Simon Calder, aka The Man Who Pays His Own Way, has written about travel for The Independent since 1994. In his weekly opinion column, he explores the ultimate travel issue and what it means for you.
“Stay inside, close all windows and shutters” doesn’t sound like much of a holiday to me. But as Alison Roberts, a journalist in northern Portugal, told BBC Radio Scotland, it is official advice to deal with the extreme heat that has plagued the interior of the country, which has reached 47 degrees Celsius in the Douro Valley in recent days.
“We see extremely high fire danger in central and northern Portugal,” she said Live at noon.
Across the border in Spain, the BBC is forecasting average highs of 35C or more in Seville for the next two weeks. The temperature will not drop below 20C during the holidays either.
Madrid, the capital of Spain, should feel fresher because it is the highest capital in the EU. The 657m (2,156ft) elevation didn’t help much on Friday night, with daytime temperatures peaking at 7pm at 37C, the normal body temperature (98.6F).
Nine months of winter, three months of hell this is how Madrileños describe their climate: nine months of winter, three months of hell.
Weather Service spokeswoman Annie Shuttleworth said Independent that temperatures in parts of southern Europe could be 10C higher than average during the third summer heat wave.
All this puts the southerners of the continent in a painful situation. People living in southern latitudes year-round face more extreme weather conditions, as well as the imminent threat of wildfires and long-term chronic drought.
In contrast, vacationers have a choice of where to spend their time and money. Could British travelers decide that August in the deep south of Europe no longer appeals? Strong demand for Mediterranean travel at the moment suggests otherwise, with Saturday afternoon seats from the London area to Málaga journeys on Sunday averaging £250 one way, excluding baggage.
However, as global leaders grapple with the potential effects of climate change, the ever-increasing likelihood of being told to stay indoors behind closed shutters (or, more likely, inadequate air conditioning) should be a rethink.
It is a matter of degrees: the ratio of latitude to temperature. Of course, it is far from a linear relationship. Altitude and proximity to the ocean have a powerful effect, and extreme heat can occur in the strangest places: just ask the people of Coningsby, Lincolnshire, where the UK’s highest temperature was recorded (July 19, 2022, 40.3C). It’s 104.5F in old money, although it was a bit stronger on the Skegness coast on this hot Tuesday.
Destinations are chosen according to a wide variety of criteria: culture, cuisine, countryside… But if you take our two favorite countries for overseas travel, Spain and France, their continental parts cover a wide spread of latitudes: approximately 36 to 43 for Spain, from 42 to 42 51 for France.
The beaches of Dunkirk in the far north of France are a match for those in the deep south-west beyond Perpignan, and are easier and cheaper to reach for many British travellers. In Spain, the Galician coast in the extreme north-west is as tempting as the Costa del Sol, and the Atlantic Ocean ensures that air conditioning is rarely considered.
As an August escape, I praised what I created last year (partly because international travel was so complicated in those absurd “traffic light” days): Shetland.
At a latitude of 60 north, sun lotion is optional. The island’s capital, Lerwick, will reach a steady 15C next week. And you can reach this amazingly picturesque and historic archipelago without a flight. You could recalibrate your rides next summer.