In the southeast the Baetic Cordillera (Sistema Penibético) runs broadly parallel to the coast to merge with the mountains of the Iberian Cordillera.
Along the Mediterranean seaboard there are coastal plains, some with lagoons (e.g., Albufera, south of Valencia).
Most of Spain comprises a large plateau (the Meseta Central) divided by a mountain range, the Central Sierra (Sistema Central), which trends west-southwest to east-northeast.
Several mountains border the plateau: the Cantabrian Mountains (Cordillera Cantábrica) to the north, the Iberian Cordillera (Sistema Ibérico) to the northeast and east, the Sierra Morena to the south, and the lower mountains of the Portuguese frontier and Spanish Galicia to the northwest.
The Canary (Canarias) Islands, in the Atlantic Ocean off the northwestern African mainland, and the Balearic (Baleares) Islands, in the Mediterranean, also are parts of Spain, as are Ceuta and Melilla, two small enclaves in North Africa (northern Morocco) that Spain has ruled for centuries.
Spain accounts for five-sixths of the Iberian Peninsula, the roughly quadrilateral southwestern tip of Europe that separates the Mediterranean Sea from the Atlantic Ocean.
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The many and varied cultures that have gone into the making of Spain—those of the Castilians, Catalonians, Lusitanians, Galicians, Basques, Romans, Arabs, Jews, and Roma (Gypsies), among other peoples—are renowned for their varied cuisines, customs, and prolific contributions to the world’s artistic heritage.
The country’s Roman conquerors left their language, roads, and monuments, while many of the Roman Empire’s greatest rulers were Spanish, among them Trajan, Hadrian, and Marcus Aurelius.
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