Escape the heatwave: 17 magical destinations for a cool summer holiday

Doesn't that look refreshing? - Luca Roncorong & Dave Ruane ,, photo by Asaf Kliger.
Doesn't that look refreshing? - Luca Roncorong & Dave Ruane ,, photo by Asaf Kliger.

Britain is roasting. It is 30C in London right now, and more hot weather is forecast for the coming weeks. Can't stand the heat, nor the prospect of cooking on a Mediterranean beach surrounded by sunburned Brits? Here are 17 cooler options for a holiday this summer.

1. The Azores

Temperature right now: 24C

This Portuguese archipelago is almost 1,000 miles off the coast of North Africa, but it is easily accessible via direct flights from London to Ponta Delgada, the capital (courtesy of Ryanair), with a flying time of just four hours. The volcanic scenery of lava tubes, crater lakes and calderas is astounding: if there’s a Lost World in Europe, this is it. Summer is the best time to see sperm whales and dolphins, and there are dozens of Blue Flag beaches from which to swim.

This is "Europe's answer to Hawaii", according to Telegraph Travel's Chris Leadbeater, "lost in deep seas; steep-sided, beautiful and wild."

He adds: "There are nine main outcrops in total, each with a distinct character and charm – making for escapades which take in Portuguese colonial heritage, high-rise vistas, lava-fried ruins, intriguing cuisine, quiet beaches and the graceful sight of marine mammals breaking the Atlantic’s surface. The Azores are the antidote to the idea of a Europe shorn of surprises – strangers in the ocean’s zealous grip."

Explore Europe's answer to Hawaii
Explore Europe's answer to Hawaii

A seven-night holiday featuring three islands in the Azores costs £1,836 per person based on an early August departure and including return flights (

2. Lofoten Islands, Norway

Temperature right now: 14C

It has beautiful beaches, like Utakleiv, pictured below, as well as stunning mountains and fjords. And despite its Arctic Circle location, the Gulf Stream means temperatures sometimes top 20C in summer.

Share the beach with sheep in Norway - Credit: Michael Krutzenbichler, 2017/daitoZen
Share the beach with sheep in Norway Credit: Michael Krutzenbichler, 2017/daitoZen

"It is heaven for hikers," says Telegraph Travel’s Oliver Smith. "Those soaring landscapes looked daunting from afar but have been made accessible by a network of trails. Views from the water are equally beguiling. Several companies offer guided sea kayaking tours – perfect for exploring hidden coves and islets. Others use speedy, high-powered RIBs (rigid inflatable boats) for whistle-stop trips to the narrow Trollfjord.

The landscapes are epic - Credit: RUDI1976 - STOCK.ADOBE.COM
The landscapes are epic Credit: RUDI1976 - STOCK.ADOBE.COM

"There is more besides, with countless beautiful ports such as Nusfjord, Henningsvaer and Kabelvag (which dates back to the ninth century, making it the oldest village above the Arctic Circle), in each of which visitors can see those classic pyramids of cod drying on wooden racks, and rent cosy, rustic wooden fishermen’s huts, or rorbuer."

SAS flies to Lofoten, see for more information.  

3. Outer Hebrides, Scotland

Temperature right now: 15C

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"Visitor numbers to Scotland are booming, but only a fraction make it to this archipelago, where white-tailed eagles fly low and white-sand beaches are devoid of people," says Lorna Parkes. "Older children can snorkel with seals or take surfing lessons, while Neolithic ruins and Gaelic music will charm younger children. The only guarantee with the weather is unpredictability, and there may of course be midges – but if you’re ever going to make it to the Outer Hebrides, summer is the time to head there."

Take a ferry from Oban to Barra ( or fly from Manchester to Stornoway ( Gearrannan Blackhouse Village ( on the Isle of Lewis offers family cottages.

18 amazing places you won't believe are in Scotland

4. Koster Islands, Sweden

Temperature right now: 22C

The Scandinavian summer - bright nights and welcoming temperatures - finds its feet in July. And does so with gusto in the Koster Islands - a tiny archipelago 100 miles north of Gothenburg in the Skagerrak Strait. Car-free, these birdlife havens proffer gentle days of hiking and cycling.

The Koster Islands - Credit: ALAMY
The Koster Islands Credit: ALAMY

An alternative option is the Skane region, to the east of Malmo. It is sometimes called the Swedish Riviera and can boast some terrific sandy stretches. Ystad is one of the most popular resorts.

See our guide to the best hotels in Sweden.

5. Lake Bled, Slovenia

Temperature right now: 27C

Central Europe rarely looks prettier than on the banks of Lake Bled – a glacial bowl of water in the Julien Alps, 35 miles north of the Slovenian capital Ljubljana ( Bled Island, in the middle, is the cherry on an already delicious cake.

