The 50 best winter-sun destinations

"Лишь несчастному нужна его правота, счастливый хвататься за неё не будет." Андрей Курпатов ©
Время на прочтение: 27 минут(ы)

For many of us, summer 2020 feels like it never really took place. Even though lockdown for much of the UK began to ease in June, the changing quarantine rules have meant that planning a summer holiday abroad has been more complicated than ever, with travellers not just wondering about the best places to stay, but where is safe to travel to right now.

As the world adjusts to the new normal, now we’re looking ahead to the colder months and wondering which classic winter-sun destinations it’s still possible to visit. Below we’ve collated the destinations that not only offer warm weather during December onwards, but are also open to tourism and exempt from the English quarantine list (check the separate government pages for Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, as travel restrictions in those countries are being tightened and loosened at different times). Please note, we’ll aim to update this list regularly, but for the most up-to-date advice, visit the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office.

For more travel ideas, see our pick of the best holiday destinations to visit in 2021.

The best winter-sun destinations available for travel now

  • The 50 best winter-sun destinations

    The Maldives

    Flight time: 10 hours


    When to go: December – April


    Average winter temperature: 28°C

    There is no bad time to go to the Maldives. There is nothing bad about going to the Maldives at any time ever. They are perfect little islands, whichever you choose – tiny castaway-fantasy sandy islets, mostly with one immaculate resort, with various levels of splendidness. Even people who think they will get bored in the Maldives end up loving the Maldives. They’re family-friendly, and for blissed-out beachy nirvana, they’re hard to beat. And they’re best of all during the British winter, and a quite do-able 10 hours away.

    The best hotels in the Maldives.

    The best hotels in the Maldives

  • The 50 best winter-sun destinations

    Bermuda

    Flight time: 7 hours from London


    When to go: October to March


    Average winter temperature: 24°C


    Travel status: UK travellers can visit Bermuda without having to quarantine upon return to the UK. You’ll need to apply for Travel Authorisation and have a Covid-19 test before you go.

    The mid-Atlantic archipelago of Bermuda, mythical setting for Shakespeare’s Tempest, is a land of pink beaches, pink houses and brightly coloured shorts. It is Caribbean in nature, though it’s much closer to the UK – so shorter flight times – and has a distinctive character all of its own.

    Its pink-sand beaches are lovely, too. Those along the South Shore are the glory of the island. Horseshoe Bay is the best known and most crowded, though Warwick Long Bay, a short way along the coast, is just as alluring. At one end of Horseshoe there is a little patch of sand the size of a playground, cut off from the rest of it by a rocky hillock.

  • The 50 best winter-sun destinations

    Cuba

    Flight time: 13+ hours from London


    When to go: October to April


    Average winter temperature: 27°C


    Travel status: UK travellers can fly into select airports in Cuba without having to quarantine upon return to the UK. There are luggage limits of one case of up to 32kg per passenger, plus hand luggage.

    With its lovely Caribbean climate, guaranteed warm and sunny days and very little rain, Cuba’s weather is at its most reliable during the UK winter. The beaches down on the south coast may get the best sunshine and draw the biggest crowds, but there’s plenty beyond the palm-fringed stretches of sand. Havana’s got its colourful pastel-hued buildings, cigars and Cadillacs, while the perfectly preserved Spanish colonial architecture in UNESCO-protected Trinidad makes the city feel lost in time. Elsewhere, there’s no end of nature reserves, lush forests, mountains and tobacco plantations to explore.

    Plan your visit with our ultimate guide to Cuba.

    Cuba – the ultimate guide

  • The 50 best winter-sun destinations

    Canary Islands

    Flight time: 3 hours 30 minutes


    When to go: Year-round


    Average winter temperature: 22°C

    It’s summer all the time in the Canaries, where temperatures average in the low-mid 20s all year round. As well as the well-known destinations – Gran Canaria, Tenerife, Fuerteventura, Lanzarote (pictured) – there are three smaller islands that are less visited and less spoilt: La Palma, El Hierro and La Gomera. They don’t appear on the average British holidaymaker’s mental world-map, and make for interesting exploring and winter sunshine.

    The best Canary Islands to visit.

    The best Canary Islands to visit

  • The 50 best winter-sun destinations

    Dubai

    Flight time: 7 hours


    When to go: November to March


    Average winter temperature: 26°C

    For year-round sunshine, spotless beaches and impeccable service a short hop away, Dubai is an obvious choice. The Palm, a manmade sweep of beach packed with superb hotels, each with its own immaculate patch of beach, is perfect for family holidays. It’s not all glass and shopping malls in Downtown Dubai: the Old Souk is a warren of glittering jewellery and pots, and the peaceful Dubai Creek hints at a time before the seven-star hotels and indoor ski slopes. Two new creative districts(Dubai Design District and Al Quoz) have gained the attention of the international art scene, too. To see the city in its best light, go in November, when it’s not too humid and you can happily bronze by the pool all day.

