Map from Google - Spain
In Spain the climate is generally temperate
, however, we can distinguish among five types of climate: the climate of the Atlantic coast, cool, humid and rainy; the climate of the central plateau, moderately arid and continental, with relatively cold winters and hot summers (see Madrid); the Mediterranean climate of the southern and eastern coastal regions (see Barcelona, Malaga), mild and sunny; the mountain climate of the Pyrenees and the Sierras, more or less cold depending on altitude; and finally the almost African climate of Andalusia, mild in winter and very hot in summer. Therefore, Spain is not anywhere warm and sunny as you might think.
is mild and humid on the coast bordering the Atlantic Ocean (see La Coruna, Gijon, Santander, Bilbao
): rains are frequent and the sunshine is relatively rare. The coasts of Galicia and Asturias, more exposed to the westerly winds, are often windy. In Galicia (see Vigo), the rainfall is particularly abundant, especially from October to April.
Here are the average temperatures of Santander.
Average temperatures - Santander
In this northern area, the rains are abundant, and some rain may fall even in summer. In Santander, more than 1,100 mm (43 in) of rain per year fall. Here is the average rainfall.
Average precipitation - Santander
In the coast of the Mediterranean Sea and in the small Atlantic coastline of the Gulf of Cádiz (see Barcelona
, Valencia, Balearic Islands
, Almeria, Malaga, Cádiz, Jerez de la Frontera), winter is mild, but compared with the northern coast the rains are more rare and the sunshine is more frequent. This is due to the fact that the Mediterranean coasts of Spain, exposed as they are to the east and south, are relatively sheltered from the western weather fronts.
Here are the average temperatures of Barcelona, located in the north-eastern part of the Mediterranean coast.
Average temperatures - Barcelona
While in Barcelona the average January temperature is about 8 °C (46.5 °F), continuing further south it becomes milder and in Valencia it exceeds 10 °C (50 °F). In Barcelona, the rains are not abundant, and the residents are asked not to waste water. Here is the average precipitation.
Average precipitation - Barcelona
Continuing south on the east coast, precipitation becomes even more scarce. In Alicante, just 285 mm (11.2 in) of rain fall each year. Here is the average precipitation in Alicante.
Average precipitation - Alicante
In the most sheltered areas such as Almeria, which are protected by the Sierra Nevada, even the winter is relatively dry and sunny, so that the climate of these areas is even semi-desert, since the rain falls almost only in autumn and winter, which is the only rainy period of the Mediterranean climate, and this happens also in Los Monegros, between Zaragoza and Lleida, where the movies called "spaghetti Western" were shot.
In the Balearic Islands
(Mallorca, Menorca, Ibiza, Formentera), which have a Mediterranean climate, similar to that of Sardinia, the easternmost one, Menorca, is also the windiest, because of the cool winds blowing at times from southern France. Ibiza and Formentera, the southernmost islands, are milder and more sheltered. However, summer is hot and sunny in all the islands.
Average temperatures - Ibiza
The inland regions
of Spain (see Valladolid, Leon, Pamplona, Madrid, Salamanca, Zaragoza), are largely occupied by a plateau, called Meseta
, which has an average altitude of 700/800 metres (2,300/2,600 feet), and has colder winters. In this plateau, the rainfall is not abundant, because the bulk of the moisture is discharged on the western and northern slopes, however during winter they are quite frequent.
, located at the centre of the plateau, at 650 metres (2,100 ft) above sea level, in January the nighttime temperatures hover around freezing (0 °C or 32 °F), while the daytime temperatures are around 10 °C (50 °F), but sometimes during cold spells it can freeze and snow. Precipitation amounts to 455 mm (18 in) per year. Here are the average temperatures.
Average temperatures - Madrid
The mountain regions
have a colder climate with increasing altitude, with snowfall in winter: at the same altitude, the Pyrenees are certainly colder than the Sierra Nevada, but the latter is higher (Mount Mulhacen reaches nearly 3,500 metres or 11,500 ft), and therefore it usually allows you to ski while being in a southern latitude. Nothing prevents, after a morning on the snow, to go to the sea and enjoy the balmy air of the nearby Costa Tropical.
There is also a mountainous range, called Central System, that crosses the Meseta, and is divided into various chains; the one closest to the capital is Sierra de Guadarrama
, whose highest peak is Peñalara (2,428 metres or 7,966 feet), and where you can ski in winter, while to the south-west we find another chain, Sierra de Gredos
, also at no great distance from Madrid.
Here are the average temperatures of Puerto de Navacerrada
, located at 1,858 meters (6,095 ft). Here the landscape is green because of the higher precipitation amount: 1,240 mm (49 in) of rain or snow per year fall, with a maximum between October and December (160/180 mm (6.3/7.1 in) per month), and a minimum in July and August (25 mm or 1 inch per month).
