GEOGRAPHY – REGIONS & CLIMATES

Regions of Spain

sp-lgflag-150x150regions_with_key-292x300Spain is divided into 17 regions each with directly elected authorities.

The degree of autonomy varies dramatically from region to region with Cataluña,  El País Vasco (Basque Country) and Galicia  being the most independent all each which  their own language and their own bill of rights. Each region has differing customs and traditions influenced by  their separate history and heritage.

1 Galicia

Basílica of Santiago

Basílica of Santiago

Santiago de Compostela, it’s capital is the destination of a famous pilgrimage – Way of Saint James – which starts in the Pyrenees. Important cities are La Coruna, Vigo, Lugo, Ourense and Pontevedra. It is known as the land of the “1000 rivers” It’s folklore has Celtic and Gaelic influences. There are fine examples of Roman architecture including the Cathedrals of Ourense and Lugo. Climate – Oceanic

 2 Asturias

Aviles

Aviles

 The Region of Asturias comprises a single province and it’s capital is Oviedo. It is surrounded by the high mountain ranges of Cordillera- Cantabrica, where there are some outstanding nature  reserves and the National parks Parque Nacional de los Picos de Europa and Parque  Natural de Somiedo. The historic Roman city of Gijon is an important sea port and the city of Aviles is one of the oldest settlements in Contabria.  In Asturias there are several important monuments from the pre-Romanic perio , declared “Patrimony of the Humanity” by UNESCO, such as the churches Santa Maria del Naranco , San Miguel de Lillo and San Julian de los Prados .   Asturias is renown for it’s excellent sea foods and Fabada a dish made from beans, black sausage, and cheeses. Climate – Oceanic

3 Cantabria

Montage Santander

Santander

Extending to 5.300 square kilometers Cantabria has extremely varied landscapes and climates. In it’s mountain ranges, Picos de Europa  bears, wolves and eagles thrive in the nature reserve of Saja; and it’s rivers are full of salmons and trouts.  The Pico de tres Mares (“peak of the three seas”) is a tourist destination for hikers.  The coast of Cantabria has stunning bays and picturesque fishing villages interspersed with green valleys and hills.

It’s capital, Santander is economically important and a major port and nearby there is the medieval town of Santillana del Mar, and the prehistoric cave of Altamira. Other attractions are  are the church of Santa Maria de Valverde and the natural park of Cabarceno. Cantabria is also renowned for it’s gastronomic specialties and artisan activities. Climate – Oceanic

4 El País Vasco (Euskadi)

Bilbao

Bilbao

There are three provinces – ALAVA, capital Vitoria-Gasteiz ;  GUIPUZCOA capital San Sebastian and VIZCAYA capital Bilbao. It has it’s own language and distinctive culture. It is a great region for hiking, riding, golf and all sorts of mountain sports. Bilbao is the regions largest city and is  an important industrial and economic center, it has a well preserved historic “old town and quarter” with a  Gothic cathedral and is famous for it’s Guggenheim Museum built in 1997. This spectacular building  of glass, titanium and lime stone was designed by American architect Frank O. Gehry and an outstanding examples of  20th century Avant Garde architecture. San Sebastian had become famous as a holiday destination for aristocrats in the 19th century and is still a popular beach resort today. Climate – Oceanic

 5 Navara

Sanfermines in Pamplona, Navarre

Sanfermines in Pamplona, Navarre

Navarre has three distinct landscapes:  in the north the mountain range of the PYRENEES  and the BATZAN VALLEY; LA RIVIERA  in the south with  it’s small lagoons and the fertile valley of Ebro river, and LA ZONA MEDIA, with it’s impressive landscapes and canyons of  Hoces de Lumbier and Arbayun. The region’s capital, Pamplona, is world-renowned for the Running of Bulls as part of it’s  famous  Sanfermines festival in July. Navarre has no fewer than 50 nature reserves, the most prominent of which are the Reserva Integral de Lizardoia and Parque Natural de Señorio de Bértiz. It is an ideal place for  hiking, climbing and fishing. Its  towns Artajona which is surrounded by medieval walls; Estella; Olite, formerly seat of Navarre’s kings; Tudela and Roncesvalles always are worth a visit. Climate – Continental

