Spain Explained For Members

The 20 maps that will help you understand Spain

Alex Dunham
Alex Dunham - [email protected]
The 20 maps that will help you understand Spain
Medieval map of Spain at Segovia's Alcazar palace. Photo Deposit Photos

Despite its reputation for being the land of sun, siesta and sangría, Spain is a multifaceted country with much more to it than that. These 20 maps help to shed some light on what "España" is really all about.


It took 781 years for Spaniards to re-conquer Spain

These four maps show the slow progression of Christian military forces from north to south after the Umayyad conquest of Hispania in 711.

The Kingdom of Asturias (which back then included Galicia and Cantabria) was never under Muslim rule.


Spaniards are a mixed genetic bunch

The following heat map reveals the amount of North African DNA found in regional populations across mainland Spain.

The lighter the colour the bigger the amount of Berber genes, which is surprising considering that Galicians- known for their Celtic roots – are the regional group with the most North African blood.


The biogene map doesn’t show the Canary Islands however, where traces of the Guanche DNA (the original inhabitants of the archipelago) have been found in more than 50 percent of the local population.

Map: BioRxViv


Their empire was only second to the British one

The Spanish empire officially lasted from 1492 to 1898.

At its peak it included large swathes of current-day USA, Mexico, much of the Caribbean, most of Central and South America, the Philippines, the Netherlands and parts of Italy.


It has 17 distinctive autonomous communities

Spain’s 17 regions all hold some degree of self-governance, as do its two autonomous cities in north Africa Ceuta and Melilla.

The most populated region is Andalucia with 8.4 million and the least is La Rioja in the north with 321,000.

Map: Deposit Photos

Spanish isn’t the only language spoken

The following map illustrates how Castilian Spanish is the only language spoken in the vast majority of Spain’s interior and south, but in the north and east of the country distinctive languages such as Galician, Basque and Catalan are also widely spoken.

In the Basque Country for example, 34 percent of the population speaks Euskera (as the language is called in Basque), a linguistic enigma which has nothing to do with Romance languages.

Photo: Wikimedia

Spain is packed full of natural and man-made wonders

A total of 17 Spanish cities have been awarded the UNESCO World Heritage prize, with a total of 45 places across the country being handed the accolade as well.

That means Spain is only behind Italy (51) and China (50) on the global UNESCO rankings.


All roads lead to Santiago

The world-famous pilgrimage to the city of Santiago de Compostela doesn’t just start within the borders of the north-western region of Galicia.

As this map illustrates, there are routes starting all the way up in northern France and down southern Spain, many of them centuries old.

Map: Editorial Buen Camino 


Spain isn’t always sunny and hot

The following three maps illustrate how Spain has more than just one climate.

There’s the dry climate of the interior (scorching summers and bitter cold winters), the Mediterranean weather of the east (hot summers and wet but mild winters), the Atlantic climate of the north (always colder and rainier than the rest of Spain) and then there’s the Canary Islands (springtime all year round).


To get an even better idea of the weather in Spain, the two maps below show average summer and winter temperatures.

Map:Spain's National Geographical Information Institute

Spain is full of mountains

Spain is Europe’s fourth most mountainous country after Switzerland, Austria and Greece. As this map shows, a large part of its interior is taken up by a huge plateau called “la Meseta Central”, which has an average altitude of 660 metres.

Even though Spain shares the Pyrenees mountain range with France, its highest peak is all the way down in the Canary Islands: Tenerife’s Mount Teide (3,718 metres high).

Map:Spain's National Geographical Information Institute



Plenty of food for thought

This nifty map of Spanish food by region shows just how dominant cold meats are across much of the country when it comes to staple foods. On paper, Spain is certainly not a country for vegetarians!


A veritable ‘cheesathon’

As this map of cheeses depicts, Spain has no reason to envy Mediterranean neighbours France and Italy when it comes to its repertoire of “quesos”.

Map: Mercado de La Cebada/Taste Atlas

Crash course in Spanish wine

Next time you’re at a dinner party and somebody brings along a bottle of Spanish wine that’s not Rioja, use this ‘cheat sheet’ map to impress them with your Iberian 'vino' knowledge, from Abariños to Verdejos.




Spain has plenty of trains but not all of them are fast

Ever since the first train tracks were laid down between Barcelona and Mataróin 1829, Spain’s railway network has expanded enormously.

Unfortunately as this map reflects, not much of the 16,026 kilometres that make up the network are high-speed yet.


The regional trains in Spain are mainly not on the plain

Spain’s commuter rail systems operate in 12 of the country’s main metropolitan areas but large swathes of Spain’s interior don’t have this useful means of transport at their disposal.

Map: Maximilian Dörrbecker/Wikimedia

Make sure you don’t speed on Spanish motorways

As this map by Spain’s traffic authority the DGT shows, there are speed cameras scattered across much of the highway network, although the spread isn’t always even.

Map: DGT

Spaniards keep flocking to the cities

Rural depopulation is a big problem in Spain, with many places that were once lively trading posts turning into ghost towns and villages.

On the following map, the areas in green show Spanish municipalities that have fewer inhabitants than in 2001 (the darker the green the more severe the depopulation has been).

Map: Territorial Administrations Ministry of Spain 

Corruption is a coastal thing

This insightful map put together by citizen support group #Nolesvotes (#Don’tvoteforthem) illustrates where cases of political corruption have emerged in Spain.

The capital isn’t spared but the most eye-opening finding is the sheer number of corruption cases involving Spain's two main parties PP and PSOE that have emerged along the country' eastern and southern coast in Valencia, Murcia and Andalucia.

Map: Google Maps/#Nolesvotes




Join the conversation in our comments section below. Share your own views and experience and if you have a question or suggestion for our journalists then email us at [email protected].
Please keep comments civil, constructive and on topic – and make sure to read our terms of use before getting involved.

Please log in to leave a comment.

See Also