There are perhaps not many European countries that undergo the same stark climactic and touristic changes between summer and winter as Spain.
Across the country, from the soaring inland mountain peaks to the sandy stretches on the Costa del Sol, the seasonal weather and climate in Spain dictates what people can do, where they can do it, and how it is to be done. In the warmer months sunbathers and beach-lovers pour into the airport hubs around Malaga and Magaluf, while winter time sees hordes of skiers heading for the hills around Granada and the north; a crowd in search of the unique powders of Europe’s southernmost ski resort.
But, nestled curiously in between these two peaks on the touristic oscillation of Spain, are the so called ‘low seasons’. These are times when the sun is neither scorching hot nor non-existent, and the snow is neither fresh nor turned to sludge. These are the periods of relative quietude and calm for many locals, and, while there is perhaps not the same quintessentially Spanish daytime heat or sweltering lunchtime al fresco opportunities, these also are times when other, perhaps even more enticing touristic opportunities become available.
Springtime is a season when Spain really starts to come to life. It’s when locals first start venturing onto the beach fronts and the rustic markets begin to fill up with the first hints of regional produce plucked straight from the fields. What’s more, in terms of visiting tourists, spring time is the third busiest period of the year for most places, meaning those ‘must see’ destinations and popular stop offs should be considerably less inundated with winding queues and sweaty crowds.
Weather wise, there’s something of a pessimistic saying in Spain: “Hasta el cuarenta de mayo no te quites el sayo" (don’t take your jacket off until the 40th of May). Usually spoken by the much weathered and undoubtedly wise dwellers of the inland villages, it’s intended as a half-humorous, half-prophetic warning for tourists who come in search of unwavering sunshine at this time of year. That’s not to say the temperatures can’t soar, just that sometimes they won’t, and perhaps people shouldn’t be surprised if the country decides whimsically to cling onto the cold until well into late spring.
In the south however, there’s a general consensus that most days from mid-March onwards will be sunny, if not warm, while temperatures are virtually guaranteed to rise as the country edges closer to summer. Put simply though, if you think Spain is a ‘sure thing’ place for winter sun, think again; no one really knows what’s going to happen here from February to April, and it’s best not to risk it if that’s all you want.
But, while spring may not the time for out and out beach-lovers or sunbathers desperately searching for the ubiquitous Spanish scorcher, it’s perhaps better suited to culture vultures and intrepid travellers looking for something of an adventure holiday in the countryside. It’s definitely true that Spain offers some truly breath-taking natural gems during the spring: A selection transitory moments of blossoming or beauty in the backcountry that come around only once a year.
For example, in the far mid-west of the country, where the mountainous hillsides and undulating valleys cut into the Portuguese borderlands, it’s possible to spy out one of the spring time wonders that’s gradually becoming one of the annual must-sees for nature travellers and eco-tourists. This is the blossoming of the Jerte Valley, when a sea of cherry orchards that stretch their way across the horizon burst with a stark white explosion of flowering buds. It’s a fleeting moment however, and visitors will need to be meticulous in their organisation because the bloom lasts a maximum of two weeks and can start and end on different dates each year.
For the budding culture vulture and Spanish heritage lover, Easter is a period of real festivity right across the country. Deep catholic traditions intermingle with a rich artistic heritage, giving rise to the imaginative, inspiring and often deeply moving processions of religious art. These occur from north to south, in large cities and small villages, and provide one of the best glimpses of the fabled Spanish zeal.
Sport lovers will also love spring time for its vast offering of outdoorsy activities. As the mountain snow melts, the rivers and waterways swell, allowing for boating and rafting opportunities to boot. What’s more, it’s a spectacle that adds diversity and colour to the natural environment, encouraging new life all around; the perfect moment for a nature lover to spy out his favourite European beasts, or go bird watching in one of the country’s many world-famous wildlife sanctuaries.