 6 Castille & Leon

University of Salamanca

University of Salamanca

Comprises the provinces of Avila, Burgos, Leon, Palencia, Salamanca, Segovia, Soria, Valladolid and Zamora and is not only the largest region of Spain, but is also the largest region of  the European Union. In Salamanca there is one of  oldest universities in Europe; Segovia has the remains of a colossal Roman aqueduct which dominates  the town; Avila is entirely enclosed by impressive Romanesque walls; Valladolid has one of the most important sculpture museums in Spain. Other important towns are Burgos with it’s famous cathedral; in Leon, formerly the capital of the Kingdom of Leon, a visit can be made to the Roman gold mines “Las Medulas” and in Zamora, a preserved medieval town there is the  largest glacial lake in Spain. The towns of Soria and Palencia have many Roman monuments. Climate – Continental

 7 La Rioja

Rioja Wine Cellar

Rioja Wine Cellar

Located south of the Basque country La Rioja the smallest of the regions is  famous for it’s fine wines  with many of it’s wines achieving international acclaim. The  town of  Haro is the centre of wine production. Logrono founded by the Romans is the capital. The region is popular with those following the pursuits of hunting, fishing, climbing and hiking.

The towns of Calahorra, Arnedo, San Millan de la Cogolla, and Santo Domingo de la Calzada are places to see Roman ruins and monuments.

The area of Tierra de Cameros has many interesting grottos and caves. La Rioja is also well known for the dish ”  Pimientos del Piquillo”, a delicious and sweet kind of red pepper.Climate – Continental

8 Aragon

View from Ordesa valley in the Aragonese Pyrenees

View from Ordesa valley in the Aragonese Pyrenees

Aragon borders France with the Pyrenees has mountainous landscapes, with glacier lakes and several nature which is home to animals which are extinct in many other parts of Europe. Aragon has three provinces, ZARAGOZA, HUESCA and TERUEL and has at it’s roots the old Kingdom of Aragon, with it’s links to  Spanish culture in medieval times. The mountain ranges are centres for winter sports. Zaragoza the region’s capital is one of the great monumental cities of Spain. Its historic heritage of the Romans and the Moors is on display in its museums. Teruel is known for it’s  Mudejar  (arabic) style monuments  and Huesca  at the foot of the pyrenees is the place has outstanding views of the surrounding landscape. Climate – Continental

 9 Catalonia

Cathedral in Lleida.

Cathedral in Lleida.

This region is well known for it’s capital, Barcelona with it’s renowned Gothic quarter, and the Mediterranean coastal strips of COSTA BRAVA and COSTA DORADO  (known as the ” Golden Coast”). The Pyrenees are to the north with the unique mountain formations of Montserrat, and in Garrotxa are to be found  inactive volcanoes. At it’s centre are  wide rolling plains. As well as the province of Barcelona Catalonia has three others – Girona (Gerona), Lleida (Lerida) and Tarragona.  Tarragona was an important city of the  Roman empire, and has monuments to that period: the aqueduct, an amphitheatre and the Tomb of the Scipios. Close to Tarragona there are the historic monasteries Santes Creus and Santa Maria de Poblet.  In the mountains at Lleida  is a 12th century cathedral. Girona has an historic Jewish quarter and in Figueres, the birthplace of the painter Salvador Dali their is a museum with a collection of some his finest works. Climate – Mediterranean Coastal

10 Madrid

Collage Madrid

Collage Madrid

The capital of Spain since 1562 Madrid is located in the centre of Spain and as well as it’s modern infrastructure, it has preserved the look and feel of many of its historic neighbourhoods and streets. It’s landmarks include the Royal Palace of Madrid; the Royal Theatre with its restored 1850 Opera House; the Buen Retiro Park, founded in 1631; the 19th-century National Library building (founded in 1712) containing some of Spain’s historical archives; a large number of National museums, and the Golden Triangle of Art, located along the Paseo del Prado and comprising three art museums: Prado Museum, the Reina Sofía Museum, a museum of modern art, and the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum. The Cibeles Palace and Fountain are a monumental symbol of the city. It is  a lively metropolis with many pubs, cafes, discotheques and nightclubs open late into the night. Because of its central location and high altitude, the climate of Madrid is characterized by warm dry summers and cold winters. Climate – Continental

