Given Spain's size and diverse geography, the climate varies greatly. In the north - Green Spain - the climate is Oceanic. Visitors can expect mild summers and warm winters and plenty of rain. In the centre, in Madrid for example, there is a Continental Mediterranean climate. The winters are cool and the summers are very hot. The Costas (including Barcelona, Spain's "cool" capital) have a Mediterranean climate - sun year-round. The southeast (Murcia for example) is semi-arid. On the Canary Islands (off the northwest coast of Africa) the climate is subtropical.
When to fly to Spain
There really is no bad time to visit Spain. It's a four-season destination.
The European summer (July and August) is high season. Spain is a popular destination with the British and the beach resorts will be very busy during their school holidays (mid-October, Christmas, mid-February, Easter, mid-May, and July and August).
Spain doesn't really have a low season, but the weeks following the Epiphany (January 6) will be relatively quiet.
April (following Easter), May, June and September are shoulder months. The weather will be good and there will be fewer tourists.
Getting around Spain
Several airlines offer cheap flights in Spain. These range from Iberia, the flag carrier, to Ryanair, the low-cost airline. Airlines face stiff competition from high-speed trains. The AVE high-speed trains are punctual and fairly cheap. The standard fare from Madrid to Barcelona is about $110 (approximately $168 AU) and the journey (660km) takes about two-and-a-half hours.
Renting a car is a good idea if you want to explore the more remote parts of Spain, but unnecessary if you are sticking close to the city or the beach. Public transport is excellent. In cities such as Barcelona, Madrid and Valencia there are metros, bus and tram services.
Spain insider information
- Andalusia in the south of Spain has three cities that should be on every serious traveller's list: Granada, Cordoba and Seville. Seville is mouth-wateringly pretty, but if you have time for just one city, head to Granada. Its setting is dramatic, it stands against the Sierra Nevada mountains, and it has the Alhambra, Generalife, the Moorish citadel and palace. In the town itself, there's a lively student population and beguiling old neighbourhoods to explore. Bib-Rambla boasts lots of good restaurants; the Arab bazaar is worth a browse and Sacromonte, a Roma district, is famed for its cave houses, which are dug into the hillside, and its flamenco.
- Dotted throughout Spain, Paradors are state-run luxury hotels. They're usually in historic buildings, such as palaces, monasteries, convents or fortresses, but there are modern hotels too. The Parador of Granada, part of the Alhambra Palace, is one of the most popular. Rates are reasonable - about €100 (approx. $150 AU) per night. There are special deals for young travellers too (20-35).
- The Basque Country is that region in the Pyrenees that spans the border of France and Spain. Here, tapas are not called tapas, they're called pintxos and bar hopping is called txikiteo. The drink of choice here is txakoli, like cava or cider. Popular pintxos include anchovies and papaya strips on toast and txangurro (cooked spider-crab flesh tart).
- In Zaragoza, the Festival of the Pillar takes place in October. During the week-long festival, the devout visit the Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar to kiss the back of a column on which rests a statue dressed in a woman's robe. The Virgin Mary appeared here to encourage St. James in his missionary endeavours or so it is said.
- Barcelona - to find a quiet spot in this always busy city, get to Gracia, where there are a number of quiet squares. Visit the Boqueria Market off La Rambla to pick up a snack first. The market has 200 or so food stands heaving with bread and cheese, olives, wine, fresh seafood, and, naturally, charcuterie.
- If you are planning to walk the Camino de Santiago, July is always the busiest month. July 25 is the feast of St James and many pilgrims plan on being in Santiago for that. Outside of the pilgrimage season, April, May and June are good months to go walking.
- The city of Olot is in the Natural Park of Volcanic Zone of La Garrotxa. Its four volcanoes include the Montsacopa, a watchtower that's a great attraction for children. There are awesome views of the other major dormant volcanos that surround Olot.
- The Prado, Thyssen-Bornemisza and Reina Sofia galleries are minutes from each other in Madrid. Sorolla Museum is worth a look too, it's the gallery/home of Joaquin Sorolla, the impressionist painter.