Last-minute winter sun escapes from £145pp

Updated November 25, 2022

Published November 30, 2018
By Anna Hardy

Want to escape to somewhere lovely and warm this winter? Whether you want to avoid the pre-Christmas rush, spend the festive season abroad or start 2023 with a bang, these budget-friendly destinations are the answer.

Expect balmier-than-Britain beaches, cultural cities and sunshine-filled days. Just remember to dig out the sunscreen – you might be surprised to find you’ll need it!

1. Algarve, Portugal

Despite being only a three-hour flight from the UK, the dreary British weather will be well and truly left behind on the Algarve’s sunny shores. Temperatures remain around the high teens in December, making it a popular choice for a winter sun escape. The milder weather brings many benefits too, including fewer crowds, off-season deals and the chance to get stuck into activities without the scorching summer heat!

If you’re purely seeking a sunshine escape, have your fill of the golden sandy beaches that pepper Portugal’s southern coastline – Praia da Falesia is the longest and considered one of the most beautiful. Kick back and relax in peace on the sun-kissed sands or try your hand at windsurfing, sea kayaking or paddleboarding.

Alternatively, head east to discover the Algarve’s quieter side in towns such as Olhão and Tavira or make the most of the cooler temperatures and explore the outdoors. Get your hike on, hop on a bike tour or try a spot of golf – the Algarve has some of the best courses in Europe.

2. Cyprus

With some of the warmest winter temperatures in the Mediterranean, Cyprus is an easy pleaser for winter sun. It’s great value at this time of year, too. Many hotels slash their prices, you can often negotiate better rates on excursions, and restaurants offer special deals on lunch and dinner menus.

And for beach bums and culture cravers, it’s hard to do better. Sandy azure beaches and ancient archeological landmarks abound here and you can enjoy popular activities without peak-season crowds and the stuffy summer heat. Why not delve into the historic Tombs of the Kings in Paphos, join a jeep safari to discover the caves of Ayia Napa or hike into the Troodos Mountains? If that’s not for you, simply spend your days on the white sandy beaches of the south coast and tuck in to traditional Cypriot cuisine in a seaside cafe.

3. Antalya, Turkey

As one of Turkey’s best resorts – and one of the most visited cities in the world – it’s no surprise that Antalya has some serious fans.

But even in winter, when the crowds thin out and the weather reaches highs of 15C, the city has plenty going on. Be charmed by the vibrant shops and cafes of Kaleici old town, visit historical sights such as Hadrian’s Gate or delve deeper into Turkish history at the Antalya Museum.

If you prefer a beach escape over a city break, Konyaalti Beach is a lovely 13km (8 miles) stretch of fine shingle shores with views that reach all the way to the Taurus Mountains.

Feeling adventurous? Leave your sun-lounger and take a trip out to Kurşunlu Falls - winter walks here showcase the waterfalls in full flow. The Güllük Mountain National Park, where you can visit the impressive Ancient Theatre of Termessos, is also a short drive from Antalya.

4. Malta

A last-minute dash to Malta is easy thanks to its short three-hour flight time from London. With a mild Mediterranean climate and 300 days of sunshine a year, it’s an obvious choice for a dose of winter sun.

Stay in Malta’s capital, Valletta, for a city break in the sun. Discover winding alleyways, sample fresh seafood at weekly fish markets or head to the Grand Harbour for ocean views. Without having to negotiate around tightly packed summer crowds, leisurely wanders around the city’s compact centre are much more enjoyable.

The longest beach on the main island is Mellieha, with soft sand and calm waters, but little Gozo is the real beach queen – visit Ramla Bay for its red-gold sands and the best watersports centre around.

For a real sense of peace and quiet, head into the countryside. Winter rainfall brings the island’s lush vegetation to life, so pack your walking boots for rambles across rocky cliff paths and heritage trails.

5. Marrakech, Morocco

Marrakech is a just three-and-a-half-hour flight from London, but it feels like a world away come wintertime with pleasant temperatures around 20C. And while beaches aren’t quite on your doorstep – you’ll have to visit Essaouira or Agadir for that – it’s easy to be captivated by this vibrant city.

The central Jemaa el-Fna square buzzes from midday to midnight, while the UNESCO-listed medina is a colourful maze of souks – both are best explored without a map. Stay in the heart of the action in an oasis-like riad or, for the proper package holiday experience, choose an all-inclusive resort in the Palmeraie area. You can find some incredibly good-value deals during winter.

If you’re really yearning for the ocean, Essaouira is just easy enough to tick off in a day (around two-and-a-half-hours’ drive from Marrakech), but we recommend either staying a night there or sticking around Marrakech to really get to know this fascinating city.

6. Costa del Sol, Spain

No prizes for guessing what awaits in this Andalusian region that translates to ‘Coast of the Sun’. Winter temperatures hover around the late teens here and, with an average of 325 days of sun a year, there’s plenty of blue skies to go around.

A winter holiday to the laidback region is a great opportunity to enjoy a slower pace of living, Spanish style. Take your pick of Blue Flag beaches for sandy-toed strolls and lazy sunbathing sessions, or head out to sea on a boat tour to spot passing pods of dolphins.

For culture and coast combined, stay in Malaga or Marbella where you’ll find museums filled with thousands of years of history, contemporary art galleries and beachfront tapas bars.

If you’re after a quieter escape, head to the pretty seaside town of Nerja for white-washed buildings and spectacular caves or nestle into nature in Sierra de la Nieves Natural Park – a go-to for adventure activities and panoramic viewpoints.

7. Sicily, Italy

There’s so much more to Sicily than sun, sand and sea - think ancient archeological sites, delicious Sicillian cuisine and traditional old towns that are made for exploring.

Stay in the capital, Palermo, for a city and beach break combined. Culture buffs can discover landmarks including Piazza Pretoria’s ‘Fountain of Shame’ and the Cappella Palatina chapel, while beach enthusiasts can bask on the sandy shores of Mondello or Magaggiari beach. If temperatures dip, you can swap the sea for a soak in Segesta’s natural hot springs.

Have your fill of fresh seafood, arancini and sweet ​​cannoli before heading to Marsala on the west coast for wine tasting. Or embrace the lower temperatures by getting your hike on and summiting volcanic Mount Etna.

8. Tenerife, Canary Islands

Home to year-round toasty temperatures, Tenerife is holiday heaven come summer or winter. Its sizzling sands tempt sun-seekers escaping the dreary British weather and it’s not hard to see why: its alluring azure waters and powder-soft beaches are just a four-hour flight from London.

Winter is prime time for a relaxing beach break. Great-value all-inclusive package deals are easy to come by, plus you can expect resorts to be quieter than in the summer - including the popular Playa de las Américas. But what makes a winter holiday to this Canary Island even more compelling is the plethora of activities available while temperatures are pleasantly cooler.

Teide National is a playground for nature lovers and adrenaline junkies alike. Take a quad tour, hit the mountain bike trails, hike the volcanic peaks or take a 4x4 drive around the fascinating landscape. Or take to the hills of Anaga Rural Park to spot native wildlife and discover natural pools among the subtropical Laurel forest.

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