We have not made our final decision on visiting Spain, but if we did it will be between June and all the way to end of August. What national busy holidays will there be that we should know about? Also, would it be smart to fly into Madrid and fly out of Barcelona (or vise versa) or fly in and out from the same city. The reason for that is that we will be going around southern Spain using trains, buses or whatever else public transport and at most we can take 3 weeks, which includes our flights in and out of Spain from West Coast U.S. With 3 weeks at most, is it possible to include Majorca as well? That will be exclusively for the beach use. Beach days are a must.
What national busy holidays will there be that we should know about?
If you are worried about things being busy with other holidaymakers, I can assure you Madrid, Barcelona, and Andalucia in July/August will be incredibly hot/humid and absolutely inundated with tourists. I was just back in Barcelona this July/August and it was an utter madhouse. I see that my previous responses to your posts, trying desperately to steer you towards Northern Spain, are unrequited lol! All I can say is good luck :)
As for events and holidays during your time in Spain, this should answer your questions nicely (Courtesy of RS himself) + bolded are my favourites:
June 24: Festival of St. John the Baptist (bonfires and fireworks, closures in Catalunya) <------- This one is really cool!
June 29 (likely): Battle of Wine, La Rioja (La Batalla del Vino, literally wine-drenched celebration of Feast of San Pedro)
Late June (3 days): Sónar Festival, Barcelona (electronic music)
Late June–early July: Granada International Festival of Music and Dance
Late June–early July: Madrid Orgullo pride festival (big parade on last Saturday)
July 5–15: Running of the Bulls (Fiesta de San Fermín), Pamplona
July 25: Feast Day of St. James (Santiago de Compostela, also big in Basque Country and Galicia; some closures across Spain)
August (1 week): Gràcia Festival, Barcelona <------- This one is really cool!
August 15: Assumption Day (religious festival; closures); also Verbena de la Paloma (folk festival), Madrid
Carlos thank you for your input. I understand that Northern Spain is much better during summer but I also explained many times that we will not be renting a car. Visiting Norther Spain requires a car which we will not have hence why I’m sticking to our original plan.
Hi, I mentioned that a car would be preferable not required, but decent public transport exists in the North, I recall a fellow contributor Acraven was able to get around Northern Spain solely with public transport, I don't want to speak for her, but I'm sure she will chime in about the public transport. situation :)
In the end, of course, its up you. But for me going to Barcelona Madrid and Andalucia in July August raises the red flags (if I am using the term correctly)
It's not Spanish national holidays that you need to worry about, it's every one else on their holiday that you need to!
The summer months, particularly August are when the pallid masses from Northern Europe descend to the coasts for a week or two of sun, sea and sand. Of course you can spend your time sightseeing but in the summer heat it can be quite miserable, I always leave my sightseeing for the spring and autumn months, summer is pool and beach time.
With three weeks you can certainly fit in Mallorca and I'd thoroughly recommend it and whislt it has some fantastic beaches there's a lot more to the island than that.
I would love to just do Majorca itself but can't justify flying for over 12 hrs to visit only Majorca. So that plan is to see as much as we can in 3 weeks. We can't do the off season since we have our 6 and 8 year old girls joining us. They love to travel as long as we dedicate time to beach sand and swim. I'm going to start doing airline pricing and see what happens, The calendar has not opened far enough so I may have to wait a while. but I do thank everyone for their input. I also would like to hear how the North is traveled with out a car, I'm sure it's possible but is it easy enough to do it with two small kids and luggage and all.
Yes, I traveled around the Basque Country then all the way across northern Spain to Galicia by train and bus. Definitely doable, just not especially speedy. Far preferable to suffering through day after day of 100+ temperatures in Andalucía. I spent June 2015 in Sicily and Puglia. The heat was draining. Southern Spain will almost certainly be hotter. I can't imagine going there in the summer.
Just within the Basque Country public transit isn't particularly slow.
