Spain is a highly climatically diverse country in Southwestern Europe. A Mediterranean climate (Köppen climate classification Csa, Csb) is dominant in much of Spain, with warm to hot summers and cold, wet winters. An oceanic climate (Köppen Cfb) with regular winter snowfall is evident in the extreme northern region. A section of the southeast and central areas has a semi-arid climate (Köppen BSh, BSk) predominantly. Many areas in the northeast and mountains above the altitude of 1000 meters display a continental climate (Köppen Dfb). Alpine, sub-arctic, tropical, and desert climate types are also evident in different parts of the country. Spain lies on the Iberian Peninsula and includes a few islands off the African Coast and the Mediterranean Sea. The Atlantic Ocean and Portugal lie to the west of Spain, France and Andorra are in the north, and the Mediterranean Sea lies to the south and east. The location in the temperate latitudes, proximity to the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea significantly influence the climate.
Spain has an average elevation of 650 meters above sea level, with the highest point at 3718 meters on Mount Teide. The topography mainly consists of highland plateaus, with many mountain ranges. Narrow coastal plains and lowland valleys and regions occupy a minor part of the other landforms. The Meseta Central is a vast plateau in Spain, with many mountains, rivers, and even glaciers at the apex. The Tagus River, the longest in the Iberian Peninsula, separates a chain of low mountain ranges from the Sistema Central in the north. The Pyrenees and the Basque Mountains lie in the northeast region. The mountains of Sierra Morena, Sistema Iberico, and Cordillera Cantabrica, in the Meseta Central rarely rise above 2300 meters in altitude. The Andalusian Plain is a major lowland region in the southwest. The Balearic Islands lie in the Atlantic Ocean, fifty miles off the east coast of Spain. The Canary Islands are of volcanic origin and lie fifty-five miles off the west coast of Africa.
Summers are hot and dry in the interior plains of Spain, where the daily high temperatures regularly exceed 35°C (95°F). Southeastern Spain, extending into the Ebro Valley, frequently registers temperatures above 40°C (104°F). The Atlantic Ocean influence moderates the summer temperatures in Asturias, Basque Country, and Galicia regions. Winters are mildly cold, with few nights below freezing in the interior and the northern regions. The southern coastal strips have the warmest winters in Europe, with January nights mostly above 7.8°C (46°F). Snowfall is substantial only on the high slopes of the mountains above 3000 meters in the north and south. Spring is dry, with moderate temperatures in the north that turn high by May in the south. Autumn is mild and wet in much of Spain.
The annual rainfall in Spain varies from 1016mm (40") to 1270mm (50") in the north to 381mm (15") to 508mm (20") in the central and southern regions. Autumn is the wettest season on the coast, and the peak of summer is the driest period. Fog and mist commonly occur along the northwest coast. The rainfall is abundant on the northwest coast and averages up to 1016mm (40") annually. The southeastern coast and the eastern Canary Islands have some of the driest places in Europe, with precipitation below 154.9mm (6.1") per year. Snowfall occurs for an average of 26 days from November to April in the Pyrenees. The annual sunshine in Spain ranges from 1800 hours in the north to 2900 hours in the south, with the longest days in June and the shortest in December. The northwestern sea coasts are always fresh and rarely register average temperatures above 21.1°C (70°F).
Seville and Ecija hold the record of the highest temperature of 47.2°C (117°F) in Spain. Lago Estangento in the Pyrenees holds the record for the coldest temperature of -32.2°C (-26°F).
The best time to visit Spain
The best times to visit Spain are during the mild seasons of spring and autumn. May, June, and September are pleasant in the interior of the central and southern regions, with comfortable temperatures compared to the summer. The northern region close to the Atlantic Coast has cold and wet summers. The mountains have a great atmosphere in the summer and are popular vacation destinations. Beach holidays along the Mediterranean Coast are best from June to August when the seawaters are mild. The Pyrenees are popular for ski holidays, although snow occurs only at altitudes above 3000 meters in the winter.
