Castile and Leon is the largest region in Spain
, amounting to a fifth of the country. At the same time it has one of the lowest densities for its population of just over two and a half million citizens.
The administration of the region is based on nine provinces with capitals in the cities of:
The region has some of the most outstanding tourist attractions in Spain. The two national parks of Covadonga and Picos de Europa set the standard for all kinds of outdoor pursuits and interests. The three UNESCO designated world heritage cities are a measure of the cultural and historic richness of this part of Spain.
Countryside and wildlife in Castile and Leon
The crown jewels in the vast treasury of Castile and Leon┬┤s countryside and wildife resources are the two national parks of Montana de Covadonga (the oldest in Spain) and Picos de Europa
. The latter has four peaks that rise to some 8,000 feet.
Additionally, there are forty protected countryside and wildlife locations. The more important ones include: Lago de Sanabria, Canondel rio Lobos, Hoces del Duraton, Arribes del Duero, Fuentes Carrionas and Fuente Cobre, Batuecas-Sierra de Francia and Hoces del Rio Riaza and the regional park Sierra de Gredos.
The region┬Ęs exceptional diversity of mountains, plains and rivers produces a range of microclimates and, in turn, ecosystems of flora and fauna where wildlife and humans have managed to live together in a sustainable way.
Thanks to its orography the region has many caves that attract enthusiastic speliologists from near and far. The best known locations are: caves of Los Enebralejos, Los Franceses, Valporquero and Aguila.
Activities and sports
Skiing is the most popular tourist winter sport. The first snows of winter transform the mountain peaks into a magical land that delights everyone, but especially the snow boarders and the skiers. Some of their favourite mountains are: Cordillera Cantabrica, Central Iberica range, Montana Leonesa, SanIsidro and Leitariegos in Leon, La Pinella and Navacerrada in Segovia, Lunada and Valle de Sol in Burgos.
The Activity Holiday companies provide a comprehensive menu of general and specialist activities for the young and not so young, the fit and not so fit, the enthusiasts and the just interested. Popular pursuits include horse-riding, potholing, climbing, hang-gliding, ballooning and canoeing.
For an inland region,Castile and Leon offers a surprising range of water sports. The broad river basins, many reservoirs and artificial beaches provide ample facilities, throughout the year, for boating, canoeing, sailing and fishing.
The varied landscapes are excellent for walking, mountain-biking and orienteering. In a less strenuous group are golf, clay-pigeon shooting and archery. And for those who like a real challenge there is always ravine descending(with ropes) or quad and 4 x4 rallies.
Over the centuries probably more than a thousand castles and fortresses were built in this region, but only five hundred have survived. The most interesting ones include - the Simancas, which retains the archive of the Court of Castile; the ancient Mudejar palace that was converted into the Royal Monastery of Santa Clara; Castle of Torrelobaton, Castle of Mota, near Medina de Campo; the Mudejar Arevalo; the Penafiel and the imposing castle of Coca in the province of Segovia
The cathedrals of Burgos and Leon adopted the new gothic style at the beginning of the thirteenth century. In the same idiom are the cathedrals of Burgo de Osma, Palencia, Astorga and Segovia.The Isabel gothic style transformed the city of Valladolid and the same style can be seen in the Convent of San Pablo and the College of San Gregorio; Cartuja de Miraflores in Burgos and the monastery of Santo Tomas in Avila
The Mudejar gothic style is seen in the monastery of Santa Clara in Tordesillas; in San Pedro de las Duenas; Casa del Cordon in Burgos and in the Casa de las Conchas in Salamanca.
Of the renaissance period we have the fa├žade of Salamanca University, the convent of San Marcos of Leon; the cathedral of Valladolid as well as many grand houses in the centres of Avila, Segovia, Leon and Ciudad Rodrigo.
Castile and Leon has its share of prehistory remains and monuments, but the Romans provided the first lasting influence. They brought organisation, roads, architecture and engineering(Segovia/Merida) and Christianity, which was consolidated by the Visigoths, especially in Palencia.
In the eighth century the Moors took over and the Duero basin became strategically important.
Ferdinand I and Alfonso VI expanded the kingdom of Castile from the east to the west and the Moors were finally forced out in 1492.
In the same year Christopher Columbus found his way to the Americas which were colonised and then delivered great wealth. Under Isabel and Ferdinand the peninsula was being unified and the absolute monarchy consolidated.
In 1562 Philip II transferred the court from Valladolid to Madrid.
Festivals traditions and cooking
Some festivals have been recognised as being of special tourist interest, because of their cultural, artistic or anthropological content. These include: the Colocho in Castrillo de Murcia(Burgos); the Paso del Fuego in San Pedro Manrique (Soria) and the processi├│n of Vitor in Mayorga de Campos (Valladolid).
Religious celebrations have a particular importance in Castile and Leon not only to show local devotion, but as genuine outdoor theatre.
Local dishes are very varied. But the best known are roast lamb and roast suckling pig; garlic soup and Castillian soup. Also popular is the veal of Avala; Iberico pork from Salamanca as ham and in spicy sausages; the pork and beef sausages of the highlands of Leon. Notable cheeses include those of Burgos, Zamora and Valladolid. Sweet dishes that are particularly delicious include the mantecadas of Astorga, the yemas of Avila, the empi├▒onadas of de Aranda de Duero and the almonds garrapi├▒adas of Salamanca .
The region┬┤s wines have long been recognised in national and international shops and they compete well with better known names. Four of the best quality are; Vega Sicilia from the ribera de Duero, the amontillados and white wines of the high Rueda, the rose wines of Cigales and the wines of Toro.
Getting there and about
Castile and Leon is fortuitously at the crossroads of the major east-west and north-south major road network of Spain. The NV1.A6 goes from Madrid to Galicia and the N620.A1 goes from Vitoria to Salamanca and there are other good roads connecting to all major towns.
There are nearly two thousand miles of rail services throughout the region and to the north of Spain.
There are four national airports at Valladolid, Salamanca, Le├│n and Burgos, all connecting to Madrid Barajas itnernational airport (by road, less then 2 hours) hence to anywhere in Europe and beyond.
Hotels and apartments in Castile Leon, Spain