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Please note: this article is sponsored by our partners at TUI. The links on this page will take you directly to the TUI website.
August 27, 2021
This year’s ‘great British summer’ may not have lived up to its name weather-wise, but there’s still plenty of time to get some sun in 2021.
Whether you’re looking to stay close to home with a short hop to Europe or want to go all-out on a luxury holiday in the likes of the Caribbean and Dubai, we’ve tapped our partners at TUI for a little green and amber list inspiration.
And because TUI knows the traffic light system can change, they’re offering fee-free changes as part of their holiday promise. That’s free amends up to the day before departure if your destination changes to amber or full refunds if it goes red as they’ll cancel your holiday.
With that in mind, here’s our top picks for winter sun holidays in Europe and beyond.
All travellers returning from green list destinations are exempt from self-isolation on return to the UK. A PCR test, taken on or before day two of your return, is also required, and you can cut the cost with TUI’s great-value testing packages, which start at £20pp.
Antigua is never truly chilly: even its ‘coldest’ months can see temperatures in the high 20s. Travel between January and April, though, and you’ll avoid the mid-year hurricane season and enjoy the driest days of year – essential for all the lazy beach days you’ll want to have here.
You’ll find seaside Caribbean idyll right across the island – and often right on your resort’s doorstep – but of its 365 beaches, Dickenson Bay, Ffryes Beach and the remote Rendezvous Bay Beach are ranked among the best.
As for activities, water babies will be in their element in Antigua. Not only are the gin-clear waters invitingly warm, but you’ll be able to try everything from snorkelling and sailing to kite-surfing and kayaking.
Entry requirements: From October 1, 2021, all travellers regardless of vaccination status will need to provide a negative PCR test result taken within four days of your flight departure time.
Like most places in the Caribbean, Barbados more than lives up to its postcards: yes, the palm-lined sands really are that blindingly white and the water truly that blue. And when it comes to winter sun, well, Barbados does that brilliantly too. Expect temperatures hovering at the 26C mark between December and April, with the driest months early in the year.
Stay on the southwest coast for a quintessential Bajan experience. Capital Bridgetown bustles with shopping opportunities and restaurants all while being minutes from the beach. Mount Gay has its rum distillery here and you’ll get a taste of the island’s colonial history in its landmarks and museums.
Around 20 minutes’ drive from the capital is St Lawrence Gap with its line of rum shacks and reggae dancehalls. In between the two, you’ll find the tranquil neighbourhoods of Hastings, Worthing and Rockley – perfect tropical retreats if you’d prefer to sleep a step back from the action.
Entry requirements: Only fully vaccinated travellers can visit Barbados without needing to quarantine. You’ll also need to provide a negative PCR test result within the 72 hours before your flight arrival time and will be tested for free on arrival.
3. Madeira and Porto Santo
Perhaps only the brave will enjoy a dip in the cool waters of the Atlantic come winter but this Portuguese island and its little sister, Porto Santo, is still a top pick for short-haul sun – temperatures can hit 18C in January and February.
It’s all about getting back to nature on these islands. Madeira’s lush interior is traced with a 16th-century network of irrigation canals (known as levadas) and hiking along them to discover hidden waterfalls and jaw-dropping panoramas comes highly recommended.
Some 40km away in Porto Santo (two-and-a-half hours by ferry), you’ll find an impressive sweep of sand stretching for 9km (5.6 miles). There are plenty of watersports on offer here, and when you’re not sprawled on the beach, the verdant oasis that is Porto Santo Golfe awaits.
Entry requirements: If you’re fully vaccinated, you can enter with your digital Covid certificate on the NHS App. If you’re not fully vaccinated, you’ll need to provide a negative PCR test result taken within the 72 hours before your flight departure time.
Despite its idyllic location bang in the middle of the Mediterranean, a holiday in Malta isn’t just about hitting the beach (though you’ll certainly find an abundance of postcard-perfect spots).
The entirety of its capital Valletta is a UNESCO World Heritage Site thanks to its extensive history and high concentration of historical sites (320 in all). St John’s Co-Cathedral, the Grand Master’s Palace and St George’s Square are all worth stopping in, and further afield, you’ll find the Megalithic Temples of Malta. These ancient structures are dotted right across the island and on neighbour Gozo; some of the most famous are Ġgantija, Hagar Qim and Mnajdra.
Weather-wise, it’s little cooler in Malta in winter – you’re in for average highs of 16C – but sunshine still abounds.
