Extremes of weather on the Costa del Sol - useful info if you're thinking of moving to your 'Place In The Sun'

Peach orchard and olive trees in the snow
Peach orchard and olive trees in the snow

Happy days

The Costa del Sol means 'Coast of Sun' .... right? Well, the answer to that is - while there certainly is an awful lot of sun and temperatures in the high 40's in the summer months, there are also plenty of other variations, Costa del Torrential Rain, Costa del Hurricane Force Winds ....even Costa del Snow? You don't think it's possible? Well - read on.

When my husband first proposed the idea of moving to sunny Spain saying 'Imagine waking every morning to blue skies and sunshine', I thought - 'ewww, no, how boring'. I love the variety of British weather where all four seasons can easily be experienced in one day - but I needn't have worried, not only do we experience all types of weather but it's often in its most dramatic form, in fact I didn't realise that it was possible to experience such extremes of weather on the Costa del Sol!

Okay - so we're not exactly a stone's throw from the beach, gazing onto the sparkling azure waters of the Med. We are in a hamlet in the countryside 30 kms from the nearest coastal resort of Torre del Mar and about 550m above sea level but it is still the Costa del Sol even though most people think of sun beds on the sand and pitchers of sangria rather than the local herd of goats and farmers with their donkeys passing by.

We signed the papers for the house on a beautiful December day in 2002. After visiting the lawyer's office and the passing of the obligatory brown envelope stuffed with bank-notes, destined to be stuffed in the buyer's mattress, under the table, we all retired to a restaurant for a celebratory lunch, sitting on the terrace, basking in the warm rays of sun while feeling rather sorry for the folks in the gloom back home - as if!.

The local herd of goats as seen from the terrace in spring
The local herd of goats as seen from the terrace in spring
Where's the sun gone?
Where's the sun gone?

A rude awakening

There was a fair amount of work to be done on the house before it would be fit for human habitation - although the spiders, geckos and field mice quite happy with it as it was! - so my husband set out at the end of February 2003 to make a start.

I rang him late on the morning following his arrival expecting to hear a progress report on how he'd just finished whitewashing the outside walls and was about to tackle the interior after a light, refreshing cerveza and some bread and goat's cheese on the sun-dappled terrace. Instead, the conversation went something like this (after quite a delay for the phone to be answered):

Me - brightly .... 'Hi - how's it going?'

Him - not so brightly ....'Wha ........ wha time is it?'

Me - a little less brightly .... 'It's 10.30 in the morning - 11.30 your time'

Him - sounding rather bewildered .... But it's still dark - I was still asleep'

Me - through slightly gritted teeth .... 'Have you opened the shutters?'

Him - now very bewildered .... 'Course I have - hang on a minute I'll just look outside' - sound of slippers shufflingly receding - pause - sound of slippers shufflingly returning - 'It's almost dark, throwing it down with rain and I can't see to the end of the terrace as it's covered in cloud'.

Well, so much for getting any work done that day - or the next, or the next. In fact the weather stayed like that through the rest of February, March and on and off for April and May for good measure.

When I came out to join him I could be found wandering about the house muttering to myself 'Costa del Sol? - more like b***** Costa del Lluvia'.*

The house was a 200 year old farmhouse with thick walls and tiny windows designed to keep the house cool and the hot sun out - these design features just weren't so good when it never got lighter than a November twilight day in Grimsby* day after day

* Translation 'Lluvia' = 'Rain'

* No offence meant to anyone from Grimsby - just liked the 'grim' sound of it.

Did you know that wheelbarrows can fly?

No? - well neither did we until after a night of lying in bed listening to what sounded like Hurricane Katrina all around the house.  We went out in the morning to find our garden furniture floating in the swimming pool and the heavy iron wheelbarrow lying on its back 200 metres from where we'd left it.

Some friends had that heavy ornamental cast iron garden furniture on their terrace - so heavy that you were at risk of a serious hernia just pulling it out from under the table.They discovered theirs that morning scattered to the four corners of their garden (it still took two of them to retrieve each item!).  What force of wind was capable of doing that?

