Southwestern Europe

Southwestern Europe comprises the western countries of southern Europe – France, Italy, Portugal, and Spain. All four are Mediterranean countries, and three (all but Italy) have extensive coastlines on the Atlantic Ocean. There are also several small enclaves in the region, the largest of which is Andorra.

Southwestern Europe is not only the most popular travel region in Europe, it is the most popular in the world. Among the many reasons to visit are its extraordinarily rich cultural heritage, with the more 100 designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites. It is also known for its scenic countrysides and quaint villages that extend from lowland farming areas to the high Alps.

Adding to its popularity is a “Mediterranean Climate” that is milder and dryer than other parts of Europe. This climate system is characterized by similar types of vegetation and landscapes, frequently including dry hills, small plains, pine forests and olive trees.

The region’s official languages are all Romance, the heirs of Latin, although small pockets of non-Romance languages still exist. The predominant religion is Roman Catholicism, although many people are secular in practice.

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Europe (Southwestern) (photo by Wikimedia Commons)

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Countries in this region:

Combination Atmosphere destinations combine elements of both cultural and natural destinations, where this combination is itself essential to the travel experience. Common examples are Archaeological Sites (where culture is usually experienced outdoors), Scenic Local Markets (where indigenous cultures interact outdoors), Hotsprings and Vineyard Areas (where nature provides the raw materials but humans create the surroundings), and Unique Cultural Landscapes (where humans and nature interact in innovative ways, as in the elaborate rice terracing systems of Asia).

Combination Interests typically fall somewhere in the middle of the three types of primary interests in terms of
(a) how climate-dependent they are
(b) how accessible and physically demanding they are.

France

Atmosphere: Combination    
Best Weather: May, June, July, August, September, October

 FranceFrance is the world’s most popular travel country, with more overseas visitors than any other. It is geographically one of the most diverse countries in Europe, its countryside is charming and well-tended, and its cities contain some of the greatest treasures in Europe. France is also renowned for its gastronomy, including some of the world’s finest wines and cheeses. Paris is its political, economic, and cultural capital, and routinely ranked as the world’s most popular travel city.
 
A Cultural Atmosphere includes both the historic (eg, landmark town centers) and the contemporary (music, nightlife, etc).

Cultural Interests tend to be:
(a) indoors-oriented, and therefore not as linked to weather conditions for enjoyment
(b) relatively physically accessible, while also not being physically demanding.

Italy

Atmosphere: Culture    
Best Weather: April, May, June, July, August, September, October

 ItalyItaly is located in the heart of the Mediterranean Sea, most of it on a long boot-shaped peninsula. It has flourished over centuries with diverse cultures. As a result, it is home to the greatest number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites of any country, and landmark buildings and art can be found virtually everywhere. It is also famous for its cuisine, which varies from region to region. It is among the world’s most popular travel destinations.
 
 
Combination Atmosphere destinations combine elements of both cultural and natural destinations, where this combination is itself essential to the travel experience. Common examples are Archaeological Sites (where culture is usually experienced outdoors), Scenic Local Markets (where indigenous cultures interact outdoors), Hotsprings and Vineyard Areas (where nature provides the raw materials but humans create the surroundings), and Unique Cultural Landscapes (where humans and nature interact in innovative ways, as in the elaborate rice terracing systems of Asia).

Combination Interests typically fall somewhere in the middle of the three types of primary interests in terms of
(a) how climate-dependent they are
(b) how accessible and physically demanding they are.

Portugal

Atmosphere: Combination    
Best Weather: April, May, June, July, August, September, October

 PortugalPortugal is the westernmost country of mainland Europe, bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the west and south and by Spain to the north and east. The country offers outstanding landscape diversity, due to its North-South disposition along the western shore of the Iberian peninsula. One can travel in a single day from green mountains in the North, covered with vines and all varieties of trees to rocky mountains, with spectacular slopes and falls in the Center, to a near-desert landscape in the Alentejo region and finally to the glamorous beach holidays destination Algarve.
 
Combination Atmosphere destinations combine elements of both cultural and natural destinations, where this combination is itself essential to the travel experience. Common examples are Archaeological Sites (where culture is usually experienced outdoors), Scenic Local Markets (where indigenous cultures interact outdoors), Hotsprings and Vineyard Areas (where nature provides the raw materials but humans create the surroundings), and Unique Cultural Landscapes (where humans and nature interact in innovative ways, as in the elaborate rice terracing systems of Asia).

Combination Interests typically fall somewhere in the middle of the three types of primary interests in terms of
(a) how climate-dependent they are
(b) how accessible and physically demanding they are.

Spain

Atmosphere: Combination    
Best Weather: April, May, June, July, August, September, October

 SpainSpain’s long and diverse history has resulted in the second-largest number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. It is also known for its diverse cuisine, vibrant nightlife, music and festivals, and other features, making it one of the world’s most popular travel destinations. While its beaches are the single biggest draw, travelers interested in roaming Spain’s vast and diverse interior will find both cultural and natural attractions that range from alpine mountains to marsh and desert areas, interspersed with charming towns and historic landmarks.