I haven't been to Mallorca yet but did extensive research on it earlier this year. I think it would be a shame to go all that way (two annoying flights or two ferry rides, or a combination) just to go to beaches. The island has varied, attractive, terrain and Palma seems to have a lot of interesting architecture. I'm expecting to spend 5 to 7 nights there--I hope next year, and I will not spend one minute of my time on a beach. Wikipedia says the average high temperature in Palma over the summer is about 10 degrees (F) cooler than in Seville. That doesn't make it pleasant, but it should be a bit more variable. Since Mallorca's an island, perhaps there's usually some breeze? With just three weeks I wouldn't normally be urging a traveler to go to Mallorca, but given the time of year and your reluctance to head to the north, it strikes me as a good idea. But not for just 2 o 3 days.
Barcelona and Valencia typically have milder mid-summer weather than Madrid and Andalucía, but I know Barcelona can be humid; not sure about Valencia. I hit some low-80s days in Barcelona that felt hotter because of rather high humidity. (As a resident of Washington DC, I am very familiar with the concept of high humidity.) Valencia is an attractive city but in my view doesn't rate being included in a first trip to Spain of this length. But we have to consider the weather challenge of Andalucía...
Three weeks is a very, very long time to deal with oppressive heat. And you won't have your own private, air-conditioned vehicle to escape to on a whim. Although trains and buses are normally air conditioned, you can't assume the stations will always be comfortable. When you travel to smaller towns you may end up waiting at outdoor bus stops. That wasn't fun in Sicily in June; I don't want to think about doing that in Andalucía in the summer.
I have not been, but I have done a lot of research and I'm planning a future trip, and while the public transportation in some parts of Northern Spain may be a little tricky, it is my understanding that transportation in the Basque areas of Spain and France, especially along the coasts is quite good. The coastline in that area does have lovely beaches. Further, the best time to visit that area of Spain is during your time period. I did read a fair amount about Acraven's wonderful travels in Northern Spain and she exclusively uses public transportation.
Sevilla is a favorite city and I just keep it on my weather app. I can attest to many, many 100 F plus days in the summer. I'd be miserable there in the summer. Towns that I know of that might be cooler and less crowded (Grazelema and other white villages) definitely require a car.
Re. little kids and hot weather. I am a mom of 4. We did an awful lot of traveling with our kids, even when they were small and they were troopers. I am recalling a trip to Mesa Verde in August. It was HOT. We made it work. I made sure to have gatorade and other enticing beverages. We made sure to do as much as possible very early in the morning. We don't regret the trip, the kids remember how great it was, however, it was mentally exhausting to do all the daily planning to make sure the kids were happy and hydrated. Three weeks of that kind of planning would make for a less than wonderful trip for me. Now, we live in MN, and we do get a lot of summer weather in the high 80s and low 90s and occasionally in the low 100s, but not three solid weeks of that. Maybe you live in an area where the hot weather of southern Spain might not be that much of a change. I do get the idea of the beach with kiddos. It is nice to have the down time of sand and water play. Perhaps you can also look for accommodations with a pool. Regardless, I love the travels I've had in Spain and sincerely hope you have a fantastic trip wherever you go.
Here is a little background on us, we have traveled with our kids since they were babies, we have done cruises, Canada, Mexico, England (London), Armenia, Greece, Bahamas and many of U.S states. my kids are truly troopers, they walk long distance, they enjoy historical ancient sights and museums and they love cars planes and trains, no complaint there, beach days are a must, all vacations must have beach days. We live in Southern California and it's super hot in the summers. Our Greece trip last year was over 3 weeks so we do understand the heat situation. When traveling outside of the U.S my husband refuses to rent a car and drive. He has his reasons and it's agreed upon. So when I'm booking trips I need to consider public transport as our main way. Maybe I'm under estimating the heat in Spain during summer, I do trust what you all are saying and since the calendar for booking tickets has not opened up I will do more research. It's really hard to get more than 3 weeks of vacation, and when traveling to Europe 3 weeks is hardly enough. It's tough for us in the West Coast as we are a minimum of 12 hr flight. I have a good sense of what I need to look for and how all this will come about. You all have given me very important information for this trip. we love to travel and wish we could do even more. I will return to this forum if I have more questions. Thanks again to everyone for their input.
