Most tourists come to Spain's coastal strip during July and August, when the sun is at its strongest. Madrid is unbearable at this time of year and is almost deserted by Spaniards. In the north, and on the Balearic Islands, summer temperatures of around 30°C are standard. In winter, the rain never seems to stop in the north, except in the backlands of Galicia and the Pyrenees, where they turn into snow. Generally the north is best during summer, Andalucía is best in spring, the centre is best in autumn, and the south is best in winter.
Spain and Portugal share the Iberian Peninsula, a vaguely square-shaped realm at the far southwestern edge of Europe. Spain occupies some 80% of this peninsula and spreads over nearly 505,000 sq km, making it the biggest country in Western Europe after France. More than half of the country is made up of vast, elevated tablelands - the mesetas - and five major mountain ranges stretch across the country. In fact, with an average altitude of 650m, it's the highest European country after Switzerland. Landscapes range from the deserts of Andalucía to the green wetlands of Galicia; from the sunbaked plains of Castilla-La Mancha to the rugged snowcapped Picos de Europa and Pyrenees.
Native flora is prolific, especially in the alpine regions.
The prevalence of an 'if you see it, shoot it' philosophy has destroyed much of Spain's wildlife. Critters that you may still come across include red squirrels, chamois, deer, ibex, genet and a wide range of reptiles. Spain has around 25 breeding species of birds of prey, and it is a haven for water birds thanks to its large wetland areas. Gibraltar is famous for its Barbary macaques, the only wild monkeys in Europe.
The ideal months to visit are May, June and September (plus April and October in the south). At these times you can rely on good weather, yet avoid the sometimes extreme heat - and the main crush of Spanish and foreign tourists. That said, there's decent weather in some parts of Spain virtually year-round. Winter along the southern and southeastern Mediterranean coasts is mild, while in the height of summer you can retreat to the northwest, or to beaches or high mountains anywhere, if you need to get away from excessive heat.
The Canary Islands archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean, west of Morocco, is an autonomous community belonging to Spain.
Congress on Snow and Mountain Tourism to advance the use of new technologies in mountain tourism
The role of new technologies in snow and mountain tourism will be the focus of the 7th World Congress on Snow and Mountain Tourism, held by UNWTO in collaboration with the Principality of Andorra (La Massana, Andorra, 11-12 April 2012).
Leading experts will discuss the new technologies that have emerged over the past years and their role in revolutionizing tourism marketing, as well as consumer behavior before, during and after a trip. Under the title, Mountain Tourism 2.0: New Strategies for Success, the Congress will outline the strategies needed to attract new visitors and open up mountain destinations to the world market.
“Snow and mountain tourism is an extremely popular market, but one that faces a number of challenges,” said UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai. “Innovation and new technologies can play an exciting role in helping these destinations to remain competitive and diversify their tourism product, ensuring year-round tourism, and should be put to greater use.”
Mountain resort professionals from 10 countries will share their experiences on integrating new technologies in their marketing strategies to attract and maintain visitors. Key speakers include the Director of Yongpyong Resort, Republic of Korea, Mr. In Jun Park, and the Managing Director of France Montagnes, Mr. Jean-Marc Silva. Technology experts, including the Managing Director of Google Travel Spain, Mr. Javier González-Soria, will present the latest technologies in areas such as web positioning and satellite communications.
Held since 1998, the World Congress on Snow and Mountain Tourism has emerged as the principal forum for addressing the major issues and challenges for mountain tourism in all its forms and seasons. In 2012, for the first time, the Congress will launch the International Mountain Report, compiling the latest figures and trends in snow and mountain tourism.