With the clocks about to fall back, the prospect of dark, chilly nights and six months of rain is looming closer. To cheer ourselves up, we’ve chosen our top 5 escapes for a much-needed dose of winter sun. Just what the doctor ordered…
When to go: All year round
This cluster of Spanish islands sits just off the coast of north-west Africa, meaning its climate’s more like Morocco than Spain. It’s a bit of a winter sun classic in Europe, and for good reason – year-round glorious weather a short hop from home, with gorgeous beaches and fiery volcanic landscapes. There’s a lot to love.
Tenerife is a favourite for families, with classic bucket-and-spade beaches, waterparks (we love Siam Park) and a crop of luxury hotels a short stroll from the sea. Then there’s Gran Canaria, with a huge coastline of honey-coloured dunes stretched between pretty seaside towns.
When to go: October to November
Once Europe’s high-ranking beach destinations empty out for the year, Cyprus still has a few more months of t-shirt weather. Averages are high on this little island, with 300 days of sunshine a year and low-20s temperatures sticking around until November – all only a few hours from home.
It’s comfortably beach weather, and suits sightseeing, too; wandering Paphos’ old town and Roman villas and exploring the Byzantine forts is all the better with cooler days and thinner crowds. If you’re outdoorsy, there’s the gorgeous foothills of the Troodos Mountains, too – ripe for walking, cycling and bird-watching.
When to go: November to March
Dubai doesn’t slow down in the winter season – in fact, the party’s just getting started. Since the summers are a little too scorching (we’re talking 40°C, easy), December’s balmy 27°C average looks far more inviting.
New Year’s Eve celebrations are fantastic in Dubai, and the city is a big fan of Christmas – a huge winter festival takes place in the Media City Amphitheatre in the first week of December, and the famous super-malls go all-out on decorations. Hotels like Atlantis, The Palm push the boat out with visits from Santa, turkey dinners with all the trimmings and special festive versions of Dubai’s favourite meal, brunch.
When to go: November to March
September is a rainy month in Mexico, but once that clears, you’re looking at 24°C and sunny straight through to March. The beaches are still picture-perfect (white sand, green palms and royal-blue waters), with our favourites reaching south from Cancun along its eponymous Riviera.
If you’re taking the kids, Mexico is a good bet. First up are luxe hotels like Hard Rock Hotel Cancun offering pint-sized perks in family suites, huge pools and cool places to eat. There’s also Mexico’s famous eco-parks like X-caret, open 365 days a year, where kids can learn about Mayan culture, go scuba diving and watch nature shows.
When to go: December to April
Let’s face it – there’s no bad time to visit the Maldives. But the dry season begins towards end of November, bringing with it eight hours of sunshine a day, reduced humidity and average temperatures of 29°C. And that unbelievably clear sea? A Jacuzzi-worthy 25°C.
We can’t think of a better way of surviving the winter months than hunkering down in an over-water villa, snorkelling in the Indian Ocean and sipping White Cubans in a barefoot bar. Our retreats of choice are Baros Maldives or Six Senses Laamu for the full winter detox. The only tricky part is leaving…