    The best things to do in Dubai.

    10 amazing things to do in Dubai

  • The 50 best winter-sun destinations

    The best winter-sun destinations that are either currently not exempt from the UK quarantine rules and/or are closed to tourism

    Taghazout, Morocco

    Flight time: 3 hours 50 mins from London


    When to go: December to March


    Average winter temperature: 21°C

    Once a slightly rough-around-the-edges hippie town, Taghazout is now Morocco’s top surf destination. The sleepy fishing village on the Atlantic coast hasn’t lost any of its old-fashioned charm, and goats still wander gormlessly through the dusty tangerine-coloured streets while fishermen haul in their daily catches from rickety blue and white boats. For serious surfers, winter marks the beginning of peak season, and as the swell rips up, the break-chasing crowds arrive. Temperatures usually hover around a very pleasant 20°C, but Saharan winds often push the mercury up much higher. The places to stay keep getting smarter, offering surf lessons in the day and rooftop yoga at sunset. And even if you’re not into surfing, there are plenty of beautiful hiking trails nearby, camel rides along the beach and excellent fishing too.

    Get to know Morocco’s lesser-known surf spot.

    Morocco’s lesser-known surf spot

  • The 50 best winter-sun destinations

    Bora Bora, Tahiti & French Polynesia

    Flight time: 1 day.


    When to go: Year-round (though March is particularly rainy on Tahiti).


    Average winter temperature: 28°C


    Travel status: English and Northern Irish travellers can visit French Polynesia without having to quarantine upon return to the UK, but Scottish and Welsh travellers will have to self-isolate. All travellers need to present a medical certificate when arriving in French Polynesia. You will receive a self-testing kit upon arrival, which you will need to complete four days after your arrival date.

    In both geography and spirit, just about as far from a drizzly British winter as you can get. French Polynesia is made up of 100-odd little islands in the South Pacific Ocean, the best-known of them Tahiti and Bora Bora. They are out of this world. Castaway fantasy, ringed by reefs; the water unbelievable shades of turquoise blue; the hibiscus flowers Gauguin bright; everything bright and light and hyper-real.

    Why the jet-set are setting their sights on French Polynesia

    Why the jet-set are setting their sights on French Polynesia

  • The 50 best winter-sun destinations

    Cyprus

    Flight time: 4 hours 30 minutes


    When to go: March to May; October to November


    Average winter temperature: 22°C


    Travel status: UK travellers can visit Cyprus without having to quarantine upon return to the UK. All UK visitors (except those under the age of 12) need to provide a negative coronavirus test obtained within 72 hours prior to travel.

    The eastern Mediterranean Sea around Cyprus may be chilly in winter, but the island gets plenty of sunshine all year, so there’s a good chance you’ll get T-shirt weather even in the coldest months. From March, the island’s flowers start to bloom, and there’s barely another visitor in sight. Plus it’s only a short hop from the UK.

    Read more features on Cyprus

  • The 50 best winter-sun destinations

    Western Australia

    Flight time: 20 hours from London


    When to go: November to March


    Average winter temperature: 35°C

    One of our picks for the best destinations to visit in 2021, the north-west coast of Western Australia is remote, beautiful and largely uninhabited. It has the least-visited of all Australia’s coral reefs, Ningaloo Reef, a pristine 260km stretch of coral where thrilling encounters are fairly routine, whether you’re diving or snorkelling. Turtles nest from November to March.

    Read our feature on Ningaloo Reef

  • The 50 best winter-sun destinations

    Tel Aviv, Israel

    Flight time: 5 hours from London


    When to go: March to May; October to November


    Average winter temperature: 23°C

    Israel enjoys around 300 days of sunshine a year – and although winter here may not be as scorching as some of the other big-hitters, if you come towards the beginning or end it’s still warm enough to lie on a beach. The modern Middle Eastern metropolis of Tel Aviv is just a five-hour flight from London, making it an easy long-weekend hop. With its skyscraper skyline, striking Bauhaus architecture, avant-garde art galleries, world-class restaurants and hedonistic after-dark culture, this is the Mediterranean’s very own version of Manhattan. Throw in 14km of beautiful coastline, and it’s easy to see why so many creatives are drawn to the vibrant city.

    The best things to do in Tel Aviv.