Average temperatures - Navacerrada
is cool and quite rainy on the Atlantic coast, where even in July and August the sun is often covered by clouds, and the sea is not warm, barely touching 21 °C (70 °F) in August. The average daily temperature is around 19/20 °C (66/68 °F) in July and August.
In the rest of Spain, summer is hot, dry and sunny.
In the plateau, the days can often torrid, with highs well above 30 °C (86 °F), but thanks to the altitude, the nights are pretty cool, and on the other hand, moisture is low, therefore the heat is bearable. In Madrid, the temperature easily reaches 35/36 °C (95/97 °F), and sometimes even 40 °C (104 °F).
Along the Mediterranean coast and the Balearic Islands, summer is hot and sunny as typically happens in Mediterranean countries, the air is humid but the breezes temper the heat during the day. Therefore, Barcelona in summer is hot and sunny, a little less hot but more muggy than Madrid, with occasional thunderstorms during the afternoon.
In the southern inland regions, in southern Extremadura and inland Andalusia
, summer is very hot and sunny: Seville
is actually the hottest city in Europe, and this area can be considered an outpost of Africa in Europe. In summer the temperatures often reach 38/40 °C (100/104 °F), and sometimes even 45 °C (113 °F).
Average temperatures - Seville
In the southern cities located at higher altitudes, such as Granada
, at 700 metres (2,300 feet) above sea level, the heat is tempered by the altitude, and the nights are a bit cooler, but the days are often torrid as well.
On the west coast, the sea temperature
is always very cool, if not cold, and reaches a maximum of 19 °C (66 °F) in summer.
Sea temperature - La Coruna
On the north coast (see Bilbao), the temperature of the sea is still very cool, even though it is a bit higher in summer.
Sea temperature - Bilbao
On the coast of the Mediterranean Sea (see Barcelona, Balearic Islands, Costa Blanca), the sea temperature is higher, and it is warm enough for swimming from July to September.
Sea temperature - Barcelona
In Costa del Sol (see Malaga
), the sea is less warm than in the rest of the Mediterranean, due to the infiltration of Atlantic waters, while the small portion in the south-west that overlooks the Atlantic Ocean (Costa de la Luz, see Cádiz) is even cooler: here the ocean temperature reaches just 21 °C (70 °F) in August and September, even though the weather is hot and sunny.
For a beach holiday
, the Atlantic coast have cool and fairly rainy summers, and also the ocean temperature is quite cool even in August, so the Mediterranean coast is preferable, especially in July and August.
For those wishing to visit cities and make excursions
, summer is a great season on the Atlantic side (north and west), where you can find a cool or mild weather, very different from the rest of Spain. The same can be said with regard to the mountainous areas, which are sunny but not too hot.
The rest of Spain during summer is rather hot, so a stay in summer, especially during the hottest months of July and August, is not the best, at least fot those who suffer from the heat. This applies especially to the inland southern areas (see Seville, Cordoba
), which are literally on fire, almost an outpost of Africa in Europe.
The southern shores
of the Mediterranean (Costa del Sol, Costa Blanca) have mild and sunny winters, so in these areas the stay can be pleasant even in winter. In general, however, the best seasons to visit the southern and central parts of Spain are spring and autumn. In Madrid and Barcelona, for example, May, June and September are the best months (but in September, especially in Barcelona, the first autumn rains occur); in Seville, which is characterized by a particularly long and hot summer, the best months are May, October and April: in the latter the maximum temperature is already of 24 °C (75 °F).
, the snow is more likely in the Pyrenees than in the mountainous areas of the south-central. In fact you can also ski north of Madrid, in Sierra de Guadarrama, and further south in Sierra Nevada, where ski runs, even though they are located at very high altitudes, above 3,000 metres (9,800 ft), are not always covered with snow, as we have seen years ago, when the World Ski Championships were postponed to the next year due to lack of snow.
What to pack
In winter: for Madrid and the plateau: warm clothes, sweater, down jacket, raincoat or umbrella. For the northern Atlantic coast and Barcelona: warm clothes, sweater, jacket, raincoat or umbrella. For the south coast: spring/autumn clothes, sweater, jacket, raincoat or umbrella. For high mountains: mountain clothing.
In summer: for the northern Atlantic coast: light clothing, t-shirt, but also jacket, sweatshirt or sweater; raincoat or umbrella. For Madrid and the plateau: light clothing, sun hat, sweatshirt for cool evenings, possibly an umbrella. For Barcelona, the Balearic Islands and the south, light clothes, sun hat, a sweatshirt for the evening in June.
For the mountains, sweatshirt, jacket, hiking shoes, sunscreen and sunglasses.
See also the climate of the Canary Islands