Regardless of the semester, students will experience the full range of seasons in Spain–from the hot and dry summer to the cold winter on the Spanish meseta (the high-altitude plateau) where Madrid lies. Spain is the second-most mountainous country in Europe (after Switzerland) and criss-crossed by five major mountain ranges. This makes for a bewildering variety of landscapes and microclimates and more cold weather in places than you might expect given the latitudes and the Gulf Stream. Do expect plenty of sun and beautiful blue skies, but you might have to appreciate them bundled up!
- Summer in Madrid: mid-day temperatures are typically in the 90s, although they can occasionally reach over 100; since it is a mountain city, there can be temperature swings of up to 30 degrees (so that late-night, early morning temperatures can be in the 60s). The heat in any case is not the tropical kind of the American eastern seaboard, more like a desert heat.
- Winter in Madrid: high temperatures might reach the upper 50s, but again the low can dip below freezing (the same day) and there can be blustery winds and sudden squalls and even a little frost or snow.
- Spring and fall in Madrid: mild and delightful temperatures, with occasional hints of either summer or winter. As always, expect a wide range of temperatures over the course of a day and be prepared for sudden changes in the weather (you can, however, usually count on diaphanous big blue skies and piercingly beautiful light no matter what the temperature).
- Santiago is in Galicia, in the northwestern corner of Spain. It has an Atlantic not a Mediterranean climate. Since its Atlantic coast faces west, its climate is a lot like Oregon’s, Washington’s, or … Ireland’s. This means even in August it can dip down into the 50s routinely and rarely gets above the 80s, although climate change is affecting that. Regardless, you can expect it to be wet.
- Although Granada is in Andalucia, southern Spain, it is a mountain city with the mighty perpetually snow-capped Sierra Nevada (the original one!) always in view. It can be blustery and cold in the evening in January. on the other hand, we visit cities within 90 minutes on the Mediterranean coast (Málaga) or inland along the Guadalquivir river basin (Córdoba) that can be quite mild and sunny even in January. That contrast in landscape and microclimate over short distances is Spain in a nutshell.