Tourists warned of ‘particularly dangerous’ summer as fires rage in Crete and Kos

Forest fires have broken out on the Greek islands of Zakynthos, Chios, Crete and Kos, with authorities warning that this summer could be “particularly dangerous” due to ongoing drought.

In the Metohi area of ​​western Chios, tourists received phone alerts on Monday ordering them to evacuate due to the nearby forest fire. Residents and tourists on Kos sought refuge in sports centres as a forest fire reached the coastal village of Kardamena, while an estimated 1,195 hectares of forest have been burned on Zakynthos.

In recent weeks, Greece has endured its first ever heatwave, with temperatures above 43C recorded at central and southern weather stations. The country defines a heatwave as a period with temperatures above 38C.

At a cabinet meeting this week, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said: “It is a summer that is expected to be particularly dangerous [for wildfires]…the most difficult times are yet to come.”

“We have had an exceptionally difficult June in terms of weather conditions, with high levels of drought and unusually strong winds for this season.”

Here’s everything you need to know about forest fires in Greece, whether it’s safe to visit the country and what to do if you need to cancel your holiday.

Where are the wildfires now?

The popular tourist islands of Chios, Zakynthos, Crete and Kos have been hit by wildfires in recent days. Hundreds of firefighters, assisted by planes and helicopters, have been working to extinguish the fires on the islands.

Clare Smith, 38, who is on holiday with her family at a resort near Kardamena, Kos, told Sky News the situation “deteriorated significantly” over the course of Monday with “thick plumes of black smoke” shooting into the sky.

“It’s really windy here, it’s going to be like a powder keg,” she said. “The sky is covered in smoke. You feel like you’re in the apocalypse, or some kind of war movie.”


Zakynthos remains one of Greece’s most popular destinations – The Image Bank RF

On the island of Serifos, in the Western Cyclades, firefighters have brought under control a fire that started in low vegetation on June 29 but spread due to strong winds. The fire damaged houses, warehouses and holiday homes.

In addition to the forest fires on the islands, two serious forest fires have also been reported south of Athens.

How can I see exactly where the fires are?

Google Maps is a useful resource for tracking the location of wildfires. While it’s not 100 percent accurate, the company uses a combination of SOS alerts, satellite sources, and public notifications to create a map of the affected area. It also provides an estimate of how many acres have burned.

Google states that affected areas are approximate and advises users to consult official sources for more information.

Which Greek islands had the worst forest fires last year?

In 2023, wildfires raged across Greece and other parts of the Mediterranean, forcing the evacuation of thousands of tourists from popular holiday islands such as Rhodes, Evia and Corfu.

Rhodes was hit particularly hard, with the island declaring a state of emergency and Jet2 and Tui cancelling flights to the island over safety concerns. Dozens of hotels in Rhodes – including Kiotari, Gennadi, Plimiri, Lardos, Lindos, Pefkoi and Vlicha – were directly affected or closed due to last year’s bushfires.

Is it safe to travel to Greece?

Please note that in Greece, forest fires are common in the summer. They are usually controlled by helicopters and planes that spray seawater over the affected area.

After a record year for forest fires, Greece has started using drones for early detection of forest fires, with improved coordination between authorities and volunteer firefighters.

The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) has not updated its advice to Greece. However, it does have existing advice on bushfires in the country.

The FCDO says: “There is a high risk of bushfires during the summer season from April to October,” and advises people not to leave any litter behind (particularly glass), to ensure all cigarettes are properly extinguished and not to light barbecues. Tourists are advised to call 112 if they are in immediate danger.

British holidaymakers are also advised to follow @112Greece on X (formerly Twitter) and register for alerts from the Greek government’s emergency communications service (in Greek).

I want to cancel my holiday. Can I get my money back?

If you decide to cancel your package holiday within six weeks of departure, you will pay a cancellation fee of between 90 and 100 percent. The exception is if the FCDO updates its advice to warn against all but essential travel to the destination. If this is the case, your tour operator is legally obliged to either get you home or cancel the trip and provide a full refund.

If you have booked your flights and accommodation yourself, you should make a claim on your travel insurance if you cannot travel safely due to a forest fire.

Forest fires on ChiosForest fires on Chios

It can be difficult to get compensation because bushfires are considered ‘extraordinary circumstances’ – Shutterstock

According to travel insurance specialist PJ Hayman, many policies typically include some form of natural disaster or catastrophe cover, which should pay for any cancellation or curtailment costs associated with a fire, normally including pre-booked accommodation. It should also cover any additional travel and accommodation costs incurred as a result of having to respond to a fire emergency.

Please note that the extent and detail of cover varies from policy to policy, and some cheaper policies may have no exclusions or low limits. Also be aware that if you take out travel insurance after a fire has already broken out, you may not be able to make a successful claim.

My holiday has been affected. Can I claim compensation?

You cannot claim compensation if your holiday is cancelled due to bushfires. This is because these qualify as ‘extraordinary circumstances’ outside the control of operators and airlines. If your holiday is cut short due to fires, write to your tour operator to describe the part of your holiday that you have missed. If you do not receive a satisfactory response, contact ABTA or AITO who have dispute resolution services, or go to the Small Claims Court.

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