Entry requirements: Only fully vaccinated travellers can visit. You can enter with your digital Covid certificate on the NHS App but it’s also recommended that you bring a printed version or the NHS letter.
Fully vaccinated travellers (generally, that means two weeks have passed since your second jab) are exempt from self-isolation on return to the UK. A PCR test, taken on or before day two of your return, is also required.
Winter is arguably the best time to visit Dubai. The weather is warm but not scorching – 40C temperatures are common in the height of summer – meaning it’s much more pleasant to explore this city of skyscrapers. And what a city it is. A playground for adults and kids alike, this flashy city has almost anything you could dream up, including an enormous indoor ski centre in the world’s largest mall.
Consider a stay on the hotel-studded Palm Jumeriah. This artificial island is all about living it up, whether you’re on one of the stunning private beaches or overlooking them from a swanky rooftop bar.
For a different experience on the sand, give dune bashing a go – that’s high-speed driving in a 4x4 across the dunes. Many tours combine the action with a much more sedate camel ride and a barbecue in the desert.
Entry requirements: All travellers regardless of vaccination status will need to provide a negative PCR test result taken within 72 hours of your flight departure time.
Scattered off the coast of Africa, this Spanish archipelago is a treat for travellers, as there’s so much diversity across its islands. Beaches, watersports, outdoor adventures and nightlife are well covered by big hitters Tenerife, Lanzarote, Gran Canaria and Fuerteventura, while their smaller neighbours, including La Palma and La Gomera, are ideal for a little more peace and quiet.
Choose Tenerife for the most variety (the south is all resorts and beaches while the north is dominated by lush tropical forests and vineyards), Fuerteventura for swathes of golden sand and watersport fun, and Lanzarote for sightseeing – its otherworldly, volcanic landscapes redefine the meaning of beauty.
In terms of temperatures, Tenerife just pips its neighbours with averages of 20C in January and February. But all islands rarely drop below the high teens so there’s not really a bad choice here.
Entry requirements: If you’re fully vaccinated, you can enter with your digital Covid certificate on the NHS App. If you’re not fully vaccinated, you’ll need to provide a negative PCR, TMA, LAMP or NEAR test result taken within the 72 hours before your flight’s arrival.
For a beachy winter sun break close to home, Agadir is a top pick. This seaside city is fringed with an enormous 9km sweep of sand ideal for lazy days on a sun-lounger. Small swells make Agadir’s beach a good one for wannabe groms to catch their first waves but for the pros, your best bet is to head north to the sleepy fishing village of Taghazout, where the breaks are much more consistent.
Away from the beach, you can shop and eat to your heart’s content at Agadir’s palm-lined seafront promenade. And when you’re looking for a slice of authentic Morocco, you can get your haggle on in its spice-scented souks and kaleidoscopic bazaars.
For a change of pace, lively Marrakech is the place to be. Bustling Jemaa el-Fna square and the nearby souks live up to their frenetic reputation but Marrakech does surprise with pockets of calm. Find tranquillity in the city’s gardens (La Mamounia and Jardin Majorelle) and in your resort, many of which are set back from the city centre.
Entry requirements: If you’re fully vaccinated, you can enter with your digital Covid certificate on the NHS App. If you’re not fully vaccinated, you’ll need to provide a negative PCR test result taken within the 72 hours before your flight’s departure.
St Lucia combines luxury and adventure in the most glorious of ways: you can zip-line through rainforest, hike one of its distinctive twin peaks and drive between sulphur springs on the world’s only ‘drive through volcano’.
Then, you can retreat to your boutique hotel nestled high in the hills or sprawl out on a sun-lounger by the pool of your all-inclusive resort. For a lesson in local life, make for Antigua’s famous Friday night parties. The Gros Islet ‘jump up’ is probably the biggest on the island but if you’re craving seafood, it’s got to be Anse La Raye’s Fish Fry.
As in the rest of the Caribbean, winter is the best time to visit, as the weather is still balmy, the waters warm and rainy days few and far between. Expect highs of 29C between December and March.
Entry requirements: All travellers regardless of vaccination status will need to provide a negative PCR test result taken within five days of your flight departure time.
Please note: We’ve listed general entry requirements for travel above but rules are often different for children and you may also need to provide a completed passenger location form. Check the FCDO website for the latest travel advice for your destination both before you book a holiday and in the lead up to your trip.
The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) provides valuable up-to-date travel advice for British citizens abroad. It is the best resource for reliable safety and security information. You can also find other important details, such as local laws, passport information and visa requirements. Stay safe abroad – check the FCDO before you travel.