I suggest you judge fore yourself whether the heat is bearable for your family. Use a website like Wu derground that gives temps and precipitation for major towns. Look up a city you are considering, go to Calendar view and sesrch the timeframe you are considering for the past 5 years for trends. You can request temps on F or C. Then you can decide.
Clearly you know your family best and what they can adjust to. Perhaps expand the travel forums to post on where you can find some folks sympathetic to your criteria.
That's wunderground.com .
Where do you live in SoCal? There's quite a range there.
Seville is a lot hotter, on average, than Athens. I haven't been to the islands in mid-summer, but I'm betting they're not as hot as Athens.
You and your children have traveled a lot, so I'm sure you realize there's a difference between being at home on a 90-degree day and dealing with the same conditions in Europe, with air conditioning not available everywhere and not as powerful as ours. It can be difficult to find a cool place to retreat to if your hotel is not near you sightseeing targets. People joke sometimes about hanging out in the frozen-food aisle of a European supermarket. Unfortunately, it's not totally a joke.
I get frustrated having to choose between an indoor table in a way-too-hot restaurant and a breezy sidewalk table under a nice umbrella. Unfortunately, in many places you'll be surrounded by smokers if you choose the more-comfortable outdoor table.
For July 2019 in Seville:
Days with high at or above 90F: 23
Days with high at or above 95F: 12
Days with high at or above 100F: 4; there were also two days at 99F.
August was far worse:
At or above 90F: 30
At or above 95F: 23
At above 100F: 4, plus 5 more at 99F.
I suspect the California equivalent of Andalucia in summer is Death Valley - or at least Las Vegas. I'm probably exaggerating but still, there is a reason that July-August is low season there.
Use a website like Wu derground that gives temps and precipitation for major towns. Look up a city you are considering, go to Calendar view and sesrch the timeframe you are considering for the past 5 years for trends. You can request temps on F or C. Then you can decide.
The problem is that it's not just down to temperatures. 35c on the coast with a cooling sea breeze is far more comforable than 35c traipsing round a medieval walled town where the heat is trapped and their is no respite. I've been to Andalucia in February, March, April, May, June, August, October and November. Only June and August would I consider confining myself entirely to somewhere with water, either a pool or beach.
Mallorca is a bit cooler but even July and August are very hot. Fortunately there's plenty of coastline with great beaches and my recommendation would be, if visiting Andalucia and maybe Mallorca, to book accommodation with a pool. If budget allows, a private villa with a pool or else a hotel or resort.
You seem confident about heat, and Andalucía in the summer is nowhere near as hot as Death Valley, let's not exaggerate. More like somewhere between Bakersfield and Palm Springs. If you do end up going there in July / August, just avoid planning any outdoor sightseeing in the afternoon. Retreat to airconditioned lodgings or museums after lunch.
However, I would skip Madrid in high summer. While not quite as hot, I found it oppressive both day and and night in my latest summer visit (thankfully short). A Barcelona - Majorca - Andalucía - Barcelona loop could work, using planes between these areas (or a longish train from Andalucía to Barcelona).
About those air-conditioned museums...
so the more info I get the more I think about Spain. The problem is that we can't go to Spain any other time other than Summer. I know that Spain has a lot of other cities than Madrid Barcelona, etc but those are still a must for us. Having temps at high 90's is still better than what we have here in So Cal. The problem is that we can't just retreat to our hotel and waste valuable time not seeing or doing some tourist thing. Would you think Croatia or Italy would be a better choice in this case. Honestly I base our vacations on the airline deals I find, hahahha we are flexible like that..... So I just need to wait and see what happens.
Would you think Croatia or Italy would be a better choice in this case.
Not really, it'll be just as hot unless you're looking to travel around the mountains of Northern Italy. We were in Montenegro a few weeks ago and the temperatures were averaging around 36c, not much different to Southern Spain. A holiday to the Cote D'Azur two years ago witnessed a heatwave where the temperatures were regularly over 40c.
