As the UK languishes under an Arctic air mass, with wintry showers and temperatures below average for late April (Kinbrace in the Highlands has seen the mercury fall to -5°C this week), parts of Europe are braced for extreme highs. Hot air is moving up from the Sahara to Spain and Portugal – temperatures could exceed 40°C in Morocco by the weekend, reaching 38°C in southern Spanish cities such as Seville. In the Algarve, southern Portugal, temperatures are likely to be in the high 20°Cs-low 30°Cs.
While the weather is forecast to improve a little in the UK over the bank holiday, with milder air pushing up from the south, there is likely to be more cloud and rain as we head into May. However, on a brighter note, finding warmer weather becomes easier as the northern hemisphere begins to warm up. These are some safe bets for a blast of sunshine and spring warmth in the next month.
Valencia – 23°C
Extreme weather notwithstanding, Spain enjoys reliably warm spring weather – and if you look beyond the traditional hotspots such as Andalusia, the Costa Brava and Balearics, prices don’t necessarily rise with the temperature.
Sea temperatures remain on the cool side in May, so a hotel or villa with a heated pool are ideal if you want to swim, or you could consider city breaks or destinations well suited to hiking and cycling, where the beach is not the focus of the trip.
Valencia is an excellent choice for a coastal city break. Flights are currently around £110 return in early May, including over the Coronation bank holiday weekend, and temperatures are comfortably in the mid-20°Cs.
Marvel at the central Modernista train station and food market market then explore Santiago Calatrava’s eye-catching City of Arts and Sciences complex before cooling off in the greenery of the Turia gardens – a 9km belt of greenery that flourishes in the former riverbed. As well as the City of Arts and Sciences, there’s cultural interest in the Bombas Gens art centre and Modern Art Institute. The city’s Rice Museum hints at what to look out for on restaurant menus – the Valencia region is the homeland of the paella.
Perhaps the best place to enjoy a long lunch, sharing a dish of seafood paella in the sea breeze, is by the beach – perhaps in the fishermen’s district of El Cabanyal or along the golden sands of Malvarrosa beach. A quieter stretch is Patacona to the north, where you’ll find laid-back chiringuito beach bars.
It’s easy to extend a city break with rewarding trips inland, to the pink hilltop medieval hamlet of Albarracin in neighbouring Aragon, around a two-hour drive north west, or hiking in the Turia river valley and taking in the hanging bridges of Chulilla and the blue lagoon of El Charco Azul (less than one hour from the city).
Cyprus – 24°C
While the start of May can be windy, temperatures build throughout the month and are typically around 27°C on the coast by the end of May, and hotter inland (though bring a jumper for the evenings, which can be cool). The island is also beautifully green at this time of year, before the searing heat of summer has kicked in.
This is a good month for hiking in the heavily forested Troodos mountains, while Larnaca on the south-east coast celebrates its annual flower festival on 7 May with floral floats, displays and evening entertainment.
Cyprus is a popular May half-term destination, when prices can soar, but the first three weeks of the month offer better value. EasyJet Holidays has week-long half board packages in the second week of May from around £550pp with flights and accommodation in beach resorts in the Larnaca region. For something more tranquil, Sunvil has a range of beach and hiking holidays across the island, including self-catering packages in pretty villages such as Lefkara – in the foothills of the Troodos and well placed for exploring the south coast – from £560pp, including flights.
Cape Verde – 24°C
This Atlantic archipelago off the coast of Senegal is typically dry and sunny – reflected in its largely arid landscapes – offering reliably warm temperatures and ideal beach weather in May.
Best known – in tourism terms – as a package beach holiday destination (holidaymakers tend to zone in on the islands of Sal and Boa Vista, which are fringed with white sand and turquoise water), the archipelago harbours plenty more than beaches. There’s an active volcano, Pico do Fogo, on the island of Fogo (a vent erupted in 1995) and rugged mountains threaded with hiking trails on Santo Antão.
