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The 20 best winter sun holidays

Oman The Daymaniyat Islands
Our expert picks 20 destinations with a decent amount of sunshine hours this winter - Amy Seder/AwayLands

It happens every year, but when daylight hours shrink and any remaining sun is suffocated by thick clouds, moods easily plummet. A dose of vitamin D is never more needed than during our winter months.

Fortunately, you don’t need to travel far for holiday weather. Although the UK feels dark and gloomy, other parts of Europe are still basking in sunshine. In fact, in many places – like Madeira and the Algarve – temperatures are far more comfortable than the unbearable heat of summer, especially if you’re hankering after a hiking break.

Foodies will be pleased by the variety of seasonal fruits available in places like Cyprus; pomegranates, persimmons, limes and oranges all ripen during this period, proof the winter larder doesn’t have to be bare.

Anyone keen to spend time on the beach can’t go wrong with a trip to the Canaries, officially part of Europe but closer in climate to North Africa. A firm favourite with British families, the Spanish-governed islands top the list of most popular winter-sun destinations for both Skyscanner and TripAdvisor.

Tenerife and Lanzarote are top selections, although Chris Webber, head of holidays and deals at TravelSupermarket, recommends choosing Fuerteventura for cheaper prices. “The average price we’ve seen this month for an all-inclusive week in Tenerife in December is £895pp,” he says. “The average for Fuerteventura is £715pp.”

Warmer waters are guaranteed in Egypt’s Red Sea, made even more accessible by Tui’s new direct flight from Gatwick to Marsa Alam – a beach resort destination with excellent dive sites. A two-hour time difference reduces any risk of jet lag. Similarly, Morocco, Cape Verde and Senegal each promise sunshine without messing up your body clock.

Tourists cycling in the sun
A winter sun holiday can be good for your mental and physical health - Jens Goerlich/Gallerystock

If you want temperatures guaranteed to be over 20C, you may have to journey further afield. A hot pick for long-haul is Sri Lanka, with travel experts predicting a boom in bookings following a year of political turmoil. “With visitor numbers down, the economy is still recovering, so prices are lower than they should be,” advises Richard Sinclair of SNO Holidays. “Gorgeous sunshine can reach 30 degrees in December, so you can pack light and spend light.”

But even popular long-haul holiday resorts in the Caribbean, Mauritius or South Africa can be affordable if you’re prepared to hunt around for deals and be flexible with the destination and dates. TripAdvisor have crunched data to find January 15 as the best value week for winter-sun travel in 2024. Turquoise Holidays suggest a last-minute pre-Christmas getaway is the best way to bag a bargain, while The Ultimate Travel Company say prices are good for off-season safari spots such as Botswana and Namibia – which are still much warmer than the UK.

For inspiration, we’ve picked some of the best options – depending on how far you are willing to travel. With a decent amount of sunshine hours, all are guaranteed to be beneficial for your physical and mental health.

Skip ahead:

Under 4 hours

Algarve, Portugal

Average winter temperature: 17C
Hours of daily winter sunshine: 6

Myths abound in Sagres, the most south-westerly point of continental Europe. Prince Henry, a key figure in the era of new world explorations, supposedly built a navigational school in the low-key surf town once considered the edge of the earth.

Details are hazy but one fact remains: the Algarve’s dramatic, cliff-fringed harbour town is a jumping off point for discovery. Beyond the wind-whipped cape, sheltered beaches range from hidden coves to broad stretches of sand.

Although peak sunbathing months have passed, so too have the crowds – while temperatures remain mild enough to leave thick jumpers at home.

How to do it: A seven-night trip with Sunvil (020 8568 4499) costs from £1,102pp (two sharing), including B&B accommodation at Pousada de Sagres, transfers and flights

Finca de Arrieta, Lanzarote
Switch off at Finca de Arrieta, an off-grid escape on the east coast of Lanzarote - Ana Belen Dominguez

Lanzarote, Canary Islands

Average winter temperature: 20C
Hours of daily winter sunshine: 7

Closer to Africa than Europe, the Canary Islands bathe in a generous amount of sunshine – enough, in fact, to power an eco-village retreat.

