Spain is the nearest European country to Africa
The caves of the Sierra de Atapuerca, a World Heritage site, contain fossil records of the earliest humans in Europe dating back almost a million years. The caves were also used in the Neolithic Age and the Bronze Age.
Some of the world's most beautiful prehistoric cave paintings were found at Altamira in Northern Spain. Altamira was added to the World Heritage List in 1985.
The Rock Art of the Mediterranean Basin on the Iberian Peninsula was inscribed as a World Heritage site in 1998. The late prehistoric mural paintings include scenes of daily life and hunting.
The Phoenicians traded with Spain for its minerals and founded Cadiz.
One of the twelve apostles, Saint James, is said to be buried at Compostela in North West Spain. His tomb became the most important destination for Christian pilgrims apart from Rome and Jerusalem. He is Spain's patron saint.
Islamic Spain was famous for its learning: Cordoba became a centre for the study of numerous subjects including literature, science, philosophy and medicine.
Rodrigo Diaz, El Cid, was an eleventh century hero from Castille. The story of El Cid is told in the oldest known Spanish poem.
Christopher Columbus, an Italian, was given the money to pay for his voyage to America by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella (the joint rulers of Castille and Aragon).
Columbus named Montserrat in the Caribbean after a monastery near Barcelona in Spain (1493).
In 1522 Ferdinand Magellan, a Portuguese explorer, financed by Spain, became the first to complete a circumnavigation of the globe.
In the early sixteenth century Spanish explorers claimed a number of countries: Hernan Cortes conquered Mexico; Francisco Pizarro invaded Peru and Pedro de Mendoza colonized Argentina.
By 1600 Spain controlled all of the Iberian Peninsula, parts of North America as well as a number of Caribbean islands, most of central America and parts of South America. The Spanish Empire also included the Netherlands, Austria and parts of France, Germany and Italy.
Pirates were a problem for Spanish treasure ships returning home.
Catherine of Aragon, daughter of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella married Henry VIII of England. She was the first of his six wives and the mother of Queen Mary I.
In 1588 the Spanish Armada, consisting of one hundred and fifty ships, sailed to invade England but was defeated by the English navy and stormy weather.
St Teresa of Avila lived in the sixteenth century. She was made a saint in 1622.
Miguel de Cervantes (1547-1616) wrote Don Quixote, seen by some as the first modern novel.
Gibraltar, ceded by Spain to Britain in 1713, controlled the entrance to the Mediterranean.
Ernest Hemingway who reported the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) wrote his famous novel For Whom The Bell Tolls about the war.
In June 1947 General Franco awarded Eva Peron, the wife of the Argentine leader, Spain´s highest honour, the Cross of Isabel the Catholic.
The Basque region has limited independence from Spanish rule but the movement for complete separation continues.
Euskara, the language spoken by the Basque population, is one of the oldest living languages in the world.
Catalonia, another region with its own language (Catalan) also has a degree of independence.
The worst terrorist attack since the Bali bombing took place in Spain's capital on 11 March 2004. (2004)