Costa Brava Weather,
Climate, and Seasons

🕔 11 mins (total)

Most visitors to La Costa Brava come in the summer months, but what about visiting our gorgeous region at a different time of the year? What kind of weather you can expect when you get here if you arrive in spring or autumn? Would it be even worth giving it a go in winter?


Before you read on, right now, the weather is not behaving as it should be! As of 1 February, just about the entire Costa Brava is officially in a state of full Drought Emergency. This became official when reservoirs in the region dropped to below 16% of their capacity, meaning that the Catalan government were forced to implement a range of restrictions on water use. These restrictions apply to agriculture, industry, and public use, including things like beach showers, for example. And, yes, there are restrictions on private use too, so no more filling swimming pools!

They published a list of some suggestions and tips to help citizens reduce water consumption at home. It was in Catalan only, so we’ve translated the document into English. Click on the link to find out how you can Save Water at Home. You can find the Catalan original with a video on the GenCat website, and also check out the Drought Viewer Map on the same website to keep track of the situation in the reservoirs. We look forward to being able to delete these two paragraphs, hopefully before too long!

The Four Seasons

The expression “four seasons in one day” is a term often heard in certain northern countries with less predictable climates, but here on the Costa Brava, things tend, for the most part, to be pretty consistent. According to meteorological calculations, the seasons are:

  • Spring: March – April – May

  • Summer: June – July – August

  • Autumn: September – October – November

  • Winter: December – January – February

But that all depends on who you ask! In countries where they use astrological (or solar) rather than meteorological reckoning, they would argue that the seasons begin with the equinoxes and solstices, so the first day of spring is around 20/21 March, summer begins on 21 June, autumn starts on 20/21 September and the beginning of winter falls just before Xmas on 21 December.

In the Gaelic calendar the equinoxes and solstices mark the middle of the seasons, so, for example, the summer solstice on 21 June, or midsummer as it is known, is, logically, the middle of summer, and therefore summer starts around the beginning of May. By the same calculations, the first day of spring is 1 February, and so on with the other seasons. (It makes perfect sense to measure the seasons by the number of hours of daylight rather than by temperatures if you live in a country where the weather is  consistently miserable all year round!)

And, of course, Down Under in the southern hemisphere, it’s all “upside down” and the opposite of here. Or maybe we’re upside down and they’re the right way up? After all, we’re just a globe floating around in space, so who’s to say which way is “up” or “down”?

Costa Brava Seasons

On La Costa Brava, from a weather point of view, when each season starts and finishes may seem to vary a bit from year to year, with summer weather sometimes already making itself felt in early May, or maybe lasting until late October, or both. Other times it can seem that winter has already begun by early November and/or can feel like it’s still here at the end of March. Generally speaking though, it’s mostly relatively predictable.

Those involved in the tourist industry on La Costa Brava often refer to the dates between 24 June and 15 September as el verano (the summer) as that is when most of the tourists are here, regardless of how the weather is behaving. There are a few weeks on either side of those dates that make up a bit of a “shoulder season” but, apart from the four days at the end of Setmana Santa, that’s really their season, and the rest is el invierno (winter)!

When to come

If your involvement in the tourist industry is from the other side, as a visitor, you’ll tend to look at the seasons of the year in a different way.

Spring here is a beautifully fresh season when everything starts to bloom and lots of colourful flowers add to the already luxuriant green associated with the region. Despite the rising temperatures there are still very few visitors around – except during Setmana Santa – and you’ll have the beach mostly to yourself, even if the sea temperatures mean the water is still a little chilly for swimming for all but the hardier souls among us.

Summertime is when the majority of visitors come to enjoy the hot (but comfortable) weather, the relatively low humidity (most of the time!) and scant rainfall, and of course the almost perfect sea temperatures. The beaches and towns are busy and La Costa Brava bustles with life, and there are numerous events held up and down the coast.

But those are the seasons you probably know best already – so let’s look at the other two:

Autumn, (or Fall, for those from across the pond) is an absolute gem of a season as the weather is still just about ideal, both on land and in the sea and, although most of the tourists are gone, the place is still full of life and all the restaurants and bars, including the xiringuitos, are still open.

This is a favourite time of year for many, if not most, of the full-time Costa Brava residents. Indeed, if we’re just talking about the weather, September, in particular, could easily be included with “summer” just about every year, (as could much of October some years). By the same logic, it could be argued that November belongs in the “winter” bracket as it is often a grey and wet month.

Winter can be chilly and it has even been known to snow on occasion – although away from the mountains and especially along the coast it’s a very rare occurrence indeed. In December, one can happily sit on an outdoor terrace in short sleeves on most days that the sun is shining (but bring your jacket, just in case!), though with the shortening hours of daylight you’ll probably have to go for your outdoor beers a bit earlier in the day as it does get chilly once the sun goes down. Who said there was anything wrong with afternoon beers anyway?