Did you know? | Five quirky facts about Slovenia

Steve Fallon, our Slovenia expert, says: "Mild thermal springs warm the water of this impossibly beautiful cobalt-blue lake to 26°C, making it a great place for a dip well into autumn: there are swimming areas on the northern and western shores. But what makes it even more special is the tiny, tear-shaped island toward the western side of the lake. On it you can visit a small museum and the lovely Church of the Assumption with some 14th-century fresco fragments and a gold baroque altar. If you need a special favour, ring the ‘wishing bell’ in the 15th-century church belfry and it will be granted."

See our guide to the best hotels in Slovenia. More info at

25 places in Eastern Europe you must see in your lifetime

6. The Faroe Islands

Temperature right now: 12C

Familiar to most people only from the shipping forecast, the windswept Faroe Islands together form an autonomous province of Denmark. The archipelago possesses some lovely beaches - not least at Sandur, a village on the island of Sandoy with a population of 600 - to go with starkly beautiful mountainous interiors. It is also an unlikely option for a gastronomic holiday.

Cool off in the Faroe Islands - Credit: GETTY
Cool off in the Faroe Islands Credit: GETTY

"Wild, wet and windy for almost 365 days a year, the Faroe Islands are a playground for adventure seekers and inquisitive foodies, whatever the weather or season," says Simon Parker, writing for Telegraph Travel. "The short summer, however, is the best time to catch a glimpse of the millions of migrating seabirds that nest all over this isolated archipelago, and with just a few hours of darkness each day, due to the Faroes’ northerly latitude, hikes can continue long into the night. The island also now boasts its own Michelin-starred restaurant, Koks, in the picturesque coastal village of Kirkjubøur. If you’re lucky enough to snag a reservation, then far-reaching Atlantic views will be accompanied by a 16-course tasting menu that has been foraged, farmed and fermented, sometimes just metres from your table."

See our guide to the best places to stay, and the best things to see and do.

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7. Guernsey

Temperature right now: 23C

The second biggest of the Channel Islands does woozy summer days without breaking the thermometer, and August is a fine time to tackle its biggest draw: the coast.

"There are 27 very different bays to choose from – some with long and popular stretches of sand, others hidden coves which rarely attract tourists," says Jill Chadwick, our expert. "The beautiful south coast is lined with stunning cliffs best explored on foot.

St Peter Port - Credit: johnbraid - Fotolia
St Peter Port Credit: johnbraid - Fotolia

"But this little island packs in many other enticements. Hilly St Peter Port, with its cobbled streets and Regency architecture, is, in my admittedly biased opinion, one of the prettiest harbour towns in Europe. It includes two of the island’s top attractions, in the form of Castle Cornet, the 800-year-old fortress that guards the harbour, and Hauteville House, eccentrically designed by its one-time owner Victor Hugo. Elsewhere, you'll find several absorbing museums dedicated to the German occupation of Guernsey in World War Two."

Macs Adventure sells a self-guided "Guernsey Coastal Path" walking tour which covers its full 40 miles in seven days, starting and finishing in the capital St Peter Port. See our guide for more suggestions.

8. Meck-Pomm, Germany

Temperature right now: 27C

Chances are you've never heard of Meck-Pomm (or, more formally, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern). It's "Germany's answer to Norfolk", according to John Gimlette, "vast, lightly populated, and with an enormous seascape". Go for remote beaches, busy little seaside towns, and - for the inevitable rainy day - a pair of Germany’s newest and brightest museums: Phantechnikum (home to a brilliant collection of curiosities and gadgets) and Ozeaneum (an aquarium with a family of penguins on the roof).

See our guide to the best hotels in Germany.

Summer in Germany? Swap Spain for strandkorbs this year - Credit: Jenny Sturm - Fotolia
Summer in Germany? Swap Spain for strandkorbs this year Credit: Jenny Sturm - Fotolia

9. Iceland

Temperature right now: 12C

If you don't mind black sand, head for Vík í Mýrdal on Iceland's south coast - often named among the most beautiful beaches in the world. It's easy to see why, with its soaring cliffs and basalt stacks out to sea.

Vík í Mýrdal - Credit: ALAMY
Vík í Mýrdal Credit: ALAMY

But Iceland's main attractions are away from the coast: lonely lava plains, feisty geysers and volcanoes, eerie caves and hot springs. Between June and August, of course, the sun barely sets – and even when it does go down the sky remains eerily bright. It takes some getting used to, but means that your days of sightseeing aren’t limited by nightfall.

See our guide to the best hotels in Iceland.

Tourist arrivals | Iceland


Temperature right now: -5C

Sweden's famous ICEHOTEL is only open in winter. Luckily, it launched a permanent alternative in 2016. ICEHOTEL 365 uses solar power to keep the ice solid during warmer summer months – inside it is still an exceptionally chilly -5C (sounds like bliss). There are 20 bedroom, an ICEBAR serving up lashing of champagne, and an art gallery lined with frozen works. 

