June is drawing to a close and the summer is nearly in full swing in Spain. Somewhat different from the US, Europe follows a more traditional schedule when it comes to the seasons; rather than June, July, and August being considered the summer months, the summer in Spain begins at the end of June and continues until the end of September, thus rendering the summer months to be July, August, and September. An even bigger difference, however, is the amount of time of Europeans have to enjoy this time of year. Most Spanish employees are granted around a month’s vacation time, most of whom are obligated to, or choose to use during the summer months. Americans in Spain have little difficulty in adjusting to this ‘cultural difference’ and are more than happy to spend a few weeks or a month doing something other than working or studying. So what do they do?
The Beach in Spain
Although people from Madrid will readily say De Madrid al cielo (From Madrid to Heaven) to describe their city, the saying does overlook the fact that the capital has no beach. This becomes very apparent in the summer months when temperatures exceed 40ºC (104ºF) and air conditioning is scarce. For this reason, anyone with more than a few days off and a little bit of cash will undoubtedly head straight for the coast. The most common beaches visited by madrileños are located in Valencia, primarily in the province of Alicante. The main reason for this is the fact that these are some of the closest places to get to from the Spanish capital. In fact, many people have a summer home located in towns such as Gandía, Guardamar and Torrevieja. With a little luck, a friend, acquaintance, or your significant other may invite you to spend some time with them at the beach. If this isn’t the case, there really isn’t any particular reason to visit these beaches, unless of course you want to be on vacation in the same place as everyone from your neighborhood.
Perhaps the most popular beach destination for Americans, however, is Barcelona. This is an excellent choice, as Spain’s second largest city has a great deal to offer. It must be said, though, that the best thing about the city is anything but the beach itself. So, if you’re planning on spending all day sprawled out on the sand, there are better options. Where exactly to go, though, can be a difficult decision. Being that Spain occupies the vast majority of the Peninsula, as well as two island chains, means that you have a seemingly infinite amount of beaches at your disposition. This means that it’s up to you. North or south? Mediterranean or Atlantic? The islands? You’ll have to decide for yourself. But, just as long as you’re not stuck in a stuffy apartment with no air conditioning, you’ll be happy!
El Camino de Santiago
Not the beach type? You’re not the only one. During the summer months, one of the most popular activities for Americans is to walk the Camino de Santiago, or Route of St. James of Compostela. This network of hiking trails dates back to the Middle Ages, when pilgrims would venture to the supposed tomb of the apostle in Santiago de Compostela. Although the route’s popularity dwindled over the centuries, it has become well-known again due to its having been added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 1993. Although there are a great number of routes, the most popular one is the Camino Francés (French Way), which starts in France and crosses northern Spain via León. Before beginning the journey, pilgrims obtain a sort of ‘passport’ – known as a credencial – in which they collect stamps from different points along the route, later used to validate their pilgrimage upon arrival in Santiago. After traveling a minimum of 100km on foot, or 200km by bike, pilgrims receive a compostela, or certificate of completion of the route. Although the concept of the Camino is that of a Christian pilgrimage, many people do the route for different reasons, both religious and secular, but particularly as a way to spend some time in nature and to get away from the everyday grind of modern life.
Festivals and Concerts in Spain
By far one of the best things about being in Spain in the summer is the opportunity to go to music festivals and concerts. This is a very popular activity with Americans, as you may have the chance to see acts that are perhaps difficult to see stateside. One of the most famous concert series in Spain, which takes place right in Madrid, is Veranos de la Villa. The festival includes all sorts of activities, but the vast majority of the concerts take place during the month of July. Each year the program is different and boasts a wide variety of artists, ranging from Spanish flamenco singers to international pop/rock acts. Tickets usually go fast, so if there is anyone you want to see, don’t hesitate – you may just find that the show is sold out! A similar concert series which is held in Catalonia is the Festival de Cap Roig. Approximately two hours up the coast from Barcelona, the Cap Roig Botanical Gardens is one of the most important of its kind on the Mediterranean and hosts over 500 different species of flora. In the months of July and August, the gardens host a music festival in which many Spanish and international artists participate. Beyond these, there are also many other music festivals during the summer months, including the 4every1 Festival, Barcelona Metal Fest and a whole host of others.
If you do stay home…
Taking the opportunity to travel and go to concerts is undoubtedly and excellent way to combat the heat. But whether you stay home or not, Spain will certainly guarantee you an unforgettable summer!