelona and the Basque Country. In the last decades of the 1900’s, a number of Spaniards emigrated to central and northern Europe, including Germany and France. During the same period, the influx of new population groups has increased, especially from the Latin American countries as well as a significant number of pensioners from Europe, just as illegal immigration from North Africa is growing.

  • Countryaah: Do you know how many people there are in Spain? Check this site to see population pyramid and resident density about this country.

The different autonomous regions reflect to some extent the spans of Spanish culture; this is particularly the case in Catalonia, Galicia and the Basque Country, as these three regions still have their own language, respectively. Catalan (Català), Galician (Gallego) and Basque (Basque); however, internal migration has mixed the population groups of the country. Gypsies also make up a relatively large population group (estimated at 200,000) with their own culture and way of life. For culture and traditions of Spain, please check aparentingblog.

Spain – Geography (Business)

Compared to the rest of Western Europe, Spain has traditionally been an agricultural country, but today appears as an industrial and service society. EU membership (1986) has particularly affected business, the labor market and the economy; necessary structural changes have been forced, not least in industry, and the country’s infrastructure has been improved.

Agriculture, formerly a major occupation, has undergone a number of changes in the latter half of the 1900’s, but is still lagging by European standards; the share of total employment has fallen from 26% in 1970 to approximately 8% in 1996. Limitations in the development of agriculture lie in the natural conditions with poor soil quality and a dry climate and in ownership and cultivation conditions. approximately 40% of the land’s area is cultivated, and of the cultivated land is approximately 10% artificial water; this is used for intensive cultivation of rice, fruit and vegetables. The northern and north-western part of Spain is characterized by many small farms (minifundies), which are generally only mechanized to a modest extent and therefore have low productivity, while southern areas such as Andalusia and Castilla-La Manchadominated by extensive agriculture and low land use around large estates (latifundia); large areas are used, for example, for cattle breeding. However, an agricultural reform from 1985 opens up the possibility for the authorities to expropriate underutilized land that can be transferred to agricultural cooperatives. By the Ebro River and along the Mediterranean coast, there are well-developed agricultural areas with irrigation as in the province of Murcia.

The crops include barley and wheat grown mainly on La Meseta and in the south-western parts of Andalusia. Sugar beet is grown mainly in Castilla y León, and maize and potatoes in humid Galicia. Vha. irrigation rice is grown in Seville, Valencia, Tarragona and Murcia. Grapes are grown in Navarre and Rioja in the Ebro Basin, in La Mancha and in Andalusia on the river plains around the Guadalquivir, and Spain is one of the world’s largest wine producers. Growing olives are mainly used for the production of olive oil, of which Spain is the largest producer in the world with 1/3 of total production. Citrus fruits are grown mainly along the Mediterranean coast. In addition, vegetables are grown, especially onions, tomatoes, beans and peas, as well as fruits such as apples, melons, figs, almonds, avocados and strawberries.

Meat and dairy cattle farming is mainly concentrated in the northern regions, Asturias, the Basque Country and Galicia, while sheep farming is not linked to specific localities. Pig breeding is widespread in Extremadura and Galicia. Especially in Andalusia, horses and bulls are bred for bullfighting.

Forestry. Spain’s largest forest areas are found in the northern and northwestern regions and in certain mountain areas. Since 1940, the planting of forests, with eucalyptus and poplar, has been a high priority both to increase timber production and as a basis for papermaking and to counteract soil erosion. Spain’s forest area amounts to almost 17% of the land area, and the total annual timber production is approximately 16 mio. m 3 (1994). A smaller part is the traditional natural cork from the cork oak in Andalusia and Extremadura.

Fishing. Spain is one of Europe’s leading fishing nations with an annual catch of approximately 1.4 million t fish mainly distributed on cod, tuna, sardines, squid and shellfish (especially mussels and oysters). The fishing fleet of approximately 19,000 boats are being modernized, and a large part of it operates off Newfoundland, Greenland, Iceland, the Canary Islands and off the coast of West Africa. The main areas for catch landings and processors are Galicia with Vigo and La Coruña as the main ports. Further east in Biscay, the port city of Bilbao is the dominant one, and Andalusia has the cities of Cádiz and Huelva as its main fishing ports.

Minerals and energy. Spain has relatively rich mineral deposits. Historically, deposits of iron and coal in the Cantabrian Mountains in Asturias and the Basque Country have been of great importance for the development of the north coast’s heavy industry and industrialization, around Oviedo and Bilbao. Spain has many, but small deposits of lead, copper, zinc, manganese, tungsten and uranium, in Sierra Morena; the occurrence of mercury in Almaden north of Córdoba is the world’s richest with 1/3of the world’s total reserves; it was exploited as early as Roman times and has an annual production of approximately 500 t (1994). In Catalonia, both sea and mountain salt are extracted. Other raw materials are oil and natural gas, with the largest oil deposits and extractions off the Ebro river delta in Catalonia; recovery is modest and covers only a small part of Spain’s total oil and gas consumption.