11 Extremadura

Merida - Roman Theatre

Merida – Roman Theatre

Extremadura is in western Spain; to the north it borders Castile and León  ; to the south, it borders Andalusia; and to the east, it borders Castile–La Mancha. MERIDA, it’s capital, was one of the most important cities in the whole Roman Empire and  has examples of some  outstanding Roman architecture, including a colossal theatre,  an amphitheatre, two aqueducts and a bridge.  It has  two provinces, CACERES and BADAJOZ.  The region was  the border between Moorish and Christian Spain. It was the birthplace of several of the famous  ” Conquistadores”  at the time of the Spanish colonisation of the Americas. TRUJILLO has a medieval castle with well preserved town walls and at CACERES there are Moorish town walls with watch towers. It is an important area for wildlife, particularly with the major reserve at Monfragüe and the Tagus River Natural Park (Terreno Natural Río Tajo Internacional).  Climate – Continental

12 Castilla La Mancha

The Old City of Toledo was declared a World Heritage Site

The Old City of Toledo was declared a World Heritage Site

The region of Castilla La Mancha is in the centre of the Iberian peninsula and incorporates five provinces – ALBACETE, CIUADA REAL, CUENCA, GUADALAJARA and TOLEDO. The city of  Toledo is it’s capital and was the former capital of Spain. It houses some of the country’s architectural treasures and is the hometown of the the painter El Greco.  It is one of the most sparsely populated regions in Spain;  its most populous city is Albacete.  La Mancha is internationally well-known for the famous Spanish novel Don Quixote written  by Miguel de Cervantes who was born in Cuidad Real.  La Mancha is a windswept plateau with windmills surrounded by vineyards, sunflowers, mushrooms and olives. Cuenca, a medieval city, has been declared Patrimony of Humanity by UNESCO, and is surrounded by stunning landscapes.Guadalajara has the Mudejar style church Santa Maria la Mayor; the 15th century palace Duque del Infantado;  Moorish town-walls; and a bridge over the Henares river, from the 10th century. Climate – Continental

 13 Valencia

Quart Towers, city of Valencia

Quart Towers, city of Valencia

The Valencia region comprises the provinces of ALICANTE, CASTELLON andVALENCIA ,with the city of Valencia as it’s capital, and has one of the best climates in Spain making it  the number one tourist attraction with it’s 500 kilometres of coast line. It is the archetypal example of  “Mediterranean Spain” The COSTA BLANCO  with it’s sandy beaches is the home of the popular resorts of Denia, Calpe and Benidorm. To the north of Valencia the COSTA AZAHAR – known as “the orange blossom coast“, because of it’s orange groves, not only has magnificent beaches but has picturesque towns such as Peñiscola with it’s  medieval castle;  Oropesa, with it’s 16th century “Tower of the King”, erected as a defence against pirates and Morella with it’s narrow streets, enclosed by 14th century walls.  In Castellon there is the cathedral of “Santa Maria” and Alicante is dominated by the Moorish castle “Castillo de Santa Barbara” . The capital of Valencia was defended  by  El- Cid against the Berbers from north Africa an event dramatised in a film starring Charlton Heston.Climate – Mediterranean Coastal

14 Balearic Islands

Port de Sóller on the northwest coast of Majorca

Port de Sóller on the northwest coast of Majorca

The Balearic Islands are an archipelago of Spain in the western Mediterranean Sea, near the eastern coast of the Iberian Peninsula. The four largest island are: Majorca, Minorca, Ibiza and  Formentera. Ibiza  often called the White Island for it’s architecture, became a major center of tourist attraction during the 1960s, and has become famous for its “Hippie-Culture” and nudist beaches. Tourism at Majorca started to develop in  the 1920s; and until the Spanish Civil War it was mainly intellectuals and artists who were attracted to the island. Minorca, the “minor” island, as it was called by Romans, has an almost unspoilt interior compared with  Majorca, the largest island,  and has interesting remains of its old history. There are beaches and secluded bays along it’s 216 kilometre coastline. Formentara is a  small island of 90 square kilometres  and  is located 11 miles from the south-eastern coast of Ibiza. The sea is visible from practically any point  and as well as secluded bays there many grottos. Climate – Mediterranean Coastal