    Tel Aviv: things to do in Israel’s coastal city

  • The 50 best winter-sun destinations

    Jordan

    Flight time: 5 hours 10 minutes


    When to go: February-May (south); March-May and September-October (north)


    Average winter temperature: 21°C

    Jordan is full of surprises. The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, to give it its full name, has wonders both natural and ancient. It’s true that much of the country is desert (seemingly endless Wadi Rum has even doubled as the moon in Hollywood movies), but there are also swathes of fertile land, bright and beautifully green. The waters of the Red Sea, off the coast of Aqaba, are bath-warm all year – and colourful, too, home to myriad fish, rays and turtles which make their home on the full-of-life coral reefs – and the best time to go for beach weather is February til May. Meanwhile, winters can be chilly in the north of the country, where snow caps the magnificent treetops of the Ajloun Forest Reserve; and the best months to go to ancient Petra, Amman and the north are March, April, May, September and October.

    Read more features on Jordan

  • Oman

    Flight time: 7 hours and 15 minutes


    When to go: October to April


    Average winter temperature: 26°C

    Oman is a less-glitzy, laid-back alternative to Dubai – only the landscape here is more dramatic: wide open spaces punctuated by oases and desert towns; valleys fragrant with rose and sandalwood; hidden coves with golden beaches and brilliant-turquoise water. The capital, Muscat dazzles in the year-round sunshine with its grand mosques and bustling souks. Up in the far north-east, the Musandam Peninsula has some of the best diving in the Middle East (whale shark and turtles are the big draw); the only real place to stay in this hard-to-reach area, Six Senses Zighy Bay is on a golden sweep of sand backed by the impossibly steep Al Hajar Mountains. To feel truly isolated, camp in handmade Bedouin tents among the epic sand dunes of the Wahiba Sands south of Muscat – it’s the best way to find authentic Oman.

    Read more features on Oman

  • The 50 best winter-sun destinations

    South Africa

    Flight time: 12 hours


    When to go: November to March


    Average winter temperature: 27°C

    It might be in another hemisphere, but South Africa is in the same time zone as the UK – which means no jet lag. In Cape Town and beyond there is stunning scenery, breathtaking beaches, as well as world-class wines and fabulous food.

    The country’s most celebrated stretch of coastline is the glorious Garden Route. However in the other direction, a road trip through the Western Cape makes a rewarding alternative and the weather is particularly good in December and January. The less-explored Overberg Coast has wide beaches, good restaurants and wineries, moody seas at the southernmost tip of Africa, and a sensational coastal reserve (pictured) that even the locals don’t know about.

    Read more features on South Africa

  • The 50 best winter-sun destinations

    Kerala, India

    Flight time: 9 hours from London


    When to go: November to March


    Average winter temperature: 27°C

    Calm, cool and green: Kerala is not how you imagine India to be. A meandering voyage through the backwaters of this southern state is a wonderful way to see the subcontinent. Old Fort Cochin is bound to delight, and there are some lovely beaches, too.

    Read more features on Kerala .

  • The 50 best winter-sun destinations

    Rajasthan, India

    Flight time: 8 hours from London


    When to go: October to March


    Average winter temperature: 25°C

    With its cities of pink, blue and gold, its romantic lakeside palaces and desert camps, Rajasthan is India’s brightest and most beautiful state. Go there and get carried away, whether you’re getting stuck into the hustle-bustle streets of Jaipur, escaping into the desert around Jaisalmer, or floating wistfully across the lake in romantic Udaipur.

    Read more features on Rajasthan .

  • The 50 best winter-sun destinations

    Bahamas

    Flight time: about 10 hours


    When to go: November to December, and March


    Average winter temperature: 25°C

    Once a hiding place for pirate treasure and prohibition liquor, Harbour Island in the Bahamas is now a colourfully eccentric retreat where every night is a party and every day more vibrant than the last. The sand is pink, the turquoise water is home to green sea turtles and orange starfish, and yellow-throated birds fly about the trees. Days on the beach are long and lazy, and the time of day forgotten.

    Read more features on Harbour Island

  • The 50 best winter-sun destinations

    Thai islands

    Flight time: 13 hours


    When to go: November to March


    Average winter temperature: 32°C

    The islands of Thailand are the stuff of castaway fantasies. White sand, rustic-chic beach shacks, a hammock gently swaying between two palm trees as a turquoise sea laps at the shore… There are dozens to choose from, and each offers something quite different, from the super-spas of Koh Samui to barefoot beach-bum in Koh Lipe, while Koh Lanta remains quietly chilled out with lovely places to stay on beaches that stretch for miles.

    The best islands in Thailand.

