Catalonia and Spain
Catalonia (Cataluña in Spanish, Catalunya in Català) is situated in the northeast of Spain. It is bordered by Aragon in the west, Valencia in the south and France in the north. To the east is the Mediterranean Sea (el Mar Mediterráneo). Catalonia covers an area of 31,950 km² (around 6.3% of Spain’s total) and has a population of approximately 6.5 million. It has four provinces: Girona, Lleida, Barcelona and Tarragona. Its capital city is Barcelona, which is Spain’s second largest city after Madrid.
Catalonia has a diverse mountainous terrain, which can be categorized into three systems: the Pyrenees (los Pireneos), the Mediterranean System (el Sistema Mediterráneo) and the Central Depression (la Depresión Central).
In the north, running east to west, are the Pyrenees. Its most famous peaks are Puig Pedros, Puigmal, Els Encantats and Pica d’Estats.
The Mediterranean System has two mountain ranges that run alongside the Mediterranean Sea. These ranges include the Turo de l’Home and Montnegre peaks.
The Central Depression is a less flat extension of the Ebro Basin (la Depresión del Ebro). It has a stepped appearance with altitudes from 100-1000m.
Coastal Catalonia has two different features. In the north there are many cliffs and steep coves as mountains sweep in towards the Mediterranean. Heading southwards, the coast becomes less rocky giving way to smooth and extensive beaches. One of the most popular tourist areas along the southern coast is the Costa Brava.
The Catalan climate is largely Mediterranean in the coastal zones becoming more continental inland. The mountainous areas of the Pyrenees have an alpine climate. In general, Catalonia has moderate temperatures year round.
The two co-official languages of Catalonia are Castilian Spanish and Català. In addition, Aranès (Aranés in Spanish) is a co-official language in the Val d’Aran (a county in the northwest of Catalonia). Catalan people have always been fiercly proud of the Catalan language which is deeply engrained in Catalonia culture.
Català is considered an Ibero-Romance language (as is Spanish), however it shares many similarities with Gall-Romance languages (such as French). As an estimate, it is used by around 50% of the population of Catalonia on a daily basis. Aranès is a dialect of Occitan: other dialects of which are spoken in Italy and southern France. Of the 7,000 people living in the Val d’Aran, around 90% are able to understand Aranès and around 65% can speak it.