I have spent more summers sweltering in a Seville heatwave than I can remember. Many of them as a student when air con was not an affordable option – and latterly, working through the baking heat of a southern Spanish summer. Thankfully with the benefit of in-house air conditioning.
Add to that a string of holiday trips to Ibiza staying when family lived on the island, and I feel well qualified to advise on coping with the most extreme summer conditions.
Andalucia – south west Spain – has long suffered summer heatwaves, but it is clear that climate change is magnifying the problem. Temperatures are rising earlier in the season and staying high for longer. Residents flee to the beach if they can. If you’re planning a summer trip to the heatwave zone, what coping measures can you take to beat the heat?
Read on for my tips on coping with a summer heatwave…
Tiles beat wood
When booking, if possible choose accommodation with chill ceramic tiled floors rather than wooden flooring, which retains and radiates heat. Spanish people traditionally use rugs rather than fitted carpets, rolling them out during the winter then stashing them away during the hotter summer months.
The temperature difference between one year when we rented an apartment in central Seville with tiled floors, and the following year when we had parquet underfoot, was immense.
Furnishings absorb heat, so think minimalistic if you are fitting out your own place.
Air con and ceiling fans
Air conditioning is a must-have. Temperatures regularly top 40 degC during the day in Seville in the summer, dropping to low to mid 20s at night – if you’re lucky. Without air con you will get nothing done and will find sleeping difficult.
Some rental agencies cap power costs, so in a seriously hot spell, be warned that you may be charged extra if you over-use the air conditioning. Always switch it off or turn it down low when you go out. See below for more tips on staying cool with minimal air con.
Ceiling fans in bedrooms are a genius way to reduce your reliance on the a/c unit. A sweep of moving air from a ceiling fan is surprisingly refreshing in a heatwave and will mean you can either turn the air con right down or switch it off completely at night. Good for your pocket and the environment.
An apartment or room on a higher floor will catch more breeze, as will outside windows or balconies. In southern Spain, especially in cities like Seville, many properties are built to the traditional central patio layout. Access to external and internal airways gives access to a through breeze, helping suck cooler air into your living space at night when lower temperatures allow you to open windows. On which note…
Close and shutter windows during the day
Keep a close watch on the temperature and make sure you do not open windows until the heat drops outside (ie at night – and often not until very late at night). Equally, close all windows and shutters / curtains / blinds as soon as the sun comes round and it starts to feel warmer outside than in.
The aim is to keep the ambient interior temperature low. Hot sun shining on floors and furniture will turn your inside space into a radiator. Keep it out to prevent your living space from heating up and don’t open up until the external temperature feels equal to or cooler than the air indoors.
Swerve the stove
My Spanish friends use their ovens for storage rather than cooking during the summer months. Fancy a roast chicken? Buy it from the ‘asador’ rotisserie shop on the corner (very common in Spain).
Eat salads, buy ready cooked food rather than cooking it yourself. Even better, eat out. Away from tourist spots, bar food is pretty low-cost in Spain compared with the UK. Tapas and a cold beer or a glass of tinto de verano (chilled red wine with soda water and ice) are a wonderful way to cool down.
Live like a local
Get up early and do your exercise / chores / tourist stuff first thing. Retire to the shade during the hottest part of the day : from 1pm until late afternoon. Emerge once things start to cool down and, in the city, don’t even start start thinking about dinner until around 9.30pm. Spanish people tend to socialise until late and rest up during the heat of the afternoon when (almost) everything shuts down. It works!
Got a rooftop terrace in your property? Consider sleeping up there in the open air on the hottest nights, bugs and noise permitting. I have spent many nights sleeping al fresco during Seville’s summer season. Being so far south, the sun rises later than in the UK so daybreak does not come too soon.
If you have air con, switch it on before you go to bed to cool down the room before you enter, turn it up a couple of degrees once you’re in bed then set the timer for it to go off once you’re asleep. If you wake up hot, you can always re-set it then.
Take a cool shower before you go to bed and wet your hair. A cold, damp face cloth or hand towel on your tummy, chest or forehead is also extremely effective if you’re feeling hot and bothered in bed.
If you need a duvet, you’ve got the air con set too low.
Keep your cool
Slow down your pace, don’t over-face yourself with ambitious plans to get too much done and schedule in trips to air-conditioned locations like a department store, destination hotel, supermarket or museum. Pit-stops in the cool will help you cope with the heat.
Finally, however hot it gets, away from resorts, dress appropriately. Cool loose clothing will keep the sun off your skin and help air circulate around your body. In the summer months, you will not need a cardi / hoodie or jacket – save space in your luggage and don’t even bother packing one. Instead, take a light shawl or pashmina which packs away to almost nothing and is perfect to drape round your shoulders if you need to enter a church or fiercely air-conditioned environment.