Spain needs no introduction. It’s the country of the green North and the sunny costas, the flamenco and tapas, the solemn church processions and the joyous fiestas, the bucket-and-spade holiday and the cultural city break, the siesta and late-night partying.
Britain’s love affair with the country is going strong; almost every week an airline introduces more cheap flights to Spain and its holiday islands (Canary Islands – Gran Canaria, Tenerife, La Palma, Lanzarote and Fuerteventura – and Balearic Islands – Majorca, Menorca and Ibiza).
The Costa del Sol is the family-holiday favourite taking in the resort towns of Torremolinos, Fuengirola, Mijas and Marbella. The Costa Brava in northeastern Spain is fantastic for family hols too while the big, sandy beaches of the Costa de la Luz, running from the Straits of Gibraltar to Portugal, are becoming more popular.
Madrid is the capital, an elegant city with three world-class treasure-packed galleries within a few minutes’ walk of each other. Barcelona is cool with wonderfully preserved medieval streets and those world-famous Gaudi buildings.
For most of the year, Spain is warm in the south and temperate in the north, but gets very hot in July in August – peak tourist season. Spring and autumn are the nicest times to visit, although the Atlantic coast gets heavy rains in October and November. Winters can get very cold in Madrid and the country’s central highlands.
May, June and September are the best months to visit Spain although the country is blessed with sunny weather almost all year round.
In the south, add April and October to the list. At these times you can expect sunshine, but not overbearing heat. An added bonus is that, by avoiding July and August, you will miss the hordes of tourists.
July and August are the height of the tourist season and Spain flights and holidays can be expensive. Early summer and into autumn are also popular. Spain is very popular with families so prices will be higher during school holidays and half-term breaks.
There really isn’t a bad time to visit Spain, but the winter months (November to February) can be cold and rainy and the country gets its share of snow too.
The official Spain tourist site calls bus travel “comfortable and efficient”, and has a handy list of related bus company websites.
The national rail network is called RENFE. There are high-speed and long-distance services. The AVE, for example, runs on the Madrid-Cordoba-Seville route. Madrid to Seville takes two-and-a-half hours.
Renting a car gives you the freedom to see as much of Spain as you like. All the major car rental companies have desks at the major airports. Check your airline website to see if it offers preferential rental rates. Booking in advance can offer great savings.