  • The 50 best winter-sun destinations

    Belize

    Flight time: 16+ hours from London (via Houston)


    When to go: December to April


    Average winter temperature: 30°C

    Belize’s peak season coincides perfectly with the UK’s coldest months. Although temperatures remain high all year-round, January to March has the lowest chance of rain, making this an ideal time to explore this tiny adventure-packed nation. Bordered by Guatemala and Mexico, Belize attracts a fraction of the crowds of its neighbours, yet the natural and cultural diversity of this former British colony is truly compelling. It’s home to Mayan ruins, national parks, nature reserves and the Belize Barrier Reef (which forms part of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System, the world’s second largest), all begging to be explored. The country’s jungly interior contrasts with a dazzling Caribbean coastline and hundreds of small cayes and islands, while a flurry of fresh hotels have all put eco-tourism at the top of their agenda.

    A guide to beach hopping in Belize.

    Beach-hopping in Belize

  • The 50 best winter-sun destinations

    Lamu

    Flight time: 17+ hours from London, via Nairobi


    When to go: December to February


    Average winter temperature: 32°C

    When the Foreign Office slapped a travel ban on Lamu after the 2011 Somali terrorist attacks, it fell off the map. But now with sanctions lifted, crowds are starting to flock back to this far-flung African island that still feels totally unchanged by time. It’s long been a popular beachy bolt-on after an epic Kenyan safari, attracting curious travellers rather than flag-following sightseers. There are no vehicles, just donkeys and dhows, and the heady mix of Arab, Persian, Chinese, Indian and European cultures is mesmerising. After a few days in the UNESCO-protected Old Town, head south to the deserted beaches or drift over by dhow to the nearby Robinson Crusoe islands of Manda and Kiwayu. From December to February, temperatures average a steamy 32°C, making winter the prime time to come and enjoy the postcard-perfect empty sands and Lamu’s laid-back rhythm.

    Read more features on Lamu

  • The 50 best winter-sun destinations

    Zihuatanejo, Mexico

    Flight time: 17+ hours via Mexico City


    When to go: December to April


    Average winter temperature: 30°C

    Over on Mexico’s Pacific Coast, two beach towns sit side-by-side: Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo. They couldn’t be more different. Ixtapa, stacked with high-rise hotels and modern infrastructure was purpose-built for tourists, while, just round the bay, Zihuatanejo has kept hold of its old-world charm and sleepy-fishing-village feel. It’s a low-key beach retreat with genuine Mexican flair; fisherman flog their catches on the shore each morning, and the town centre is filled with historical cobbled streets and a buzzy market. Clutches of boutique properties sit right on the beach or overlooking the bay – which is a hit with surfers. It’s hot all year round, but October to April sees the least rain, making this a perfect spot for a hit of winter vitamin D.

    Read more on Zihuatenejo

  • The 50 best winter-sun destinations

    Panama

    Flight time: 13+ hours from London


    When to go: December to March


    Average winter temperature: 32°C

    The San Blas Islands are nothing new – travellers have long been flocking to the white-sand beaches and dazzling turquoise waters of Panama’s Caribbean archipelago. But the Pacific side is still significantly less discovered. Last year, philanthropist Louis Bacon opened Islas Secas, a game-changing new private island with just four solar-powered casitas and conservation at its core. Then there’s Islas Palenque, surrounded by a 400-acre jungle reserve and seven pristine beaches a little closer to the mainland. Admittedly it’s a bit of a schlep to get here from Panama City, but totally worth it for the privacy and seclusion once you arrive. The best time to come is from January to April, when the wet rainy season gives way to a few months of glorious sunshine and scorching temperatures.

    Read more on Panama

  • The 50 best winter-sun destinations

    São Tomé and Príncipe

    Flight time: 20+ hours, via Lisbon and Accra


    When to go: December to February


    Average winter temperature: 30°C

    Marooned off the coast of Gabon, these tiny unspoiled islands together make up Africa’s smallest and least-visited country. But it’s thanks to the tiny tourist numbers that they still retain the allure of somewhere almost completely undiscovered. These jungly islands are home to more endemic species per square mile than anywhere else on earth – making them a bit like Africa’s very own Galápagos. When South African billionaire Mark Shuttleworth opened up his first boutique hotel, Bom Bom, back in 2013, a new breed of luxury traveller arrived; since then, he’s opened two more, Roça Sundy and Praia Sundy. They’re all part of a wider project to create jobs and boost tourism – so you’ll be doing good while on holiday too. January, February and March are the hottest months, when the dry and dusty winds blow straight in from the Sahara.

