This is Spain’s largest autonomous region, the result of the historic ties established by the kingdom of Castile over the centuries: first with León and then with Aragon through the marriage of the Catholic Monarchs, whose domain they went on to extend to the whole country. The clearest proof of that is Spain’s official language, Castilian. Since this is a mountainous region, in the Duero river basin, it tends to record extreme temperatures – hence the popular saying that the year in Castile and León is made up of “nine months of winter and three months of hell”, given the temperature range between the seasons. It is also known as the land of castles (castillos), thanks to the many fortresses built by Christians to defend the area from the Moors in the 8th and 9th centuries. There are said to be almost 300 medieval castles here, although some are better preserved than others. Other frequent sights are the beautiful Gothic churches and cathedrals along the Camino de Santiago (Way of St James) in places such as Burgos, León and Astorga. But the monarchs themselves, who were both devout Catholics and lovers of art and architecture, also had other monuments built in cities such as Ávila, Salamanca, Segovia, León and Burgos. Indeed, the first three are UNESCO World Heritage sites. As well as its stunning cities, the region has vast protected green areas – such as the Parque Nacional de los Picos de Europa and the Sierra de Francia – that offer bucolic havens. As with other parts of Spain, Castile and León has its gastronomic specialities, mainly focused on meat, hams and sausages. Many say that it is here that you can find the best cured ham (jamón) and suckling pig.