 

7.30pm. The olive trees behind the house.
7.30pm. The olive trees behind the house.
Midnight - snow settling around the swimming pool
Midnight - snow settling around the swimming pool
Next morning - figs, olives and orange trees
Next morning - figs, olives and orange trees
Charlie didn't know what to make of it!
Charlie didn't know what to make of it!
Tobogganing on the same field that the goats were happily grazing on in the photo higher up the page
Tobogganing on the same field that the goats were happily grazing on in the photo higher up the page
Rush hour on our quiet country road
Rush hour on our quiet country road
The queue for the Sierra Nevada
The queue for the Sierra Nevada
Lake Vinuela with Mt Maroma behind
Lake Vinuela with Mt Maroma behind

Costa del Snow

We had actually experienced some snow a couple of years before when we'd had a few days of bitterly cold temperatures, down to -5 degrees at one point. Our neighbour who's 76 and lived in the village for the past 40 years said he couldn't remember such cold weather and when it actually snowed one morning he was like a little boy! However, as soon as the sun appeared over the mountain behind our hamlet, the thin covering swiftly melted.

In January 2009 it was a different story. The snow started on the evening of the 10th and right from the beginning started to fall heavily.

Our house is set on the edge of the hamlet and on a busy day - such as a fiesta - we may get half a dozen cars an hour pass along the road at the edge of our field, so we were somewhat bemused to see 30 or 40 cars park up along the narrow road and families emerging to throw snowballs and toboggan on the steep hill opposite.

We decided to get in the car and investigate just why so many were ending up in our hamlet. When we drove down to the main road leading from the coast up to the Sierra Nevada ski resort (a two hour drive away), we discovered that the police had set up a road block and were only allowing those vehicles with snow chains fitted to their tyres to proceed further. Well - as you can imagine - they're not the most commonly sold items on the coast so most vehicles were turned away and ended up heading to the lower slopes of our village where the kids (young and old) could still experience the fun of playing in the snow.

The cars who had been to the higher altitudes were later to be seen driving back down to the coast with snow-men proudly perched on their car bonnets - some even attempt to make it down to the beach to show off their trophies to the sun-bathers.

It was all too short-lived. By early afternoon the snow had all but disappeared although Mount Maroma , the highest mountain in the Sierra Tejeda at 2066m, remained snow-capped until the spring.

Photos

Please note all of the photographs in this hub are my own and may not be copied, used or reproduced without asking for and receiving my permission.

A selection of my images are available to buy as cards and prints at my web page on redbubble where I am known as cassiegirl.

Storm clouds over the lake
Storm clouds over the lake
The spectacular waterfall at the source of the River Guaro
The spectacular waterfall at the source of the River Guaro
The river turned into a muddy torrent
The river turned into a muddy torrent
This is more like it!
This is more like it!

Update - Summer 2010

For the past few years we had been going back & forth between our home here in Spain and a flat that we'd kept in the UK,  Unfortunately, with the effects of the 'credit crunch', it was becoming an enormous drain on our finances. So, a decision had to be made and in December 2009, having sold the flat, our remaining furniture & possessions were shipped over to Spain.

We'd had four years of very little rainfall and all of the reservoirs in Andalucia were significantly depleted. Our local reservoir, Lake Vinuela, was down to an alarming 13% of its total capacity and we were becoming very worried about the likelihood of severe water restrictions for the foreseeable future.

Our furniture arrived on a sweltering December day just before Christmas. The lorry was able to get as far as the bottom of our drive and then everything had to be either carried up the steep slope by hand or, in the case of the heavier items, hauled up by tractor. As we were in the process of this mammoth task, the first drops of rain fell onto our precious belongings leading to a scramble to find plastic sheeting to cover the items.

We managed to install our furniture in the house in a relatively dry state, but, over the next few days the duration of the rain steadily increased to the point where we had virtually continuous rain for the next three months. On Christmas Eve there was a record fall of rain leading to widespread flooding in Andalucía, and for the first time since we'd been in Spain, we were forced to eat our Christmas lunch inside the house!

We live near the source of one of the rivers that feed the Vinuela reservoir It runs past the bottom of our land and it soon became a raging torrent - in fact it is still running, albeit at a gentler pace, as I am writing this in the middle of July! We use a small bridge to reach the road from our property and, luckily it remained above water - unlike our nearby neighbour who became completely cut off! The water level in the reservoir rose so high that in February the excess water had to be released to simply run off down to the sea.

Still, as I say, I'm writing this in the middle of July, the temperature on our terrace at the moment is 34 degrees in the shade, the land has once more turned from green to a crispy golden brown and, apart from the holidaymakers down on the beach, everyone is once more happily complaining about the unrelenting heat - roll on winter!!!!


Are you surprised by the weather in some of these photos?

