From snow-capped mountains to arid deserts, Spain is a diverse, fascinating nation, a true melting pot of culture, influenced by North Africa and Latin Europe. Today one of the most dynamic countries in Europe, Spain’s history has mingled Christians, Muslims and Jews, creating a unique cultural and architectural heritage.
Long a destination for European package travellers drawn to the sandy beaches of the costas, visitors are increasingly drawn to the culturally rich cities of Madrid, Barcelona, Seville, Bilbao, Valencia and Granada. The country’s scenic landscapes, from the Pyrenees across to Galicia in the north and down to Andalucia in the south, provide tranquil retreats away from the crowds.
Like Spain, Portugal is a country of contrasts, from the traditional wine and port country of the north, through to the cosmopolitan capital of Lisbon and the beach and golf resorts of the Algarve. Portugal has a very pleasant climate, with warm summers and mild winters making it a good year round destination. The island of Madeira lies off the North African coast where the warm winds support tropical plant life. The wilder Azores offer nature lovers the opportunity to whale watch and explore extinct volcanoes.
Spain is a large landmass influenced by the Atlantic in the north and the Mediterranean in the south, with a vast central interior. Spain is best visited in the springtime, when the temperatures are generally warm and comfortable, the landscapes are in full bloom and the best of the fiestas take place. Autumn is equally comfortable, though less green and the landscapes are drier. July and August are very hot, particularly in central Spain where temperatures can soar. August is especially busy as international visitors line the beach resorts and the Spanish take their annual holidays. The winter climate varies from freezing in the central regions to pleasant on the southern coast and in the Balearic Islands.
Portugal’s climate is also influenced by the sea. Spring and autumn are the most pleasant times to visit. July and August can be very hot, especially in the sheltered bays of the Algarve in the south, though this region is especially pleasant and mild during the winter months when it is popular with Europeans taking second holidays and short breaks. Madeira and the Azores benefit from the warming influence of the Gulf Stream and so are pleasantly warm year round.