No-one is going to die simply by going to Andalucia in the summer, thousands upon thousands of Northern Europeans, unaccustomed to such heat visit every year and manage just fine. Much of Europe is hot during the summer, even the UK experiences heatwaves topping the high 30's so you're going to have to accept that the heat is pretty much unavoidable. However, it's Spain not the Dallol Depression so it is doable but not entirely comfortable. It would help greatly if you had access to a car, is there a particular resaon for not wanting to rent a car? A gentle stroll around a medieval town followed by a lingering lunch in the shade and then a respite from the heat with an air conditioned car will allow your trips to be more enjoyable and coupled with beach/pool days would help hugely with dealing with the heat. All you need to do is slow the pace down, summer in Europe is not the time of year for cramming in as much sightseeing as possible, the locals take it easy and they're used to it, you should follow their example.
JC is spot on, in the summer we slow down, retreating to our houses during lunch/afternoon, go from ac place to ac place, taking frequent breaks is what we locals do to survive the heat in Spain, that's why most of our social life is in the evening and night times. I can't imagine being a full time tourist in those conditions. Plus most of us escape the big cities in August to go on holiday, Barcelona and Madrid are only full of tourists during the high summer months. All the local shops and restaurants are closed outside of the touristy centres, we flee to the beaches or up to northern Spain.
Although I have no facts to back me up, I strongly suspect a lot of the northern Europeans who head to Spain in the summer do so to soak up some sorely-needed sunlight on a beach or beside a pool. They can dip into the water at will, and there will be umbrellas for shade. That's not the primary reason most Americans go to Spain. We have our own beaches, much less crowded and not a jetlag-inducing distance away.
It's fine to suggest hunkering down in a hotel room during the heat of the afternoon to retirees and others in a position to take frequent, long trips to Europe (though that's not how this retiree spends her time). Most Americans have limited time in Europe, and the inside of a hotel room, however nicely air conditioned, is not what they have traveled to Spain to see.
As a hater of cold weather and short days, I deal with the risk of high temperatures on every trip to Europe. I try to avoid the hottest places during the hottest months, and I try to include time in places where heat waves are extremely rare. These places have mostly worked for me as escape hatches in recent years:
- Northern Spain from Galicia to the Basque Country
- The Dolomites in Italy (at altitude)
Other places I'd be comfortable taking a chance on in mid-summer: Netherlands, Belgium, the Baltic Coasts of Germany and Poland, Denmark, Scandinavia, Estonia/Latvia/Lithuania, and Iceland.
Yes, a heat wave is possible even in those spots, and I tend to choose air conditioned lodgings just about everywhere unless I'm making last-minute bookings and the weather forecast makes it clear the weather will be cool, but hot weather would probably last for only a very few days in the places I've listed. Spend 3 weeks in places like Andalucía and southern Italy in mid-summer and you may experience a never-ending string of very hot days. It's just not called a "heat wave" because it is expected to be that hot.
The problem is that I can't imagine flying long haul to Europe and wasting time honkering down in a hotel room. That to me would be wasted time, and since we have school aged kids the only time we can travel out of the country with decent time off will always be summer. I understand that it's high season but it's also the ONLY time that we can do this.
Now you may correct me if I'm wrong, but how complicated is it to rent a car in Europe and drive? I'm talking about the laws of the roads, now imagine this, my husband was born and raised in the States and his family NEVER traveled anywhere so he has no idea how it is to drive outside of the country. I spend 10 years of my life living in Europe/Eastern Europe during my childhood, so I know driving is different. I did get the international drivers permit last year and yes I can get another one, but I do not want to be the only who's driving all the time. that is the reason why I rather stick to planing the vacation with public transport then renting a car. I may have to search google to see what the driving laws are in Spain, but if any of you have a link i would appreciate it.
the heat concerns me, but it does not scare me, as again we are in Los Angles and we get 100 degree days for days at a time, yes I know we use A/C. again thanks for all of your input.
