The Rain in Spain Falls Mainly in…Galicia

Last May, when I was telling everyone in southern Spain that I was moving up north to work in the region of Galicia, all the Andalusians I talked to would reply something along the lines of “OOOOOOOH it’s SOOOOOO rainy there!!! It rains SOOO MUCH in Galicia!!!” Not “watch out, they speak a different language there” or “the food is really delicious”—it was always something about the rain.

Over the course of the school year, I diligently recorded whether it rained or not in Santiago de Compostela—a simple “yes” or “no” tally of days with and without rain. People made things sound like it was perpetually raining in Spain’s northwestern-most region, so I set out to prove them wrong (or right).

I kept this tally from September 24th, 2013, through the day I moved out, May 29th, 2014. I didn’t record any data while I traveled outside the region, but during those eight or so months, it rained in Galicia 108 days and it was sunny, overcast, or not raining for 102 days. It’s hard to compare, for example, with Málaga’s advertised 350 days of sunshine each year, but it’s definitely a far cry from the exaggerated 100% raininess that my Andalusian compadres made things out to be.

You can see visually, though, that there were distinct waves of rain and sunshine: in the calendar below, I’ve highlighted the days it rained in green and colored days when it didn’t rain in yellow (travel outside Galicia is gray).

Rain in Galicia, Spain

October, January, and February were pretty miserable months; and while my personal tally shows a few days without rain in January and February, the official count registered rain on literally every. single. day. of those two months—60 straight days of rain. This happened because we had multiple back-to-back borrascas, intense low-pressure systems that battered Galicia week after week. It was pretty bad.

But you can also see we had a few dry spells here and there. The veranillo de San Martín during early November and mid December gave us almost six straight weeks of sunshine during this “little summer” in the peak of autumn. Half of March was truly spring-like, and most of May lived up to the warmth you’d expect from this month.

Rain in Galicia, Spain

The Spanish equivalent of——keeps track of daily precipitation amounts, so I pulled up the charts for Santiago de Compostela during this time period and came up with similar data. You can see a nice “Welcome to Galicia!” storm at the end of September and a particularly intense rainy season in October, but then it’s all smooth sailing until Christmas, when the dreaded winter borrascas arrived. Things calm down once we get to March, with some expected showers here and there until the end of the school year.

So what were these rainy days actually like? Obviously the binary of yes/no doesn’t allow for any nuance in terms of “light sprinkle” vs. “monsoon flooding,” so I do need to clarify things a bit.

There were days this school year when the floodgates of heaven were let open for 24 hours, and others when I had to open my umbrella for a few minutes and that was the end of that. Sometimes the day would start off bright and sunny, only to turn cloudy and start raining by lunchtime. A morning storm might blow over by the afternoon, or you could have a day when you’re stuck carrying an umbrella around all day—it might sprinkle for a little bit, stop for a few hours, rain cats and dogs for half an hour, then stop again.

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That’s Galicia for you: as they say here, “onde a choiva é arte”—where rain is an art. Rain is also unavoidable, so for anyone planning a visit or a move to this beautiful region, here are ten tips for staying dry in Galicia:
  1. Never leave your house. Just don’t.
  2. When you do give in and leave your apartment, always carry an umbrella. If you forget it, it will rain.
  3. Always have a backup umbrella (or five) at home. IKEA has great deals on sturdy, affordable umbrellas; check ’em out.
  4. Don’t get too attached to your umbrella; in the winter, sidewalks become umbrella graveyards.
  5. When it’s raining, try to walk beneath the balconies on either side of the street.
  6. Invest in some rubber rain boots. This includes us guys, too—this summer I bought some sneaker-shaped rain boots from Tretorn that I hope will do the trick.
  7. If your shoes get absolutely soaked, stuff them with newspaper and let them dry out overnight.
  8. Wait out the worst of a storm beneath an overhanging ledge, a balcony, or just pop in to a café-bar and warm up over a café con leche.
  9. Watch where you step—there are always puddles hanging around even if it’s not raining, and sometimes when the stones are loose they can suddenly pivot and splash water all over your dry toes.
  10. Take the bus.

Rain in Galicia, Spain
A typical Galician day: overcast

Have you ever experienced the infamous Galician rain? Does the rain in Spain ever fall in the plain? Talk about it below in the comments section!

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