    Read more on Sao Tome and Principe

  • The 50 best winter-sun destinations

    Yucatán Peninsula, Mexico

    Flight time: 10+ hours


    When to go: November-March


    Average winter temperature: 24°C


    Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula, on the Atlantic Coast, has a magical mix of ancient and buzzy-right-now cultures. Swim in its green ceynotes, discover temples, salute the sun beneath the glitterball gods with fashionistas on the beach in Tulum. Mix it up in colonial Mérida. Go barefoot on Isla Holbox. Stay in a delightful hacienda on the Mayan Riviera. The best time to come is during Britain’s darkest months.

    The best places in Tulum.

    The best places in Tulum according to Net-a-Porter president Alison Loehnis

  • The 50 best winter-sun destinations

    Bali

    Flight time: 16.5 hours


    When to go: Bali is hot year-round. It is rainiest (and thus cheapest) November – April; but even when it rains, it’s in short, tropical bursts.


    Average winter temperature: 27°C

    Bali is the heavenly island with earthly pleasures. Back-to-blissed-out spa retreats so fine that Bali has developed a style all of its own: clean and contemporary, dark wood and linen whites. Parties, from flip-flop full-moon raves in hidden-away coves to the cool Potato Head Beach Club and new The Lawn at the boho beach spot that everyone’s talking about, Canggu. There’s glamping here now, and chic boutiques. There’s art in Ubud. There are spas absolutely everywhere. There are beaches, of course. And the pools here are something else: a classy, jungly deep green, shrouded by tropical leafery. Those incredible horizon pools high up overlooking rainforest – that’s classic Bali.

    To plan your trip see our Bali travel guide.

    Bali travel guide

  • The 50 best winter-sun destinations

    Mozambique

    Flight time: 13.5 hours from London UK, via Johannesburg, South Africa


    When to go: April-November


    Average winter temperature: 26°C

    This southern African country has the most astonishing coast – the beaches of Mozambique are out of this world. Great stretches of sand, wild and dune-backed; lapped by the beautiful Indian Ocean where humpback whales breach, where you can swim with manta rays in the Mozambique Channel. In the little islands of Mozambique’s Bazaruto Archipelago, a protected marine park towards the south, there are sand-floor bars and simple thatched lodges, and the most sensational sandy islets in bluer-than-blue waters, like wisps of cloud in a summer sky. On the beaches of northern Mozambique you feel as though you’re at the end of the world; off this coast are the dreamlike Quirimbas Islands, including heavenly Vamizi

    For those keen to tread where others have not, Mozambique has a certain caché – savvy travellers have been returning, in small numbers, to this coast for the past 20-odd years – and a few new spruced-up hotels are starting to appear – but are keen to keep it all a secret. We say go now, before the secret is out.

    The south of Mozambique: The unexplored coast.

    The south of Mozambique: The unexplored coast

  • The 50 best winter-sun destinations

    The Philippines

    Flight time: 15.5 hours


    When to go: February to May


    Average winter temperature: 31°C

    More than 7,000 islands. Deserted white-sand beaches lined with tilting coconut trees. Protected marine parks with pristine reefs like giant tropical fish bowls. Surf breaks so phenomenal they draw the world’s best pros. Low-key but slick hotels and villas. And some of the friendliest people on the planet. This is the glory of the Philippines.

    Read more features on The Philippines

  • The 50 best winter-sun destinations

    California

    Flight time: 10 hours from London


    When to go: Year-round


    Average winter temperature: 21°C

    ‘The Golden State’ is an appropriate nickname; California is one of the sunniest of US states, with mild winters, little rain and plenty of sunshine, especially in the south. For a classic USA road trip, hire a convertible and hit the Pacific Coast road. State Route 1 runs 550 miles from Leggett all the way down to Malibu. It has famously beautiful views much of the way, and the best section is that from San Francisco through Monterey and San Simeon to San Luis Obispo (where the road drifts inland), although north of San Francisco the route is wilder and less crowded. Aim to drive southwards, to be closer to the sea. The choice of hotels on the Pacific Coast is enough alone to tempt you, ranging from the quaint to the all-out modern, all with stupendous views of the Pacific Ocean.

    Read more features on California

  • The 50 best winter-sun destinations

    Bahia, Brazil

    Flight time: 13 hours from London


    When to go: October to February


    Average winter temperature: 31°C

    On Brazil’s Atlantic seaboard, far from the tourist trail, Bahia has deserted beaches, rainforests full of wildlife, cocoa farms, a surfers’ town and several barefooty resorts that you’ll never want to leave. Head to the small town of Itácaré for surfing, sailing, walking and birdwatching; to Trancoso for people-watching and beach-partying.