Running entirely on renewable energy generated by solar panels and wind turbines, Finca de Arrieta is an off-grid escape on the east coast of Lanzarote where the aim is to literally switch off. Choose between a farmhouse, cottages and Mongolian-style yurts set in gardens sprouting with succulents and exotic fruits.

Eggs and vegetables can be collected from the farmhouse for home-grown lunches. A family-friendly beach, with calm waters and an on-duty lifeguard, is only a few minutes’ walk away.

How to do it: A family yurt for four with Lanzarote Retreats (0034 928 826720) costs from £64 per night. Excludes flights

Northern Cyprus

Average winter temperature: 18C 
Hours of daily winter sunshine: 7

Like the many citrus fruits ripening in village orchards at this time of year, winter days spent exploring Northern Cyprus are zingy and refreshing. Although lacking the glitzy, big brand resorts of the south, the island’s Turkish sector has a similarly beautiful coastline. Prices are much cheaper, too.

Visit the Roman ruins of Salamis in Famagusta and get up to date with modern history in the ghost city Varosha, abandoned after the Turkish invasion in 1974. Lighten the mood with a lazy meander through sleepy village Bellapais, where Lawrence Durrell penned his book Bitter Lemons – a title no doubt inspired by that timeless tangy scent.

How to do it: A seven-night holiday with Newmarket Holidays (0330 341 1927) costs from £756pp, including half-board accommodation, tours, transfers and return flights. Departures in January and February

Origo Mare Holiday Village, Fuerteventura, Canary Islands
Enjoy sunshine in style at Origo Mare Holiday Village in Fuerteventura

Fuerteventura, Canary Islands

Average winter temperature: 19C
Hours of daily winter sunshine: 7

The closest of the Canaries to North Africa has a stark, arid landscape and climate similar to the sun-beaten continent. Slowly shifting across the Parque Natural de Corralejo, soft dunes resemble the Sahara and warm winds stretch a summer feeling to 365 days of the year.

Set along a coast of crashing waves at the northern tip of the island, against a backdrop of ancient volcanic peaks, the Origo Mare Holiday Village has a sprawling water park of slides and pools perfect for safe family swimming. Alternatively, you can  embrace the strong ocean winds by learning to kitesurf or surf with the Yolo Riders surf school.

How to do it: Seven nights’ self-catering at Origo Mare Holiday Village with Pierre & Vacances (0870 0267 145) costs from £523 (£87pp based on six sharing). Excludes flights

Northern Morocco

Average winter temperature: 19C
Hours of daily winter sunshine: 7

Winter blues are far from depressing in one of North Africa’s most culturally captivating countries. From cerulean skies to cobalt seas, Morocco is washed with warm, inviting shades. Even the streets and houses of Blue City Chefchaouen have adopted the nation’s trademark hue.

Visit as part of a tour exploring the less ventured north, taking Africa’s first bullet train from Casablanca to Tangier and eventually winding up in the 1,200-year-old medina of Fez. Reel in hauls with local fishermen at Larache, make cheese with a family in the Rif Mountains and visit the secret tropical gardens of Rohuna – an Italian horticulturalist’s passion project.

How to do it: An eight-day trip with Inclusive Morocco (00212 699 560 297) costs from £3,935pp (two sharing), including B&B accommodation, some meals, driver, tours and transfers. Excludes flights

Casale Panayiotis, Cyprus
Cyprus' Casale Panayiotis is set amongst revived orchards, vineyards and stone buildings

Marathasa Valley, Cyprus

Average winter temperature: 18C
Hours of daily winter sunshine: 7

Favoured by pilgrims and members of royalty, the natural sulphur spring waters of mountain village Kalopanayiotis promise a healing mind and body reset for the new year ahead. Built by an entrepreneur to bring life back to his beloved hometown, Casale Panayiotis is a spa village set amongst revived orchards, vineyards and stone buildings on slopes of the Troodos Mountains.

Relax in the hydrotherapy pool or book a range of rose-petal bathing and Mediterranean oil massage treatments. Close by is an 11th century byzantine monastery, which is open to guests. Rock climbing, mountain biking and hikes can also be arranged in the surrounding Marathasa Valley.