The worst time to visit Spain
The worst time to visit Spain, if any, is during the winter. Significant snowfall occurs in the mountains at altitudes above 2000 meters. Winter begins the ski season in the northern and southern mountains. The average temperatures drop below freezing in the hilly areas at places above 1800 meters. The interior areas of Spain, especially in the north, are prone to cold gusts from the North Pole. The Mediterranean Coast in the south has mild and sunny winters and is a preferred destination when the rest of the country is in the clutches of cold weather. The southern inland areas are scorching during the summer due to the proximity to the Sahara region of Africa.
Spain is prone to natural weather hazards in the form of wildfires, floods, droughts, earthquakes, and tornadoes, among many others. The northern Iberian Peninsula, particularly the areas of Galicia, Catalonia, and Basque Country, experience a high frequency of earthquakes, volcanic activity, floods, and wildfires. The southern region, including Andalusia, faces an additional threat of tornadoes in addition to earthquakes and fires. Volcanic and seismic risks are high in the third hazard zone that lies in the Canary Islands. Teide, La Palma, and Lanzarote in the Canary Islands are active volcanoes that have an explosive history of eruptions close to human populations. The southeastern region, in particular, faces water shortages during the long and dry summer. Saltwater intrusion is a problem in large areas near the Mediterranean.
Weather in January
January is usually the coldest month of the year in Spain, with less sunshine and chilly weather. Temperatures in the northern and central regions are cold, with occasional freezing nights. Madrid, the capital in the central region, has average temperatures in the chilly range of 2.8°C (37°F) to 9.4°C (48.9°F).
The Atlantic Coast registers 101.6mm (4") to 203.2mm (8") of rainfall, and the skies are partly cloudy with just 3 hours of daily sunshine. Substantial snowfall occurs on the high mountain slopes, but the deposits are light in the lowlands. The Canary Islands are famous due to a sub-tropical climate with warm sunshine in the winter. Beaches on the islands have mild seawaters in the winter fit for swimming that is an exception to the conditions in much of Europe.
Winter is the time to dodge the queues of popular tourist attractions during the peak season. Ski resorts are generally cheaper than those at similar altitudes in neighboring countries. January vacations in Spain see a surge mostly in the southern region near the Mediterranean Sea.
Weather in February
February is a cold winter month in northern Spain where the average low temperatures remain in the 1.7°C (35.1°F) to 7.2°C (45°F) range. The daily sunshine is less than 4 hours in the north, with significant rainfall in the northwest. The southern region registers warm temperatures in the zone of 10°C (50°F) to 18.3°C (64.9°F).
Water sports lovers find the wind and wave conditions perfect in the Canary Islands off the southern coast. Gran Canaria has warm temperatures, beautiful beaches, and clear skies in the winter. Road trips through the Andalusian villages in the south are best when the sunshine is mild, and the crowds are fewer. Churros and chocolate never taste as good as they do when the temperatures are below freezing. Winter nights are ideal for star gazing at the Calar Alto Observatory in Almeria.
Wear warm clothes, if on the plains, and layered clothing in the mountains. Indoor food markets come to the rescue when it rains in Madrid. Expect cold fronts amid moderate sunshine in Spain in February.
Weather in March
March transitions into the spring season in Spain as the conditions mellow across the country. The Balearic Islands are popular but windy tourist destinations due to the gusts that blow from southern France. The precipitation gradually decreases along the Atlantic Coast as the rainy season recedes from its peak.
The average temperatures in Alicante, in Costa Blanca, are in the mild range of 8.9°C (48°F) to 18.9°C (66°F), as the daily sunshine increases significantly. The spring season removes the last few traces of frost and ice from the landscape. However, high mountain slopes continue to receive moderate snowfall.
The warm weather is the trigger for bird migration and a season that brings joy for bird watching enthusiasts. Hiking, cycling, and trekking are popular activities when the humidity is low, and skies are clear. The daylight increases progressively, and the sunshine warms the landscape. The seawater temperatures on the northwest coasts are still cold for swimming, with most of them below 12.8°C (55°F). March is a lovely month for a visit to Spain.
