July and August are arguably the two months when most people take their vacation and it is when Spanish cities, towns and beaches are at their peak capacity. However, unless you grew up near the equator and are used to losing 2 litres of sweat daily, this is also the time when you are most likely to find yourself melting away almost as soon as you step out of your air conditioned (I hope!) hotel room or apartment. Here are some of my suggestions and tips on how to survive your Spanish trip during the months of, what the Spaniards like to refer to as, “inferno”.
Although it may sound like a cliché, it is an undeniable fact that in the cities of Seville, Cordoba, Granada or the capital city of Madrid, in July and August from noon until late evening hours, you can literally fry an egg in the street. Temperatures between 40C and 45C can be the “norm” for many consecutive days when it becomes difficult to distinguish a “heat wave” from a “normal” summer day. It is therefore best to leave these areas for June or September (or, if such an option exists, a non summer-time visit).
- Organize your days accordingly
If you are only able to travel to Spain during these months and can’t imagine leaving Andalusia and Madrid off your itinerary, consider organizing your days accordingly. If you want to do any more extensive walking tours, do them either in the early morning (between 8 and 11am) or in the late evening or at night time (after 9pm; keep in mind the very late sunsets in Spain during the peak of the summer). From noon until late evening try to stay indoors and, preferably, in air-conditioned environment. This includes almost any museum or gallery; various palaces; castles and cathedrals (these obviously aren’t air conditioned but their thick walls often preserve a surprisingly fresh environment), and, of course, shopping in commercial centres (although these often tend to be located further away from city center where outdoor shopping streets and boulevards prevail).
Despite the fact that I’ve been calling Spain home for nearly 2 years now, the stark differences in culture, natural environment and climate between different regions of the country continue to amaze me. Only 3 hours (by car, bus or train) north of Madrid and you will find yourself in a completely different reality, with lush greenery, crisp air, and the need to put on a light sweater at night. In the Pyrenees the temperatures may often hover just barely above 20C during the day and drop significantly at night. The same is true for Galicia where the climate resembles much more southern parts of England or Ireland, with thick cloud cover and many wet days (even in the summer). The rest of the North, especially the Atlantic provinces of Cantabria, Asturias and Basque country, enjoy a very temperate climate with temperatures rarely exceeding 30C during the day and fresh nights requiring an additional layer of clothing. This may be the perfect time to do the Camino de Santiago (or any part of it); hike in Picos de Europa which many claim is Spain’s most spectacular mountain range; do a gastro or wine tour of Basque Country to explore its very deeply rooted culinary tradition; surf or paraglide off the coastal cliffs of Cantabria or hike in many of the national parks of the Pyrenees (with the Ordessa y Monte Perdido and the Aigüestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici being the 2 parks most visited by Spaniards).
- Consider Catalonia
Given its northern and coastal location, the summer months here are also much more pleasant than in the rest of Spain. Barcelona and the lower-lying areas south of it may be the only exception here, with temperatures often reaching 35C and high humidity creating the impression of even more suffocating heat. However, with an appropriately organized day (see point #2 above to which, of course, you must also add a visit to the beach and a swim in the Mediterranean) and limiting your stay to 2 or 3 days (before heading to another part of Spain), it is definitely doable. Once out of Barcelona, you can head north to Girona to experience the Catalan culture at its purest and then further away to towns of Besalú and Cadaqués which will transport you to another age and reality, and where you can explore the traditional Catalan cuisine at its best (a Catalan-style cod and Escudella, a type of stew/soup, are both musts). Also recommended here is a visit to the Empordà wine producing estates along with its old caves.
- Explore the Canary Islands
According to Spaniards this is the area of Spain with the most pleasant climate all year round. With temperatures rarely rising above 32C in the summer and rarely dropping below 18C in the winter, this is probably your best bet to enjoy long sunny summer days without risking a heat stroke. And the good news is that the options here are limitless. In Tenerife you can first start with the less visited Parque Natural de Anaga before making your way to the island’s jewel, the Teide National Park with an imposing volcano that towers at 3,718 meters above sea level (Spain’s highest peak), and one of the world’s most spectacular geological monuments. After taking a ferry to Lanzarote, it is recommended that you start with exploration of the Parque Nacional de Timanfaya & Parque Natural los Volcanes, whose volcanoes, craters and solidified lava will make you think you have just landed on the moon. You could finish your tour of the Canaries in Gran Canaria which many believe has the best selection of pretty beaches in Spain and whose capital, La Palma, boasts the richest variety of historical and architectural offerings.
As you can see, a peak-summer visit to Spain doesn’t need to be uncomfortable or limiting in terms of the types of activities you can engage in. With a properly designed itinerary and a little bit of thought and research, you can do almost anything without breaking a sweat. Do not hesitate to contact us if you would like any assistance with creating an itinerary that would allow you to make the most of your summer visit to Spain.