12 incredible winter sun destinations

As the days draw in and temperatures drop, why not boost your mood and your vitamin D levels with some winter sun? Whether you fancy days on the beach, the peaceful countryside, city sightseeing or some combination of the three, there are plenty of places to consider. And, while long-haul is always an option, several short-haul destinations also promise some elusive sun rather closer to home.

Short-haul winter sun destinations

1. Canary Islands

A popular year-round holiday destination, the Canary Islands are known and loved for their dramatic volcanic landscape and black sand beaches.

Sunseekers fleeing colder northern climes should head to Gran Canaria and Tenerife, which both enjoy average winter temperatures of 22°C. Party-lovers might consider trading the slightly lower average temperatures of Lanzarote for some of the island’s famous nightlife. Meanwhile, Fuerteventura, and particularly the dunes and expansive beaches of Corralejo National Park, is a great choice for a more peaceful break in the Canary Islands.

2. Balearic Islands

With winter temperatures averaging between 14°C and 16°C, the Balearic Islands are a great choice for travellers looking to escape the rain, sleet and snow. Winter is the perfect time to explore the islands on foot or by bike, and also a great opportunity to see some of the best attractions, such as the cathedral in Palma or the pretty port of Mahón, without having to trek around in the scorching heat.

The four main Balearic Islands – Majorca, Minorca, Ibiza and Formentera – also all have extensive hiking trails. Majorca also has some of the best cycling in the world. Try the route from Port de Pollensa to Cap de Formentor for stunning views and a workout like none other.

3. Madeira

While Madeira might not be a sun and beach spot in winter, it certainly promises some sunshine with temperatures hovering around the mid to late teens throughout the winter. Visit the annual Christmas market in the capital, Funchal, for a seasonal experience you won’t find in colder northern climes.

And, whether viewed from land or the deck of a boat, the New Year’s Eve firework display is just as unmissable. Boat trips around the island are as popular in winter as at other times of year, while hiking through Madeira’s lush semi-tropical forests is often most comfortable during the cooler months.

4. Malta

Enjoying around twice as many hours of sunshine annually as London, Malta is well worth considering for a winter break. Average winter temperatures of between 17°C and 20°C are ideal for enjoying the island in the absence of its summertime crowds.

The tiny capital, Valletta, with its grand Baroque architecture, is easy to explore on foot. Alternatively, a guided Segway tour offers a rather different means of locomotion. The winter months are ideal for climbing, both on Malta and its smaller neighbour, Gozo. Try the gorge in Mgarr ix-Xini for spectacular sea views.

5. Egypt

December in Egypt sees average temperatures of 21°C. The diving resorts on the Red Sea are particularly attractive at this time of year when fewer visitors make dive sites less crowded.

Thistlegorm, Elphinstone Reef and Blue Hole are three diving enthusiast favourites. Inland, the Pyramids at Giza and the Valley of the Kings are year-round attractions. A cruise along Egypt’s Nile is also a must. Meanwhile, Cairo’s museums are a great way to learn more about the history of this beguiling country.

Long-haul winter sun destinations

6. Maldives

Winter temperatures rarely drop below 24°C in the Maldives. With around 1200 islands, there’s plenty of choice: try Cocoa island for diving over coral reefs or Landaa Giraavaru for sea turtles.

The private island of Baros island is perfect for romantic getaways while Veligandu island has some of the Maldives’ most picturesque overwater bungalows. Away from the beaches, the Grand Friday mosque and the fish market in Male, the capital, promise very different but equally interesting excursions.

7. Dubai

For guaranteed winter sun and average daily temperatures of 25°C, you can’t do better than Dubai. Whether you fancy paddleboarding, camel riding or splashing in the sea, its Arabian Gulf beaches have something for everyone.

Try Kite Beach for amazing views of the Burj Al Arab or why not combine shopping with sunbathing at La Mer. Away from the beach, Dubai’s shopping malls, restaurants and nightlife are legendary, and a trip into the desert to see the sunrise over the dunes is simply unmissable.

8. Mexico

With average temperatures rarely dipping below 22°C, Mexico is an excellent choice for a winter break.

As well as cocktails on the beaches of Cancún and Cozumel, why not visit some of Mexico’s Mayan ruins, trek in the Sierra Norte Mountains or swim in the man made pools at the petrified waterfall of Hierve el Agua? Located near Oaxaca, the white rock cliffs that form this waterfall are as Instagram-ready as anything you’ll ever see!

9. Dominican Republic

Average daily temperatures in winter in the Dominican Republic regularly top 28°C. This makes the beaches an obvious draw for holidaymakers: try Punta Cana if you like combining your sunbathing with golf, or Cabarete Bay for watersports.

And don’t miss exploring the spectacular interior of the island, which includes Pico Duarte, the tallest mountain in the Caribbean. The colonial architecture, and especially the Gothic cathedral, make the Dominican Republic’s capital, Santo Domingo, another must-see.

11. Barbados

If it’s heat you’re after, what about Barbados? Averaging 29°C in winter, you’ll surely want to spend all day lounging on its glorious beaches.

In terms of sightseeing, the crystallised limestone formations in Harrison’s Cave are one of the most popular attractions, as are tours exploring the island’s colonial-era past. Back on the coast, try Shark Hole for one of the island’s most dramatic beaches or Carlisle Bay for scuba diving.

12. Seychelles

Winter temperatures in the Seychelles hover around 27°C. Understandably, most visitors come for the beaches, and there’s plenty of choice across the 115 islands that make up the Seychelles’ archipelago. The beautiful and isolated Petite Anse is well worth seeking out, especially if you like snorkelling or have young children.

Other attractions include giant tortoises and the mountain rainforests of the Morne Seychellois National Park. If you want to island-hop, Mahé is a good initial base and also lets you visit the capital, Victoria.

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