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We love mulled wine and Christmas markets as much as the next person, but chilly temperatures and dark mornings? Not so much. If you’re craving some winter sun too, you’re in luck: we’ve put together five of our favourite sun-kissed destinations. From the secluded shores of Greece to the lively cities of Italy, take your postcard-perfect pick.
Despite being only a four-and-a-half hour journey from London, the Canary Islands – an archipelago of volcanic islands off the coast of Africa – feels like a different world. You can choose from seven diverse islands, where the sub-tropical climate ensures temperatures of at least 20 degrees in winter.
Tenerife, with its snow-capped Pico del Teide mountain and tropical forests, is ideal for adventurous types. Its rugged coasts are peppered with buzzy bars and restaurants where you can nibble on pimientos de Padrón and soak up the lively atmosphere. Need to relax? Hop over to Gran Canaria, where white sand beaches and crystal clear waters await. Lanzarote is where you’ll find photogenic lava fields and the volcanic landscape of the Parque Nacional de Timanfaya, which sits atop bubbling magma chambers.
The verdant and wild main island of Madeira is the ideal place to go for rambling walks in the gentle sunshine. Funchal is the capital and is home to botanical gardens which offer views of the city, the harbour and the ocean twinkling beyond. Soak up the sun at one of the many beaches, dotted with peaceful coves.
If you’re in the mood to soak up some culture, head to the Funchal Cathedral, the gothic façade of which dominates the skyline. Enter to discover an ornate wooden ceiling, a classic example of Mudejar décor. Sipping on some sweet Madeira wine from one of the city’s cellars is the ideal way to soak up the last of the day's sunshine.
In winter, the island of Cyprus hovers around 17-19 degrees celsius, making it the ideal place for those seeking T-shirt weather. This is an island of many faces: at first glance, you’ll notice the long, lazy beaches of golden sand, lapped by warm waters.
Look a little closer, and you'll discover the real secrets of one of the Mediterranean's most ancient civilisations. Whether you're in Turkish Cyprus (the north of the island) or Greek Cyprus (in the south), you'll find atmospheric Neolithic sites such as Khirokitia, fascinating and immersive Bronze Age tombs and enchanting Byzantine churches patterned with ancient frescoes.
Hovering between Sicily and the north coast of Africa, you’ll find the archipelago of islands known of Malta. The climate here is sunny all year-round – ideal for when the freezing UK temperatures have you craving sun and sand. In winter, the temperatures are a little cooler, so you can comfortably enjoy hiking and cycling in Malta’s rocky landscape.
During your visit to Malta, make sure to visit the capital city of Valetta, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It's not difficult to see why: spend your time exploring the quaint boutiques lining the narrow cobbled streets, admire the colourful Barakka Gardens or allow yourself to be awe-struck by the St Michael’s Co-Cathedral, which was built between 1572 and 1577. The best thing about Valletta? It’s so compact that practically everywhere can be reached in a short walk.
If you’d love to see Sicily without the crowds, visit during the winter. The temperatures might not reach the highs of the other destinations on this list but will hover around 14 degrees, and you'll be free to wander among its Byzantine and Baroque architecture undisturbed.
While here, dine upon the magnificent feast of flavours that the island has to offer. Simple ingredients are grown locally and showcased to perfection in regional dishes. Expect juicy citrus fruits from fragrant groves, shellfish and tuna caught that morning from the harbour and sweet, crumbly ricotta on top of crusty bread. Cool nights call for evenings spent on beach-side terraces, a glass of local wine in hand. We recommend Malvasia –zesty and aromatic – or a crisp and fruity Chardonnay.
Ready to pack your sun cream and swimming gear? Escape the chill and join us on a Mediterranean, Italian or Greek cruise.
Athens is packed full of world-class galleries as well as outdoor sculptures and art boutiques. Find out more here.
Amsterdam is well-known for its bustling districts, lively café culture and world-class museums. However, look a little closer and you’ll discover relaxing attractions, from spas to green parks.
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