Situated in the Mediterranean, Spain, unsurprisingly, has an overall Mediterranean climate meaning it is extremely variable and can range from hot to cold and wet to dry although most of Spain is annually marked by insufficient rainfall. The fact that it is the sunniest country in Europe makes Spain's climate an overall attraction for tourists.
Spain's location next to different seas, its diverse physical features and altitudes of tall mountains juxtaposed with low terrains and beaches all influence the type of climate you should expect to find during your travels in Spain. Three main climatic zones can be distinguished in Spain and they are:
- Mediterranean Zone: characterised by dry, hot and humid summers contrasted with cool and wet winters. Springtime and autumn are generally pleasant with the chance of warm temperatures as well as colder temperatures. In fact weather conditions are quite extreme meaning you should expect plenty of rainfall and cold breezes after a scorching summer. Best weather conditions occur during May right through to October and are the best months for a sunny holiday. This type of climate can be experienced the most part along Spain's excellent coastline running from Costa Brava (including Catalonia/Barcelona) to the Costa del Sol, although it also exists in central eastern Spain from Alicante to Tarragona as well as the Costa Blanca region including Valencia and Murcia. Weather conditions are more reliable in this zone being the reason for why it is the most visited part of Spain.
- Atlantic Zone: embraces the north-western part of Spain or Costa Verde including Galicia, the Cantabrian coast of Asturias, Cantabria, the Basque Country and the Pyrenees (dividing Spain and France). Summer temperatures will average in the mid-20ºc and winters are very wet, especially in the Asturias along the coast to the Pyrenees. Coastal regions will experience the harshest weather conditions in Spain with much rainfall and sometimes frequent snowfall towards inland areas. Spring and autumn are characterised as being mild seasons but in general are colder than in other parts of Spain.
- Continental Zone: comprises the central part of Spain including provinces such as Castile-La Mancha, Castile León and Extremadura as well as parts of Aragon and Navarre. Temperatures really hit the limits in these areas going from extreme hot summers to freezing during the winter season. Bang in the heart of central Spain is the Spanish capital, Madrid, which most definitely experiences dramatic temperature changes throughout the seasons. Towards the south of central Spain is Seville belonging to the community of western Andalusia. Seville is one of the cities that provides the hottest summers in Spain where temperatures often peak in the 40ºc. Écija which is part of the Seville province, with its sweltering temperatures, is relevantly known as the 'frying pan' of Andalusia with temperatures reaching close to 50ºc.
In Spain, you can also find places with what is known as a micro-climate such as in the Balearic and Canary Islands of Spain which each have distinct climatic conditions. The Balearic Islands have a Mediterranean climate with mild winters and hot summers, although the air is tempered by a cool sea breeze which makes it one of the most pleasant parts of Spanish territory. It also boasts a lovely balance of sunshine as well as rainfall throughout the year. However, the place that offers the best climate all year round in Spain, are the Canary Islands. Winters are warm with temperatures rarely falling below 20ºc during any time of the year! Hours of sunshine are long and summers are temperate. The island with the longest amount of sunshine hours and part of this group of islands is Tenerife with a whopping 3,400 hours.
What clothes should you take?
If you're heading to the coastal areas of Spain for a beach getaway, temperatures generally range from mild to hot so it's not necessary to pack very warm clothing. In fact it's probably safe to pack shorts and t-shirts for any time of the year meaning you can travel light and comfortably. If you're heading towards the interior of the country, where conditions can vary, you should mainly pack according to the season. If you're visiting in the winter, pack warm clothes and be prepared for rain; if you're travelling in the summer then be prepared for scorching temperatures and humidity.
What are the best times to visit Spain?
Places which offer more reliable weather conditions are without a doubt any of Spain's magnificent coastlines which lie greatly in southern and eastern Spain. You can literally visit these regions at any time of the year thanks to its sub-tropical climate. This is what makes the Spanish coast one of the top destinations for tourism. During the summer period (June - August), temperatures can hit over 40ºc and during the winter, temperatures remain mild hovering around an average of 13ºc/14ºc so it never really gets too cold. The south is also characterized by greater periods of sunlight so days are much longer meaning you can enjoy each day of your holiday to the max! The summer period is of course high season in Spain so you should expect large crowds and higher prices.
If you wish to avoid busy streets and large crowds during your holiday then the best time to head to Spain would be between April and May when summer temperatures haven't quite kicked in yet or October and November when temperatures are more tolerable. If you want a summer holiday though without the chaos of the high season, then head inland when streets are much quieter and calmer. Spain's capital during July and August is surprisingly less busy as locals as well as the majority of tourists prefer to spend their summer holidays soaking up some vitamin E on a golden beach in the south.