    Read more features on Brazil

  • The 50 best winter-sun destinations

    Senegal

    Flight time: 10 hours from London


    When to go: November to May


    Average winter temperature: 29°C

    It may not the obvious choice for a beach holiday, but all the better for it: Senegal, in West Africa, has some beautiful golden sands, fantastic surf, great music and delta wildlife. Go for a holiday of life-changing experiences. Read our full story on Senegal

  • The 50 best winter-sun destinations

    Guatemala

    Flight time: 14 hours from London


    When to go: November to May


    Average winter temperature: 25°C

    In Central America, the ancient Mayan cities of Guatemala, hidden deep in rainforests full of colour and exotic noise, make Rome seem as if it was built in a day. From jungle temples to beachfront bars, the delights of this magical country make for an unforgettable journey.

    Read our full story about Guatemala

  • The 50 best winter-sun destinations

    Hawaii

    Flight time: 18 hours


    When to go: Year-round. February is particularly good.


    Average winter temperature: 24°C

    Yes, Hawaii is hot all year round. And yes, it has a lot of swanking five-star resorts that cater to your every whim and could be anywhere in the world. Some people – a lot of people – like those places; and why not? For others, there is everything else Hawaii has to offer. The real Hawaii. The best beaches, the best surf, the best walks through rainforests or up volcanoes.

    Read more features on Hawaii

  • The 50 best winter-sun destinations

    Burma

    Flight time: 13 hours from London


    When to go: November to April


    Average winter temperature: 30°C

    Burma, or Myanmar, is an enchanting land of golden pagodas, velvet shoes and lotus flowers. After decades of darkness and fear, the horizon is full of hope as visitors are being encouraged to explore the treasures of this unique Asian country once more. Go now, before it loses its magic.

    Read our full story on Burma

  • Siwa Oasis, Egypt

    Flight time: 5 hours and 15 minutes from London


    When to go: October to December


    Average winter temperature: 25°C

    The oases of Western Egypt have always been havens of refuge in a beautiful but unforgiving landscape; and with the advent of small, low-key hotels in the area, designed to respect and reflect the local environment, their capacity to refresh is greater than ever. Head to Siwa Oasis for its ancient temples, salt lake, hot springs, shimmering heat and big, shifting dunes.

    Read more features on Egypt

  • The 50 best winter-sun destinations

    Laos

    Flight time: 19 hours from London


    When to go: November to February


    Average winter temperature: 25°C

    Everyone is seduced by Laos’s misty, mystic mountainscapes and its historic city, Luang Prabang From the moment the country opened its doors to tourism in the 1980s, visitors have talked in reverent tones about the sleepy town far upcountry on the banks of the Mekong River. It captivates. It weaves a spell. It carries some flavour of Indochina before the modern world got there.

    Read more features on Laos

    The alternative best winter-sun destinations

  • The 50 best winter-sun destinations

    INSTEAD OF TULUM, GO TO ISLA HOLBOX

    This sleepy, barefoot island at the northern tip of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula has been touted “the new Tulum” for years — but Lord, let’s hope not, for it’s not being Tulum that makes Isla Holbox special. (The ‘x’ is pronounced ‘sh’.) While Tulum’s the place to be seen unwinding, Holbox is where one goes to actually unplug: no elusive restaurant reservations, no ritzy cocktail bars. Just paradise-green sea, impossibly fine sands, and hammocks swinging in the shallows. With its dearth of paved roads, Holbox feels like an island from another time, though those Tulum comparisons have seen it less peaceful of late. Luckily, the island’s long-entrenched community — who remember electricity first coming here in the late 1980s — seem determined to stem the flow. Many of those crowds descend June to September, when large pods of whale sharks gather offshore. Winter, however, is the driest time of year, with temperatures comfortably in the mid-twenties. Be prepared to earn it: Holbox can only be accessed via passenger ferry from Chiquila, a three-hour drive from Playa del Carmen.

    Read our expert guide to Isla Holbox, Mexico

    Isla Holbox: electric island

  • The 50 best winter-sun destinations

    Namibia

    Flight time: 14+ hours, via Johannesburg


    When to go: November to March


    Average winter temperature: 27°C

    Astonishingly, Namibia gets barely half a million visitors a year – while neighbouring South Africa receives almost 10 times that number. But as travellers are slowly beginning to discover, this is one of Africa’s most fascinating destinations: rugged, intrepid and dramatic. More than a dozen new camps and lodges have opened up over the past few years, each one rocking a more creative approach to conservation. Namibia is usually touted as a year-round destination, but in truth the searing summer temperatures can be oppressive. November to March may coincide with the country’s wettest months, but with the rain comes a stunning transformation of scenery. The arid desert morphs into a lush green carpet; swarms of migratory birds arrive, and animals start breeding. Rain is localised and comes in short, sharp bursts, so it’s unlikely to have too much of an impact on your trip.