  • Yes - I thought the Costa del Sol was always sunny
  • No - it's pretty much what I expected
  • No - and I'm glad to have seen what it can be really like
See results without voting

Comments 51 comments

dohn121 profile image

dohn121 6 years ago from Hudson Valley, New York

What beautiful pics! I found this hub very entertaining and would like visit Spain one day. I had no idea that you could have such extreme temperatures there!

Although I love all you pics, I could not, unfortunately view the herd of goats. The pic of your dog has some misplaced text for some reason (I've never seen that before here at HubPages). Sorry, I just thought I let you know.

Thank you so much for the hub!


Suki C profile image

Suki C 6 years ago from Andalucia, Spain Author

Hello Dohn, I'm so glad you like my first attempt at a hub - think it's good to show the other side to what is often a pre-conceived idea!

As for the photos - I have no idea why you aren't seeing them correctly. They are showing fine on my screen. Is there anywhere on the site that I can check it out do you know?


dohn121 profile image

dohn121 6 years ago from Hudson Valley, New York

I'm so sorry, Suki about the false alarm! I'm back now viewing this and it's perfect. I don't know why I saw what I saw (or didn't see for that matter). I did try refreshing too and that didn't work.

Excellent job for a first hub! Your placement is awesome and overall, very impressive, Suki. Thank you and you're doing exceptionally well so far.


TonyW 6 years ago

Au utterly enthralling first hub.

The contrasts and extreams in weather is something I wasn't aware of and I'm not sure many other people are aware of this too. The Costa del weather is not what it seems.

I love the singing dog with backing vocals and the other pictures add depth to your hub.

Looking forward to the next weather forcast.

All the best, keep up the good work

TonyW


shazza 6 years ago

very good barb think i will stick to the extremes of the British weather hehe. Love the photos, wouldn't think it was sunny spain. xx


Paula Walker 6 years ago

Brilliant,shocking and very humourous account of spanish weather Suki.Enjoyable and eye opening read! :-)


Hondon VAlley Man 6 years ago

GOSH !!! I'm shocked - I've seen a flurry or two here in Hondon Valley but not the WHITE-OUT like above. Still lovely photos... but glad these 'freaks' are few and far between.


Suki C profile image

Suki C 6 years ago from Andalucia, Spain Author

Thanks Hondon Valley Man - the white outs may be few and far between but the days when the cloud comes down the mountain seem like they last for ever - can be very depressing - especially when there's one of the frequent power cuts :(


Howard Williams 6 years ago

Hi, Im moving to Hondon de los FRailes tommorow, we are so excited myself, girlfriend and two children.

We love the snow, but hope that we dont actually see any when we are there.

Howard


Kerry 6 years ago

Descriptive, humorous and very accurate Suki. With our first winter(2005)in the same region as you, came the snow and with that came the burst water pipes. There were icicles hanging from most houses, and what with there only being one plumber in the village, the wait for repairs was long.. With the bad weather came the power cuts too. Once power was restored a cheer would go up and candles blown out, only to hear groaning 30 secs later while everybody stumbled around in the dark searching for matches to relight the candles ...again! It really made me wonder just how people used to manage without electricity and running water. It also made me think "what I wouldn't give for a hot shower and some under floor heating right now!". We are spoilt in this age of technology, but if you choose to live in rural Spain you have to take the downside as well as the ups. The reality is that when moving abroad for "a place in the sun", you have to realise that it's not going to be the answer to all your problems. Like with anywhere it has its upsides and its downsides.


Suki C profile image

Suki C 6 years ago from Andalucia, Spain Author

Howard - I'm not sure where Hondon de los Frailes is (will google it) but good luck with the move and hope things go smoothly for you and your family :)

Kerry - thanks for your great reply. Yes - many days I'd be sitting watching 'A Place in the Sun' in the semi-gloom when the presenter is saying 'you really don't need a big kitchen here as you'll be doing most of your eating outside' - when the reality is it's been chucking it down solidly for the past two weeks!!


Dick Dasterdly 6 years ago

Hi Suki,

I think anyone thinking of buying in el campo should check the place out in Jan or Feb to avoid a possible nasty surprise.

Lots of people dont realise that most of inland Spain has cold Winters and a fair bit of snow, however on the plus side mostly lots of sunshine also.

My present location,when I get back there,is about 25km inland from Valencia at 270mts asl.

Even there I have seen minus 11c a couple of times and 4 year ago quite a covering of snow, though the local villagers in the valley down below said at the time it was their first snow in 50 years.

I lived in the Canaries quite a few years,..much milder Winters,..just a bit of snow high up around Teide.

Also spent some time around Andalucia,especially the Alpujarra region,and liked it very much,but often thought it might not be such a good place to live in Wintertime.

