Looking to top up the tan and get your fix of Vitamin D this year? Check out this guide to the warmest places in Europe. It scours the continent in search of the balmiest spots of all, taking a look at average yearly temperatures, the number of sunshine hours on offer, and the record highs that each place has to whittle it down to just seven picks.
Naturally, most of them are in the southernmost quarters of Europe. That’s where the temps tend to crank up the highest. Lots are on islands, what with the Canaries closer to Marrakesh than to Madrid. However, we’ve also got mainland regions filled with beach towns that are easily accessible on both short- and long-haul flights.
Of course, you’re likely to find that the hottest part of the calendar in these places is the summer months. Travel from May and August and you might just be in line to feel the full brunt of the warmest temperatures of all, while winter trips for a bit of festive sun could also be on the cards for those traveling between November and March.
The Canaries are by far the most southerly islands in Europe. They’re actually geographically a part of the African tectonic plate, popping up from the Atlantic Ocean some 60 miles from the coastline of Morocco at the closest point. That should give just a hint as to what the weather’s like in these parts – AKA, it’s warm!
Lanzarote is the balmiest of the whole Canadian chain. It gets higher temperatures than its compadres because it’s right there on the cusp of North Africa. That means weather systems and hot winds can come across from the Sahara Desert to really crank up the thermometer readings. The good news is that things don’t get much cooler in the winter, either – you’re looking at highs of 81 F (27 C) in December here, folks!
The island is one darn incredible place. It’s hardly a wonder it’s been used as a backdrop for alien landscapes in films like Planet of the Apes. Just look at the Lunar-like backcountry, scarred by big valleys and smoking volcanos. You can go and explore lava fields up close at the Timanfaya National Park, or just hit the surf at Caleta Beach.
Madeira is another one of those fragments of Europe that sits hundreds of miles off the edge of the continent itself. It’s a whopping 530 miles from the side of the Portuguese Algarve, no less. That means flights from Heathrow can take in the region of four hours from start to finish. The reward? A destination that’s got mild, summery weather virtually all year round.
Yep, like the Canaries before it, Madeira is blessed with an average yearly temperature of 67 F (19.3). It’s almost never below 60 F (16 C) in the winter months, but June to August see consistent highs in the 90s. What’s more, most of the rain will fall on higher ground, leaving cities like Funchal and the coast to enjoy sunshine even in January and December.
All that’s combined to make Madeira a doozy of a winter-sun hotspot. However, recent years have seen it pivot to become of an adventure-travel mecca to boot, offering gnarly ridge walks on soaring volcanos and treks to long-lost waterfalls in the central valleys.
Crete’s one of the few places that manages to get so far south that it actually ditches the Mediterranean climate zone altogether. You will need to hop across the soaring Lefka Ori mountains to reach the part of the island that does that, though. It’s about a two-hour drive from Chania Airport on a gorgeous road through the peaks. Once that’s done, you’ll be in a region that sits in the North African climate zone and is washed by the bath-warm Libyan Sea, one of the warmest seas on the continent.
The hottest parts of the island are generally thought to be around the Mesara Plain, an ancient alluvial farming plain that’s topped by the Minoan palace of Phaistos (be sure to visit that!). Temperatures almost always peak over 104 F (40 C) every year and maintain levels above 77 F (25 C) well into the fall months there. We recently visited in October…let’s just say we were sunning ourselves every day of our trip!
There’s plenty to get through in this scorching corner of Greece’s largest island. Check out the free-loving town of Matala, where you can walk through caves where hippies lived in the 1960s. Or head over to Agia Galini to sip Greek coffee while watching the bobbing boats in the harbor. This is also the home of the Samaria Gorge, an incredible canyon that you can hike from end to end (just drink plenty of water!)
Even the winter months in Portugal’s southernmost region can get upwards of 170 hours of sunshine, while summertime highs can blaze past the 100 F mark and stay there for weeks and weeks on end. So, it’s hardly a surprise that this one’s regularly touted as one of the warmest places in Europe by travel agents.
