If the prospect of the nights’ drawing in and the clocks going back at the end of the month seems too daunting, why not look into escaping the cold with a welcome sunshine holiday? With the promise of the sun on the skin, blue skies, fewer crowds, and affordable accommodation heading to warmer climes are sure to melt away any winter blues. Here are some of our top winter sun holiday destinations in Europe.
With some of the best scenery in Europe – think botanical gardens, scenic coastline, rugged wind-swept beaches, and magnificent mountains, Madeira is classed as one of the most exotic islands. With temperatures hovering around 25 degrees all year round, you’re guaranteed a dose of sun. And while there is some risk of rain, showers don’t last long and are the reason why the area is abundant with lush green landscapes. This will be music to nature lovers who can walk alongside the zig-zagging network of levadas - man-made channels created to carry water for irrigation of agricultural fields around the island. Funchal, the island’s picturesque capital has plenty to offer its visitors including beautiful architecture and buzzing nightlife.
Truth be told, Sicily is a year-round destination thanks to the mild Mediterranean climate compared to some other parts of Italy. Some coastal resorts don’t even get that cold and have daily temperatures as high as 15-16°C. That also means the sea urchins (ricci di mare) season is in full swing, so the adventurous can indulge in this distinctive delicacy in numerous local restaurants. With the island less populated than other times of the year, visitors can also enjoy the stunning Baroque towns and archaeological sites all to themselves. And if you love festivals, you’re in for a treat in winter. Sicily's most interesting festivals occur during the winter months. The Festa di Sant'Agata in Catania is held from February 3-5 to celebrate the patron saint of the city while in Agrigento there are festivals in December to celebrate the dramatist Pirandello.
True sun worshippers need to head to Cyprus because it has the warmest winters in the Mediterranean part of the European Union. Temperatures hover between 22-23 degrees Celsius which is comfortable for roaming around exploring the culture and history of the island. Located in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, Cyprus has some of the best beaches in Paphos, a vibrant nightlife in Limassol and some of the best museums and restaurants in the island country’s capital Nicosia (Lefkosia in Greek). If you want to explore Cyprus or look into day trips, tours are at a fraction of the price come winter months.
With their proximity to the African coast, the Canary Islands have a desirable climate all year round with at least 300 days of sunshine. So if you’re deprived of warmer weather the majority of the year, this is the place to head to. Take your pick from Tenerife, Lanzarote, Fuerteventura and Gran Canaria which all have plenty or little to do depending on what you are after. And while some popular summer destinations can become ghost towns in the winter, many resorts on the islands remain busy for the majority of the year. Granted there may not be the same buzz, but it beats wandering around deserted streets or a hotel lobby on your own.
If you are interested in culture then head to Malta for a bit of winter sunshine as the island is home to no less than nine UNESCO Heritage World Heritage Sites. And as it hardly rains during winter, there’s not much need for a brolly. Temperatures of around 15 degrees celsius make it pleasant enough to walk around the streets of Valletta. There’ are plenty of harbours, cute fishing villages, cliffs and rocky coves to explore or you can head off to the untouched countryside. For a boat trip, head to the neighbouring island of Gozo where you will discover the Ggantija Temples – the oldest and most impressive complex in Malta. They are older than the Egyptian pyramids. And if you head out to Malta this side of the festive season, expect the streets to come alive with Christmas markets.
Finding the best spot on beaches to soak up the sun won’t be a problem in Marbella in winter. And you won’t be fighting for that perfect open-air terrace space to enjoy a sundowner either. Winter is prime golf season here but if you prefer a more rigorous workout, there are plenty of hiking and walking opportunities abound in the area. Head to the hills and be treated to spectacular views across Africa. Meanwhile, bargain hunters can clock up the steps at the shopping boutiques in Puerto Banus and perhaps even get a memento to remind them of a much-needed holiday.