To meet energy needs, Spain has been investing in hydropower, especially since 1970, through the construction of several dams and hydropower plants, especially in the northern, rain-rich part of the country. Hydropower accounts for approximately 20% of Spain’s electricity production. The rest is covered by nine nuclear power plants (30%) and by oil, coal and natural gas-fired power plants. Experiments with solar energy and not least the construction of large wind farms (including from Denmark) in several places are approaches to new energy extraction sources in Spain, which is Europe’s second largest market (after Germany) for wind turbines.

Industry.In 2000, around 27% of the total workforce in Spain was employed in the industrial, construction and civil engineering sectors, which have expanded sharply since the 1960’s and now consist of a broad spectrum from the traditional food and beverage industry, shipyards, metals and and automotive industry to advanced electronic industry. With a background in deposits of coal and iron in the northern part of the country, Catalonia in particular has been the locomotive of the Spanish industry, with an emphasis on the textile and iron and metal industries. In the Franco era, the focus was on building a heavy industry, with steelworks, among other things. in Bilbao, El Ferrol in Galicia and Avilés in Asturias, as well as industrialization around Madrid and Barcelona, ​​which are today the country’s leading industrial areas. EU membership has strengthened the regions along the Mediterranean and northern Spain, the Basque Country and Asturias, with emphasis on modernizing the iron and steel industry in the cities of Bilbao, Gijón and Oviedo as well as in Valencia. Aluminum plants are built in La Coruña, Avilés and Valladolid.

Spain is one of the world’s major shipbuilding nations with shipyards in El Ferrol, Matagorda near Cádiz, Barcelona, ​​Cartagena and Bilbao, for example. Spain’s oil refineries are located in Bilbao, Tarragona and along the coast of Cartagena and in Santa Cruz de Tenerife. The weight of the chemical industry with the production of paints, plastics, fertilizers and chemicals are located in Madrid and Barcelona and to the north in Bilbao, Santander and Gijón. Cement production takes place in Bilbao and Seville, and Spain has significant exports in this area. The car industry has in a short time become the country’s leading industry due to strong demand in the domestic market and significant exports. Many of the world’s largest car manufacturers have established themselves with assembly plants in Spain, with the country’s leading car brand, SEAT (Volkswagen), at the head. There are assembly plants in Madrid, Barcelona, ​​Valencia, Seville, Zaragoza and Palencia. In several of these cities there is also another metal goods industry with production of household and kitchen appliances.

The textile and footwear industry focuses on Barcelona’s industrial region and in the provinces of Valencia and Alicante. Competition from Asian countries has led to significant rationalizations in this industry. Advanced communications equipment, telecommunications equipment and industrial robots are part of the high-tech electronic industry, which has seen strong growth in Spain since the 1990’s; some are located in the Madrid region together with other light industry, food production and construction.

Service and tourism. Just under twothirds of the active population is employed in the service sector, which is mainly dominated by tourism-related occupations, and the tourism and service-related share of GDP is almost as large. Spain has an extensive tourism; from January to November 2005 the number of visitors was 52.4 million, the majority coming from neighboring France and Portugal as well as Germany and the United Kingdom; the annual number of visitors is increasing, and it is expected to receive approximately 75 million tourists in 2020. The major tourist concentrations are in the Balearic Islands and the Canary Islands, along the coastlines as well as in Madrid and Barcelona. Especially the coastlines of the Mediterranean, Costa Brava, Costa Dorada and Costa del Sol, are visited by both Spanish and foreign tourists, but also large cities such as Segovia, Salamanca, Bilbao, Seville, Granada and Córdoba are favorite tourist destinations due to their historical monuments and others tourist attractions.

Spain – Geography (Infrastructure)

Since Spain’s accession to the EU in 1986, the infrastructure has been modernized and expanded. The transport network has Madrid at its center; Spain currently has approximately 13,000 km of motorway (mostly tolled), 105 airports, of which 33 are international, a well-developed electrified railway network and 53 international ports on the Atlantic and Mediterranean coasts. A high-speed railway between Madrid and Seville was built in 1992 as part of a larger network that would initially strengthen the connection to Barcelona in the NE and the north and to France and Portugal. However, different track widths between the French and Spanish rail networks make the connection to the neighboring country difficult. Both international air traffic and domestic flights are dominated by the state-owned company Iberia.

Spain – plant geography

Most of Spain is characterized by Mediterranean vegetation types, where kermes (Quercus coccifera) and in the west also cork oaks (Q. suber) are prominent. Central European species and vegetation types occur in the northern mountains, beech forest eg south to approximately 40 ° N. Steppe and semi-desert occur in the low-rainfall areas in the interior. The Pyrenees have a rich mountain flora with clear connections to the Alps. The southern mountains, especially the Sierra Nevada, are rich in species with local distribution (endemics), many of which also occur on the other side of the Strait of Gibraltar; many local endemics are also found in the Balearic Islands. In total, Spain has at least 6000 species of wild and naturalized vascular plants.

The botanical activity has been rising sharply and there are several ongoing flora projects; the most important is Flora Iberica, of which seven volumes have been published until 1999.

Spain Geography