O ne Christmas — it was back in those halcyon months just before the pandemic kiboshed all our holiday plans — my husband and I decided to swap the whole over-tinselled package for a short spell in Italy. Fabulous, it was. We booked a little seaside town inside Liguria. Dramatic waves from a recent storm became the soporific soundtrack to our nights, and temperatures of 20C the particular soothing balm to our days.
No Christmas lights, no wall-to-wall Dean Martin blaring through shopping arcades. Just beautifully low-key stuff. In shop windows we gazed upon beribboned panettones and bottles of foil-wrapped prosecco rather than loudly lauded BOGOFs. And on Christmas Day itself, as the sea flounced against the rock-perched castle, restaurants opened up their terraces and dished up seafood linguine in the sunshine.
My face, lacking its usual high-factor protectant, tingled in protest because we simply hadn’t expected such heat. And the temperatures continued to rise each day. It has been a tough call not to include Italy inside the following selection associated with jet lag-free winter sun destinations, but the Xmas after that one, in that same sweet Italian town, we were drenched inside rain the entire week.
Those European suggestions I have made — Lanzarote , Fuerteventura, Madeira , Cyprus and the Azores — pretty much guarantee a continuous blast of sunshine, albeit, as in Madeira’s case, along with the odd steamy shower included.
You’ll see I’ve included some wild cards too, countries south associated with here where there’s little or no time difference, but that will pack a cultural punch: Senegal will be on the particular rise now that Tui has launched direct flights there from the UK; with Morocco, I have swapped the particular typical Marrakesh-Atlantic-coast combo for a cracking Sahara adventure, and in South Africa, suggested the city-safari escape where you can get the best of both worlds: lovely beaches, restaurants and sightseeing, then high-octane wildlife adventure.
With all these recommendations, there’s still plenty of scope with regard to pool-lounging if that’s your thing. Whatever your choice, swapping expensive fuel costs regarding a jaunt somewhere toasty, and along with zero aircraft lag, has to be a great way to offset winter’s gloom.
1 . Fuerteventura, Canary Islands, Spain
Big empty beaches plus movie-set landscapes
Time difference: none. Flight time: 4. 5 hours. Average Jan temp: 18C
With no period difference between the UK and a reasonable four-and-a-bit-hours flight, Fuerteventura’s warm winters and famous winds offer a deliciously balmy antidote in order to blustery UK days. The island also romps home with the title associated with best coastline of the Canaries: think long, long stretches of beach, white sands in the north that should wow the pickiest of sunlight lovers, and, thanks to those trade winds, a pleasing surfy vibe at Corralejo, Lajares and family-friendly El Cotillo. Further south, beyond the particular glut of hotels around Jandía peninsula, are black-sand beaches — or head to wild, surf-bashed beauties like Cofete on the west coast.
Despite being the second largest from the Canaries, Fuerteventura is also the particular emptiest, plus away from its resort scene will be a raw, scrunched-up hinterland spiked with volcanoes and agave plants that regularly pulls in film-makers. Wonder Woman 1984 , Exodus: Gods plus Kings and Solo: A Star Wars Story are among several movies filmed here. Explore that wild west interior and combine with visits to villages such as Betancuria, Fuerteventura’s oldest settlement.
There’s also a fabulous day trip to Isla de Lobos, a 15-minute ferry ride from Corralego. This nature reserve is home to rare birds and salt marshes, and its clutch associated with dreamy beaches fronting shallow protected waters are ideal for swimming or paddleboarding.
For active families, Fuerteventura offers a stimulating alternative to Tenerife. Watersports span windsurfing plus kitesurfing and snorkelling among lagoons; the fabulous dunes of Corralejo National Park will possess you tumbling happily over pillowy slopes for hours, or opt for a buggy safari (£85pp, dunebuggyexcursion. com) to Oasis Wildlife in Lajita (£52pp, children £34pp, oasiswildlifefuerteventura. com) where botanical gardens adjoin a wildlife park which is house to 250 species.
