Probably the most common question we receive from visitors to our website is “when is the best time to visit Spain?”. What so many people don’t seem to realise is the size and diversity of the country. You’d be surprised at the number of times I’ve been asked for recommended itineraries to “do Spain” in two or three days!
Size of Spain
The country is divided into 17 autonomous regions, it is more than 500,000 square kilometres in size and has a population of around 45 million. The most direct driving route from Girona near the French border in Catalonia to A Coruña in Galicia is almost 1200km. From San Sebastian on the Atlantic coast near the French border to Huelva near the Portuguese border is 1000km.
Diversity of Spain
Spain is most famous amongst holidaymakers for its beaches. Its Mediterranean coast measures 1660km whilst its Atlantic coast is 710km. Fewer people are aware that Spain is surprisingly Europe’s second most mountainous country after Switzerland. Its most notable mountain ranges are the Pyrenees, the Sierra Nevada and the Picos de Europa. The highest point on the mainland is Mulhacén above Granada at 3479m although Mount Teide in Tenerife is higher at 3715m. Added to such diversity are the desert landscapes in the interior of Almeria. Did you know that more than 150 Westerns were filmed here in the 1960s and 1970s including Clint Eastwood’s “A Fistful of Dollars” amongst others. In more recent times the BBC documentary “The Story of the Hunt for Bin Laden” was largely filmed here as the landscape resembled Afghanistan.
Weather in Spain
So back to the question of when is the best time to visit Spain? A lot of people are under the impression that the weather in Spain is always fabulous which is far from the truth. When you consider the points raised above about the country’s physical size and its geographical diversity you can imagine the enormous range of weather around the peninsula.
In these days of global warming I’m never prepared to stick my neck out in guaranteeing what the weather will be like in any particular month as there are so many anomalies these days. The range of temperatures on the thermostat in my car have ranged from -4°C (24.8F) in the Sierra de Guadarrama near Madrid to +44°C (111.20F) in Trujillo (Extremadura).
Current weather forecasts from the official Spanish Meteorological website are available at http://www.aemet.es/. At the end of this article you’ll find useful links to weather information in many of the main traveller destinations in Spain. These pages include average temperature and rainfall figures as well as a weather forecast for the next few days which is constantly updated.
Summer in Spain
The weather is the key factor attracting millions of north European holidaymakers to Spain during the summer months. The Balearic and Canary Islands as well as the popular Costas all along Spain’s Mediterranean coast are completely packed with foreign tourists. Most Spaniards take their holidays in August but their choice of resort tends to be different than the ones catering to the foreign market.
If you’re thinking of heading for the southern cities think again as temperatures can be unbearable. The town of Écija which is on the road between Seville and Cordoba is known as “La Sartén de Andalucía” (the frying pan of Andalucia) where temperatures have been recorded up to 52°C (125.6F). As many Spaniards are away from their home cities in peak summer you’ll also find a lot of bars and restaurants will take their annual holidays during this period.
A particularly pleasant area to visit during the summer months is the Atlantic coast of Spain including Galicia, Asturias, Cantabria and the Basque Country. The scenery is quite stunning and if you’re lucky the weather will be very pleasant, however, places do get busy as many Spanish tourists head this way to escape the heat of the interior.
Personally I really enjoy the south of Spain in September and October as the mass tourism from abroad comes to an end and Spanish people return to work. The beaches are more relaxed (as are the waiters at bars and restaurants) yet the weather tends to be very pleasant with warm temperatures and clear blue skies. Even the previously scorching cities of August become much more welcoming to the visitor as the heat is no longer unbearable.
Winter escapes to the Canary Islands are your best bet to get some sun and you’ve got a good chance of fine weather on the Costa del Sol. The Balearic Islands and Costa Blanca often enjoy fine winters but you’re more likely to get cold and wet spells there at some point during the winter months.
Winter breaks to the great Moorish cities of the south (Seville, Granada, Cordoba) are normally accompanied with clear blue skies though temperatures aren’t guaranteed, especially in Granada which lies below the popular ski resort of Sierra Nevada. Skiing is also practiced in the Pyrenees and in the mountains around Madrid. Excursions from Madrid in winter to the likes of Toledo, Segovia, Salamanca and Avila can be freezing. The north coast across to Galicia tends to experience very wet conditions during the winter months.
Along with the autumn I particularly look forward to the spring for the same mild climate with glorious clear skies and few tourists around. On occasions I’ve enjoyed my first swim of the year in March though that’s become less appealing in recent years with the invasion of jellyfish that have hit many of the south’s beaches. Easter is the time of the enormous Holy Week celebrations (Semana Santa) which is an amazing time to be in the cities of Andalucia though the amount of rain arriving during this special week in recent years has put quite a dampener on the occasion.
As a foreigner in Spain I’ll always dress according to the weather, getting into shorts as early as possible. In Madrid it’s fascinating to see how people dress according to the date rather than the conditions. In fact, there’s a saying in Spanish … “hasta el cuarenta de mayo no te quites el sayo” … which warns you not to stop wearing a coat until 10th June as they believe that not doing so will give you a cold.
The Weather Isn’t Everything
This article so far should give you some idea how the weather varies around Spain during the year. However, the weather isn’t everything and maybe you’re coming to Spain for a particular event such as one of the fabulous Spanish festivals which take place throughout the year. There are also many sports events taking place including the Spanish football season from September to May and major motor sports events. Spain is also a major destination for activity holidays attracting hikers, cyclists, bird watchers and scuba divers to name but a few.