How to do it: Seven nights’ B&B with Health and Fitness Travel (0203 397 8891) costs from £1,305pp (two sharing), including transfers and a wellness programme. Excludes flights

Madeira, Portugal

Average winter temperature: 18C
Hours of daily winter sunshine: 5

Scorching heat has made it difficult to enjoy Mediterranean Europe during the height of summer. But milder weather makes the off-season ideal for sun-bathed hikes. Once used as irrigation channels, Madeira’s levadas form a network of walking trails connecting remote areas of the wild island.

Inaccessible for many years, the cliff-backed section of pathways in Calheta is less visited. Follow fairytale woodland trails on the Levada do Alecrim and climb to Cabo Girão, the second-highest sea cliffs in the world. A former summer residence converted into a year-round lodge, 17th-century, family-owned Quinta das Vinhas is an atmospheric base surrounded by vines.

How to do it: A seven-night self-guided trip with Inn Travel (01653 617000) costs from £870pp (two sharing) including B&B accommodation, some meals, car hire, walking route notes and maps. Excludes fights

Tenerife Royal Hideaway
Treat yourself to an upscale getaway at Royal Hideaway Corales Beach, Tenerife

Tenerife, Canary Islands

Average winter temperature: 21C
Hours of daily winter sunshine: 6

Traditionally, this is the time of year when it’s acceptable to pile on the pounds. Rather than waste calories on scoffing stodgy roasts and mince pies around a fire, dine out on great meals with a sea view.

Those with a culinary compass should set their dial for Royal Hideaway Corales Beach in Tenerife’s upscale south, home to two Michelin-starred restaurants. Try Japanese and Peruvian fusion at San Hô or sample the gastronomic expertise of the Padrón Brothers at El Rincón de Juan Carlos. Digest by lounging in a heated rooftop infinity pool, gazing toward the ocean.

How to do it: Seven nights at Royal Hideaway Corales Beach with Jet2holidays (0800 408 6264) costs from £2,008pp (two sharing) B&B, including flights

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Under 8 hours

Marsa Alam, Egypt

Average winter temperature: 25C
Hours of daily winter sunshine: 9

Often foolishly overlooked for more exotic (and expensive) climes, the Red Sea dazzles with colourful reefs and marine life. Attracting fewer crowds than Sharm El Sheikh, Marsa Alam on the western shore has equally reputable dive schools and benefits from a new direct flight from Gatwick launched by Tui last month.

Once accessible only by liveaboards, diving can now be done from the shore or on boat trips to Sha’ab Samadai, frequently visited by a pod of spinner dolphins. Wind down with a massage or meditation session at the new Wadi Sabarah Lodge, built from coral limestone in botanical gardens.

How to do it: Seven nights with Regaldive (01353 659999) costs from £1,125pp (two sharing), including B&B, 15 dive packages, transfers and flights.

Oman Sharqiyah Sand
Feel the heat in the Sharqiya Sands Desert, Oman

Daymaniyat Islands, Oman

Average winter temperature: 21C
Hours of daily winter sunshine: 10

Few capitals are within easy reach of paradise. A 45-minute boat ride from Muscat, the rocky Daymaniyat Islands are ringed by sparkling white beaches.

Between November and April, the real beauty of this nature reserve lies underwater. Snorkel above seagrass beds for the best chances of seeing green and hawksbill turtles and look out for Arabian butterflyfish and angelfish in the reefs. Back on the mainland, freshwater pools in wadis provide relief on trips to the Sharqiya Sands Desert. Even more refreshing is the cooling breeze of the Al Hajar mountains.

How to do it: A 10-night Oman in Style trip with Cox & Kings (03330 603 303) costs from £5,795pp (two sharing), including B&B accommodation, transfers and flights

Kenya

Average winter temperature: 27C at the coast; 19C in Borana
Hours of daily winter sunshine: 9

Offering better value than the Maldives and with beaches as sparkling as the Seychelles, Kenya’s Indian Ocean coastline is returning to our radar.

