6 Best winter sun holiday destinations

BY Ben West

6th Jan 2024 Travel

3 min read

6 Best winter sun holiday destinations
Gloomy, dark skies and plummeting temperatures are a great trigger for dreaming of sun-drenched beaches and glistening blue seas. Here’s a selection of top choices if you’re looking to head off for some winter sun

1. Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka beach
With fantastic beaches, awesome cultural sights, a delicious national cuisine and an average December temperature of 30C, the Indian Ocean island of Sri Lanka ticks all the boxes for an ideal winter sun break. It boasts a host of beaches, from the deserted and palm-fringed, to those lined with restaurants and bars, and others perfect for water sports. The hot temperatures and dry winds from January to April make it the best time of the year to enjoy them.
"As well as fantastic beaches, you can visit temples, tea plantations, a towering rock fortress and see wildlife up close"
But you can also visit beautiful temples, tea plantations and a towering rock fortress, see elephants, leopards and water buffalo up close, take a train through stunning landscapes, and stay in gorgeous hotels and traditional manor houses. It’s a place you can hike, swim, surf and safari all in one day. Hayes and Jarvis can put together your personal tailor-made holiday.

2. Cape Verde

National Botanical Gardens of Cape Verde
The Cape Verde Islands, an archipelago and island country off West Africa in the central Atlantic Ocean, is not the most well known winter sun destination—and that’s ideal, as tourism is very understated here. Around a six-hour flight from the UK, the ten volcanic islands all have different personalities and offer a wonderful blend of African and Portuguese influences in their traditions, cuisines, customs and architecture.
Being blessed with a pleasant year-round climate, the archipelago offers a diverse range of landscapes from verdant mountain ranges, lush hills and rainforest to explore, to volcanic landscapes and wide deserted beaches. Variety Cruises offers eight-day cruises that visit a number of the islands. 

3. Langkawi, Malaysia

Beach on Langkawi with palm tree and sunset
Malaysia enjoys average winter temperatures of around 28.5C and plenty of sun, and therefore is another good choice if you want to head for the heat. Langkawi, which at nearly 500 square kilometres, is the largest island on Malaysia’s west coast. Part of an archipelago of 99 islands, it possesses a host of lovely beaches and unspoilt mountainous rainforest.
"Part of an archipelago of 99 islands, it has a host of lovely beaches and mountainous rainforest"
It is the perfect base for a holiday alternating from relaxation to thrills, because as well as the enticing beaches you can take the world’s steepest cable car to a sky bridge suspended between two peaks, embark on a mangrove tour, ride a zipline, visit vibrant night markets or take a sunset boat tour. The beachfront Danna Langkawi Hotel makes an ideal base for enjoying this tropical paradise.

4. Antalya, Turkey

Hadrian's Gate
Antalya, on Turkey’s southern coast, is a good choice if you are wanting to avoid long haul flights. However, you will need to be prepared for a bit of rain and some cold nights as well as the sunny days. As well as the miles of beaches here—which enjoy impressive mountain views around them—it has numerous historical sights, including marble, embossed and carved Hadrian’s Gate, built in 130AD, in Kaleiçi, Antalya’s pretty Old Town.
Kaleiçi has existed through Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, Seljuk, and Ottoman periods, and their different architectural styles remain. For children, there’s Land of Legends Theme Park and Antalya Aquarium. Bayou Villas in Antalya have every luxury, including their own pool, mini-gym, sauna and steam room, and residents enjoy the extensive facilities of the adjacent Larat Barut Collection resort.

5. Tenerife, Spain

Sunset and palm trees on Tenerife
Being at the same latitude as the Sahara desert, the Canary Islands possess some of Europe’s highest European temperatures all year. The largest island, Tenerife, is especially fascinating as its north and south are surprisingly different. The north is cooler, more mountainous and greener than the south.
"At the same latitude as the Sahara desert, the Canary Islands possess some of Europe’s highest European temperatures all year"
There are package holiday hotspots on the island, but it is easy to escape these to discover incredible natural landscapes including volcanoes and lava fields, tranquil pine forests, Unesco World Heritage sites, charming, quiet villages, hiking trails and unpretentious little restaurants serving the tasty local cuisine. Hotel Botánico is set in lovely gardens, and is one of the island’s nicest hotels.

6. Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Dubai skyline
With plenty of warm sun and a flight time of seven hours—rather  less than to the Caribbean—Dubai is a good choice for those seeking a wide range of sights and activities in addition to the white, sandy beaches. You can hit the desert to go on a camel ride and for a thrilling "dune-bashing" session, where you plunge down huge sand dunes in a Land Cruiser with an experienced driver.

A rather more sedate option is a boat ride along the creek, and shopaholics will be amazed at the huge malls. Marvel at the incredible skyscrapers (including the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building at 828m), and you can paraglide, skydive, jet board and jet ski. The Taj Exotica Resort and Spa at The Palm has a host of facilities.
Banner photo: Sri Lanka by Samal Nadeeshan
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