The Cape Verde Experience offers two-week island-hopping itineraries that take in Santiago, São Vicente and Sal with time spent both on the beach and in the interior, from £2,044pp with flights. It can also add excursions such as hiking and boat trips to beach stays.
Tui has all-inclusive packages from £688pp next month, at the Sol Dunas Resort on Sal, with flights from Birmingham on 2 May.
California – 24°C
The temperature range can be variable in this 900-mile long Pacific state, from Death Valley (forecast to hit 40°C this weekend) to the cool mountain peaks of the Sierra Nevada via the Mediterranean-like coastal climate. That said, even Death Valley appeals at this time of year, when wildflowers bloom in low to mid-elevations of the desert in locations including North Highway, Mud Canyon, Beatty Cut-off, South Badwater Rd (Jubilee/Salsberry Pass area) and Highway 190 (between Beatty Cut-off and Furnace Creek).
Spring is also waterfall season in mountainous destinations such as Yosemite National Park – Yosemite Falls can often completely dry out by August but is often at its thundering best in May. Again temperatures can vary here, from the low 20°Cs to the high-teens in early May.
Prices haven’t yet hit their summer peaks, so it’s a good time to explore the US’s third-biggest state on a road trip. From Los Angeles (May temperatures in the mid-20°Cs), you can reach Anaheim and Disneyland in on hour, and Palm Springs (around 30°C) and Santa Barbara (20°C) in two hours. Driving up to San Francisco (18C), a 400 mile journey, is best tackled over a fortnight. From San Francisco, the winelands of Sonoma and Napa are both around an hour away.
The beaches south of Los Angeles – towns such as Newport, Huntington and San Clemente – tend to be the warmest. If you’re tackling Highway 1 to San Francisco, make time to visit Cayucos State Beach with its six-mile stretch of golden sand and historic pier.
Tunisia – 26°C
This north African nation has been somewhat overlooked by British visitors in recent years, but offers warm weather, Mediterranean beaches, centuries of history and culture and miles of geographical marvels. It’s also excellent value for holidaymakers.
Once Rome’s fiercest rival and great trading empire, Carthage is nowadays an outstanding site of antiquity, displaying remnants of its Phoenico-Punic, Roman, Paleochristian and Arab history, including necropolises, theatres, a circus, residences, basilicas and Antonin baths.
It’s now a seaside suburb of the capital Tunisia, where you can lose yourself in the souqs and alleyways of the medina, stopping for pastries along the way.
In stark contrast is Djerbahood, a district of Erriadh on the island of Djerba that has been brought to life by professional, colourful street art. A short distance east are popular beach resorts.
And from the city of Tozeur south, you’ll be in the company of the Sahara, palm groves and Berber villages in the Dahar mountains. Chaffar Beach south of Sfax is a good choice for a beach with local flavour. Responsible Travel has a range of tours that can take you off the beaten track.
Lombok – 29°C
This Indonesian neighbour to busy Bali is entering its dry season in May, when temperatures average 29°C. Flights via Frankfurt and Singapore (Lufthansa and Scoot Airlines) are available for around £630 in the second half of May, and once arrived visitors will find the cost of living low. A meal in a restaurant can easily cost less than £10 and prices are considerably lower than in Bali.
The volcanic island has long been popular with surfers and honeymooners, and trekkers are drawn to its active and sacred volcano, Gunung Rinjani. Three-day hikes to its 3,726m summit reward with astounding views of its crater lake, waterfalls and steaming hot springs.
Unlike Hindu Bali, Lombok is predominantly Muslim, but its holiest site is the temple complex of Lingsar and is multi-denominational, welcoming Balinese Hindus and followers of Wetu Telu, the island’s own take on Islam.
Offshore, coral reefs surround the paradise Gili islands – Trawangan is a magnet for backpackers and is an affordable place to learn how to dive, while Meno has startlingly beautiful – and quiet – beaches, and boutique beach resorts such as Mahamaya where suites cost £107 per night in May.