Spain Weather, climate and geography
Weather and climate
Best time to visit
Spain's climate varies from temperate in the north to dry and hot in the south. As it is a big country with varying terrain and altitudes, climate can be extremely distinctive from one corner to another. Overall, the country has three main climate zones:
• The Mediterranean climate from the southern Atlantic coastal region to Andalusia. Blessed with mild temperatures and long days, these places are excellent to visit all year round.
• The semi-arid climate in the south-eastern quarter of the country.
• The oceanic climate in the Atlantic region (Basque Country, Cantabria, Asturias, and partly Galicia, Castile–León and the Pyrenean valleys).
The best time to visit depends on the region and type of travel experience you’re seeking. For a beach vacation, the best months for guaranteed sunshine are June to August. Naturally, these are also the busiest months for tourism along the coast and on the Spanish islands, so be prepared for high prices and crowds. If you're looking to escape the crowds, head inland to cities like Seville and Granada where temperatures are sizzling but streets aren't as crowded as the coastal cities.
The shoulder season for travel in Spain is usually late spring and autumn: from April to end of May and October to November. These are when tourist destinations are least crowded and weather is still pleasant.
January to February is the best time to ski – there are about 35 ski resorts in Spain and they generally have a good amount of snow and also a fair amount of sunshine. In the Sierra Nevada, the sun can be quite overwhelming even in the snow – come prepared with snow goggles and sunscreen.
From June to August on the coastal areas, casual beach wear such as flip flops, vests, loose fitting clothing and shorts will suffice. It can get unbearably hot in the city, so be prepared to brave the weather with plenty of water, a hat and sunscreen.
In between high and low season (April-May; October-November) the climate can be unpredictable in certain parts of the country, be sure to pack your umbrella, raincoat and a light jacket for the night.
Spain shares the Iberian Peninsula with its smaller neighbour, Portugal, and is bordered to the northeast by the Pyrenees mountain range that cuts across France and Andorra. Surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, Spain has numerous stretches of coastline that are extremely crowded, especially in summer.
Spain has two main groups of islands that are popular with tourists: the Balearic Islands (Mallorca, Menorca, Ibiza and Formentera) located 193km (120 miles) southeast of Barcelona, and the Canary Islands off the west coast of Africa (mainly Tenerife, Gran Canaria, Fuerteventura, Lanzarote and La Palma). Located in continental Africa, the tiny enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla also form a part of Spain.
Mainland Spain is the second highest and most mountainous country in Europe, with an average height of 610m (2,000ft). The Pyrenees stretch roughly 400km (249 miles) from the Basque Country's Atlantic coast. In places the peaks rise to over 1,524m (5,000ft), the highest point being 3,404m (11,169ft).
The main physical feature of Spain is the vast central plateau, or Meseta Central, divided by several chains of sierras. The higher northern area includes Castile and León and the southern section comprises Castile-La Mancha and Extremadura. In the south, the high plains rise further at the Sierra Morena before falling abruptly at the great valley of the Guadalquivir.
Southeast of Granada is the Sierra Nevada, which runs parallel to the Mediterranean. Its summit Mulhacen, at 3,718m (12,198ft), is the highest point on the Spanish peninsula. The highest peak in Spain is the Pico del Teide on Tenerife in the Canaries, measuring a height of 3,718m (12,198ft).