Planning your big vacation to Spain? Don’t make the mistake of thinking the whole country is warm and sunny year round. Here’s our quick and dirty on the country’s climate, so you can plan your trip effectively.
As a basic overview, the south of Spain is rather sunny and warm, and though the inland part of the south suffers extreme heat in summer, the coasts are often temperate.
The Mediterranean coast is usually a bit warmer, whereas the Atlantic coast is a little cooler, the sea is cooler, and there is more wind. The interior is a bit bare, though it does have gorgeous red rock cliffs, caves, and fields of sunflower and olive trees. Where the rivers run there’s more forest, but most of the south doesn’t get enough rainfall for thick vegetation.
The central plains, where Madrid is located, suffers; bitterly cold in the winter and sweltering in high summer, there are a few windows of time when the central areas are quite pleasant. The Central Plains are a bit barren, however, without thick forests. You will see many rolling hills and cedar pines, dropping red needles below their green canopy heads.
The wine country is high up in the mountains, approaching the foothills of the Sierra de Cantabria. It has rich soil and enough winter precipitation and natural streams that it provides perfect conditions for growing grapes, and you will see hillside after hillside covered in vineyards.
Catalunya in the north east can be cool and rainy in the winter, and have warm but not scorching summers. It is a very green area with sprawling natural parks. It is also in the foothills of the Pyrenees Mountains which provide a majestic backdrop for the rugged country (and great skiing in the winter!)
The north Atlantic coast (Cantabria, Asturias, and Galicia), is green, lush and reminds one of Scotland more than Spain. It has plenty of rain and mist though does not usually swing to either temperature extreme. The sea is cold but good for surfing, and the beaches are generally less populated even in high season than the Mediterranean coast.
When to Visit
It should be noted here that August is Spain’s own holiday month. Much of the interior of the country is hot, and the natives vacate and go to the coasts or off on their own international trips, making the interior also quiet. However, Spain’s beaches will be packed with people, so if you aren’t in the mood for a crowded resort and you want to go to the sea, best plan your vacation for another time.
Andalucia and the South
Inland Andalucia in summer is blisteringly hot, but otherwise warm and temperate the rest of the year. The coasts are less extreme in summer. Even in winter you can probably take lunch outside and wear a short sleeve t-shirt around the Mediterranean coast. Anytime outside of July and August is ideal for visiting, though local holidays might draw crowds at any given time.
Madrid and the Central Plains
In the spring, they plains are full of flowers, and a visit between mid April and mid June means you are more likely to miss the rainy season. In September and October the summer still lingers though it is not fierce as it is in July and August, and makes for a very warm and fun trip. If you don’t mind the heat, August might be a scorcher, but as said earlier, it’s also a rather quiet month, and a good way to see Madrid without the normal busy throngs of people trying to get to work and living their daily lives.
Soria, La Rioja, and the Basque Country are prime in the summer and in the early to mid autumn, during the harvest. They are mountainous and so generally cooler than the rest of the interior, and they also have very cold winters. There are winter mountain sports that draw tourists, but if you are not a ski aficionado, you might find the area far too cold to visit from about November to May.
Catalunya and the Pyrenees
For an outdoor, beach, and hiking trip, Catalunya is a perfect summer destination. It is not too hot and not overly humid, and has well-kept beaches on the Mediterranean sea and nearby mountains and valleys for whatever a traveler may want. It is also a winter destination for skiiers, as it is a good entry point for tourists headed to the Pyrenees.
The North Atlantic Coast
The North Atlantic has a relatively short but wonderful summer. Much like Catalunya it does not get too hot, but unlike Catalunya, it is a more rugged and less frequented area. The Atlantic is a little cold, but it makes for great surfing and seafood, and for anyone planning to do the Camino de Santiago, July through September is a great time to try it in terms of weather. You will still experience intermittent rains, but the weather stays mild and the entire country is a deciduous jungle, green and wild and beautiful.
During the winter it rains more, but isn’t entirely unpleasant as the coast keeps it from getting very cold. The area normally boasts more outdoors activities than anything else, so the wet weather might put a damper on your plans.