The months of January and February are the quietest of the year on the Costa Brava and many bars and restaurants close and take their holidays during this time as there is generally not a lot going on.

Summer v Winter – DST

In common with about two-thirds of countries worldwide, and just about every country in Europe, Iceland being the only exception, Spain changes its clocks twice a year for Daylight Savings Time (DST). Nowadays, however, many people feel that it is time for this practice to be done away with.

Various studies have examined in detail the supposed benefits of DST and concluded pretty emphatically that we’d be better off not changing our clocks twice a year. In fact, an EU proposal to abolish clock changes was even adopted by the European Parliament on 26 March 2019. Events including Brexit, the Covid-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine meant that the negotiations to implement the proposed abolition never got started, and so DST remains.

In addition, the studies also suggest that the Benelux countries, France and Spain are all in the “wrong” time zone, with Spain, in particular, benefitting from a potential switch to GMT. Did you know that Spain used to be an hour behind, and it was only in 1940 that Spain changed to Central European Time (CET) as Franco wanted to be in the same time zone as German-occupied Europe?

The thing is, though, that if DST were to be abolished, according to the studies it is “winter time” that is the correct time zone Spain, France and the Benelux countries should be in, not “summer time”. So, in the event of change, those countries should put their clocks back for the last time as usual in October, and never change them again – except Spain, which should wind their clocks back a further hour to return to the time zone they should be in. It all sounds a bit gloomy!

Rosa dels Vents – The “Wind Rose”

If you’ve spent any length of time along the Costa Brava you’ll surely have heard “La Tramuntana” come up in conversation, and have maybe also heard mention of the “Garbi”. Even if you haven’t been chatting to any locals you might have noticed streets, bars, restaurants, hotels, or other establishments in the area bearing such names. In case you hadn’t realized, these are winds. Every part of the world has its winds, but here they are not known simply by the direction whence they came, but by their own names.

Taken altogether the eight winds from the eight main directions form a compass that is known rather poetically in these parts as the Rosa dels Vents, or “Rose of the Winds”, or simply the Wind Rose:

La Rosa dels Vents - The Wind Rose
La Rosa dels Vents – The Wind Rose

The wind that you will hear mentioned most around here is La Tramuntana, but there are seven others (obviously!), each with its own characteristics.

So, starting from the North and working our way around clockwise, here they are:

Tramuntana – N

This is the “biggie” along the Costa Brava and also in the Balearic Islands. The name developed from the Latin trānsmontānus, meaning “across the mountains”, referring back in those days to the Italian Alps. This evolved into “tramontana” in Italian and is spelt the same way in Castellano, Basque and Gallego. In Catalan it’s spelt tramuntana and in French, tramuntane.

Whatever way it’s spelt though, here in Catalunya it refers to the cold wind that comes from the north, picking up speed as it passes through the Massif Central in France and the Pyrenees before crossing into Spain, arriving at the Mediterranean on the Costa Brava and continuing on to the Balearic Islands. On Mallorca it even lends its name to a mountain range: La Serra de Tramuntana.

Technically, as it blows across France, it is a Mestral (see below) blowing from the NW, but the topography of the land causes it to swerve around and blow from the north as it crosses into Spain, making it a Tramuntana. The Tramuntana blows more frequently in winter months, often doing so for days at a time, and is often accompanied by clear blue skies.

It commonly features in Catalan poetry and literature, and there is even a prayer to the Crist de la Tramuntana that is popular locally in this Empordà region, and although the Tramuntana can feel unpleasant at times, it is vital for the health of viticulture in this region. Maybe the prayer is for an abundance of wine?

Gregal – NE

This cold and dry northeasterly wind is more prevalent on the Balearic Islands and other western Mediterranean islands rather than here on the Costa Brava. It is believed that its name, Gregal, possibly derives from old Catalan/Valenciano/Aragonés-speaking sailors who used this wind on their trips back from Greece.

Llevant – E

The name of the easterly wind in the Med is the same as one of the names given to the Eastern Mediterranean region: Levant (Llevant in Catalan). It comes from Latin via the old French word levant, meaning “rising”, the sun rising as it does in the east. This wind tends to rise anywhere from the central Mediterranean to the Balearics and blow eastwards towards the Spanish coast, often bringing strong swells and moisture with it. When it brings good weather, it is known as a Llevant Blanc, but when it is in bad humour it can be deadly.