Average high temperatures from Wikipedia:
Los Angeles: 83F
Lost Angeles: 84F
I can't help with driving rules, but you're 90% of the way there just by realizing they may be different. It's amazing how many people rent cars in Europe without doing any research at all, and then a bunch of traffic tickets come home to roost months after the trip ends.
I'm sure others here can suggest an information source. I'd start with your guidebook. I think any single-country book will have a section on traveling by car.
Driving in Spain is a kindergarten compared to the hell of driving in Los Angles lol! I've driven in both and currently live part time in LA, and honestly for where you need a car in Spain (i.e. not in the big cities) it's fairly straight forward, the difficult part is driving in the big cities/parking like Barcelona, but if you go in the North that should not be a problem.
Driving is very similar to the USA, we drive on the same side, one thing that's different is we have what are called autopistas (ap) which are the fast toll roads, but alongside them we have slower free roads. Most small towns have parking areas just outside the centres. Also overtaking is very normal in Spain, you will usually have two lines, one for driving normally and one for overtaking. If you drive in the high mountains, like the Picos de Europa it can get a little tight on the road but nothing crazy.
The biggest difference, is in Spain we don't have 8 lane mega freeways that are always collapsed with traffic like the 405 aka "the world biggest parking lot"! :)
There are many articles on driving in Spain out there, I did a quick google search and this one looks pretty good: https://www.seville-traveller.com/driving-in-spain/
@acrevan, when I say Los Angeles I mean the county and not the city. Your temperature comparison is way off. We don't have 86 degree weather in LA county in July or August, it is always in the 90's or 100's.
my main concern about driving will be narrow roads, I know that we drive on the same side. also, we can only rent a car that is automatic as I do not drive a stick shift. another concern will be road signage as is it always in two languages? I guess we will only rent a car when it's a must but that also makes planning a bit difficult as I prefer to book everything before I leave the house.
Spain is really on my mind for the upcoming summer.
Now as far as my other question is it smart to fly into Madrid and fly out of Barcelona or vise versa?
I would love to make our way down to Gibraltar as well, but should we leave that to a trip with Portugal?
As a train or bus passenger I don't have the same perspective on road conditions as someone who has actually driven in Spain, but I have certainly ridden on a lot of Spanish buses. I didn't see anything that looked too difficult, but I do agree that the roads in the Picos de Europa area are windy and slow-going. I wouldn't be surprised if you could find that in the Basque Country as well; that's another area with really pretty scenery. In my experience, pretty scenery means the secondary roads are curvy.
I know you can't make good time on some of the roads needed to see the white villages in the south, but I think you'll find them manageable. The roads actually inside the villages may be a tight squeeze, especially for the size of car you'll need to accommodate a family and its luggage. I think Chani mentioned that in an earlier post, but I don't remember what town she was describing. It was probably Arcos, Grazalema or Zahara.
Okay, you are used to high temps. But are you outside in the sun for most of the day? That's the concern. Many sights are outdoors and expect that you'll walk from one to another and have little shade on the streets or at the sights. Most sights are not air-conditioned. The cathedrals and churches are usually cooler, but I don't know by how much when the temps are so high. I've only visited in Feb/Mar and most sights didn't open before 10 am, when the temps are already climbing.
The only area where a car is an asset is visiting the white hill towns. Get the car when you leave for them and drop the car as soon as you arrive in the next city. I've rented Jerez-Granada and Sevilla-Cordoba (when I skipped Granada).
I found the driving easy BUT it was Feb/Mar - low season - so there was very little traffic on the main roads, which are all two-lane and of course winding since they're in the mountains. I have no idea what it's like in summer - maybe low season and few vehicles, maybe not. A few of the villages were very difficult - narrow streets with parked cars, steep hills, sharp/blind corners. Once you get in you may be stuck driving through to get out because of the one-way system. Arcos wasn't a problem. There's a large parking lot at the base of the old town. Then it's a steep climb on foot or wait for the free minibus shuttle. The historic center of Ronda can also be difficult if you leave the main road. It's level ground, but narrow streets with cars parked everywhere possible and a few impossible.
