Moving to Spain For Members

Is it worth living in Spain if the summers are so unbearably hot?

Esme Fox
Esme Fox - [email protected]
Is it worth living in Spain if the summers are so unbearably hot?
Is it worth moving to Spain if for almost half of the year it can be uncomfortably hot? Photo: CRISTINA QUICLER / AFP

Summers in Spain have always been hot but every year temperatures inch up and heatwaves last longer, with people in the 'frying pans' of the country locked indoors for months. Is it worth envisioning a future in scorching Spain?


Europe - particularly countries around the Mediterranean - is in the midst of an intense heatwave of 40+ degrees Celsius, the third heatwave of the summer so far for Spain.

Admittedly, sweltering summers are nothing new to España. Al fresco summer chats are so intrinsically Spanish that there were calls for them to get protected UNESCO status.

Spanish homes are traditionally built to be dark to keep out the heat during the sizzling summers. 

And since the advent of mass tourism in the 1950s, foreigners have flocked to Spain for its great climate and hot summers, with guaranteed beach weather and hardly any rain during July, August and September.

However, over the last few years summer temperatures have been so high so often that ordinary life in Spain is becoming, well, unliveable.

Spain is becoming 'too hot'

In 2022, during an intense heatwave, a scientist at Spain’s National Research Council (CSIC) stated that that year's summer would be “one of the coolest for the rest of our lives”.

More than 60,000 burnt hectares due to wildfires and there were 510 deaths as a result of heat-related causes

At the time, 2022 was billed as the hottest year in Spain on record, with a further heatwave in October and temperatures of 34C recorded at the beginning of November. Spain also experienced the second earliest heatwave on record in June and very high temperatures in May.

Spain has had over 100 heatwaves since 1975, but they’re starting earlier in the year, becoming more frequent and lasting longer.

So far during the summer of 2023, there have been three heatwaves with temperatures above 40C in a period of just over three weeks.

READ ALSO: Spain braces for third summer heatwave in under a month


But the first heatwave of this year was actually in April. In fact, spring 2023 was the hottest spring on record.

Mainland Spain recorded its hottest-ever temperature for April, hitting 38.8C in Córdoba, data from the national weather office showed.

The first summer heatwave in 2023 occurred as early as June, when the mercury reached 44C in parts of the Guadalquivir Valley around Córdoba and Seville.

Summers now last almost five months, so practically half of the year is hot in some parts of the country, and the hot season keeps getting longer. Over the last 50 years, summers have gone from being 90 days long to 145 days a year.

Springtime on the other hand is shortening, only lasting a couple of weeks in some places before the intense summer begins.

READ ALSO: Where are the hottest places in Spain every year?



Is Spain ready for it to get hotter?

One big draw about living in Spain is its outdoors lifestyle. People eat al fresco year-round in some areas but this is becoming increasingly unfeasible during the summer months when even after midnight the mercury can linger above 30C, making it almost impossible to sleep for many.

Despite cool interior patios and small windows being a blessing from Spain's Moorish past, Spanish cities and homes are not adapted to such extreme temperatures.

How long can Spain maintain its outdoor lifestyle as average temperatures creep up every summer? (Photo by GERARD JULIEN / AFP)

According to the latest data available from real estate giant Idealista, only one in three properties in Spain are equipped with air conditioning, and not all restaurants and bars have it installed either.

In the Middle East, the inhabitants of cities such as Doha or Dubai drive from one air-conditioned mall to another without ever walking outdoors, during the summer months in particular. Is this what the future holds for Spain?

According to a study by ETH University of Switzerland, by the year 2050, Madrid will have a similar climate to that of Marrakech in Morocco.


Aside from daily life, the driving force of Spain's economy - tourism - could also be affected by it simply getting too hot.

Journalist Simon Kuper from the Financial Times wrote in 2022 that tourism “will gradually shift from Spain’s overbuilt south coast to the lovely cool north, as summer heat morphs from attraction into a threat”.


Spain is turning into a desert

Desertification affects about a fifth of Spain’s land and according to Jaime Martínez Valderrama, a postdoctoral researcher at CSIC's Experimental Station for Arid Zones, "75 percent of the Spanish territory has the potential to turn into a desert".  

"Except for the most humid areas in the north of the peninsula, which have a low rate of erosion and aridity, the rest of insular and mainland Spain is at risk of desertification to different degrees," adds Estanislao Arana, academic director of the Water Economy Forum.

Eighty percent of the Canary Islands and Murcia are currently at risk of desertification, whereas in Castilla-La Mancha, the Valencian Community and Andalusia it's more than half. 

And it's happening already. A severe drought has been affecting much of southern and eastern Spain over the last year.

Reservoirs are down to less than half their capacity in parts of Catalonia and Andalusia, and water restrictions are currently in place in many areas.

Much of Spain is at risk from desertification. Photo: CESAR MANSO / AFP

In fact, according to research published last year by the journal Nature Geoscience, Spain is suffering its driest climate for at least 1,200 years, caused by an atmospheric high-pressure system driven by climate change. 

READ ALSO - Explained: How tourism might be affected by the drought in Spain this summer

Therefore, so-called 'Empty Spain' is likely to end up even emptier as people flee the scorching interior of the Iberian Peninsula and head for the slightly cooler coasts.

According to Spain's National Institute of Statistics (INE), 22 million Spaniards live in the 100 most populated municipalities in Spain, and around half of the total Spanish population is concentrated in four percent of the national territory. 

This means that if you’re still considering moving to Spain, you’ll have to think very carefully about where you want to live. There may be lots of property bargains in the centre and south of the country, but whether you’ll be able to live there or not in the future is a different matter.



Is it worth moving or staying in an increasingly hot Spain?

This is of course a personal choice. The stats portray plenty of doom and gloom for Spain but you'll be hard pressed to find a country that isn't facing climate change challenges in the near and more distant future. 

If the thought of having to spend the majority of your days indoors from July to September dissuades you from moving to Spain, then you'd be best off avoiding cities such as Madrid, Zaragoza, Toledo, Sevilla, Córdoba, Granada or Jaén (the 'frying pans' of Spain). That's an approach which applies to current summer temperature trends, not a look ahead to what it will be like in 10 or 20 years.

If you're thinking of buying a property and planning long-term, then it may be a case of swapping the Costa del Sol for the Costa da Morte in the northeastern Galicia region. That greener northern belt of the Iberian Peninsula is by far the coolest area in summer, although you can expect plenty of rain for the rest of the year. 

These climatological changes will be gradual, but Spain will progressively be hotter more often and for longer; heatwaves, droughts and wildfires will be more common, and the Spanish lifestyle will, to a greater or lesser extent, be affected.





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