In September and again in December 2019, a phenomenon known as the Gota Fría (literally “cold drop”) associated with the Llevant caused torrential downpours, resulting in severe flooding and seven fatalities in south-eastern Spain. And here on the Costa Brava, who will forget Gloria, the biggest storm to hit Spain since 1982 that killed 13 people (including two in Palamós), caused enormous damage that took many months to repair, and even brought snow to some areas where snow is very rarely seen. That was also the Llevant!

Torrential rainfall caused by a Gota Fría
Torrential rainfall caused by a Gota Fría

Xaloc – SE

If you’ve heard of the Sirocco before, well, the southeasterly Xaloc and Sirocco are one and the same! Fans of French cinema will remember the scene in Jean de Florette where Jean, played by Gérard Depardieu, is praying for a storm to bring rain for his dying crops and rabbits, but when the storm does come, it’s on a hot, dry and dusty Sirocco wind, bringing with it sand from the Sahara desert.

That seems appropriate, as the name Xaloc is believed to have evolved from an old Arabic word. In fact, the Xaloc usually begins as a dry wind in northern Africa and picks up moisture as it crosses the Mediterranean and causes rainfall when it hits southern Europe. This rain is often referred to as “blood rain” because of the sand mixed up in it and can make for muddy conditions underfoot.

Because of its long sea route, the Xaloc is uncommon in Catalunya, and if it does reach these parts, it is usually quite mild by the time it gets here. On the occasions a strong Xaloc does make it across, the sand it brings can cause snow to melt on mountains, damage machinery and buildings, and, if dry, can give rise to respiratory problems. It can occasionally even bring locusts with it!! Thankfully, it’s a very rare occurrence.

Migjorn – S

The southerly wind is known as the Migjorn in Catalan, (which would be Mediodía in Spanish or “Midday” in English). It is a warm and humid wind that, due to its rareness, is often confused with its neighbours, the Xaloc and the Garbi. It is not considered a good wind for either sailing or fishing.

Garbi – SW

More often than not, you’ll see this wind on the Rosa dels Vents as the Llebeig, but on the Costa Brava, and indeed north of Barcelona in general, it is usually referred to as the Garbi. In Italian, its name is Libeccio, which came to Latin from Greek, where it used to mean Libyan – Libya being situated to the SW of Greece.

In Catalunya, for the most part, the Garbi alternates with the Tramontana, making them the two prevailing winds here. In the summertime, it is the more common of the two and it usually brings warm and humid air, occasionally carrying very fine dust from the Sahara with it, although this is more typical in the southeast of Spain than here in the northeast. It is a popular wind with windsurfers and kitesurfers. When a Garbi blows in winter it usually means rain.

Ponent – W

The name of westerly wind derives from the Latin via Italian ponente meaning “setting”, or more specifically “sunset”. This is a relatively common wind in Catalunya and, although it can sometimes be cold, it more typically arrives here warm, picking up heat en route as it crosses Iberia from the Atlantic, making it quite a pleasant wind during colder months. In summer, on the other hand, it can cause extremely high temperatures and, because it is a dry wind, it never brings rain and can increase the risk of forest fires. On the other hand, windsurfers on the Costa Brava love a good Ponent!

Mestral – NW

The northwesterly Mestral enjoys almost cult status in France, where it is called the Mistral, and where it has powerful influence all along the French Mediterranean coast. Similar to its neighbour Tramontana, it is a dry, cold, and very strong (sometimes violent) wind that blows most frequently in winter and spring and can last for anything from a day to several weeks. It is even said in Provence that if a murder was committed after Mistral had been blowing for a week it used to be treated as a crime of passion rather than cold-blooded murder!

As it blows across France from the NW it encounters the obstacles of the Massif Centrale and the Alps and then the denser cold air is channelled through the Rhone valley in between, picking up great speed. It is largely responsible for the sunny climate of the south of France and is credited with bringing good health and also clearing pollution. However, it is no friend to either the farmer or the sailor and is a danger during forest fire season.

Closer to home the Mistral also blows through the Garonne valley in France, between the Massif Centrale and the Pyrenees, then takes a right and arrives on La Costa Brava as a Tramuntana. In southern Catalunya, a true Mestral is a lot more common, and often blows a gale as it passes between the Pyrenees and the Sistema Iberico mountain ranges through the valley of the River Ebro, which flows into the sea south of Tarragona.

The Mestral is sometimes also known as cerç or serè, and in the Terres de l’Ebre it is called vent de dalt as well, but here in the Empordà people usually refer to it as the Mestral. Traditional masia farmhouses, both in Catalunya and Le Midi in southern France (where they are called mas) were built facing south-southeast away from the Mestral and Tramontana, and with the back wall windowless as protection from these winds, such was their strength.

So there you have it; that’s Costa Brava weather for you!

4 Seasons, 8 Winds, and the Rosa dels Vents!

Share this story on:


You might also like