Get us in your inbox

Heatwave in Italy
Photograph: Vereshchagin Dmitry /

Europe heatwave: how long will it last and is it safe to travel to Italy, Spain and Greece?

Here’s all you need to know about the Cerberus heatwave and the Charon anticyclone hitting Europe right now – and how it might affect your travels

Charmaine Wong
Written by
Charmaine Wong

Europeans do enjoy a little heat, but it’s getting bloody hot. The Cerberus heatwave and the new Charon anticyclone have been and are still scorching their way across parts of Europe, with record-breaking temperatures rising again throughout the week. With temperatures going well beyond 45C, there have been multiple reports of tourists collapsing at travel hotspots across the continent and a man dying in northern Italy.

As tourists flock to the Mediterranean for another busy summer holiday, the sweltering heat has caused widespread disruption to travel plans and raised health-related concerns across Europe. And the bad news is that it is projected to get even hotter this week. 

To prevent your holiday plans from being derailed by the heatwaves, it’s best to stay hydrated and informed about where and when will it be the hottest – and whether you need to stay indoors for the day. Here is the latest rundown on the hottest spots in Europe right now (literally!) and whether it’s safe to travel in the heat.

Where in Europe is currently experiencing a heatwave?

The worst-hit parts of Europe are Spain, Italy, France, Greece, Croatia and Türkiye – with temperatures predicted to approach 50C in some parts of the continent.


In Italy, sixteen cities including Florence, Bologna and Rome are on red warning alert because of the extreme weather. The islands of Sicily and Sardinia are expected to be hit with temperatures rising to as high as 48C – potentially the hottest temperatures ever recorded in Europe.

Read our explainer on the Sicily wildfires.


In Greece, temperatures reached heights of 48C last weekend and are expected to climb again to a near 41C temp later this week. Health concerns are bubbling among locals and tourists as popular destinations shut and working hours are adjusted. Athens authorities have shut down the Acropolis temporarily for three consecutive days to protect tourists from the heatwave enveloping the historic city. This week, wildfires have been ravaging Athens and the Greek islands.

Read our explainer on the Greek wildfires


In Spain, daily temperatures were recorded in the high thirties last week and could rise to as high as 44C in some regions this week. On Friday the ground temperature in some areas hit more than 60C, according to satellite recordings. With raging wildfires starting to bloom in La Palma, it is forecasted that temps won't fall below 25C at night, increasing the risk of more wildfires forming.  


In Croatia, high temperatures hit the mid-thirties last weekend, forcing authorities to take action to cope with prevent wildfires. Temps are forecasted to remain at mid-to-high 30C throughout the week, with the highest expected to be 35C on Wednesday.


In Türkiye, Istanbul recorded a high temperature of 33C on Friday and is likely to stay within the thirties throughout the week.

Why is it so hot?

Hot air is sweltering Europe this year as we go through the El Niño weather pattern and rising greenhouse gas emissions warm our climate. But this particular heatwave is worsened by a relentless anticyclone dubbed ‘Cerberus’, which is moving at high pressure from the Sahara, across northern Africa and into the Mediterranean.

Why is it called Cerberus? The Italian Meteorological Society named it after the three-headed hound of hell from Greek mythology. It’s pretty apt, right?

What are the health risks?

The main risks of heat are dehydration and overheating. These are a larger threat to people who are more vulnerable, such as older people, babies and people with existing heart and breathing conditions. But the health alerts in Italy, for instance, advise everyone – no matter how healthy – to avoid direct sunlight between 11am and 6pm.

According to the NHS, as the body rises in temperature, the heart has to work harder to keep blood circulating properly. Sweating also discards fluids and sodium from the body, so it’s crucial for people to drink more water and stay cool – ideally indoors.

The symptoms below can be signs of heat exhaustion or heatstroke:

  • Prickly heat
  • Fainting
  • Nausea
  • Headaches
  • Heavy sweating
  • Swelling of hands and feet

If you find yourself experiencing any of these symptoms, up your water intake and visit your nearest clinic or medical institution to seek immediate help.

Is it safe to travel?

Travelling in a heatwave could be uncomfortable and inconvenient, but it’s not impossible. However, there may be some disruptions for transport providers like trains and buses, as heat can affect tracks and roads. The heat that leads to summer storms or fires can also shut down air travel. (Sicily’s main airport, Catania-Fontanarossa, closed on Sunday following a fire, and will remain shut until Wednesday.)

If you might be considered vulnerable, then it might be worth cancelling your trip to avoid the risk of overheating.

If you do decide to travel, be ready for your destination to be a little on edge, and for some busy places to be closed. There have been multiple reports of tourists collapsing at crowded destinations and temporary closure of major attractions. Tourists (and everyone else) in the affected areas are encouraged to stay hydrated during their travels and keep overheating at bay. The safest option is to stay indoors, especially somewhere with air conditioning, for the late morning and most of the afternoon.

Plus: stay off the booze. ‘People who are not used to living in hot countries should also be warned against heavy drinking of alcohol during heatwaves,’ said Cristina Linares from the Carlos III Institute of Health in Madrid, as reported by The Independent.

Can I get a refund if I cancel my holiday because of the European heatwave?

This is highly unlikely, unfortunately. Most insurance policies will only cover if a trip cancellation was made under specific circumstances which may include sickness, bereavement or an unexceptionally long delay in travel.

Travel expert, Simon Calder spoke on Good Morning Britain on Tuesday and advised: ‘If you decide [to cancel your bookings] because of pre-existing medical conditions or maybe you are travelling with young people or you are an older traveller and don’t want to go, I am afraid the holiday companies say normal terms and conditions apply and you will not be able to cancel without penalty.’

Most holiday bookings have a 90-to-100 percent penalty for last-minute cancellations, so you may lose money if you decide not to continue with your travels. With that said, if you're still worried, your best bet is to contact the company concerned directly. It may be possible for you to make changes or postpone your booking – but don't hold out hope. 

How long will the European heatwave last?

The Cerberus heatwave is expected to continue throughout the week. And a second ‘heat storm’, Charon (named after the ferryman to the underworld in Greek mythology) has arrived and is driving temperatures even higher in the region – and will reportedly stick around until the end of July. So brace yourselves this summer, travellers!

As temperatures rise across Europe, here’s why you should think about travelling out-of-season this year.

Stay in the loop: sign up to our free Time Out Travel newsletter for the latest travel news and the best stuff happening across the world.

You may also like
You may also like