Swerve Mombasa’s busy resorts for bohemian archipelago Lamu further north, where donkeys stroll through sandy streets and wooden dhows weave between islands.

For a castaway stay, check into a smart beach hut on Manda Bay island, owned by the Dyer family. Their relatives manage pioneering eco conservancy Borana, a sanctuary for black rhino at the foothills of Mount Kenya. Twin both for the ultimate beach and bush break.

How to do it: A seven-night Kenya Unleashed trip with Nomad Africa (00254 708 238738) costs from £3,559pp (two sharing), including full-board accommodation and transfers. Excludes flights

Cape Verde
The beautiful islands of Cape Verde are best explored on foot - Shutterstock

Cape Verde

Average winter temperature: 25C
Hours of daily winter sunshine: 6

Beyond the busy beach resorts of Boa Vista and Sal, islands in West Africa’s Portuguese-speaking archipelago are rarely visited. Best explored on foot, Santo Antão is a mosaic of steep gorges and valleys carved into volcanic rock, with coastal trails connecting villages clinging to cliffs.

Hike inland through forests of mimosa and pine, sleeping in the thatched cottages of Pedracin Village. Hop over to São Vicente island by ferry for a walk through lava fields washed by the Atlantic Ocean and spend evenings listening to traditional morna folk music in the cultural capital of Mindelo.

How to do it: A seven-night walking holiday with Walks Worldwide (01962 302085) costs from £1,869pp (two sharing), including B&B, some additional meals and transfers. Excludes flights

Saadiyat Island, Abu Dhabi, UAE

Average winter temperature: 18C
Hours of daily winter sunshine: 8

Masters of perfection, Emiratis struck gold when designing cultural hub Saadiyat Island, home to one of the largest concentrations of museums and galleries in the world. Not everything on the island 500 metres off the coast of Abu Dhabi is manmade, however.

With not a speck of imported sand in sight, the natural beaches are regarded as the best in the UAE. Saadiyat Rotana Resort & Villas has direct access to a gleaming white five-mile stretch, making it a family favourite. Scott Dunn have launched a new two-floor Explorers Kids Club on site, with different games and spaces aimed for ages six months to 11 years.

How to do it: Seven nights at Saadiyat Rotana Resort & Villas with Scott Dunn (020 3627 9878) costs from £6,000 for a family of four, including half-board, transfers and flights

Senegal

Average winter temperature: 23C
Hours of daily winter sunshine: 8

French travellers have been bathing on West African beaches for decades. But it’s taken Brits a little longer to be convinced. A six-hour direct flight from London, Dakar is the gateway to golden stretches along Pointe Sarène where the water temperature is around 21C.

Sharing the same time zone as the UK, it’s possible to slip immediately into relaxation mode without any irritating jet lag, yet the location is exotic enough to feel much further away. Perfect for an affordable fly and flop, Tui offers all-inclusive packages at the surprisingly tasteful Riu Baobab.

How to do it: Seven nights at Riu Baobab with Tui (020 3451 2688) on an all-inclusive basis costs from £1,067pp (two sharing), including transfers and flights

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Further afield

Greater Palm Springs, US

Average winter temperature: 22C
Hours of daily winter sunshine: 8

A Californian white Christmas is possible in the snow-sprinkled mountains – but don’t expect a single flake to fall in the desert town of Palm Springs. Arduous in the heat of summer, strolling around town is a joy at this time of year.

Marvel at the modernist architecture of boltholes built for Hollywood greats who come here to escape the stress of Los Angeles, and browse retro Americana furnishings, clothes and homeware at a vintage market on the first Sunday of the month (October to May). If you need to cool off, get closer to the mountains by riding the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway to Mount San Jacinto state park.

How to do it: An 11-day room-only trip exploring the Greater Palm Springs region with Netflights (01772 386367) costs from £2,229pp (two sharing), including flights

Tulum, Mexico
The Caribbean beaches of Tulum are populated by trendy hotels - Gabriela Herman/Gallerystock

Mexico

Average winter temperature: 25C
Hours of daily winter sunshine: 9

Spicy mezcal cocktails and chilli-based mole sauces are guaranteed to turn up the heat in southern Mexican state Oaxaca at any time of the year. Savour both delicacies on a culinary tour of the region, taking part in a cookery class and discovering the best street food in local markets.

