Weather in Spain

climate and weather in spainSpain, a vast landmass that covers most of the Iberian Peninsula in southern Europe, is the favourite year-round holiday destination and retirement haven for sun-seeking northern Europeans and Britishers. Most of the year the majority of Spain lives up to its reputation for sunshine, good food and wine, much of the country enjoying a pleasant Mediterranean climate. However northern Spain at the base of the Pyrenees mountains can be very wet, and the central areas have a continental climate with weather extremes. Then there are also dry areas with almost desert conditions. The weather in Spain therefore depends very much on where you go, and when.

The southern Mediterranean coastal regions of Spain offer the best weather prospects year round, with hot, humid conditions in the height of the summer months (June, July and August) and mild weather with warm, sunny days through the winter , even in December  and January, when the rest of Europe is coping with snow and frost.

The inland capital of Spain, Madrid, falls within the Continental climate area, freezing in the winter months of December, January and February and broiling in temperatures of more than 30°C during July and August. Seville can also be extremely hot and dry during summer, with mild winters. Down south Barcelona and the Costa Brava on the Mediterranean Sea are a little more temperate, while the Atlantic coast  is generally cool and wet for much of the year.

Thousands of European tourists, especially Brits, flock to the popular Balearic Islands in the summer when there is little else but sunshine and hot weather. Many go the main resorts on party islands like Ibiza and Mallorca, while some choose a more low-key destination like Minorca

The great divide

In general, Spain can be divided into two halves weather-wise by the Cantabrian Mountains, which separate the country into two climactic zones – the cooler rainy Spain to the north and warmer dry section to the south.

The narrow strip of Spain, prone to rain, north of the Cantabrians covers the Basque country, Cantabria, Asturia and Galicia, with cool summers, mild winters and rainfall pretty much equivalent to that experienced in the UK.

South of the mountains though rainfall is more scanty, reflected in the vegetation, with searing hot inland summers countered by freezing winters;  and very warm and humid conditions on the Mediterranean coast, with mild winters.

Best time to visit Spain

Southern Spain, in particular, is a year-round destination, although most visitors descend on the Mediterranean resorts in summer, during the European school holidays in July and August. Beaches are packed and temperatures rocket. If you don’t have school children to worry about, the ideal months to visit Spain are in May, June or September, avoiding the holiday rush, when the weather is still good.

What to pack for a holiday in Spain

If you are heading to Spain for a southern beach holiday in summer, travel light with plenty of swimwear and loose, cotton clothing. In the winter months your daywear will still need to be cool and comfortable, with the addition of a wrap or cardigan for the evenings. If you are intent on enjoying northern Spain in summer be prepared for rain showers, with a slicker to pop on over your shorts and T-shirt, and in winter a warm jacket may not go amiss.