Among the vast ochre plains that define the landscape of this region, lies a rich mosaic of ecosystems: lakes, fertile plains, high mountain ranges, but above all, beautiful towns and cities with a wealth of historical treasure, rich folk traditions and, above all, a vast array of architectural gems: castles, churches, monasteries and cathedrals. Many of these cities have been witness to scenes from the great history of Spain. For centuries, this community has exerted great influence on the country's language, religion and culture.
The largest of the Spanish autonomous communities, Castile and Leon is composed of nine provinces: Avila, Burgos, Leon, Palencia, Salamanca, Segovia, Soria, Valladolid and Zamora. Most of its area occupies a vast high plateau, with altitudes ranging between 500 and 1,000 metres. It is surrounded by a ring of mountain ranges: to the north, the Cantabrian Mountains, north-east, the Iberian range, and to the South, the Central System. Its main rivers system is the Duero and its tributaries; the Duero rises in the province of Soria, and after crossing the entire community, passes through Portugal and eventually reaches the Atlantic.
The climate of Castile and Leon is determined by its topography, with cold winters with an average temperature of 4º C, minimum values dropping at times to around -15º C. The summers are short and mild, typical of a continental climate with a marked temperature variation between day and night. In general, rainfall is scarce, but due to the size of the region there are differences between the drier hinterland of the plateau and the outlying mountains.
The region is a sparsely populated, with just over 2,500,000 inhabitants, which represents less than 6% of the Spanish population, despite area corresponding to nearly one fifth of the country's total.
Roast suckling pig and lamb dishes are the stars of the table in Castile and Leon. Sausages and preserved meats are also excellent (Guijuelo ham, chorizo from Cantimpalos or Salamanca, cecina from Leon and botillo from El Bierzo). Pulses and legumes are another speciality including different types of beans from El Barco de Avila and La Granja, lentils from Armuña, chickpeas from Fuentesauco. The combination of pulses and sausages make some of the region's most famous dishes, such as cocido maragato from Leon, o the Burgos olla podrida. In addition to humble garlic soups, veal and Iberian pork, the catalogue of local products includes cheeses, morcilla (black pudding), butter and a wide variety of sweets. Castile and Leon produces some of the best wines of the Peninsula, with five appellation d'origine: Ribera del Duero, Cigales, Rueda, Toro and Ribera de Duero, which are represented by more than 400 wineries producing top quality wines.
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