THE BLOG

Four Great Regions of Spain: What to See, Do and Eat in Each

If you think Spain's mostly about tapas, bullfights and Picasso, it's probably time to take a closer look. Spain has 17 autonomous communities, meaning they have their own executive, legislative and judicial powers, as well as their own cultures, foods and, in some cases, their own languages.
This post was published on the now-closed HuffPost Contributor platform. Contributors control their own work and posted freely to our site. If you need to flag this entry as abusive, send us an email.

By Ally Marotti for the Orbitz Travel Blog

If you think Spain's mostly about tapas, bullfights and Picasso, it's probably time to take a closer look. Spain has 17 autonomous communities, meaning they have their own executive, legislative and judicial powers, as well as their own cultures, foods and -- in some cases -- their own languages.

Regional pride shines brightly in some of the regions, having survived a four-decade, near-death experience under the heavy handed rule of Francisco Franco. Study a map all you want, but you'll never truly know the landscape of Spain until you've visited all of its different regions. Here, we'll hit the highlights, taking you through the four of the six regions of Spain that have official languages other than Spanish.

Petroglyphs -- likely Celtic -- outside Santiago. Courtesy of Feans.

GALICIA

Official languages: Spanish and Galician, a Romance language closely related to Portuguese.

City to visit: Santiago de Compostela

Popular food: La Vieira, or sea scallops. Galicians build their diet off the land, and scallops are abundant along the coast. For this dish, scallops are covered in a mixture of onion, parsley and breadcrumbs and baked in its own shell. This food would be typical along the coast, but inland, typical dishes are built around meat and vegetables grown on the farms.

Pro tip: Galicia has a strong Celtic tradition, with many ties to the Celtic histories of Ireland and Wales. Legends, artifacts and traditions of such origins, like celebrations surrounding the summer solstice, are still honored, having survived from the time of some of the region's first settlers. Lugo, the name of one of Galicia's major cities, is derived from the name of a Celtic king. The weather is similar too. When you travel through Galicia, see what similarities you can find.

Courtesy of Katina Rogers.

BASQUE COUNTRY

Official languages: Spanish and Basque

City to visit: San Sabastián

Popular food: Pintxos, or bar food. This is what the rest of Spain calls tapas, and they're unlike any bar food you'll find in America. San Sabastían is said to have some of the best food in the world, and tourists come from around the globe to try the different kinds of pintxos. They consist usually of a piece of bread topped with some sort of meat, typically seafood, such as cod or anchovies. And they're always used as an excuse for socializing.

Pro tip: Less than three out of every 10 Basques actually speak the language, called Euskara. The language is thought to be one of the only surviving pre-Indo-European languages in Europe, and is in fact so obscure that scholars are unsure where it originated. It is unlike any other language spoken today. Take note of how Euskara is still used in the Basque culture as you travel. Is it on signs or menus? Are people speaking it in normal conversation?