We all need some rest, recuperation, and a few rays of sunshine to banish the winter blues. There are plenty of destinations that see sun all year round, and can offer an escape from the damp and cold British weather. From castaway islands to historic adventures, here are our top 5 winter getaways.
1. Cape Verde – relax on white sandy beaches
Cape Verde is one of the best places in the world for windsurfing, kite surfing and diving.
Cape Verde is made up of 10 islands lying off the west coast of Africa, just south of the Canary Islands, boasting the tropical beaches of the Caribbean and a diverse culture. There are two main tourist islands – Boa Vista and Sal – with Boa Vista being the largest.
Sal is the sunnier island and is known for its Mars-like landscape. Its busiest town, Santa Maria, is a hub of activity with brightly coloured shops, bars and restaurants. It’s here that you can try one of Cape Verde’s national dishes – cachupa – a mix of corn, beans and meat.
If you’re staying in Santa Maria, look out for Praia Afonso beach – a virtually deserted stretch featuring old wooden buildings that offer shade in the heat. Behind the buildings is a pond that’s filled with tropical fish and crabs – ideal for getting close to nature. Get to Praia Afonso by taking a short 15-minute stroll east from Santa Maria town.
Cape Verde doesn’t have a winter season as such, and it rarely rains – it just cools slightly from December to March and has year-round temperatures of 24-30°C – making it an ideal winter escape.
2. Goa – enjoy the flavour of India
Goa is famed for its 100km long coastline of golden sands.
India’s smallest state, Goa, has an incredibly diverse history. It was a Portuguese colony for more than 400 years and, with 66-miles of coast and numerous UNESCO-listed heritage sites, there’s plenty to see and do.
South Goa is laid back with picturesque scenery, gorgeous beaches and small fishing villages along with plenty of yoga and wellness resorts. Here you’ll find a cluster of three beautiful beaches called Palolem, Patnem and Agonda, which boast palm tree groves and white sands.
North Goa is much livelier and is developing an exciting food scene through a combination of local, national and international influences. Make sure you take time to visit the Saturday Night Market in Arpora where you’ll find everything from intricately detailed pashminas to sparkly jewellery and live music.
For a day trip, head to one of the old Portuguese mansions dotted around and see what life used to be like in colonial Goa. The best-known is the Menezes Braganza House in Chandor. One side is a museum bursting with antiquities, while the other offers a glimpse into the glamourous décor of times gone by.
If you visit Goa during the winter season, which begins in October and lasts until March, you can enjoy average daytime temperatures of around 32°C.
3. Canary Islands – family fun in the sun
Playa de Las Teresitas in San Andrés has white sand and an azure ocean.
Around 13 million people flock to the Canary Islands each year and it’s not hard to see why. It’s one of the few places to benefit from a great year-round climate in addition to top-class resorts. In fact, there’s no bad time to visit, with temperatures averaging highs of 22°C in winter.
Fuerteventura has more than 150 swathes of sand and is the beach capital of the Canary Islands. It’s also a watersport enthusiast’s haven – however, the top spot to windsurf is in Jandia on the most southern tip of the island. It’s a modern resort where old meets new with beachfront restaurants aplenty in addition to shopping centres.
Gran Canaria is the third-largest island in the Canaries. Playa del Ingles, in the south of the island, is ideal for families and couples. Alongside a golden beach, it has a shopping mall and a great selection of bars and restaurants.
If you’re looking to hit the beach straight from your flight, Costa Teguise in Lanzarote is the perfect option. Situated just 15-minutes from the airport by car, it is ideal for families looking to take advantage of sport and leisure activities as well as local attractions.
4. Cyprus – where old meets new
Ruins in Kourion, Limassol, include a Roman theatre and an early Christian Basilica.
With its scenic coastline, ancient sites and lively nightlife, Cyprus is an ideal location for all. With a history that spans 9,000 years, it’s unsurprising that everywhere you turn there’s a rich culture and traditional experience – and, with 53 Blue Flag Beaches, you’re truly spoilt for choice.
Larnaca, on the southern shores of Cyprus, is a convenient resort for families looking to jump straight into the action as it’s home to the island’s main airport. It’s also filled with attractions, mouthwatering restaurants and an array of shops. It’s ideal for those looking for a laid-back break and has a strong café culture alongside museums and historical sites.
If you’re searching for scenic views and relaxation, then Ayia Napa is close by. As well as being a renowned party destination, it offers visitors the chance to explore the cobbled streets and a medieval monastery. Enjoy the azure waters by scuba diving and snorkeling, or take leisurely strolls in and around the picturesque town.
Paphos, on the west coast of Cyprus, offers a mix of relaxation, history and a lively nightlife. Near its old town sit traditional Cypriot restaurants, while on the harbour, you’ll find plenty of cafés and bars which come alive after dark – and, if you love culture and history, there are numerous UNESCO sites in Paphos too. Head to the Tomb of the Kings for an unforgettable experience where you can climb down into 1,000-year-old tombs.
During the winter months, the weather in Cyprus is still pleasant, so you can expect around six hours of sunshine a day and an average temperature of 17°C.
5. Barbados – a taste of the Caribbean
UNESCO World Heritage Sites, glorious beaches and rum await in Barbados.
If you don’t mind travelling a little further afield to get your winter sunshine fix, and have never been to the Caribbean before, we have the perfect solution! Barbados was under British rule until 1966 and the island has a subtle British feel to it – but don’t worry, you can still expect powder-soft white beaches and gorgeous warm waters.
The islands capital, and UNESCO World Heritage Site, Bridgetown, is a vibrant port city renowned for its stunning colonial architecture dating back to as early as the 17th century which paradoxically sits alongside modern multi-storey buildings and shopping malls.
No trip to the Caribbean would be complete without a visit to the beach – and if you’re travelling with children, Accra Beach on Barbados’ southern coast is the perfect retreat. Here you’ll find a natural pool-like area largely protected from the waves, so it’s great for kids looking to splash around in the azure waters. Alternatively, the daredevils among you can try your hand at a variety of watersports including wind surfing at the opposite end of the beach making for a great day out for all the family.
Let’s not forget that Barbados is famed for its rum production – with Mount Gay Rum being one of the islands most famous exports. It’s no surprise then that you can find a number of festivals dedicated to the spirit including the ‘Food, Wine and Rum Festival’ held over 4 days each November. Enjoy beach parties with traditional Caribbean calypso bands and, of course, sample a lot of rum! There’s also the option to visit all four rum distilleries on this island – although if you don’t have time to visit them all, be sure to pick up bottle from one of the 1,500 rum shops across Barbados!
With a vibrant culture, stunning architecture, gorgeous beaches and some of the best rum you’ll ever taste, coupled with average temperatures of 26°C, there are lots of reasons to treat yourself to a Barbados holiday this winter!
Published 28th October 2016