Details Seven nights’ self-catering in an one -bedroom villa at Pierre & Vacances Origo Mare Holiday Village, on the particular island’s northern coast, through £477 intended for a party of four (pierreetvacances. com). Fly in order to Fuerteventura
Île de Gorée inside Senegal
2 . Senegal, West Africa
New winter-sun hotspot
Time distinction: none. Flight time: five hours. Average Jan temperature: 21. 5C
It may not be the most obvious choice to get off-season sun, but after Tui launched a direct flight from Gatwick in November, this French-speaking West African coastal country is likely to become a hot ticket pertaining to winter escapes. Bordered by Mali, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau plus Mauritania and encircling the Gambia, this former French colony may be among the particular poorest nations in the world, yet it’s furthermore one of the most stable. Factor in zero jet lag (Senegal observes GMT year round), the dry plus wind-blasted winter that keeps those high temperatures superbly mellow, and affordable accommodation deals, plus what’s not to love?
Surfers should head to the Almadies peninsula, the prime spot just outside Senegal’s capital, Dakar. Nosing the Atlantic at the particular westernmost tip of The african continent, this has one of the largest swell windows in the world, with powerful rollers often cresting 10ft.
Among the many must-sees is usually Unesco-listed Île de Gorée, a 20-minute ferry trip from Dakar (£3pp; portdakar. sn). This dinky car-free island a mile off Dakar exactly where, among the colonial buildings, the particular Maison des Esclaves charts the story of the colonial slave trade. Add on a boating safari (£53pp; musement. com) with an excursion to the Saloum Delta National Park, where saltwater canals bristle along with spoonbills and flamingos, then soak up some vibrant Senegalese culture in Dakar’s Ifan Museum associated with African Arts (ifan. ucad. sn).
Senegal’s music scene is pretty peerless too: the thrum of djembe drums, reggae plus homegrown pop alongside rollicking jam sessions regularly reverberate through the underground nightclubs associated with Dakar.
Information Seven nights’ B& B at the 4T Riu Baobab in Pointe Serene from £810pp, including flights and transfers ( tui. co. uk )
Mountain biking in Madeira
Classic island get away with added adrenaline
Time difference: none. Airline flight time: 3. 5 hours. Average Jan temp: 18C
Another in order to share the particular GMT corridor, the island of Madeira has been wowing British sunseekers since the 19th century. Well-off consumptives would head here for a steamy cure, guaranteed comfort from Reid’s Palace hotel, plus — when the coughing allowed — an enjoyable sojourn amongst its organic gardens. Nowadays it’s the lure of adrenaline-fuelled adventures and assured warmth (albeit sprinkled with regular showers) that attracts wintering Brits.
Full associated with sharp peaks and knife-edged ridges that drop to a verdant coastline because nibbled as a paper doily, Madeira is one of the prettiest of the Atlantic islands. Even in case you’re not really that into plants, you should factor in a visit to Monte Palace Tropical Gardens (£11; montepalacemadeira. com). Stepped pathways here come bordered simply by protea, camellias and rhododendrons.
For adrenaline junkies, the particular Monte Toboggan Ride is definitely a must-do (from £22pp; carreirosdomonte. com). Touristy, yes, but it takes guts to whiz down all those hairpin bends in a metal-bottomed wicker sled. Alternatively, mind off-piste and explore Madeira’s sharply defined volcanic inside and jagged north coastline. Guided 4WD safaris (£59pp; hittheroadmadeira. com) can whisk you through mossy rainforests and patchwork valleys upon sandy tracks that cars cannot navigate.
Mountain bicycling, paragliding plus indeed canyoning have turn out to be the hot tickets in recent years, along with canyoning pros coming here to train on more than 40 established routes. Often involving abseiling and navigating waterfalls, there are guided routes available for all levels. Or, for something less strenuous, try the levada walk. This 15th-century network of stone water-irrigation channels cuts with the island’s rainforests, plus hiking them is a lovely way to soak up Madeira’s verdant interior.
Details Seven nights’ B& W at Belmond Reid’s Structure from £1, 675pp, which includes flights and transfers (inspiringtravel. co. uk)
The particular Azores
ENRICO PESCANTINI/GETTY IMAGES/ISTOCKPHOTO
4. The Azores
Lunar scenery and warm temperatures
Time distinction: none. Trip time: 5 hours. Average Jan temp: 18C
Think of Iceland with the thermostat turned up several notches and you’ve got a flavour of Sao Miguel, the largest island within the Azores. This particular remote mid-Atlantic settlement is Iceland’s steamier, warmer twin, with winter season temperatures averaging about 16-18C. Expect an extraordinary lunar landscape devoid associated with high-rise resorts, with black-sand beaches, hot springs plus steep volcanoes, verdant valleys and vast lakes.
