Travel to these 13 great cities before climate change makes them too hot to explore.
2018 is currently tracking to be the fourth hottest year on record, but according to scientists, we haven’t felt anything yet. Climate change is set to send thermostats soaring and while the whole world is set to get even hotter, some regions will be harder hit by rising temperatures than others.
Earlier this year, the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group stated that right now, just over 350 major cities currently experience three or more consecutive months where their average maximum temperature surpasses 95 degrees Fahrenheit (35 degrees Celsius). But by 2050, that number will likely jump to over 970 cities. Included on that list are some of the Earth’s most beloved travel destinations. We round up 13 of these locations–all cities that we recommend you visit sooner than later.
Top Picks for You
Kuwait City, Kuwait
With the average temperature in July already hitting 99F (37C), it’s no surprise that this desert city is expected to be baking by 2050. While Kuwait City is better positioned than many locations to deal with extreme heat—it’s renowned for its heavily air-conditioned malls and art galleries—spending all your time indoors means missing out on the city’s natural beauty. Head there now and take a stroll along the Corniche, a 10-kilometer coastal trail that lets you take in the city’s gleaming architecture while relaxing alongside the Persian Gulf.
People have been traveling to Athens for over 5,000 years and for good reason: The city is a living museum that is packed with such legendary structures as the Acropolis and the Parthenon. More recently, a surge of entrepreneurial spirit has flooded it with hip new hotels, restaurants, and bars.
All that history and growth has created a sprawling crowded city that is best explored on foot. But according to C40 Cities, that might be harder to do, as increasing temperatures mean that Athens is likely to be hit by more extremely hot days and an increased number of heat waves. If the idea of hiking up Lycabettus Hill—the city’s highest peak—in the few cool hours of the early morning doesn’t appeal to you, don’t delay to visit Athens.
Primarily for geopolitical reasons, travelers sometimes overlook Tunis. But with its prime Mediterranean location and vibrant mix of East-meets-West culture, this city is more than worthy of your attention.
Tunis is also the getaway to the legendary ruins of Carthage. While fascinating, this ancient site is more than a little short on shade and modern amenities like air conditioning. Since visiting Carthage when the mercury hits over 95 degrees Fahrenheit is pretty much unbearable, this region is another that should be high on your to-visit-soon list.
Another beloved European destination, Madrid is known for its architecture, rich history, and jam-packed nightlife. And of course, the tapas.
Madrid is also one of Europe’s hottest and driest cities. While it is actively combating climate change with such tactics as green roofs and verticals gardens, there’s no guarantee that these efforts will have enough of an impact to make the city somewhere that you’ll be able to comfortably visit come 2050.
Spend the day at one of the city’s gorgeous beaches and then at night check out Tel Aviv’s world famous nightlife (the city is particularly renowned for its Pride celebrations). In between, shop the markets, hike the Israel National Trail, or even take in a bit of history at the Old City of Jaffa.
Colombo, Sri Lanka
Scarcely on most travelers’ minds even a decade ago, this historic city is now a must-see when touring Southeast Asia. Having been by ruled by the Portuguese, the Dutch, and the British, Colombo packs in gorgeous colonial architecture alongside shiny new additions, busy markets, and food from around the world.
This city is also the perfect jumping off point for visiting’s Sri Lanka’s underrated beaches, including the nearby Mt. Lavinia. But as Colombo gets hotter, those beaches are only going to get busier (the city is already home to nearly six million people). Check them and Colombo out now while you can still grab a spot on the sand.
China’s largest city is also one of the most exciting places on Earth. Dining options range from Michelin-starred chefs to tiny bars in old, hidden alleyways while the shopping is some of the best on the planet. And then there are all those towering skyscrapers.
Unfortunately, Shanghai is also known for its air pollution, a problem that will only worsen as temperatures rise and climate change continues to impact wind patterns. More sensitive visitors already struggle with Shanghai’s smog and by 2050, intense pollution and too many hot days may make this location a no-go for many travelers.
A must-visit for foodies, Seoul is renowned for its culinary scene that is stacked with both classic dishes like kimchi and newer, quirkier offerings. Its many neighborhoods also offer something for almost everyone—from spas and luxury shopping to parks and historic palaces. In short, it’s a great introduction to urban Asia.
Still, Seoul is without question a megacity—it’s home to over 10 million people—and it’s one that C40 Cities notes is at “serious risk” of heat waves and extreme hot days. While a state-of-the-art transit system and unique hotels will make these days more bearable, why not visit Seoul now, before the temperature dictates your plans?
Compared to some of the other destinations on this list, New Orleans is practically a small town. But what it lacks in population it makes up for in personality. The Big Easy is one of the world’s most vibrant and memorable cities thanks to its rich, melting pot history. Its over-the-top nightlife and live music scene (there’s so much going on besides Mardi Gras parties) can entertain visitors around the clock. And then there’s the food.
However, a warming planet also means a warming Gulf of Mexico, and that’s just the latest in a string of problems already threatening a delicate ecosystem. If you dream of eating freshly caught shrimp while lounging on a French Quarter patio, plan your New Orleans adventure sooner than later.
A warmer Gulf of Mexico isn’t just bad news for your dinner plate, it’s also a serious threat for the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef. One of the largest coral reef systems in the world, it starts just off the coast of Cancun and is a major draw for the region. Unfortunately, rising water temperatures may turn it into a marine desert.
Visit Cancun now and in addition to diving and snorkeling through still vibrant reefs, explore freshwater cenotes, zip line through jungle canopies, and of course, sample authentic Mexican tequila. While Cancun is best known for its all-inclusive resorts, there are plenty of other, more boutique options.
Bogota has been experiencing a travel renaissance these past few years and now this once dangerous megacity is praised for its pedestrian-friendly urban planning and thriving arts and culture scene. It’s also the first stop when visiting Colombia’s lush rainforests.
However, those jungles combined with Bogota short distance from the equator (barely 300 miles or 500 kilometers) mean that not only is this city primed to get very hot, it’s also at risk of becoming very buggy, with C40 Cities putting the risk from insects and microorganisms at “extremely serious.”
With its elegant colonial architecture and classic cars, Havana can seem like a city from another era. But despite its stopped-in-time appearance, there’s nothing museum-like about this lively destination. After retracing Hemingway’s steps, visiting the Havana Club rum museum and catching a show at the Tropicana, you’ll be left wanting for a cool place to stop and take a break.
But while major hotels in Havana have air conditioning, other locations and attractions may not. And even if your accommodation has AC, there’s no guarantee that it will always be functional. While power blackouts have been less of an issue lately, they have been a problem in Havana’s past. It’s best to visit this already-hot city now before it thermostat creeps up even higher and AC goes from nice-to-have to need-to-have.
L.A. is one of those rare destinations that truly has something for everyone. Outdoorsy-types can keep busy hiking in Topanga Canyon State Park and exploring the city’s famous beaches while urbanites will love the city’s trendy arts scenes and incredible dining options. And for the pop culture fanatics, there’s Hollywood.
The City of Angels is also one of the poster children for climate change. The city has been plagued by an ongoing drought while 2018 has seen California’s worst wildlife season on record. Hotter days and more frequent—and intense—heat waves will only exacerbate these and other problems. That future means you should visit Los Angeles sooner than later.