    Read more features on Namibia

  • The 50 best winter-sun destinations

    Cambodia

    Flight time: 14 hours from London


    When to go: November to April


    Average winter temperature: 32°C

    If you want to see South-East Asia at its most beguiling, you need to head to Cambodia. Go to watch dawn break over the jungle temples of Angkor (pictured), and for the authentic traditions of its villages and laidback capital, Phnom Penh. But also go for its immaculate beaches.

    Read more features on Cambodia or check out our editor approved Cambodia itinerary.

  • The 50 best winter-sun destinations

    Seychelles

    Flight time: 13 hours from London to Mahé (including one stop)


    When to go: October to November


    Average winter temperature: 29°C

    Adrift in the Indian Ocean, a thousand miles from the nearest coast of Africa, the Seychelles are the ultimate fantasy-island escape. Its private-island resorts – North Island, Frégate Island, the Six Senses Zil Pasyon- are possibly the most sensational anywhere in the world, a honeymooner’s dream (even William and Kate honeymooned at North Island, though the hotel is too discreet to admit it).

    Seychelles weather The archipelago has year-round heat and sunshine, as well as its fair share of rain. The wettest months in the Seychelles are November to March, but temperatures never get too oppressively hot (meandering around 24ºC at night and up to 29ºC in the daytime, year round). October is a great month to go for a hit of sunshine, before it gets too rainy, and the air is fresher.

    Read more features on the Seychelles

  • The 50 best winter-sun destinations

    Mauritius

    Flight time: 12 hours from London UK


    When to go: May-December


    Average winter temperature: 28°C

    What Mauritius has over its Indian Ocean neighbours, the Seychelles and the Maldives, is its size and natural diversity, and the fact that you can do it independently. Its beaches are still potted tropical paradises, and here you can rent a car and go exploring to find your own deserted cove, drive or hike up into its rainforested hills, take a boat out and go snorkelling or dive in its extraordinary underwater world. It has a bit of a reputation for overly groomed resorts – but it also has some of the finest beach hotels in the world, and you can find little boutique hotels right on the beach, too. Perhaps the best months to go to Mauritius are September, October and November, when it’s hot but not too hot (averaging around 25-28ºC in the day, a cooler 17-19ºC at night), and at its driest (the rainy season in Mauritius is from January til April).

    Take a closer look at Mauritius: the Indian Ocean superstar.

    Mauritius: The Indian Ocean superstar

  • The 50 best winter-sun destinations

    Sri Lanka

    Flight time: 10 hours from London


    When to go: December to March


    Average winter temperature: 27°C

    There’s a real buzz about Sri Lanka right now, with those in the know making a beeline for coastal spots south of Colombo. Bright-green rice paddies and verdant tea plantations make way for gorgeous, golden beaches to the west of Galle. Surfers prize the hippy-chic hangouts and rolling waves that hit the sandy coves to the east.

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    The best places in Sri Lanka according to an expert

  • The 50 best winter-sun destinations

    INSTEAD OF COSTA RICA, GO TO ECUADOR

    Ecuador is less developed than Costa Rica, so expect an adventure — one with everything its Latin cousin has to offer, and more besides. Want wildlife? Take a luxury cruise into the Ecuadorian Amazon. Want an eco-stay? The five-star Mashpi Lodge — a National Geographic Unique Lodge of the World — is a sustainable, all-glass stunner hiding out in a cloud forest. Want surf? Ecuador’s 1,400 miles of Pacific coast has plenty of that. And then there’s Quito, a much smarter capital than San Jose: a heady blend of steamy salsotecas, grand Andean vistas, and fabulous hotels in ravishingly restored colonial mansions (none more elegant than the peerless Casa Gangotena). You may have heard of another of its under-the-radar destinations, the Galapagos, too. Ecuador’s different geographical zones have their own, distinct weather patterns, but Europe’s winter is when the weather is warmest in Quito and the Highlands; driest in the jungle; and sunniest on the coast.





    Above: Laguna de Quilotoa is a beautiful crater lake in a secluded location of the Ecuadorian Andes.

    These are the best things to do in Quito.

