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.
Spain's record-breaking number of blue-flag beaches
Would you like to visit a country with some of the best beaches in the world? Then grab your swimsuit and come to Spain! You can choose from 540 beaches and 98 marina resorts distinguished with the prestigious Blue Flag award, thanks to their quality and safety. Crystal-clear waters, coves, cliffs, broad stretches of sand, and all bathed in radiant sunshine… Spain has exactly what you want. Spain has what you need.
Of the 46 nations in the northern hemisphere eligible for recognition as part of the Blue Flag system, Spain has emerged as the number one. In other words, this summer you'll find the Blue Flag flying on one out of every six Spanish beaches, and one of every six Blue Flag beaches throughout the world will be in Spain. This is an award which is bestowed by the European Environmental Foundation (EEF). What does this distinction guarantee? Beaches where you can find information on all the nature spaces throughout the area, specialised life-saving services, first-rate water quality, signposted areas for surfing, kite surfing, water craft, pedalos, etc., easy access… You're sure to feel like taking a dip...
All along the coast of Spain… and inland too.
You'll find a blue flag in most of the coastal areas in Spain. Holidaymakers heading for the north can expect to see spectacular landscapes and cliffs. Make a note of Galicia, the area of Spain which has the highest number of Blue Flags (143) and where you'll be able to enjoy enchanting destinations such as Sanxenxo, or places such as the Islas Atlánticas National Park, where you'll find Rodas beach, selected by The Guardian newspaper as the best beach in the world. Can you picture yourself lazing there now? We also recommend Asturias with places such as Llanes, and the Basque Country with unforgettable destinations like Getxo.
Or would you rather go to the Mediterranean? Mild temperatures, warm waters, magnificent palm groves… Try Catalonia, with the beaches in the city of Barcelona itself, or the beaches in L'Ametlla de Mar (Tarragona). You could also opt for the Region of Valencia, with places which have several Blue Flag beaches such as Cullera (Valencia) and Orihuela (Alicante). And what about Murcia? There's nothing like a refreshing dip at the prize-winning beaches of Cartagena.
Off we go now to Andalusia, in southern Spain. Imagine vast stretches of sand where you're guaranteed to find spectacular sunsets. It is also home to several outstanding beaches distinguished with the Blue Flag including Roquetas (Almería), Marbella (Malaga) and Rota (Cadiz).
If you opt to visit some of Spain's islands, you'll find beaches with guaranteed quality in both the Balearic Islands (you'll love the coves and turquoise waters) and the Canary Islands, with sites such as San Bartolomé de Tirajana, and beaches like Maspalomas with its spectacular sand dunes. And the autonomous cities of Ceuta and Melilla? They've got blue flags too!
There is also something to please lovers of inland tourism. Spain is home to the Costa Dulce de Orellana beach (in Orellana la Vieja, Extremadura), the first freshwater beach to be awarded a Blue Flag.
A sea of activities
In addition to relaxing and sunbathing, you can rest assured that you need never be bored on Spain's beaches. There are numerous beaches which are favourites with surfing enthusiasts. But there's a whole lot more! You can sail your own boat, and go waterskiing, parasailing, kitesurfing, scuba diving… Almost 8,000 kilometres of coastline are waiting to welcome you... promising the chance to relax in the sun, see your feet through crystal-clear waters, marvel at the intense red hues of the sunset... and experience all the sensations on offer at the best beaches in Spain.