The hottest part of the Algarve itself is usually in the western and southern Algarve, somewhere between the towns of Sagres and Vila do Bispo. Known for their reliable surf beaches and dramatic Atlantic coastline, those places see upwards of 3,000 hours of sunshine throughout the whole year. Thankfully, the proximity of the ocean can temper things a little, with regular onshore breezes that make even hiking the Costa Vicentina trails a bearable activity.
However, most holidaymakers stick to the far south coast of the Algarve. That’s home to popular resort towns like party-mad Albufeira and historic Tavira, along with miles and miles of gold-sand beaches where you can go to make the most of the good weather.
Sicily – currently holding the record high among the warmest places in Europe
Sicily recently reported a summertime high of 119.8 F (48.8 C). That would give the Italian island the record for the highest ever recorded temperature in Europe, a crown previously held by Athens after the Greek capital measured highs of 118.4 F back in 1977. The new chart-topping mercury level was felt in the ancient city of Syracuse on the east coast of Sicily in August 2021.
The thing is that Sicily is pretty hot for much of the year anyway. Summertime highs regularly touch the 100 F mark, and that’s without any freak heatwaves. However, soaring temperatures – and, sadly, the destructive wildfires that go with them – are becoming all the more common here, and local agencies are warning that climate change will have a disastrous effect on the island’s infrastructure.
Sicily tends to be a holiday favorite from the first signs of summer in May. The season will run all the way to October before things cool down again. There is loads to see. Syracuse is a gateway to gorgeous east-coast beaches and even hiking paths up Mount Etna, but you should also check out gritty Palermo and the so-called Valley of the Temples.
Like Madeira before it, the Azores sit well out in the Atlantic Ocean, far from the coast of their motherland in Portugal. Lush, green, booming with biodiversity, and cut through by volcanos, these islands are truly wonderful to behold. They’ve got bucket-list hiking paths (check out the route to the summit of Mount Pico, Portugal’s highest peak) and oceans filled with whales (the main season for watching is April to September)
Temperature wise, this one edges onto this list of the warmest places in Europe because it manages a pretty hefty yearly average of 63.5 F (17.4 C). That’s the mean mercury level throughout the entire year, so expect lower dips in winter, but also highs closer to the 80s in the summer. You should also know that half the islands in the Azores archipelago are rated as subtropical. They are the hotter ones, so check out Flores and Corvo if you really want to feel the heat.
There are some ups and downs in the climate calendar in this far-flung corner of the Atlantic. They’re mainly down to the presence of the so-called Bermuda-Azores High, which draws cold air from the arctic in winter (think enough to put snow on the Azores mountains) and tropical air from the south Atlantic in the summer (when temperatures soar).
Spain’s much-loved southerly region is a shoo-in for this list of the warmest places in Europe. It’s been offering sun seekers virtually guaranteed rays and warmth for decades, and hosts many of the best-known beach resorts on the continent, from chic Marbella to the sands of Mijas Costa. Then you get the capital, Seville…
Seville is said to be the hottest city in all of Spain. The annual average temperature for the whole year is a sun cream-splattering 66.2 F (19 F). But that’s nothing on what the summer highs can offer, as one disputed record that supposedly dates from the 1880s said that Seville once scorched to 122 F (50 C), although modern records say that the nearby town of Montoro holds the current national record (117.1 F, set in 2017).
The good news is that Andalusia has plenty of places where you can escape to when the thermometers start going haywire. The beaches are the obvious choice, but they’re not the only option. You can also venture up high into the inland mountains. There, the wooded trails of the Parque Natural Sierra de Hornachuelos and the dusty Sierra Nevada offer a welcome respite from the heat.
The warmest places in Europe – a conclusion
The warmest places in Europe are spread all over the continent. From the sun-baked hills of Andalusia in southern Spain to the wave-splashed isles of the Azores far out in the Atlantic Ocean, there are loads of places where T-shirts and shorts are the wardrobe of the day. Some even stay warm throughout the whole winter, meaning they are great options for that cold-season bout of tanning and sunbathing.