Continue to the Yucatan Peninsula to swim in collapsed sinkholes known as “cenotes” and visit Mayan ruins at Uxmal. After a dose of archaeological exploration at Chichen Itza, end your journey on the Caribbean beaches of Tulum, made famous by backpackers but now populated by trendy hotels.

How to do it: A 15-day Cities, Civilisations and the Caribbean Coast tour with Original Travel (020 3582 4990) costs from £4,985pp (two sharing) including B&B accommodation, transfers and flights

Grenada, Caribbean

Average winter temperature: 27C
Hours of daily winter sunshine: 8

Claiming to be the “shipwreck capital of the Caribbean” hasn’t necessarily been the best way to attract travellers over the years. Yet Grenada is using the boast to become a drawcard for divers and one of the Caribbean’s leading marine destinations, where waters are far less treacherous than in the past.

Expanded this year, the Underwater Sculpture Park in Molinere Bay features 75 works sunken at depths of five to eight metres (16 to 26ft), easily accessible by scuba or snorkelling. Applauded as one of the world’s most beautiful beaches, the powdery, palm-fringed sands of Grand Anse provide a postcard setting to dry off on shore.

How to do it: A six-night all-inclusive stay at Kalinago Beach Resort with British Airways Holidays (0344 493 0787) costs from £1,692pp (two sharing) including direct flights

Sri Lanka
In Sri Lanka, enjoy pristine golden beaches and fascinating cultural tours - Shutterstock

Sri Lanka

Average winter temperature: 27C
Hours of daily winter sunshine: 8

A giant Buddha watches protectively over resort town Bentota, perhaps explaining why this is one of surf-lashed Sri Lanka’s safest spots for winter swims. On an island impacted by two monsoon seasons, this southwestern stretch is one of the best options between January and March.

Close to capital Colombo and fort city Galle, pristine golden sands twin well with broader cultural tours. Head into the highlands for a stay in the cooler tea plantations, celebrating 200 years since the first leaves were introduced from China with a series of events in 2024.

How to do it: A 13-night Classic Sri Lanka trip with Abercrombie & Kent (03301 734 712) costs from £4,250pp (two sharing), including B&B accommodation, transfers and flights

Maraú Peninsula, Bahia, Brazil

Average winter temperature: 27C
Hours of daily winter sunshine: 7

Although more than 5,000 miles away, there’s only a three-hour time difference with Bahia – just enough to avoid serious jet lag. Make the long journey worthwhile by staying at an eco-lodge in a nature reserve on the Maraú Peninsula.

The peaceful strip, south of Salvador de Bahia, is scattered with coral pools and patches of Atlantic rainforest. Casa dos Arandis also allows light-footprint access to an area few people could plot on a map and you can walk for miles along an undeveloped beachfront or take a boat ride to explore mangroves and waterfalls in the Bay of Camamu.

How to do it: A minimum four-night stay at Casa dos Arandis through Fleewinter (020 7112 0019) costs from £780pp (two sharing) on a half-board basis. Excludes flights and transfers

Casa Dos Arandis, Brazil
Experience a colourful stay at Casa dos Arandis, Brazil

St Eustatius, Caribbean

Average winter temperature: 26C
Hours of daily winter sunshine: 8

Of the several hundred islands comprising the Caribbean, few people could list them all. One name likely to gain more attention over the coming years is the Dutch island of St Eustatius in the Lesser Antilles, a short hop from neighbouring St Kitts.

Dominated by a dormant volcano named the Quill, it was once an important trading port for the West India Company. Now it’s a popular dive and nature destination primed for under-the-radar beach retreats. Hummingbirds and butterflies flutter between thousands of plants and flowers spread across the Golden Rock Resort, an ideal base for discovering this beautiful island.

How to do it: Seven nights at Golden Rock Resort with Turquoise Holidays (01494 678400 ) costs from £1,650pp (two sharing), including B&B, transfers and flights

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What is your favourite winter sun destination? Please let us know in the comments below