Climate of Spain
Where is the country of Spain located? Spain is a country on Europe’s Iberian Peninsula. Although many people think of warm summer weather when they think of Spain, that is not always the case. The summer months are indeed dry and warm to very warm, but in the winter months it can be (very) winter in large parts. This is mainly due to the presence of mountain areas and the lack of the influence of the Mediterranean in the interior and northwest of Spain.
According to the Sydow-Wagner climate system, Spain has 3 climate zones:
– the islands and coastal areas in the south and east have a Mediterranean climate
– the central interior has a continental climate
– the north and northwest has a maritime climate
Within the Köppen-Geiger climate classification, there are mainly B and C climates, with D and even E climates in the higher parts. The coastal areas of Spain have a warm Mediterranean climate for the most part, with mild wetter winters and warm dry summers. The drier climate types are mainly found inland.
The first spring warmth is normally observed in the extreme south of Spain and in the Canary Islands. In March the temperature can already reach 25 degrees there. For most of Spain, it gets hot almost everywhere from May and that heat generally lasts until September, in some areas even until the end of October.
Heat waves are no exception in parts of Spain during the summer. Along all the costa’s and central Spain you have the chance of heat waves with temperatures around or even above 40 degrees. In the summer, a holiday in Spain almost guarantees warm weather.
The city of Seville in the southwest is even one of the hottest cities in the world during the months of July and August. Temperatures above 35 degrees are very normal and there are regularly peaks towards 44/45 degrees. It is not for nothing that many locals honor the siesta here. The highest official temperature recorded in Spain is 47.6 degrees Celsius. This record temperature was measured on August 14, 2021 in La Rambla in the province of Córdoba.
Winter in Spain
Tijdens de wintermaanden kan het in delen Spanje vrij koel zijn. Dit is in tegenstelling tot het beeld dat veel Nederlanders van Spanje hebben. Het noordelijke gelegen deel (ten zuiden van de Pyreneeën) en centraal Spanje hebben in de winter een vergelijkbaar weertype als dat van ons. Temperaturen die gemiddeld enkele graden boven het vriespunt liggen, geregeld nachtvorst en kans op winterse neerslag in de vorm van sneeuw, hagel en ijzel. Ook de noordoostkust (Catalonië) en de noordkust (Baskenland) kunnen te maken krijgen met winterse buien en overlast als gevolg van dat weer. Het gebeurt niet vaak, maar het is in de winter zeker mogelijk dat je op de stranden van bijvoorbeeld een kuststad als Barcelona een witte laag ziet. In de berggebieden Sierra Nevada en de Pyreneeën is winters weer met redelijk veel sneeuw normaal op de hogere hoogtes. Dit zorgt ervoor dat je vanaf pakweg december tot ver in het voorjaar aan wintersport kunt doen in Spanje.
Extreme winter weather
The winter of 2020/2021 is one that some of the Spaniards will not soon forget. Remarkably cold air ravaged mainland Spain. In January 2021, this led to a number of extreme weather events. For example, the cold record for Spain has been tightened twice. On January 6, 2021, a lowest temperature of -34.1 degrees was measured by the official measuring station of Clot de la Llanca in Catalonia at 2305 meters altitude. A day later, this record was broken again. A record minimum temperature of -35.8 degrees was measured in Vega de Liordes.
The interior was hit by unusual amounts of snow that same week. It can snow in the interior of Spain, but often this is limited to fairly small amounts. In the Spanish capital Madrid, people were therefore very surprised when a lot of snow fell within two days, which in some places was 50 to 60 centimeters high. Snowed-in cars and harsh driving conditions in Madrid were suddenly world news.
Spain is a popular winter destination. The Costa Blanca on the east coast is very popular among winter visitors because of the pleasant mild climate during the winter months. The temperature is then on average around 15 to 18 degrees and this region is also quite dry during the winter months. The Costa del Sol offers almost equal temperatures, but is slightly wetter in winter. It is often a matter of luck. Sometimes you have a week full of wonderfully sunny weather, sometimes you have to deal with a period in which the weather is mainly cloudy with regular rain.
For a real winter sun holiday, with temperatures of at least 22 to 25 degrees, you have to be lucky in Spain. In the south, these kinds of temperatures are possible in the months of March and April. The Costa Blanca is another region where you can be lucky enough to have good beach days during the winter season (November to April). The best chance of summer weather in winter is in the southern regions of Gran Canaria and Tenerife.