Like your photos very much Suki,..hope to drop back in sometime...Hasta la Pasta,...D.D.


Suki C profile image

Suki C 6 years ago from Andalucia, Spain Author

Hi there Dick - good to see you here in a more civilised atmospere!! :)

You're right about the need to check it out first - too many fall in love with a place in the high summer while on holiday. Things can look so different when sitting in an almost deserted bar (apart from the obligatory Spanish old men nursing their one coffee per hour) with no heating on a gloomy January day!

We've it seen down to about minus 6 where we live - though it felt much colder in the gale force wind - but never as low as -11 !!!


Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 6 years ago from Houston, Texas

Absolutely loved reading this and seeing the beautiful photos of where you live. The only areas of Spain that we have thus far seen includes Madrid, Toledo, Barcelona and Mallorca. Would love to see more someday. Looking forward to reading more of your articles when you post them. As to the weather...few places on earth with perfect weather. LOL


Suki C profile image

Suki C 6 years ago from Andalucia, Spain Author

Hi Peggy - well, to be honest, I am glad of the diversity in the weather. it's just that the house is so cold as it was built to withstand the heat - maybe if I can get my act together on this site I may be able to afford some decent heating in a couple of years time ..... lol


Richard P 6 years ago

Rreally interesting read. Let's have some more!


Suki C profile image

Suki C 6 years ago from Andalucia, Spain Author

Thanks Richard ;) I'm working on a couple of new pages - but it's going slowly - I keep finding distractions lol!


Meg 6 years ago

Very nice photos Barb!

People back in the UK just don't realise how cold and wet it can and does get here in southern Spain.

Like many others before us when we moved here we never expected it to get to Zero in the winter, it came as quite a shock!

We have now bought a log burning fire and enough wood to keep us cosy this winter....thankfully I brought my boots and winter coats with me from the UK.


Suki C profile image

Suki C 6 years ago from Andalucia, Spain Author

Thanks for your comment Meg,

don't forget the thick fleecy pyjamas as well - I never used to wesr so much clothing to bed in the UK :))


Paradise7 profile image

Paradise7 6 years ago from Upstate New York

I don't know how I missed this hub before! What a good hub! I enjoyed the story of your experiences so much. Especially when you were expecting your husband to get all this work done and it was a miserable day (sounded like British or Upstate New York weather, eh!); and then...the real surprise! Snow! I never would have thought you'd see snow there. Good hub.


Suki C profile image

Suki C 6 years ago from Andalucia, Spain Author

I'm so glad you enjoyed reading it Paradise7. There were a LOT of miserable days ha-ha!

I know what you mean about upstate New York, I was visiting there one winter and got totally snowed in, now that WAS a cold place!


ethel smith profile image

ethel smith 6 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

Still looks beautiful to me. I bet Charlie's feet were cold lol


Suki C profile image

Suki C 6 years ago from Andalucia, Spain Author

I think he enjoyed it - he's a tough little dog :)


suziecat7 profile image

suziecat7 6 years ago from Asheville, NC

Very fun to read Hub. Looks beautiful to me too. I'd even take a dip in the pool in the fog.


Suki C profile image

Suki C 6 years ago from Andalucia, Spain Author

Suziecat - are you sure? ........ brrrrrr!!!


sannyasinman profile image

sannyasinman 6 years ago

Good hub full of realism. So, I must remember to pack my skis if I ever envisage a trip to your neck of the woods :)


Suki C profile image

Suki C 6 years ago from Andalucia, Spain Author

sannyasinman - yes, but make it water-skis in July/August :) it regularly hits 40c then!!!!


Sufidreamer profile image

Sufidreamer 6 years ago from Sparti, Greece

Great Hub, Suki, and we sympathize with you fully. So many people in the UK think that Greece is the land of perpetual sunshine, but it is very cold, wet and snowy in the winter. We even had snowball fights last year!

Looks like you have found a beautiful part of the world - I hope that you continue to enjoy living the dream :)


Granite Road 6 years ago

Great Hub, Suki. I found your connection on fotothing.

Living in the upper midwest of the United States, I have not experienced your type of weather. But then each location has it's own unique characterists.

This year October was very cold, much like November weather usually is. Then November was beautiful. So as the old saying goes in some places, if you don't like the weather, just wait for a bit and it will change.

I do believe your location would be a great place to visit.