Consider Cadiz and Malaga. Both have beaches. Cadiz is on the Atlantic so it's likely to be less hot (though maybe humid). Malaga on the Med also has beaches and may not be as hot as inland. If you rent a car for the white towns, consider picking it up in Cadiz (train from Sevilla), visiting Gibraltar on the way to Malaga, and dropping the car there. Then train or bus onward
The first time I drove in the US was landing at Philadelphia airport and drving during rush hour to Absecon, NJ. Prior to that I had driven on the right on two previous occasions, both in Spain. I didn't find it a problem whatsoever, it was manically busy but it was easy enough.
I've driven in Spain more times than I can recall and find it a breeze. In comparison to driving in the US it's much easier. I find American drivers (I'm generalising here) to be aggressive, competitive, ignorant. No-one will let you pull out of a junction, if you indicate to pull into another lane to overtake then invariably the person in that lane will speed up to close down the space for no apparent gain for them. Tailgating seems a national hobby. Lane discipline is an alien concept and the use of mobile phones whilst driving is shockingly common. Many of the roads are also in a bad condition.
Suffice to say that if your husband can happily drive in the US then he'll have absolutely no problem in Spain.
Road signs are easy to understand. Speed limits are displayed in Km per hour and so will your cars' speedometer. You'll understand place names because you'll know the names of the places you want to visit. Most of the other signs are obvious. There is no 'turn right on red' law, red means stop and don't move until it's green. I always get an automatic, there's plenty of choice at the major airports and prices aren't significantly more than a manual.
The major roads are excellent and if you don't fancy driving through the narrow streets of the old towns then there is always plenty of free parking just on the outskirts. Having a car means that you don't have to return to the hotel to keep cool. Just jump in, whack up the AC and drive to your next destination. When we were in Nice two years ago we rented a villa with a pool. In the mornings we would drive somewhere, explore around on foot, have lunch early afternoon in a shady plaza and return back to the villa for some well needed pool time. This worked very well for us and the kids and was a perfect mix of sightseeing, food and fun. In the evening we'd either have a barbecue at the villa or drive into town to a restaurant as the temperature was a bit cooler. We do the same in Spain too. What I don't advocate is rushing around all day, you won't enjoy it, the kids will hate it and it will make for an unbearable and unenjoyable holiday. You're stuck with visiting in the summer, it's not the end of the world, thousands of people do it you just need to take a different approach than if you were visiting in the spring.
If you can go in June I'd take that over August. In June I can still walk around without becoming a sweaty mess, it's warm/hot but not oppressively hot like August.
We drove in Spain and didn't find it all that challenging except that in there are often narrow streets. I would rather drive in the parts of Spain I drove in than in Southern California. That said, your husband prefers public transportation which is completely doable in the areas yo ar thinking of
You all have given me very good points of view. It's true that LA driving is crazy for most but we are used to it, LOL Perhaps when I start reading the laws of the road for Spain I will feel much more comfortable, it's always the little things that make you uncomfortable, knowing that there are parking spaces outside of the town is better than driving on narrow roads. One of the things that we look forward when traveling abroad is traveling on trains since we do not really have them here. It's completely a new experience and my kids love it. They loved the Tube when we were in the UK and for them that was a treat, LOL.... but thanks everyone, truly helps.
Make sure you know the rules for traffic circles (roundabouts). I don't remember seeing a lot of them in Spain, but it's unsafe not to know who has priority.
If your kids love trains, then they will love this very scenic train ride that goes from Madrid to Oviedo in the North of Spain, with the highlight being the Picos de Europa section of the trip. The trip itself takes about 5 hrs on the Renfe Alvia train, but is well worth it. From Oviedo, one can then rent a car and easily explore the regions of Asturias and Cantabria.
The train leaves from Madrid Chamartín 4-5 times a day - http://www.renfe.com/EN/viajeros/horarios.html
Kids in a car - strapped into seats with limited views from the rear side windows. Kids on a train - picture windows, walking around, people-watching . . . what's not to love?