Weather in April
April is a great time to visit Spain, with the spring season at its peak. The fresh aroma of wildflowers on the trails refreshes the senses, and the sweet smell of soil makes the mornings beautiful. Streams are full of water, and rivers flow in full splendor, as the land is under the blanket of lush greenery. The sunrise is early in the south, and the days are long and warm.
The average temperatures range between 7.2°C (45°F) to 22.8°C (73°F), as the daily sunshine lasts for 7 hours. Madrid awakens to the warm air of spring, with average temperatures in the zone of 7.2°C (45°F) to 17.8°C (64°F). Nights are cozy and considerably warmer than the winter.
April sees moderate rain in the range of 50.8mm (2") to 127mm (5") across the country. Easter brings plenty of visitors to Spain, with an atmosphere of festivities and comfortable weather than much of Europe. A light sweater or a rain jacket is sufficient during outdoor explorations in Spain in April.
Weather in May
May is sunny and beautiful in Spain, with the precipitation usually below 76.2mm (3") in much of the country. The southern regions receive light showers at the most and see a significant rise in temperatures.
The average temperatures in Bilbao and Logrono in the northeast are in the lovely 10°C (50°F) to 21.1°C (70°F) range. Hiking and trekking in the Pyrenees is a great way to explore the beauty of raw nature. The smell of wildflowers is particularly refreshing in the mornings, and there are plenty of berries and mushrooms for picking in the wild. Wildlife sightings are frequent in the forests, and small mammals and birds are abundant in the countryside. Beach lovers find afternoons suitable for water activities when the sea temperatures are the warmest. Expect the heat to rise with each passing day in the spring season.
May is the perfect time to visit the Costa del Sol region in southern Spain, with the temperatures and crowds not yet at their peak.
Weather in June
June is the beginning of the warm to the hot summer season in Spain, with mostly clear skies. Summer is the driest season and the sunniest time in Spain. The country comes alive, and streets are bustling with locals and tourists, and the time of festivities.
Barcelona is the perfect place to visit in June, with temperatures in the comfortable zone of 17.2°C (63°F) to 25°C (77°F). Lakes, zoos, and museums are abundant in the city, and summer is a time to visit tourist sites and take part in festivals.
The Costa Brava and Tamariu are amongst the 500-hundred off beaches in the country, with white sands and turquoise waters. Rise early in the morning to find a spot on the beaches. Snorkeling, swimming, and sunbathing are popular activities in the mild sea temperatures. Thunderstorms are generally active during summer afternoons that occasionally bring moderate showers with them. June is sunny and beautiful in Spain, and vacations are costly unless planned months earlier.
Weather in July
July is the sunniest and driest month in Spain, with an incredible 12 hours of daily sunshine in the southern part of the country. Seville, Murcia, and Granada register scorching heat, with average daily high temperatures in the 33.3°C (91.9°F) to 35.6°C (96.1°F) range.
The daylight extends to more than 16 hours, and the long evenings offer plenty of activities in comfortable settings. It is a prudent idea to wear sun protection and keep beach outings to mornings and evenings. Expect hot, dry days but comfortable nights. The hot season is the peak time for clubbing in Ibiza, and the comfortable night weather keeps party lovers up until dawn.
The northwest is partly cloudy but still records 8 hours of daily sunshine. The seawaters of the Atlantic Coast are mild, and July is a great time to sunbathe on the beaches. The cities in Asturias, Cantabria, and Galicia register comfortable temperatures in the zone of 14.4°C (57.9°F) to 25.6°C (78.1°F) at the peak of summer. July is the peak tourism month in Spain.
Weather in August
August is usually hot and dry in Spain with abundant sunshine. The average high temperatures in Valencia in the east are in the hot range of 21.7°C (71.1°F) to 29.4°C (84.9°F). Toledo, in the central region, heats up to 33.3°C (91.9°F), with the humidity below 40%.
Scattered showers fall in some parts of the country, but the south remains bone dry. The long days of August register the warmest seawater temperatures.