Suki C profile image

Suki C 6 years ago from Andalucia, Spain Author

Hi there Granite Road - good to meet you here and I hope you have as much fun on this site as on fotothing :)

http://www.fotothing.com/lunacrout/

I'm surprised by your weather BTW - I always thought that the American mid-west had severe winters - shows my lack of geographical knowledge!!


Suki C profile image

Suki C 6 years ago from Andalucia, Spain Author

Sufidreamer - well, I'm guilty of thinking that Greece is all sunshine ha-ha. Are you living your dream there?


bigmikeh profile image

bigmikeh 6 years ago from UK

In the summer we visited Andalucia and spent the first few days touring before going down to the coast. We stayed in Arcos and Zahara de la Sierra, and visited Cadiz for the day. The scenery is dramatic and your pictures show very different weather to the 44 degrees we experienced.


Suki C profile image

Suki C 6 years ago from Andalucia, Spain Author

bigmikeh - yes, the extremes can certainly be dramatic. In the summer, I left a digital thermometer out in the sun to see what would happen & it broke!!!


Dim Flaxenwick profile image

Dim Flaxenwick 6 years ago from Great Britain

That was a great read. I live in the Canary Islands where the Winters are not quite as extreme as the mainland ,but you brought back memories for me. One time the winds were so strong my son(lives in the hill)and found a 'front door' landed in his garden. We never did find who'd lost their fron door..........


Suki C profile image

Suki C 6 years ago from Andalucia, Spain Author

ha ha - that must have been an experience! In our local village, people regularly find their neighbours washing on a windy day - blown off each other's rooftops!


bella 6 years ago

I love these pictures! very strange to see Spain covered in snow. I feel for you having tiled floors in the cold! xx


Meg. 6 years ago

I'm sat here at the moment feeling rather cold, but looking at these photos again has reminded me just how bad it was last year.... Thank goodness we now have the log burner. All I have to do now is convince John to light it... before the temperature drops to Zero! :-))


Suki C profile image

Suki C 6 years ago from Andalucia, Spain Author

Meg - if I had a log burner right now, I'd definitely light it, I think we're in for another cold spell!


pickled 6 years ago

I asked a question on the site and you very kindly posted this link. WOW, what fantastic pictures, I must admit I had always thought that the Costa Del Sol meant sun sun and more sun. Wrong ! Thanks for this.


Suki C profile image

Suki C 6 years ago from Andalucia, Spain Author

Pickled - these pics were taken last year - this year it's been raining virtually non-stop since mid December!!


Joanne 6 years ago

This is eye-opening stuff - I always thought the Coata del Sol was just that - sunny!

Still, it looks a beautiful place to live


Suki C profile image

Suki C 6 years ago from Andalucia, Spain Author

Thanks Joanne - it certainly is beautiful :)


Michael Jones 6 years ago

This is a great read - very amusing and informative - I'm looking forward to reading more about your life in Spain.


Trish_M profile image

Trish_M 6 years ago from The English Midlands

I'm glad I found this & sorry that I had missed it before.

I really like the Costa del Sol, and, though I expect it to be warmer and sunnier than most of Europe, I know that this is not always the case.

I remember asking a Spanish family about the snow on the mountains ~ but I didn't expect it to be found so close to the coast.

Very interesting, entertaining and illuminating.

And great photos.

Thanks! :)


Suki C profile image

Suki C 6 years ago from Andalucia, Spain Author

Hi Trish, thanks for your comment. This year we had an unusually wet winter and, in fact, there was torrential rain all day yesterday ..... in June!!


Trish_M profile image

Trish_M 6 years ago from The English Midlands

Just like home!!! :)


Wanderlust profile image

Wanderlust 6 years ago from New York City

I've been to the Costa del Sol, in the summer though and it was a lot of sun! And of course it is expected to be sunny all the time, but I personally love different weather and change of seasons. You are absolutely blessed to live in such a beautiful place! Great pictures and great writing!


Suki C profile image

Suki C 6 years ago from Andalucia, Spain Author

Thank you Wanderlust - Yes, it's July now and baking of course :)

We've just come through the wettest winter on record - but It was great as it means that we won't have our normal concerns about the water supply this year!


Meg 6 years ago

Yes just like you Barbara I'm melting in the heat, and like most here I'm complaining about it....a day of rain would be very welcome right now!

My favourite time here is autumn, winter and spring when as you know the weather is mostly wonderful!


Lala Woods 2 years ago

Great article Suki C, and oh so familiar!!! We had our first snow this year, 2013, on the 16th November!


Suki C profile image

Suki C 2 years ago from Andalucia, Spain Author

WOW - that IS early Lala!!!

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