Are you feeling the winter blues? Here are the best European destinations to soak up the sun
If the prospect of nightfall and the clocks returning at the end of the month seems too daunting, why not consider escaping the cold with a welcome sunny vacation? With the promise of sun on your skin, blue skies, fewer crowds, and affordable accommodation heading to warmer climates are sure to melt away any winter blues. Here are some of our best winter sun vacation destinations in Europe.
With some of the best scenery in Europe – think botanical gardens, picturesque coastline, rugged windswept beaches and stunning mountains, Madeira is ranked as one of the most exotic islands. With temperatures around 25 degrees all year round, you are guaranteed a dose of sunshine. And while there is some chance of rain, the showers don’t last long and are the reason the area is teeming with lush green scenery. It will be music for nature lovers who will be able to walk along the zigzag network of levadas – man-made canals created to carry water for irrigation of agricultural fields around the island. Funchal, the picturesque capital of the island, has a lot to offer its visitors, including beautiful architecture and a vibrant nightlife.
Truth be told, Sicily is a year round destination thanks to the mild Mediterranean climate compared to other parts of Italy. Some resorts are not even that cold and have daily temperatures of up to 15-16 ° C. It also means sea urchin (ricci di mare) season is in full swing, so adventurers can indulge in this distinctive delicacy at many local restaurants. With the island less populated than at other times of the year, visitors can also enjoy the stunning Baroque towns and archaeological sites for themselves. And if you like festivals, you will be in for a treat in winter. Sicily’s most interesting festivals take place during the winter months. The Festa di Sant’Agata in Catania takes place from February 3 to 5 to celebrate the patron saint of the city while in Agrigento there are festivals in December to celebrate the playwright Pirandello.
True sun worshipers must visit Cyprus, as winters are the warmest in the Mediterranean part of the European Union. Temperatures range between 22 and 23 degrees Celsius, which is comfortable for exploring the culture and history of the island. Located in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, Cyprus has some of the best beaches in Paphos, great nightlife in Limassol, and some of the best museums and restaurants in the island’s capital, Nicosia (Lefkosia in Greek). If you want to explore Cyprus or consider day trips, the tours are at a fraction of the price of the winter months.
the Canary Islands
Thanks to their proximity to the African coasts, the Canary Islands have a pleasant climate all year round with at least 300 days of sunshine. So if you’re deprived of warmer weather most of the year, this is the place to go. Take your pick from Tenerife, Lanzarote, Fuerteventura and Gran Canaria which all have a lot or little to do depending on what you are looking for. And while some popular summer destinations can turn into ghost towns in the winter, many resorts on the islands remain busy most of the year. Granted, there may not be the same buzz, but it is better to wander alone in the deserted streets or in the lobby of a hotel.
If you’re interested in culture, head to Malta for some winter sunshine, as the island is home to no less than nine UNESCO World Heritage sites. And since it hardly rains in winter, there’s no real need for an umbrella. Temperatures of around 15 degrees Celsius make it pleasant enough to stroll through the streets of Valletta. There are plenty of harbors, pretty fishing villages, cliffs and rocky coves to explore or you can head out into the unspoiled countryside. For a boat trip, head to the neighboring island of Gozo where you will discover the Temples of Ggantija – Malta’s oldest and most impressive complex. They are older than the Egyptian pyramids. And if you’re heading to Malta this holiday season, expect the streets to come alive with Christmas markets.
Finding the best spot on the beaches to soak up the sun won’t be a problem in Marbella in winter. And you won’t fight for that perfect outdoor patio space to enjoy a sunset, either. Winter is the quintessential golf season here, but if you prefer a more rigorous workout, there are plenty of hiking and walking opportunities in the area. Head for the hills and enjoy spectacular views of Africa. Meanwhile, bargain hunters can climb the steps of Puerto Banus boutiques and maybe even get a souvenir to remind them of a well-deserved vacation.
Please note that there are currently travel restrictions in place due to COVID-19. Depending on the country you are visiting, restaurants, bars and museums may be closed. Always check government advice before making reservations or traveling.