A holiday at any time of year is pretty wonderful, isn’t it? But there’s just something about a winter sun break that’s particularly appealing. To be stepping out in flip flops and sunglasses while the rest of the UK battles with rain, sleet and cold winds is pretty satisfying, and makes that sunshine feel all the warmer! What’s more, the fun, fiestas and events don’t stop when the summer ends, and the warmer weather could be much closer than you think.
Take a look and see…
With over 300 days of sunshine a year and temperatures rarely below 10°C, winter in the Algarve feels more like spring. It is a quieter season, but there’s still plenty going on, like the Father Christmas walk in Albufeira. Known as the Christmas Grand Prix, everyone is welcome to join in. Simply don your festive gear and choose between the 9km run, or the 3km walk. If food is your thing, visit the Gastronomy Festival of the Serra in Tavira, or the scrumptious sausage festivals in the inland villages. If you’re a keen twitcher then you can walk among the cork-oak trees, or visit the wetlands to see the birdlife as they stop off on their journeys to and from Africa. You might even catch a glimpse of flamingos! A winter sun break in the Algarve has just as much promise as a summer holiday, stroll along the quiet sandy beaches, play golf on some of Europe’s best courses and eat freshly caught fish in pretty coastal villages. Bliss!
The Canary Islands are famed for their year round sunshine, with balmy average temperatures of 19°C in winter. Apart from topping up your tan and recharging your batteries, there is plenty more to do. The colonial towns and sweet little villages hold many surprises, and the interior landscapes are fabulous to trek.
Winter also doesn’t have to mean that fiesta season is over. For music, food and fun check out the Fiesta Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria in TÍas, Lanzarote. For Rio-esque celebrations, the Carnival of Santa Cruz de Tenerife in February is a 15 day flamboyant affair, with an opening parade and parties every night until Ash Wednesday. Then, just when you think it’s all over, the following weekend they celebrate some more with the weekend of the Piñata Chica!
The winter months in Cyprus see the scorching heat transform into a pleasant, mild temperature – and the pace of life winds down accordingly. You can explore the deserted Paphos coastline, camera in hand, ready to snap those pictures without the summer haze. You can visit almost empty archaeological sites at Kourion, hike the Troodos Mountains and, if there is a snowfall, even join the locals there for a ski!
If you’re in Cyprus to celebrate New Year look out for Vasilopita. Known as ‘Basil’s Pie’, this sponge cake is flavoured with local oranges and brandy, with almonds scattered on top. Yum! For more tasty treats, visit any harbour on the 6th January to watch the Epiphany celebrations, known as ‘Ta Fota’, and eat lokoumades (tiny honey-soaked donuts) from the roadside stalls.
Madeira sits in the Atlantic Gulf Stream, which means it gets a whopping five times more winter sunshine hours than London, with daytime temperatures around 20°C. Warm days make this sub-tropical landscape a playground. Follow the Levadas irrigation channels through the mountains for breathtaking views, explore the botanical gardens, or head out on the water for deep sea fishing or whale and dolphin watching. If that’s not enough to tempt you, perhaps the winter celebrations are. The 31st December brings Funchal’s spectacular Guinness World Record firework displays, and in January you can take part in one of the island’s oldest traditions, the Festa do Panelo in Seixal. In late February the parties really start, with the island’s famed carnival.
The Sunshine State is full of winter promise! What with Halloween, Thanksgiving and then Christmas, the Americans really know how to celebrate this time of year. There’s a whole host of fun events and attractions in Orlando’s parks and far beyond. The beautiful Gulf Coast for instance, is brimming with activities. Naples is home to some fantastic malls and boutique shops. It’s also close to the Everglades, which you can see by air boat. Venice has several golf courses and the Oscar Scherer State Park, which is a great way to see Florida’s wildlife on foot, or by bicycle. There are also many water activities in Florida – sunset cruises around the bay of Sarasota, or canoeing around the waterways of Fort Myers. Finish off with a visit to the Thomas Edison winter home, with its famous tropical gardens and the amazing Banyan tree – definitely one to tick off the bucket list.
Barbados, Antigua, Jamaica & St. Lucia
Azure seas, pristine beaches and palms swaying to a rum and reggae tempo – an intoxicating mix for a holiday! Expect glorious winter temperatures of around 26°C, perfect for surfing the waves, diving colourful reefs, hiking rainforests, or enjoying a game of golf. The Caribbean islands are steeped in colonial history, bursting with historical and ecological sites that reflect their cultural heritage. Modern culture is just as vibrant and there’s no better place to enjoy a musical scene. Many festivals celebrate jazz, reggae and calypso tunes. Look out for the Barbados Jazz Festival in January and Jamaica’s Bob Marley week in February. Another great event is the Mount Gay Round Barbados race in January. The skippers navigate their vessels around the island in a three day boat race. There’s also the Holetown Festival in February, promising historic tours, Bajan nights, delicious street food and entertainment.
Want to find out a little more about a winter sun getaway? Take a look at our top tips for finding your winter sun bargain.