Castilla y Leon Spain – Maps, History, and Culture

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Interactive Map of Castilla y Leon, Spain

Castilla y Leon Map Links:

The largest of all the autonomous regions of Spain is Castilla y Leon. Castilla y Leon covers a total area of 36,000 square miles, making up nearly 20% of the total area of Spain. Castilla y Leon contains nearly 2.5 million people, making it the 6th most populated territory in Spain.

Castilla y Leon is landlocked and surrounded by Portugal and Galicia to the west, Asturias, Cantabria, the Basque Country, and La Rioja to the north, Aragon to the east, and Castilla la Mancha, Madrid, and Extremadura to the south.

City List:

  • Valladolid
  • Burgos
  • Leon
  • Salamanca
  • Segovia
  • Avila
  • Palencia

Quick Facts:

  • Population: 2.5 million
  • Languages: Spanish, Castilian Spanish
  • Ethnicities: Castilian, Galician, Basques
  • Capital: Valladolid

The History of Castilla y Leon

Castilla y Leon was originally inhabited by Celtic people until the Romans invaded the Iberian Peninsula around 219 BC. The Romans named the region Hispania and conquered the region until their fall around 476 BC.

During their control, the Romans influenced much of the region through architecture, religion, and language. It is during this time that the Castilian language was created, which is what we know as traditional European Spanish today.

The Roman Empire fell in 476 AD, which was followed by the Muslim Invasion. Muslims left the middle-east and traveled westward, landing on the Iberian Peninsula. Most of the Muslim invaders stayed in central and southern Spain, as northern Spain was too mountainous to conquer.

During this time, the Muslims pushed out the Roman Catholics who practiced Christianity. These Christians fled to northern Spain until commencing the Christian Reconquest in the 13th Century.

Expeditions to the New World began during the 1400s with voyages led by Christopher Columbus, Juan Ponce de Leon, and Hernando de Soto. These explorers set out to discover trade routes, gold, and uninhabited lands. Juan Ponce de Leon is credited with being the first European voyager to land in Florida.

Ponce de Leon was given permission to travel to Puerto Rico. This land would give him the title as governor, where his body would later return after being fatally wounded while on a voyage to South Florida.

Ponce de Leon was born in Valladolid, Spain, and traveled to many areas throughout the southern United States and Caribbean islands. Because of this, he is credited with extending the Spanish language, civilization, and culture to these areas, which is a contributing factor to how these areas became heavily influenced by the Spaniards.

There were many various strong cities throughout the region which prompted the Spanish Federal Pact of 1869 to be written. The Spanish Federal Pact stated that the region of Castilla needed to be defined so that a new regime could be formed due to Queen Isabella II’s death. This pact was the beginning of the formation of Castilla y Leon.

The pact split the region into two provinces: the State of Castilla la Vieja would include Avila, Burgos, Leon, Logrono, Palencia, Santander, Salamanca, Segovia, Soria, Valladolid, and Zamora. This province would be known as present-day Castille y Leon.

The State of Castilla la Nueva would constitute it the provinces of Albacete, Ciudad Real, Cuenca, Guadalajara, Madrid, and Toledo would be known as present-day Castilla la Mancha, with Madrid eventually becoming its own autonomous territory.

By the 1930s, the Spanish Civil War began, which divided Spain against one another. The Republicans supported Spain while the Nationalists supported the Catholic Monarchy. The Spanish Civil War and the Franco regime was the final straw in Castilla y Leon requesting full autonomy from the Spanish Republic. General Franco died in 1975, which kickstarted Castilla y Leon in receiving full autonomy.

Until Castilla y Leon was formed in 1983, there were many requests for Leon to become its own autonomous region, separate from Castilla, but it was unsuccessful. Eventually, one unified group was formed, which led to the formation of Castilla y Leon in 1983.


The official language in Castilla y Leon is Spanish. This version of Spanish is called Castilian Spanish, which is the language that is heard, spoken, and taught throughout the region, as well as the majority of Spain.

Spanish explorers like Juan Ponce de Leon taught the inhabitants of the southern United States and Caribbean islands his native language of Castilian Spanish; however, over time, this version of Spanish has changed into what is known as Latin Spanish, whereas Castilian Spanish is still heard in Spain today.


Roman Catholicism is the primary religion that is practiced in Castilla y Leon. For centuries during the Muslim Invasion, Islam was a religion that was practiced in the region; however, the Christian Reconquest during the 11th, 12th, and 13th centuries pushed out most of the Muslims and allowed Christianity to return to the region. Because of this, Catholic Christianity, specifically Roman Catholicism, has returned as the primary religion of the region.


Because Castilla y Leon is located in parts of northern Spain, there are many dry and mountainous areas throughout the region. The dry valleys are ideal for producing dry crops, including cereal, barley, grains, rye, and oats. There are also many vineyards in this region, which gives Spain a large portion of its total wine production.

The southern region of Castilla y Leon is lusher with river basins, farmlands, and protected forests. Many farmlands include livestock farming of sheep, goats, pigs, and cattle.

The larger cities are commercialized with industrial opportunities for those who live in areas where farming isn’t an option. There are many food industries located in these cities because of the large amount of farming that is produced from the area.

The rivers allow a constant means of hydroelectricity for the residents of the region, and there are also nuclear and coal power plants located throughout the region. Mining was a large operation until the 1980s when many coal power plants closed. Because of this, hydroelectricity from the many rivers of the region has become a viable means of power production throughout the region.


Castilla y Leon has provided many colleges, literature pieces, and architectural structures throughout history. Castilla is Spanish for the land of castles, which is what Castilla y Leon is known for. There are many castles and churches with an extensive Roman influence throughout the city. Castilla y Leon is also the birthplace of Spanish voyagers, including Juan Ponce de Leon.

The Gothic castle, the Basilica de San Isidoro Church, and San Marcos Church are all located in Leon and give a materialized example of the type of culture that the region has inspired over time and still represents today.

Immigration & Migration Patterns

The first recorded migration pattern occurred during the Spanish Civil War. The region had become impoverished, and opportunities were scarce. This caused many Castilians, especially young men, to emigrate from the area and find a new way to live. Most emigrants were farmers, focusing on both livestock and vegetation; however, the Spanish Civil War had taken much of their way of life away. This caused many Castilians to emigrate to the larger cities in the region as well as other regions.

Since the Spanish Civil War, the population has continued to decline, especially in rural areas. Only the larger cities in the region, like Valladolid and Burgos, have actually increased their population numbers, while the rural areas have decreased numbers.


Castilla y Leon genealogy can be found throughout Spain, the southern United States, and the eastern Caribbean countries of Puerto Rico and Cuba.

Many Spanish voyagers were Castilian, including Juan Ponce de Leon, who visited Florida, Cuba, and Puerto Rico. Because of this, Castilian heritage can easily be traced to those descendants who are living in or have connections to Florida, the southern United States, or the eastern Caribbean.

The first emigration of young men that were recorded leaving Castilla y Leon was in the 1930s after the Spanish Civil War had ravaged the territory leaving poor conditions in its wake. Because of this, many young Castilian men moved to larger cities, both within the region as well as outside of its borders.

Castilian genealogy can be found throughout Europe, the southern United States, and the eastern Caribbean.

Caleb Pike
About the author

Caleb Pike is an avid hiker and nature lover, with a passion for exploring the great outdoors. He's a writer, photographer, and adventurer, always seeking new trails to blaze and peaks to conquer.