Imagine if instead of dusting off your winter coat and digging out your umbrella, you were dusting off your passport and digging out your sunglasses. If instead of commuting in dreary darkness you were waking up to bright skies and instead of hot chocolate by the fireplace to keep you warm, it was an ice-cold cocktail by the pool to cool you down. Sound like paradise? We thought so. There are endless reasons why a winter sun holiday should be on your radar from the incredible weather to the cheaper airline prices to the minimal crowds at otherwise bustling tourist sites. Some of the world’s most beautiful sub-tropical climates can be found just a hop, skip and a jump away from the UK, so don’t think twice – when October comes around, be in a location where you can catch a tan instead of catching a chill.
Did you know that Portugal can reach up to 22 degrees with 11 hours of sunshine in October? One of Europe’s driest and warmest countries, Portugal is the perfect option for a winter sun holiday close to home, with the Algarve being one of the top choices to soak up some rays. Long lazy days spent on the soft golden sands in the Algarve are beautifully paired with relaxing strolls along the coast where you’ll easily come across dining and shopping opportunities in abundance. The Algarve’s widespread popularity for holidays ensures an eclectic mix of international favourites and traditional Portuguese fare, and it can’t be forgotten that Portugal is well known for its fine wines and ports. For those with a desire to indulge in a little retail therapy, there are bargains galore whether it be souvenirs, locally produced arts and crafts or leather goods which are often available at a fraction of the price. Or, if you fancy spending your days filled with a bit more action, the Algarve is home to many of the world’s top golf courses and the cooling sea breezes, the beautiful climate and the glorious sunshine are guaranteed to make your tee time an unforgettable experience.
Best beach for winter sun: Praia de Dona Ana
Must-visit: Silves Medieval Castle
A winter sun holiday to Madeira will be one filled with beauty, excitement and memorable moments. This incomparable destination comprises of four volcanic islands to the northwest coast of Africa offering high cliffs, verdant greenery and mesmerising views – it’s been nicknamed the Floating Garden for a reason. Its sub-tropical location means that sea temperatures vary from 18 to 24 degrees Celsius, making it perfect for a late-year escape to enjoy some watersports or even sailing on the Atlantic to partake in fishing or whale and dolphin spotting. If aquatic adventures aren’t your thing, there are plenty of pastimes available on dry land. Take advantage of the cool, gentle breeze and hike up the island’s mountains to admire the tranquil landscape, or why not embrace Madeira’s fantastic culture with a visit to the historical buildings? Take a gander around the significantly less busy Se Cathedral, which was built in the 1500s, boasting interiors with Flemish paintings and a superior ceiling carved from cedar wood and inlaid with ivory and gold for a truly unique and majestic vision. For those cooler evenings, head to a local restaurant and try the sopa de tomate e cebola (tomato and onion soup), often served with a poached egg, followed with the traditional espetada which is grilled chunks of beef rubbed in garlic and salt and skewered onto a branch of bay leaves.
Best beach for winter sun: Calheta Beach
Must-visit: The colonial buildings in the Funchal capital
The Canary Islands… even the name sounds bright and full of sunshine! Lanzarote, Tenerife, Fuerteventura… each island has its own magnificent character but wherever you choose, temperatures in the mid-teens and above are guaranteed all-year round. It takes less than five hours to travel to the Canaries from the UK and its Atlantic heat makes it a massive draw for Brits when the winter months hit. Tenerife is the most popular, visited by over two million people from the UK alone each year, known for its fabulous beaches, sensational scenery, tremendous activities and mind-blowing volcano, Mount Teide which is the tallest peak throughout the whole of Spain and across all Atlantic Isles. Speaking of volcanic, Lanzarote’s six years of raging eruptions created the world’s largest field of lava and the extraordinary hills of black, grey and rust red are a magnet for visitors to marvel at. Add to the mix stellar beaches of white, gold and black sand, sun that shines for six hours a day during winter, a refreshing Atlantic breeze that makes windsurfing a popular pastime, and fantastic accommodation options ranging from the simple and cosy to the elegant and all-inclusive. Oh, did you know that Fuerteventura is known as the beach capital of the Canaries? History meets nature on this desert-like island while there’s no shortage of excitement from watersports on the Atlantic to sampling authentic tapas in a lively bar.
Best beach for winter sun: Sotavento Beach, Fuerteventura
Must-visit: Mount Teide, Tenerife
A small island that packs a mighty punch, Malta might often be overlooked when it comes to winter sun – which is exactly why this Mediterranean secret should be your first choice. Not only is there enough to keep you busy for weeks on end thanks to its incredible history that rivals the likes of Italy and Greece, but the balmy climate ensures warm weather all-year-round. Did someone say 25 degrees in October? That means only one thing – lazy beach days! Malta is abundant with gorgeous bays of soft golden sands and turquoise waters, making it the perfect place to enjoy the mesmerising coastline as you swim in the shallows or lounge on the shore. Malta is also very popular amongst divers who take advantage of the winter months with minimal crowds to explore the exciting underwater world and discover alluring wrecks and caves. Oh, and don’t forget to get a little culture during your holiday here – Malta is brimming with interesting landmarks, fascinating buildings and chic fishing harbours, all of which are dotted around plenty of shopping opportunities, delicious restaurants, bustling bars and exceptional hotels. The island’s traditional cuisine is rustic and based on seasonality, so you’ll always get the chance to sample something new whether you visit in summer or winter.
Best beach for winter sun: Maellieha Bay
Must-visit: St John's Cathedral and Casa Rocca Piccola
Egypt is hot, hot, hot! So hot in fact that during the summer months, temperatures can sometimes reach up to 50 degrees in the south thus making it the ideal option for winter sun – cooler, yet still boasting plenty of sunshine. It’s actually the perfect location to visit for Christmas as in December the sea water is still warm, prices are low and there’s minimal wind which tends to kick in during January and February. Cairo is a brilliant choice if you’re looking to soak up some culture with lesser crowds, boasting a fascinating medieval character with architecture that is truly breath-taking. Chaotic in the most exciting way possible, cars tear through the lively streets and people throng through the timeless bazaars haggling for bargains as exotic aromas fill the air and the tapestry of Middle Eastern life creates an atmosphere that you truly can’t get anywhere else. Or, if you’re seeking more of a fly and flop holiday, Sharm el Sheikh and Hurghada tick those boxes effortlessly. These beautiful resort towns are superb for beach adventures along the coast, with clear waters, magical coral reefs and exotic marine life just waiting to be explored.
Best beach for winter sun: Sahl Hasheesh Beach, Hurghada
Must-visit: The Pyramids of Giza
Vitamin D in December shouldn’t be hard to come by, especially with our top choices for winter sun that are just a few hours away from the UK. Permanent warmth and all-year-round sunshine in these destinations give summer a run for its money so book your winter escape with Olympic Holidays now and watch your unforgettable getaway fall right into place.