Discover the World offers four-night summer breaks, including one night inside ICEHOTEL 365, and another in the quirky Treehotel, from £1,380 per person including flights. 

You can stay in an ICEHOTEL even in summer
You can stay in an ICEHOTEL even in summer

11. Denmark

Temperature right now: 26C

The Danish capital's charms are well known. It is one of the greatest cities in the world for food, with the most recent Michelin guide awarding 15 Copenhagen restaurants a total of 19 stars. It is also child-friendly - think biking, boat rides and the trippy Tivoli Gardens amusement park - and cheap to fly to from all over the UK in July and August.

But few think to escape the city and explore the rest of Denmark. "You’re seldom far from the coast and some surprisingly lovely beaches," explains our expert, Andrew Stone. "The timber-framed houses of harbour towns such as Faaborg and Svenborg on sleepy Odense give way to gently rolling farmland and woods. If that’s all still too much like a rat-race, head for sleepy, gorgeous Bornholm island by train or overnight ferry. It’s a Baltic idyll with beechwoods and fine sandy beaches."

See our guide to the best hotels in Denmark.

12. Latvia

Temperature right now: 26C

Yes, Latvia has beaches. Beautiful ones. The photograph below was taken at Saulkrasti, a short hop north from Riga, while just 15 miles west of the capital lies Jurmala, a summer holiday favourite of Brezhnev and Khrushchev with an impressive 21-mile sandy beach. Temperatures can top 20C in high summer, so you might even need sun cream.

Surprise your loved ones with a trip to Latvia - Credit: GETTY
Surprise your loved ones with a trip to Latvia Credit: GETTY

13. Finland

Temperature right now: 25C

Who needs the seaside when there are lakes to explore. The EU’s northernmost state calls itself the "Land of a Thousand Lakes". This is actually an under-selling, as Finland has 188,000 bodies of water, including Lake Saimaa, the largest. Nordic calmness encapsulated.

Browse our guide to the best hotels or see for more information.

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14. Madeira

Temperature right now: 19C

"Madeira is not Ibiza," explains Gavin Bell. "It attracts a more mature clientele, and raving is limited to enthusing about the island’s dramatic scenery and botanical wonders. One of the earliest ravers was H N Coleridge, nephew of the poet, who waxed lyrical after a visit in 1825: 'I should think the situation of Madeira the most enviable on the whole earth. It ensures every European comfort with almost every tropical luxury.' Madeirans know this of course, and over the years have enhanced their quality of life by producing a cornucopia of fine food and wine. They have also helpfully provided access to their tumultuous countryside by building more than 1,000 miles of irrigation channels, accompanied by footpaths that snake through the kind of striking landscapes dreamt up by J R R Tolkien."

Madeira is heaven for hikers - Credit: GETTY
Madeira is heaven for hikers Credit: GETTY

15. Austria

Temperature right now: 23C

Ditch the beach this summer and head to the Alps for blue skies and even-handed heat. Austria plays its part at Saalbach-Hinterglemm - a hiking oasis which is easily accessed from Salzburg.

Inghams sells holidays at the Hotel Alpine Palace in Hinterglemm - a five-star, with indoor and outdoor pools, which makes a fine base for days of wandering on foot.

At a glance | Five more great summer breaks in the Alps

16. Nova Scotia

Temperature right now: 23C

"It’s only a six-hour flight from London to Halifax, the capital, making Canada’s easterly Maritime provinces an easy long-haul option for summer," says Lorna Parkes. "You won’t get the hulking great mountains here, but you still get the classic Canadian spruce forests and waterside living. Nova Scotian children live like fish – and yours can, too. Hire kayaks, learn to sail and take advantage of the highest tides in the world."

A 12-night Bay of Fundy fly-drive holiday costs from £1,339 per person including whale watching but excluding flights.

Nova Scotia - Credit: NANCY ROSE
Nova Scotia Credit: NANCY ROSE

17. Andorra

Temperature right now: 20C

"Catalan-speaking Andorra is a curious mini-country a third of the size of London, shoehorned between France and Spain on the roof of the Pyrenees," says Lorna Parkes. "Despite straddling these two mega-popular destinations, its valleys are strikingly empty in August. This is partly because its lofty location makes it impossible to fly into, and partly because Andorra’s small population has cultivated its snow scene far better than its summer potential."

Cycling is one of the chief summer activities in Andorra
Cycling is one of the chief summer activities in Andorra

An action-packed, eight-day tour costs from around £550 per person, including white water rafting, soft hiking, cycling and transfers from Toulouse-Blagnac Airport (