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FAQs: How to deal with the summer heat

With temperatures soaring above 35 °C (95 °F) I often get desperate looks and hear cries of “OMG, is it always so hot?”

Yes it is, in the summer.

July and August are the hottest months, although June and September are not too far behind. Heat waves with temperatures in the 40s (104 °F or more) may occur in any of those months.

The highest temperature ever recorded in Greece is 48.0 °C (118.4 °F) and although not common, it is not unheard of. Most of the time temperatures range between 33 to 37 °C (91-98 °F).

It will help to think of Greece as Mexico: most of it is dry, arid and hot, at least in the summer. The North, West and the mountains, are of course cooler (as well as wetter) but Athens is a notorious hotspot, much like New York, with heat trapped in the buildings and radiated back even during the night.

How does this affect visitors?

If you are from a cooler climate, then you may find the heat overpowering. If you are from a place like Australia or Florida, then you will have no problem adapting to the climate.

What should one do when it’s so hot?

Wear light clothes in natural fibers that absorb sweat; cotton and linen are the best. Avoid synthetics. Choose light colors that reflect the sun’s rays and very comfortable shoes (feet tend to swell in the heat). Do not forget a hat, sunglasses and sunscreen, and always carry with you a bottle of water or juice. Avoid alcohol because it has a dehydrating effect.

A guide will know where to find cool and shady spots and will have scheduled plenty of stops for rest. If you don’t have one, look for shady spots and make sure to give yourself every chance to cool down a bit; remember to drink plenty of water and perhaps douse yourself with some from time to time.

Heat causes fatigue very quickly. Do not overload your daily programme, because you may find yourself too tired to do more than sit at a museum’s coffee shop enjoying a cool drink (and the airconditioning).

Two tired-looking women sitting on a marble bench among ruins.

Tired tourists resting on a bench in the Acropolis.

Fatigue is a warning sign that your body is nearing heat exhaustion, which occurs when your body’s thermostat is overworked. The body can no longer bring down its own temperature, resulting in symptoms ranging from fatigue to dizziness to fever. Drink plenty of fluids and avoid exerting yourself to prevent it; if unsuccessful, fluids and rest will help the symptoms subside before they develop into a much more serious condition called heat stroke. To replenish the salts that your body loses through sweating, eat plenty of fruits and salads; avoid foods with too many saturated fats, such as bacon and sausages.

Hot days call for a relaxed attitude – start early in order to visit the outdoor sights before it gets too hot. Prepare to spend the hottest time of the day visiting a museum or resting in an air-conditioned restaurant, cafe or hotel. Take a siesta if you can. Plan to go out again in the evening for a walk around the city and a dinner in the open air.

Remember, it is only mad dogs and Englishmen who go out in the midday sun 😉

A stray dog lapping up water from a fountain in Athens.

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