 15 Andalucia

Great Mosque of Cordoba

Great Mosque of Cordoba

Andalusia is the second largest region in Spain and the most populated. The city of Seville is it’s capital. It’s provinces are ALMERIA, CADIZ, CORDOBA, GRANADA, HEULVA, JAEN, MALAGA and SEVILLE. The coasts of Huelva and Cadiz (Costa de la Luz)  look out to the Atlantic Ocean. From the  Strait of Gibraltar to Almeria on the Mediterranean coast are the COSTA DEL SOL ; COSTA TROPICAL and COSTA DE ALMERIA.  In  Andalucia skiing can be enjoyed in the mountains of the Sierra Nevada whilst  the coast of Cadiz at Tarifa is well known  throughout Europe for surfing. Andalucia is home to Flamenco and bullfighting. There is an abundance of Moorish architecture to be seen in all it’s major towns and cities. In Seville there is the Arabian belltower Giralda,  the enormous cathedral, Torre del Oro, and the old district Barrio Santa Cruz. Granada has The Moorish Jewel, the  palace “Alhambra”. Cordoba has the largest mosque in Europe built 900 years ago INSIDE of which a cathedral was built in the 16th century. A climb through the clouds is necessary to visit Ronda an historic preserved walled city built high in the mountains. Climate – Semi Arid

16 Murcia

Roman Theatre, Cartagena.

Roman Theatre, Cartagena.

Murcia is a single province and it’s importance lay in agriculture with it’s  low-lying fertile plain known as the huerta (orchard or vineyard). Irrigation in what is one of the hottest regions in Spain is provided by the  river Segura and it’s  tributary, the Guadalentín, which run through the area.  A large regional park, the Parque Regional de Carrascoy y el Valle, lies just to the south of the city. Murcia was founded by the emir of Cordoba Abd ar-Rahman II in 825 AD with the name Mursiyah.  It is now mainly a services city and a university town.  The famous sculptor Francisco Salzillo was born there.  The  Costa Calida (“the warm coast”), with beaches of fine sand attract tourists and the  salt-water lagoon  La Manga del Mar Menor is a destination for water sport followers. Inland it is semi desert. The regions port Cartagena has many buildings of  historical importance. La Manga del Mar Menor is a sandy promontory  located between the Mediterranean sea and the largest salt-water lagoon of Europe, the “Mar Menor”.  Climate – Semi Arid

 17 Canary Islands

Teide

Teide

The Canary Islands (Islas Canarias), also known as the Canaries (Spanish: Canarias), are a Spanish archipelago located just off the northwest coast of mainland Africa, 100 kilometres  west of the border between Morocco and the Western Sahara. The islands include (from largest to smallest):  Tenerife, Fuerteventura, Gran Canaria, Lanzarote, La Palma, La Gomera, El Hierro, La Graciosa, Alegranza, Isla de Lobos, Montaña Clara, Roque del Este and Roque del Oeste.  The capital  is shared by the cities Cruz de Tenerife and Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, During the times of the Spanish Empire the Canaries were the main stopover for Spanish galleons on their way to the Americas because of the favorable easterly winds. Tourism makes up 32% of the Islands GDP; there about 12 million tourists per year who take advantage of springtime and summer all  year long. The average temperature in the Canaries is 64ºC. and water temperatures varying between 19ºC in the winter and 22ºC in the summer. Climate – Subtropical

 

Climates of Spain

The perception of Spain’s climate abroad has  been one of blue skies and sun. In reality it is as varied as the country’s geography. At least five different climate zones characterize the Spanish climate due to the Iberian Peninsula’s position between tropical (hot) and polar (cold) wind currents. In a very general sense, the Spanish climate can be summarized as a contrast between the coast and the interior. Breezes, humidity and limited temperature ranges are characteristic of the coastal regions, while Spain’s interior experiences wider temperature ranges and less humidity. Another contrast exists between the country’s South (warm and dry) and North (cooler and more rainy).