Europe’s wildest archipelago has gained increasing recognition, not least as its nine islands offer a quieter alternative in order to the Canaries. Sure, like Madeira, you’ll get showers in wintertime, but that will mist is great meant for the skin and those reliably balmy temps will quickly shoo away any winter cobwebs.
Kick off upon Sao Miguel, soaking up its Jurassic Park atmosphere at Furnas valley. One of the most thermally active locations on the particular planet, its spa town is surrounded by sulphuric fumaroles exactly where locals cook up slow-food feasts in the thermal waters. Alternatively, take a reviving dip in the 40C bubbling springs with Terra Nostra Garden (£9, parqueterranostra. com).
Want some thing more active? Hike to vast lakes and steep cloud forests; go kayaking or mountain biking — or simply enjoy birding plus whale watching. Other island destinations? On Terceira, a 45-minute flight away, you’ll find a lush landscape peppered with cinder-cone volcanoes, as well as the charming city of Angra do Heroismo can be well worth a pootle around in order to admire the Flemish-influenced pastel-painted houses. Alternatively, head off to Flores, a startlingly green island full of waterfall-streaked rock formations, hike on Santa Maria, or discover the epicentre from the archipelago’s surprisingly palatable wine on Pico. There are usually inter-island ferries and flights that can connect you to other Azores destinations.
Details Seven nights’ B& B self-guided trekking upon Sao Miguel and Santa Maria through £1, 339pp, including plane tickets, transfers, walking notes and luggage transfers (walksworldwide. com)
The Marataba Explorers Camp
five. South Africa
Great value designed for city fun and wildlife
Time difference: GMT+2. Flight time: 10 hrs. Average January temp: 22C
While sterling continues in order to tank against the dollar, South Cameras remains 1 of a handful of places offering value just for money — and indeed, the ten-hour flight is a pain, but with just two hours’ period difference inside January you will get guaranteed sun, exquisite beaches, fantastic food plus wine, plus — when you so choose — a taste of glorious Cape Town. And having come so far, why not tack on an animals safari?
Kick away a city-safari holiday with time within South Africa’s flagship metropolis. Hire the bike (£40 per day; irideafrica. com) and explore Cape Town’s historic centre; it’s easy to get around and cycling has become a bit of a thing here, along with bike-friendly venues and a host of cycle lanes. Wheel past squares stuffed with Victorian, modernist and Cape Dutch architecture, then follow the ten-mile cycle lane to Table View for the purpose of a perfect shot of Table Mountain.
Afterwards, head to Clifton 4th beach to soak upward some rays, or snoop around the markets, shops plus restaurants on the V& A Waterfront, Cape Town’s vibrantly renovated old harbour. If you’ve any energy left, a climb up Table Hill at sunset is hugely rewarding. The particular Platteklip Gorge route, though steep, is certainly definitely the particular simplest: a person should reach the top in a hour or so.
After Cape City, fly in order to Johannesburg for the four-hour drive towards the Marataba Explorers Camp and time among buffaloes, leopards, lions plus elephants. At the foot of the Waterberg mountains, the camp runs the pleasingly different safari where one can assist and learn about animals conservation. Activities include helping the rangers with elephant monitoring, rhino ear notching, tracking predators and patrolling snares.
Details Eight-night city and safari adventure (three nights’ B& B at Welgelegen Guest House in Cape Town and five nights’ total board in Marataba Explorers Camp) from £7, 983 for 2, including internal transfers (aardvarksafaris. co. uk). Fly to Cape City
Boa Vista, Cape Verde
6. Shawl Verde
Time difference: GMT-1. Air travel time: 6 hours. Regular Jan temperature: 23C
The doable six-hour direct airline flight from the UNITED KINGDOM and with a time distinction of just one hour, Hat Verde is gratifyingly hassle-free to achieve — so more’s the surprise that relatively few people know where it is. Think the particular eastern Ocean and scroll some 350 miles west of Senegal and there you are: ten volcanic islands ringed with pristine beaches.
Understandably, those within the understand come in charge of sun and sand, and the islands that will best serve their needs are Ótima Vista plus Sal. But to arrive here without island hopping is to miss the point associated with this idyllic archipelago.
