…and then came the snow…

Visitors to Spain may have a few misconceptions about the weather on the Iberian Peninsula. Winter in southern Spain is not hot by any stretch of the imagination. Granted Spain is the closest one can be to Africa while still being on European soil, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t have winters. Our town is about 800 metres above sea level and surrounded by the La Serranía de Ronda mountain range, which will be dusted in white several times during the winter.


La Sierra gets a dusting of snow. Photo © Karethe Linaae

Our daytime temperatures might rise into the low teens, but it can equally easily drop below freezing at night. Here in the South we can take cover from the wind on a sheltered bench and still feel the warmth of the winter sun creeping into our bones through our layers of clothing in January. We are not talking Arctic conditions, but the way that most Spanish houses are built, you are almost guaranteed to be colder than you would be at home on a wintery day in Reykjavik.


Sister with a coat. Photo © Karethe Linaae

The cold certainly doesn’t discourage sun-hungry northerners, who defy metrological warnings, arriving in town before spring in flip-flops and shorts. Never mind that they look like newly plucked hens with their goose bumps and pinkish skin. Some people will do anything to prove they had been to sunny Spain. I can understand why many Spaniards think those dumb blonde jokes are true!


Wake up, it’s snowing!


Beady eyes. Photo © Karethe Linaae

To be honest, the last thing we thought of when we moved to Spain was snow. Yet it happened during our very first Andalucian winter.

One morning we woke up after a mighty thunderous night and opened our shutters to the most magical snowy landscape. Que?! What?! Snow in Andalucía?


Field of dreams. Photo © Karethe Linaae


There was no time to waste. We immediately set out to discover Ronda dressed in white.


Our street with snow. Photo © Karethe Linaae


Young and old alike were out enjoying the snow, a phenomenon that the town had not seen for years. Actually, chances were that every child we met under the age of eight probably touched snow for the very first time that day.


Snow in my shopping cart. Photo © Karethe Linaae


We climbed to the top of the city wall to see our barrio from above and started a snowball fight with young Oscar and his father Curro, who attacked from below. It wasn’t a fair match of course – we had the advantage of elevation and gravity, in addition to a lifetime of training in snowball-fighting tactics. They were grinning from ear to ear all the same.

Continuing our photo-hunt into town, we passed snowy fields that were covered in spring blossoms only the day before. The branches of the orange and lemon trees in the town hall square hung heavy with frozen limbs.


Oranges in winter. Photo © Karethe Linaae


A thick fog was seeping into Ronda’s gorge, making a magical spectacle of haze between streaks of sunlight.


Ronda’s Tajo. Photo © Karethe Linaae


As expected, almost all businesses were closed due to the weather, as the town doesn’t own a snowplough, nor was there a snow shovel to be purchased for miles. One just had to pray that a visit to the hospital would not be needed on such a day, as the icy road up to the ER entrance would be impassable on bald summer tires.


Ronda’s Puente Nuevo. Photo © Karethe Linaae


Costa del Snow?

Of course, snow is to be expected in the Sierra Nevada which peak at nearly 3500 meters high, but what about the rest of this southern region?


Snowy palm tree. Photo © Karethe Linaae


In 2010 there was a big hoopla when it allegedly snowed – at least a few flakes – fell in the city of Seville. Some experts argued that it was merely sleet, but it was still a very newsworthy event. Why? Because it was over half a century from the last occurrence, on 2nd February 1954. Snow also fell in downtown Malaga the same year, with the city not having seen snow since 1953.


Brrr. Photo © Karethe Linaae


In 2017, for the first time in over a decade, parts of the Costa del Sol were covered in snow. The town of Mijas got as much as 6 cm, bringing out amateur photographers en masse. In January 2018 the residents renamed the coast ‘Costa del Snow’, when the beaches at Fuengirola were transformed into a winter wonderland after a heavy hailstorm. In other words, you never know…


Store sign. Photo © Karethe Linaae



Isabel, the southern snowlady

We met our first Spanish snowman on the winding road leading down to Ronda’s Arab Baths. He was just over a foot tall and had arms of delicate spring-green branches with flowering buds.


Southern snowman. Photo © Karethe Linaae


Outside the family restaurant just up the road from the Baths, Clemente the owner, was shovelling the snow with a garden spade, while teenager María, was making her first snowlady. Lola, her mother and restaurant cook, was taking photos. Maria’s snowlady was named after her grandmother Isabel, and she was given a leopard-print silk scarf for added flair.


Isabel, the Andalusian snowlady. Photo © Karethe Linaae


Sad to say, these Andalu’ snow creatures generally have a short life.


Another snow creature is melting. Photo © Karethe Linaae


Emerging after a warming café con leche less than half an hour later, the air was filled with the sound of trickling water.


Melting again. Photo © Karethe Linaae


The snow was already disappearing, and Isabel was threatening to slide off the fence (you know what they say about sitting on fences…). Rivulets of melting water were running along the cobbled road toward the stables below.


Last hour of snow. Photo © Karethe Linaae


But the big and small rondeño children were happy. We had been lucky to see Ronda in white. Who knows? It might be at least a decade until the next time we can build snowladies on the southern tip of the Iberian Peninsula.


Frosty is melting. Photo © Karethe Linaae



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