To discover the interior or the nice villages of Spain, a rental car in Spain is almost a must. You can easily rent these in advance these days. This prevents you from paying too much for your rental car on site. At times when it is busy, such as during the summer holidays, the supply of rental cars is sometimes less than the demand. By reserving your car in advance, you can be sure that you can enjoy your trip in Spain.
Although the Canary Islands officially belong to Spain, the climate is different from mainland Spain. This is because the islands are geographically adjacent to Africa. In the winter months it is on average warmer than on the mainland, in the summer it is usually less hot than along the Spanish costa’s.
Exceptions are easterly winds that bring very warm air from the Sahara and can cause temperatures to rise above 40 degrees. This wind is called sirocco, if it is accompanied by a lot of desert dust, this phenomenon is called Calima. You hardly see a hand in front of your eyes and that in combination with extreme heat makes it very unpleasant. Fortunately, such circumstances never last long.
In winter it is often spring-like in the Canary Islands, although bad weather with a lot of wind and precipitation are certainly possible. Especially if there are strong high pressure areas above Western Europe, this regularly causes a lot of rain and wind during the period November to February.
On average, Spain is a fairly dry country, with a fairly large variation in the places and periods where and when precipitation falls. The autonomous regions of Castilla-Léon and Aragón in the northern interior are relatively arid, as are parts of Andalusia, the Costa Blanca and the interior east and southeast of Madrid. These areas receive less than 500 mm of precipitation on an annual basis, most of which is in the winter period.
The northern and northwestern part of Spain is relatively the wettest, also in the spring and autumn there is regular precipitation. The period from May to October is the dry period, although there is always a chance of a strong thunderstorm in almost the entire country. Sometimes bad weather can even last a few days during the summer months.
The figures below are based on long-term average climate statistics from the Spanish capital Madrid. The temperatures are displayed in degrees Celsius (°C).
|Maximum temperature||Minimum temperature||Hours of sunshine per day||Days of rainfall per month|
Best time to visit Spain
Do you want to know when is the best time to travel to Spain? You can determine the best time to travel to a destination based on the weather and climate. In addition, there are other factors that are not directly related to the weather and that can influence the best travel periods for a travel destination. Think, for example, of holidays or festive periods, which makes traveling more interesting or not, because daily life comes to a standstill as a result. Spain is the most popular flight destination among the Dutch. It is mainly the mild climate that ensures that people go on holiday to Spain en masse. Over the years it has been discovered that Spain has more to offer than sun, sea and sand. The Spanish costas are still very important for tourism, but in the field of city trips, cultural trips and active holidays Spain is also doing very well. More and more people are also discovering Spain as a winter sports destination. The best time to travel to Spain depends very much on the type of holiday and where you want to go in Spain. The weather varies by region.
The months of July and August are the best for a sun holiday on the northern Atlantic coast. For the eastern coast of Spain (including Costa Brava, Costa Dorada and Costa Blanca), the months of July and August are the best in terms of weather, but the months of June and September are also mostly good. The same goes for the Balearic Islands (Mallorca, Ibiza, Menorca and Formentera). June and September are actually the best for a sun holiday in the south of Spain, because July and August can be too hot. The period from May to mid-October is perfect for a sun holiday on the Canary Islands.
In winter, the beaches of the Costa Blanca, the Costa del Sol and the Canary Islands are especially pleasant to spend the winter. To swim or sunbathe you need some luck.
For almost all of Spain, the months of April, May, June, September and October are the best travel times for a city trip. June can already be too hot for the cities in the interior. Think especially of Andalusian cities such as Seville, Cordoba and Granada. During the hottest months of July and August, the coastal cities are doable, unless there is a heat wave. We would avoid domestic cities in July and August because of the heat that occurs in almost all of Spain.
Not everyone will think of Spain when looking for a ski holiday. Nevertheless, the country has three areas where you can enjoy winter sports: the Pyrenees in the north, the Sierra de Guadarrama above Madrid and the Sierra Nevada in the south. The winter sports season in Spain usually starts in December and lasts until April. There is no guarantee that you will be able to ski in December, just like there is no guarantee that there will be enough snow in April. The best months for a winter sports holiday in Spain are January and February.
Circumstances at a holiday destination may deviate from normal around and during public holidays. Museums, shops and institutions are often closed. In Catholic Spain, think of Christmas, Pentecost and All Saints’ Day. There is one week in which you should avoid or consciously visit Spain if it interests you: Semana Santa; translated into Dutch as Holy Week. This is the week leading up to Easter. During that week many processions are held. In a number of towns and villages, especially in Andalusia, normal daily life stops in the mid-afternoon. The center is then closed to traffic so that the processions can start moving through the streets towards the end of the afternoon.