Southerly Fogo wins the crown for scenic drama; its conical Pico do Fogo erupted since recently as 2015. You can hike to the summit and explore Cha das Caldeiras, a small settlement plonked right inside the crater (from £37pp; getyourguide. co. uk).
For culture, visit the tropical isle of Sao Vicente plus soak upward its blend of Brazil, Portugal and Africa within the island’s capital Mindelo. Impressive buildings line its two main streets, Avenida Marginal and Rua Unidade Africa, and from Torre sobre Belem, you’ll find a miniature version of Lisbon’s ornate 16th-century landmark, the Tower of Belem.
The archipelago’s music scene is also worth tracking down. Head to Mindelo’s bars plus cafés with regard to live performances of lilting morna rhythms that honour Sao Vicente’s diva, Cesaria Evora.
And getting around? Well, given the archipelago covers some 1, 500 square miles from the Atlantic, it’s well served by inner flights. If you want a multi-island break opt regarding tour operators like Cape Verde Experience, which can package up a taste of the best.
Details Seven nights’ B& B in 3/4-star hotels on Sao Vicente, Santo Antao and Sal from £1, 694pp including flights and transfers (capeverde. co. uk)
Casa-Museo César Manrique at Haría
Art, beaches and drama
Time difference: none. Flight time: 4 hours. Average Jan temp: 20C
Thanks to the campaigning associated with the visionary local artist César Manrique, sun-baked volcanic Lanzarote has managed to remain relatively low rise and low key. That’s not to say it lacks grotty — or should that be Lanzagrotty — bits: witness the particular eyesore that is the Arrecife Gran Hotel. However, it’s easy enough in order to avoid the particular ugly parts, and factoring in some walking is one of the best ways to experience the island’s more authentic face.
The most popular beach resorts, such as Costa Teguise, Puerto del Carmen and Playa Blanca, run along the warmer southern coast. However , don’t miss out on the green plus rugged north coast, home to a clutch of attractive fishing villages including Punta Mujeres, La Santa, Arrieta and Orzola. You’re then within simple reach associated with the artist’s fabulous old home and studio, the particular Casa-Museo César Manrique at Haría or even, for more of the artist’s extraordinary vision, check out his work in the network of natural tunnels with bars, cafés plus pool in Jameos del Agua (£9pp for both; fcmanrique. org)
Inland, there’s the brick-red volcanic terrain of Timanfaya National Park (free entry; miteco. gob. es) where you can explore extraordinary lunar-like stretches on a walking tour or even the camel ride. Afterwards, factor in the particular pretty former capital, Teguise, whose historical core shelters protected traditional Canarian mansions — or even jump on a ferry over to Una Graciosa, Lanzarote’s tiny car-free sister island (£12pp; biosferaexpress. com. es).
Lanzarote’s much-lauded wine region is a must-do. Because of the unforgiving terrain and harsh winds, vines are cultivated here either within volcanic craters or clinging to lava fields, the end result producing everything from bone-dry whites in order to subtly sweet malvasia. If you want to visit several wineries and enjoy tastings without the worry associated with driving, book an excursion with Wine Tours The island (from £60pp; winetourslanzarote. com).
Details 7 nights’ B& B upon self-guided walking holiday through £675pp, including car hire, walking notes and maps (inntravel. company. uk). Fly to Lanzarote
BALATE DORIN/GETTY IMAGES/ISTOCKPHOTO
Desert adventure plus souks
Time difference: GMT+1. Flight time: 3 hours. Average Jan temperature: 15C
Yes, it may get chilly at night, but Morocco within winter ushers in blue skies, balmy temperatures and a more relaxed vibe in its cities than you’ll find in summer and autumn. If you’re not bothered about a sun-and-sand holiday and prefer something a bit more wild card than the ever-popular Marrakesh-Atlas Coast itinerary, consider combining its lesser known towns with Sahara desert excursions — all easily doable through a specialist tour operator, making use of internal flights and the private driver.
One such itinerary is the 11-day Souks to the Sahara desert adventure with Millis Potter. Kicking off in Casablanca, it sees you flying down in order to the extraordinary time-warp frontier town of Zagora, whose tiered mud-brick buildings rise from the base of the anti-Atlas in Morocco’s deep south. This is the starting point for off-road adventures and camel rides, unforgettable sunsets plus camp dinners, then a swish night under canvas among the enormous dunes associated with the Erg Chigaga.
