Where to find the warmest winter sun in Europe

·6-min read
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(Unsplash)

OK, so you might not have got your slice of Mediterranean sunshine this summer, but there’s still time to use those annual leave dates.

And if you’re not ready to go long-haul just yet, there are plenty of places closer to home that will still give you a sun fix in low season.

Below, we've picked our favourite spots in Europe to warm us up during the cooler months of the year.

Paphos, Cyprus

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(Unsplash)

Average winter temperature: 18C

Best for: beach hopping and sightseeing.

Cyprus has long been a favourite summer haunt for Brits – one million of us travel there each year (in normal times) – but don’t let that put you off. Riddled with ancient cities and postcard-perfect beaches, it’s the coastal city of Paphos that offers a healthy mix of both. An air of romance fills the city, largely thanks to its association with the Greek goddess of love, Aphrodite, whose mythical birthplace was the Old Town of Kouklia.

Stay: Kick back and relax at the sleek and modern Almyra Hotel (almyra.com, €242/night) in Paphos, which boasts beautiful gardens, two outdoor adults-only pools, a spa and vast sundeck.

Valetta, Malta

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(Pexels)

Average winter temperature: 17C

Best for: history buffs and (almost) year round sunshine.

The Med’s most understated gem (and still on our green list), Malta has a lot going for it: 300 days of sunshine per year, prehistoric temples and crystalline waters that are tempting even in the depths of winter. The golden-hued city of Valetta is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and further earned its stripes as the European Capital of Culture for 2018 – with its museums, fortresses and historic churches making it a must-visit.

Stay: For something a little regal, the five-star Xara Palace hotel sits in a stunningly-restored 17th century palazzo, hidden away within the walls of the medieval fortified city of Mdina (xarapalace.com.mt, £174/night).

Lanzarote, Canary Islands

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(Unsplash)

Average winter temperature: 21C

Best for: both avid adventurers and sun-worshippers.

For truly balmy evenings well into winter, the Canary Islands are a failsafe choice, boasting otherworldly landscapes and year-round subtropical temperatures – just remember to pack your one-piece. Lanzarote, a UNESCO Geopark since 2015, is made up of over 300 (largely inactive) volcanic cones, blackened lava fields and valleys filled with palms – which can all be discovered via the island’s plentiful hiking and cycling trails.

Stay: Sun-worshippers, meanwhile, should check in to the five-star Meliá Salinas (melia.com, £185/night), which boasts a huge lagoon-like outdoor pool, tropical gardens, tennis courts and access to the white sandy beaches of Costa Teguise.

Seville, Spain

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(Pexels)

Average winter temperature: 18C

Best for: a quieter couples’ city break.

With year-round mild temperatures, the sunshine-kissed city of Seville is Spain’s best-kept secret. Smaller and more romantic than its busier counterparts of Barcelona and Valencia, the capital of Spain’s Andalusia region is home to the Alcázar castle complex, built during the Moorish Almohad dynasty and the highly Instagrammable Plaza de España (pictured above).

Stay: Set in a beautiful 17th century building, in the heart of Seville’s Old Town, within walking distance from the Cathedral and Museum of Fine Arts, Palacio Bucarelli boasts bright contemporary rooms with a traditional twist, a courtyard, roof terrace and refreshing plunge pool to cool off in (palaciobucarelli.com, £180/night).

Karpathos, Greece

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(Unsplash)

Average winter temperature: 17C

Best for: taking it slow in a picturesque setting.

While the Greek islands lie largely dormant in the winter months – many hotels and restaurants shut up shop between November and April – this is also the best time to visit to avoid the crowds. Skip the tourist-centric Cyclades and head east to the Dodecanese, which lie just off the coast of Turkey. Karpathos, the second largest of this group, is the least commercialised, meaning it offers a truly authentic look at the Greek way of life. Villages here are filled with white-washed sugar-cube homes, and the sea is ever sparkling.

Stay: Nestled in a quiet cove, with its own private beach, minutes from the harbour and centre of Pigadia, Alimounda Mare is a brand new five-star hotel, with plenty of space for lounging around with a book in the sun and a spa for a spot of pampering (alimounda.gr, £139/night).

Lagos, Portugal

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(Unsplash)

Average winter temperature: 17C

Best for: people watching and lazy beach days.

As soon as there’s a whiff of summer, swarming to the Algarve is a long-held British pastime, but the Portuguese coastal city of Lagos is arguably even more charming in the winter when the hordes disperse. Head to the coast to see the famous rock formations and golden beaches that decorate your Instagram feed or simply plant yourself in the old town with a pastéis de nata in hand, sitting and watching the world go by.

Stay: Head to the historic old town of Lagos and book a charming room at Casa Mãe for affordable boho chic rooms, a seasonal farm-to-table Portuguese menu and all the sunshine surfer vibes (casa-mae.com, £90/night).

Sicily, Italy

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(Unsplash)

Average winter temperature: 18C

Best for: foodies and wine lovers.

Cutting a lonesome figure off the coast of Italy, the Mediterranean’s largest island is a treasure trove of delights. The historic sites, like Agrigento's Concordia temple and Selinunte's columns, are considerably less tourist-filled in the winter months and beaches are near empty. Foodies will discover a haven outside of the regular tourist haunts, Noto is home to Café Sicilia and the famous almond granite with brioche buns and you can find the best seafood on the island in Taormina.

Stay: Wine lovers will enjoy a stint at the picturesque Feudi del Pisciotto winery (feudidelpisciotto.it, €189/night), an 18th century manor surrounded by vineyards and set between Piazza Armerina, Caltagirone (Sicily’s ceramic capital) and Vittoria (famous for the production of the only Sicilian DOCG wine) in south-eastern Sicily.

You can read our foodie guide to Sicily here.

Crete, Greece

 (Pixabay)
(Pixabay)

Average winter temperature: 17C

Best for: crystal waters and hiking trails.

While you would be perfectly positioned to plonk yourself on a day bed with a good book, Crete is primed for exploring. With hidden beaches, bijou villages and rugged canyons, it has something for every type of traveller. Adventure seekers should head to Samariá Gorge to hike its six-hour trail, while beach lovers should head south – Elafonisi lagoon with its pink sands and azure-hued waters is a stunning sight.

Stay: Wellness seekers should head for pampering and relaxation at Domes of Elounda (domesresorts.com, from €344/night), which is well-known for its glistening views of the mythical island of Spinalonga.

The Azores, Portugal

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(Shutterstock)

Average winter temperature: 18C

Best for: thrill-seekers looking for something a little different.

This remote archipelago in the mid-Atlantic might seem far flung, but the five-hour flight is just over an hour longer than it would be to Turkey or Greece. Dramatic landscapes characterise these nine islands - São Miguel has lake-filled calderas and Pico a towering mountain – but it’s the wealth of activities that will appeal to those who visit. The Azores’ whale watching is world class, as is its diving, hiking, sailing and canyoning. It’s also largely sustainable, only five per cent of the land here has been developed and marine parks are abundant.

Stay: Treat yourself to a stay in a plush suite or a villa at White Exclusive, which sits on a clifftop on São Miguel island, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean serving up unparalleled views (whiteazores.com, from €288/night).

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