MEDITERRANEAN COASTAL:

Affects the coastal plain of the Mediterranean  from the Pyreenes in the North to Benidorm in the South.  Winters are cool, summers are long, dry and hot; rainfall occurs mostly during spring and autumn, usually around 600 mm; temperatures in the summer can reach 40 °C  although 30 °C  is more typical. Winter temperatures in December and January can reach 0 °C.

Benidorm has it’s own micro-climate of slightly higher  temperatures all year round and much clearer skies than the surrounding areas due to the nearby mountains; it has an exceptionally sunny Mediterranean climate with long, hot summers and mild winters and typically there will be 325 days of sunshine each year.

CONTINENTAL:

Spain’s  predominant climate is continental, as this climate type affects most of the country’s surface area (excluding its coasts and mountain ranges). In Spain’s continental climate zone, winters are cold enough for snows and most of the rainfall occurs in late Spring.  Located in the Spanish central mountain chain, the Ebro delta and the delta of the Guadalquivir it is characterized by very extreme temperatures, between 25 ° C and -13 ° C. The winters are long and very cold and the summers are very hot.  Rainfall is low, around 400 – 500 mm, and can appear as a storm in the months of July and August. The climate of the region of Madrid is typically continental , and is very similar to that of Castilla-La Mancha. Rainfall in the capital is an average of 436mm a year. Winters are cool across the region of Madrid (average below 8ºC), and there are frequent frosts and occasional snowfalls. Summers are hot (reaching over 30ºC in July and August). Temperatures are much lower in the Sierra de Guadarrama which has plenty of rain and snow rain . Specifically the mountain Navacerrada at 1890 metres receives 1326mm a year, much of it in the form of snow.  The area of the central mountain chain  are subjected to the Alpine effect as the temperatures become colder at high elevations  and as the altitude increases, the main form of precipitation becomes snow and the winds increase. In the Rioja region the average temperature ranges from 11.8°C – 31.8°C  and the precipitation ranges between 300 mm – 600 with more precipitation in the Rioja Alto than the Rioja Baja.

Aragon’s climate can be defined as continental moderate. Temperatures are determined mainly by altitude, ranging from cold or very cold in winter and cool in summer in the mountains to the north (Pyrenees) and to the south and west (Iberian range), to mild in winter and hot in summer in the central lowlands. Rainfall is also very variable, with very low levels in the central areas and increasingly higher levels in mountain areas, especially in the high Pyrenees. In the middle of Aragon, which is only 200 metres  above sea level, the annual average temperature is around 14 °C . To the north and south of the Ebro valley, where the elevation rises to 500 m, the temperature drops by two degrees. In the mountains  temperatures are between 11 and 12 °C .

The  higher altitudes of the Western Meseta and the region in general  helps to make Castilla y Leon one of the coldest parts of Spain, with the provincial capitals of Ávila, Soria  Burgos recording average temperatures of 10.4, 10.6 and 10.1 respectively – the three coldest capitals in Spain. To the north, Castile and León includes the southern face of the Cantabrian Mountains. Most of the Cantabrian Mountains in Castile and León are affected by the oceanic climate from the Atlantic, with milder winters (at least relative to the altitude) and more temperate summers. The lower slopes of the same range share these temperate summers, but have the colder winters more typical of the Meseta.  Nearly all of the central parts of the Meseta is subject to the continental climate but eastern part of Zamora has a much drier climate.

The  higher altitudes of the Western Meseta and the region in general  helps to make Castilla y Leon one of the coldest parts of Spain, with the provincial capitals of Ávila, Soria  Burgos recording average temperatures of 10.4, 10.6 and 10.1 respectively – the three coldest capitals in Spain;  in contrast, daytime temperatures in much of the region soar in the summer, with maximums of above 40ºC in Palencia, Valladolid Zamora, and average temperatures are almost 30ºC across most of the region.

