In spite of all the economic turmoil, Spain still pulls in tourists and property buyers from all over the world. It has something of everything. The second biggest EU country by area, the climate ranges from one with four seasons in the north to the sub-tropical southern region of hot, dry summers. It’s also got the mildest winter on the European mainland, with 300 to 320 sunny days annually.
Historical sites dot the country. Ancient site such as the Atapuerca Caves, where 800,000-year-old human fossils have been found, and the 15,000-to-20,000-year-old cave paintings of Altamira, and the Paleolithic rock art found throughout the Mediterranean basin are some of the world’s best examples of pre-historic artwork. It’s also home to many of Europe’s earliest cities; Cádiz is Spain’s oldest and longest continuously inhabited city, settled first by the Phoenicians around 1,200 BC, then the Romans followed by the Arabs. Stroll around Seville to see marble columns in the same place for 2,000 years, then round the next corner to see the remains of Arab walls 1,200 years old. With 44 UNESCO World Heritage sites and a 45th pending, Spain has more than sites than all other countries after Italy (51) and China (48).
Modern-day life is relaxed and easy-going and Spain is one of the most child-friendly cultures in the world. Whenever possible Spaniards do still make their evening stroll, the paseo, along the alamedas (avenues) and in the plazas common to all Spanish towns and cities. Whole families eating out together is still the norm, the youngest may be fast asleep in their buggy, but they are never left at home. Living well is affordable, Spanish food and drink prices are about 10% below the EU average, according to Eurostat, the statistical office for the EU Spanish cuisine is world-class; in the 2015 ranking of the world’s top 50 restaurants Spain has 7, more than any other country and, once again, a Spanish restaurant, El Celler de CanRoca in Girona, took the top spot. This was the sixth time in 10 years that a Spanish restaurant has been number 1.
If its sports you want, there’s everything. The Costa del Sol also markets itself as the Costa del Golf, with upwards of 70 courses between Málaga and Sotogrande, the region likes to call itself the golfing capital of Europe (though Portugal is a strong competitor for the title). Northern Europeans come in their millions to play year-round, but especially between October and June.
After Switzerland, Spain is Europe’s most mountainous country, with great skiing in the Pyrenees, in the Sierras outside Madrid, and in the Sierra Nevada near Granada. The Sierra Nevada chain has Spain’s highest peak, Mulhacén, at 11,410 feet above sea level, it is usually the first ski resort in Europe to open for the season and the last to close. It is also one of the few genuine sun ’n ski resorts: Once the snow melts, it attracts walkers, hikers, rock-climbers, and mountain-bikers. And even in January, on a sunny day the temperature just an hour away on the coast could easily get to 75ºF.
For eleven months of the year Tarifa, on the Atlantic coast of Andalucía, is ranked in the world’s top 10 destinations for wind and kite surfing, only in September do the winds drop slightly. Tennis is played outdoors throughout the year, while fishermen head for the River Ebro delta, for wels catfish, carp, and pike fishing. The largest catfish landed so far in the Ebro delta was caught in 2011 and weighed 245 pounds.
Andalucía is also the equestrian capital of Spain, both Jerez and Seville hold spring fairs honoring the native Andalucian breed, and Jerez is home to the dancing horses of Andalucía. Riding events, festivals, and holidays are available throughout the year in numerous locations in the Sierras.
Altogether, Spain has a quality of life that’s difficult to match… the climate, the good food, and the active outdoor lifestyle add up to Spaniards having the longest life expectancy in Europe and second in the world, after the Japanese.