Malaga's August Fair runs day and night, with visitors preferring the after-sunset hours due to cool weather. Medieval marvels ring the highest footfalls in summer, and tourists take advantage of the long evenings to sip tapas and sangria in tucked-away bars. Valencia is a beautiful port city with plenty of visitors in the bright weather of August. Evenings are often breezy, and the sunset is beautiful on the beach. The Tomatina Festival in the small town of Bunol leaves nobody without getting caught in squishy red tomato juice. August is a busy month in Spain under the influence of the temperate sun.
Weather in September
September gradually transitions into the comfortable autumn season in Spain, with a drop in temperatures. The average temperatures in Santander in the northwest are in the beautiful zone of 13.9°C (57°F) to 22.8°C (73°F). Seville and Murcia near the southern coasts are relatively hot, with average temperatures in the range of 16.7°C (62.1°F) to 31.7°C (89.1°F). The beaches have fewer crowds, as the summer heat tapers down.
Precipitation increases significantly on the Atlantic Coast to register between 76.2mm (3") and 101.6mm (4"). The central and southern regions receive abundant daily sunshine of 8 to 9 hours.
Hiking trips in the mountains are refreshing in the mountains, particularly in the eastern region, where the sunshine is less intense. Hunting and fishing gain momentum throughout the country. Bird watchers welcome the autumn due to the large number of migratory birds that cross the land. Expect a rise in precipitation and carry a light rain jacket for protection from showers. September is a lovely month to visit Spain.
Weather in October
October is mild in the autumn season of Spain, as partly cloudy skies dominate the conditions. The northeast sees comfortable conditions, with average temperatures in Saragossa in the 10.6°C (51.1°F) to 20.6°C (69.1°F) zone.
A rise in precipitation adds to the thrill of outdoor excursions. Lugo, Pontevedra, and Vigo in the northwest, register between 127mm (5") to 203.2mm (8") of rainfall. The fall season is the perfect time to witness the color changes in the woodlands of Faedo de Cinero in Leon, in the middle of five-hundred-year-old beech trees.
The harvest season is a time of festivities, and wine lovers have plenty of options to quench their thirst. The odor of crushed grapes fills the air in the vineyards of the Rioja and Ribera regions. Tourist spots see few crowds, and the conditions are pleasant with a drop in temperatures. The sea temperatures in Barcelona are mild below 21.1°C (70°F), and the fewer crowds make the beaches more attractive. Expect rain and shine in October in Spain, and keep an umbrella ready for outdoor visits.
Weather in November
November is the wettest month of the year in Spain, with 76.2mm (3") to 228.6mm (9") of rainfall across the country. The northern regions are rainier than the south, which receives abundant sunshine.
The Balearic Islands are tourist hotspots, with average temperatures in Ibiza, Menorca, and Palma in the lovely 12.2°C (54°F) to 19.4°C (66.9°F). The natural parks in the Basque Country, Cantabria, Catalonia, and Andalusia are some of the places that offer majestic views of leaves changing colors in the autumn. The deep forests resemble fairy-tale realms of mystic environment and natural beauty.
The northern lands and highlands all over the country display the broadest palette of colors. The wild mushroom season peaks in November, but consult an expert before picking from the wide range of the species. The local cuisine is full of dishes made from the abundant apples and pumpkins available in the fall. Budget travelers find Spain economical in November due to fewer crowds and wet conditions.
Weather in December
December is the beginning of the cold winter in Spain as the mercury column goes south. The daily sunshine reduces considerably, especially in the northern regions, where it lasts for less than 4 hours.
The Sierra Nevada in the south occasionally has more extensive snow deposits than the Pyrenees in the north, due to higher altitudes. Skiing is a popular winter activity in Spain. The southern coasts have balmy weather due to 6 hours of daily sunshine and mostly clear skies. Afternoons are great to visit the beaches when the crowds are fewer, and the conditions are warm.
The average temperatures in Seville, on the Andalusian Plain, are in the acceptable range of 7.2°C (45°F) to 16.1°C (61°F) for winter tourists. Nights are below freezing in the extreme north. Warm winter clothes are generally necessary everywhere, even though substantial snowfall occurs in the high mountains. Local Spanish hot drinks are the best remedies for the winter cold. Christmas keeps alive the festive spirit in December in Spain.