OCEANIC:

This climate zone covers Spain’s northern coast from the Pyrenees to the Asturias and the north-western region of Galicia is sometimes called “Green Spain”. The climate and landscape are determined by the Atlantic Ocean winds whose moisture gets trapped by the mountains circumventing the Spanish Atlantic coast. Temperatures vary only slightly, both from day time to night time and on a seasonal basis, and averages range from 9°C (48.2 °F) in January to 21°C  (69.8 °F) in July. The moderating effects of the sea are less noticeable further inland, where temperatures are more extreme than those on the coast. Distance from the Atlantic Ocean also has an affect on precipitation levels, so there is less rainfall in the east than in the west. Autumn (October to December) is the wettest season, while July is the driest month. The high humidity and the prevailing off-shore winds make fog and mist common along the north west coast; this phenomenon is less frequent a short distance inland because the mountains form a barrier to the maritime moisture. Unlike the Mediterranean climate in Spain – with its hot, dry summers –  the climate is characterized by extensive rainfall (thus the beautiful green landscapes ). Summers tend to be warm about 21°C in July in Santander, but not hot. Winters are not as cold as in the continental climate zones but snow and ice  is not unusual. Precipitation is relatively consistent throughout the year. Autumn (October to December) is the wettest season, whilst July is the driest month. The mountainous areas of the Picos de Europa and the Pyrenees are subjected to Alpine effect  as the temperatures become colder at high elevations  and as the altitude increases, the main form of precipitation becomes snow and the winds increase.  In  North East Galicia the climate is characterised by year-round milder temperatures and drier summer months, often resulting in moderate drought conditions.

 SEMI ARID:

On the southeast coast of Spain is a semi-arid area including the region of Murcia and the southeast corner of Andalusia. This is Europe’s closest point to Africa, with Gibraltar only sitting eight miles from the north coast of Morocco across the Straight of Gibraltar. As you might have guessed, this area is known for being hotter and drier than the surrounding regions. Completely clear skies can be expected for around 150 days a year. Rainfall is largely restricted to spring and autumn when torrential downpours are common. In the summer, daily highs commonly sneak into the low 40 °C s. In the winter, areas right on the coast rarely drop into single figures, while inland it rarely gets above 6°C. Many parts of this region feature desert-like landscape due to the lack of rainfall. Almeria is one of the warmest, sunniest and driest places in Europe, expecting an average of absolutely no rain at all in July, and an annual average of 200mm.

Andalusia is home to the hottest and driest summers in Spain , but in the west, weather systems sweeping in from the Atlantic ensure that it is relatively wet in the winter, with some areas receiving copious amounts. Contrary to what many people think, as a whole, the region enjoys above average yearly rainfall in the context of Spain . Surprisingly, one of the wettest villages in Spain is Grazalema in the Sierra de Grazalema in Western Andalusia with an average of 2,153 mm a year.  Much of the provinces of Cadiz and Huelva, and the Sierra de Cazorla receive more than 1.000mm of rain a year, double that of Madrid. The olive-growing, continental expanses Jaén, Córdoba and Sevilla of tend to receive 500-700mm a year. As the Atlantic‘s rain-laden clouds move east they lose much of their moisture, ending in the badlands of Almeria . In particular, Cabo de Gata with barely 150mm of rain a year is the driest corner in the Peninsula (and probably in Europe ). Much of Andalusia enjoys in excess of 300 days of sun a year.

Surprisingly enough, Spain’s Mediterranean climate is only active throughout one-fifth of the country, roughly speaking. Spain is traditionally associated with a Mediterranean climate because of the popularity of its southern and south-eastern coasts, which are located in the Mediterranean climactic zone.
Spain’s Mediterranean climate is active over nearly the entire southern region of Andalusia as well as most of the eastern coast. Winters are generally mild and summers vary in intensity depending on the region. For the most part, temperatures are moderate and there is not a wide range between the summer highs and winter lows.

Subtropical :

This climate appears only in the Canary Islands due to its proximity to the Tropic and the arid coast of Africa. It is characterized by the presence of trade winds and currents of cold water. Temperatures are warm throughout the year, between 22º – 28 ºC on average, while rainfall is low, less than 250 mm, and is concentrated in winter. For this reason, there are no rivers in the Canary Islands.

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