Damp, drizzle and grey skies are all facts of life when it comes to winter in the UK. So, this year, why not beat the winter blues and jet away for a holiday in the sun?
We’re not talking long-haul to the Caribbean or Mexico, either – in a few short hours you could be working on your winter tan and sipping mojitos by the pool.
From sun-soaked beaches in the Canaries to balmy resorts by the Red Sea, we’ve got the lowdown on the best easy-to-get-to hotspots, with maximum sunshine.
Read on for our top 5 destinations for winter sun, just a short flight from the UK.
1. Madeira, Portugal
Madeira boasts 5 times more sun than the UK over the winter months – perfect weather for exploring the island’s beautiful coastline and rugged interior. Highs of 20°C and hours of sunshine mean you’ll get your fix of Vitamin D, and the ocean will still be warm enough for a dip.
What to do:
The mild weather is ideal for discovering some of Madeira’s top attractions. In capital Funchal, don’t miss the cable car ride to the Botanical Gardens. The views across the bay are extra-special, and you’ll get to wander through a beautiful garden full of tropical plants – just don’t forget to say hi to the friendly parrots!
It’s also a great time to strap on your boots and hit the island’s hiking trails. The most popular walks can get pretty crowded in the summer months, but in the winter, you’ll practically have them to yourself. Start with the stunning Pico de Areeiro to Pico Ruivo trail, taking in Madeira’s highest mountains.
The clifftop VidaMar Resort is a 5 star gem with a heated indoor pool, spa, and fitness centre.
2. Hurghada, Egypt
With an amazing 9 hours of sunshine and 25°C heat, Hurghada welcomes serious sun-seekers in the winter months. The ocean will be a pleasant temperature for swimming, and the hotels in this part of the world all come with at least one outdoor pool.
What to do:
Hurghada’s Makadi Bay is the place to be for snorkelling and scuba diving. If you’ve ever fancied getting PADI certified, now’s your chance – there are dozens or reputable diving schools in the area. You’ll also find a wonderful white sand beach with see-through clear water, ideal for families with little ones.
Jungle Aqua Park is open year-round, with heated water over the winter months. This exciting water park comes with 35 slides for all ages – everything from heart-racing free-fall drops to gentle mini slides for tots. You’ll find plenty of places to relax, with sun loungers and parasols dotted around the park.
Hurghada Long Beach Resort comes with 5 stars, a large private beach and a choice of 7 swimming pools (2 heated in winter).
3. Agadir, Morocco
Average winter temperatures of 22°C and 7 hours of sunshine a day make Agadir one of our favourite winter sun destinations. While the sea will be a little chilly for most, a number of the hotel pools are heated in winter (see below).
What to do:
Agadir’s main beach is a wonderful place for a stroll in the sun, and at 12km long, you’ll have large stretches to yourself. To see the beach from above, head up to the Agadir Kasbah Ruins, a 300m-high citadel with breathtaking panoramic views.
In Agadir, you’re just a 3 hour road trip away from Moroccan capital Marrakech. Get lost in the city’s exotic souks, where you’ll find everything from precious spices to antique jewellery. Before heading home, stop off for an hour or two at the Koutoubia Mosque, built in 1158 – Morocco’s oldest place of worship.
With a heated outdoor pool, hammam, and sandy beach a few yards away, Sofitel Agadir Thalassa Sea & Spa Hotel ticks all the right boxes for winter sun holidays.
The mercury hovers around 20°C during winter on this captivating island in the Med – ideal for exploring the ancient streets and volcanic beaches. While this tiny country is usually packed to the rafters in summer, there’ll be plenty of space to roam in the winter months.
What to do:
The UNESCO city of Valetta can’t be missed on any holiday to Malta. Start at St. John’s Co-Cathedral, a magnificent building overlooking the harbour. In the same grounds, you’ll find Upper Barraka Gardens, where you can look out over the ocean in tranquil surroundings. Other unmissable sights include St. Paul’s Church and the Knights Hospitallers History Museum.
A walk along Malta’s scenic clifftops is another must-do on your winter holiday. With mild temperatures and a pleasant breeze, it’s the perfect time to tackle the Dingli Cliffs to Blue Grotto trail – a 7 mile hike that takes in some of the island’s most dramatic natural sights. If you fancy cooling off along the way, make a diversion to Ghar Lapsi for a dip in clear blue waters.
The all inclusive db San Antonio Hotel & Spa offers excellent value for money, with 3 outdoor pools and 1 heated indoor pool.
5. Tenerife, Canary Islands
Average temperatures in the winter hit the low to mid 20s, with over 6 hours of sunshine. That means you get to enjoy the beautiful sandy beaches on the southwest coast while working on your winter tan. You can expect things to be a little cooler at night, but for the most part, it’s shorts and t-shirt weather all the way.
What to do:
Now’s the time to spend a day or two at the world’s best water park – Siam Park. Heated over winter, this Thai-themed water world boasts adrenaline-pumping slides, giant lagoon-style pools and scores of mini slides and splash zones. Plus, you get to have fun without the queues!
On the Costa Adeje, there are over a dozen beaches to explore on your sunny winter break. A couple of our favourites are Playa del Duque, a stretch of soft sand with palm trees and turquoise waters, and Playa de Puerto Colon with its beautiful curve of white sand. If you want to try out exciting water sports on your Tenerife holiday, check out the action at Playa Fanabe.
With 5 stars, exquisite ocean views and 3 heated outdoor pools, what’s not to like about Royal Hideaway Corales Beach?