Afterwards, trace the route to the Berber people’s Draa Valley, where 16th-century caravans would stop en route to Timbuktu. Along the way are stops at Tinzouline, famed for its dates, and Agdz, an oasis on the old caravan route in order to Marrakesh. Then comes attractive Skoura, a town that was originally used by caravans as a place to swap gold plus spice-laden camels for hardy mules, inside preparation with regard to tackling the particular tricky peaks from the Atlas mountains.
Skoura still has its mud-brick kasbahs alongside a beautiful palm-fringed palmeraie and souks brimming with desert produce. It’s also the relaxing pitstop for a few days before the drive over the mountains to Marrakesh.
Details Ten nights’ B& B from £1, 995pp, including plane tickets to Casablanca and through Marrakesh, transfers and car owner (millispotter. com)
Annabelle hotel, Cyprus
Mountain villages plus wineries
Time difference: GMT+2. Flight time: 4. 5 hours. Average Jan temp: 15C
Being only about 130 miles off the coast of Lebanon, Cyprus is closer to Levantine weather patterns and a spell associated with winter here can mean balmy and even surprisingly hot times, with temperatures averaging about 19C around the coast. Outside rainy December, this is the ideal season regarding exploring pretty mountain villages, hiking, visiting wineries, or simply enjoying the island’s historic sites without the summer crowds.
Head for the Akamas region in the particular northwest of the island, a national park patterned with hiking and mountain biking routes to suit all levels. The Adonis Trail is an easy five-mile walk along an old donkey trail through tamarisk, pine and juniper trees that open up to gorges and maquis-perfumed glades. Alternatively, climb Akamas’s highest point, Moutti tis Sotiras, for far-reaching views along a lacy network of coves scribbling out from the clear shallows of the Blue Lagoon and Fontana Amorosa. Afterwards, stop off at Latchi, a fishing village on the eastern edge of the peninsula, plus join Cypriot families who gather at the tavernas here on Sundays for endless seafood mezes taken in the sunshine.
Don’t miss the particular Troodos hill range, home to some of the island’s prettiest villages. Tight lanes encircle flower-bedecked houses at Laneia, many of which belong to the village’s sizeable artistic community. In summer, this place heaves with tourists, but in winter it’s a drop of heavenly peace with old men outside the 200-year-old kafeneio (coffee shop), families dining in the trio associated with charming vine-shaded tavernas, and cats snoozing under heavily-fruited orange trees and shrubs.
Details Seven nights’ B& B in Annabelle hotel from £1, 225pp, including flights plus transfers (scottdunn. com)
The Chedi El Gouna, Egypt
Fly and flop in style on the Red Sea Riviera
Time difference: GMT+2. Flight time: 4. 5 hours. Average Jan temp: 22C
Although most British visitors still head with regard to the better-known hotspots of Sharm el-Sheikh and Hurghada, smaller high-end resorts along the so-called Red Sea Riviera are quickly gaining favour. It’s simple enough to understand the appeal: this is where peerless beaches mix with thrilling activities plus excellent restaurants — and with that Egyptian summer scorch now over, winter ushers in reliably pleasant and steady sunshine.
El Gouna is among the smaller resorts, and even if purpose-built towns can go horribly wrong in terms of design, that’s not the case here. The particular resort started life in the usual way, growing from a small fishing village. Then came serious investment, and the result is a sensitively designed enclave built around lagoons, islands plus canals. Award-winning architecture mixes with traditional Egyptian blueprints (witness the brand new Chedi Este Gouna), alongside appealingly contemporary designs. Add to that self-contained areas regarding shops, dining places, private homes and hotels, then a ban on hustlers and a car-free policy (tuk-tuks and cheap buses patrol the streets), and you’ve got Egypt-lite with added trimmings.
Many wealthy Egyptians have their holiday homes in El Gouna, making full use of the private airport. For tourists, it’s a case of flying into Hurghada then taking the 25-minute transfer. Once settled, there’s a wide range of watersports, including explorative diving in sheltered waters an hour’s boat ride away, along with two championship golf courses, tennis plus horse riding — and of course those glorious palm-shaded beaches.
Details A week’s B& B at the Chedi El Gouna from £1, 499pp, which includes flights and transfers (abercrombiekent. co. uk)