    10 Amazing Things to Do in… Quito

  • The 50 best winter-sun destinations

    INSTEAD OF THE MALDIVES, GO TO THE ANDAMAN ISLANDS

    Every bit as dreamy as the Maldives, but more satisfyingly off-radar, the Andaman Islands have smartened up. This tropical archipelago — geographically closer to Myanmar and Indonesia than its owner, India — has always been brochure-beautiful, but only recently blessed with luxury digs. Those far-flung beaches and impossibly pure waters were more reward for intrepid surfers and gap-year backpackers until now. But it was only a matter of time before this primitive paradise turned upscale. Havelock is the most developed of the 572 islands, the vast majority of which are off-limits to visitors (and populated by indigenous tribes). It’s here that Indian luxury hotel giant Taj has newly scattered 72 thatched villas under a rainforest canopy, fringing the fabled Radhanagar beach, widely said to be among the best in the world. Then there’s Jalakara, a boutique, teak-and-concrete sanctuary tucked into a banana plantation, where there’s no WiFi, no TV — just utter, nature-swathed serenity. Winter is the clearest, driest time of year — particularly January to March — with temperatures around 29C.

    Above: Havelock Islands, Andam Islands.





    The Andaman Islands

    A far-faraway place: The Andaman Islands

  • The 50 best winter-sun destinations

    INSTEAD OF GOA, GO TO KARNATAKA

    Karnataka’s beach scene is every bit as beautiful, but rather less glowsticky, than Goa’s, though it shares the same coast (the state of Karnataka is further south). Gokarna beach, often listed among India’s finest sandy crescents, is chilled-out, powdery and palm-fringed; beach-goers more hammock-swinging yogis than UV-painted ravers. Better still, there’s more to explore beyond browning and sun salutations; try trekking and then de-stressing at the Taj Madikeri Resort & Spa, in the emerald, coffee- and spice-planted hills of Coorg. Hampi’s magical, ancient temples and bizarre, perilously-stacked boulders have fascinated wanderers and vagabonds for hundreds of years.

    Above: The temple at Mysore Palace, Karnataka.

    Read more about Hampi, India

    Heavenly Hampi: India’s lost temple city

  • The 50 best winter-sun destinations

    Vietnam

    Flight time: 12 hours


    When to go: November – February


    Average winter temperature: 27°C

    Vietnam may well be one of the most fascinating, beautiful and charming countries you will ever visit. Saigon is wonderful, colonial and quirky; Ho Chi Minh City has one of the world’s best food scenes. And the coast of Vietnam – oh, the coast! The beaches are extraordinary. So much untouched beauty. Little islands and dramatic bays to explore by boat. Out-of-this-world beach-chic places to stay, right on the sand. And even though it’s easy-going and luxury can be found everywhere, it still feels like a secret, still some sense of discovery about a trip there.

    The best hotels in Vietnam.

    The best hotels in Vietnam

  • The 50 best winter-sun destinations

    INSTEAD OF DUBAI, GO TO BEIRUT

    Please note: Following a large explosion on 4 August 2020, the Lebanese government has declared Beirut a disaster area in a state of emergency until 18 September 2020. Please check the UK government’s latest Beirut travel advice before planning to visit.

    Dubai is a hard act to top: not just the Middle East’s most-visited city, it’s the sixth most-visited in the world, outdoing even Paris and New York. But if Dubai is a blockbuster — with its all-singing, all-dancing fountain and world-beating tower — think of Beirut as a cool little indie movie: edgier, artsier, and just as deserving of your time. Of course, Lebanon’s capital has been a little too edgy in the past. But now, more than a decade since violence last broke out, there are murmurs of a “second Golden Age” for this “Paris of the East”, harking back to its 1960s, pre-Civil War bohemia. This is a city of layers: from the captivating, crumbling columns and arches of neo-Ottoman architecture, to a storied party scene that never really ramp ups ‘til past midnight (Gemmayzeh’s bars are so hip they’d make a Brooklynite blush), and Arabian souks steeped in the scents of a thousand spices. And yet, propped at the Med’s edge, and with winter temperatures in the high teens and twenties, you could just as easily while away a day with fine Lebanese wines at a splashy beach club. A Leading Hotel of the World, Le Gray, is a smart spot to set up camp.

  • The 50 best winter-sun destinations

    INSTEAD OF SOUTH AFRICA, GO TO GHANA

    Ghana’s “Africa for beginners” reputation tips a hat to the ease of a trip here — stable politics, developed towns, functional transport. But it misses all the other things that make Ghana great. Like the capital, Accra, a spirited city stuffed to the gills with red-hot food, nightlife and art. See Urban Grill, Afro-Latin fusion helmed by Andrew DiCataldo, of Manhattan’s once-loved Patria; rooftop club Carbon, owned by Nick House of Mahiki; and Gallery 1957, with its knack for edgy homegrown shows that blow up on social media. Then there’s the beaches: bonfire parties and street food at Accra’s own Labadi; or quiet getaways within the soothing White Sands Beach Resort & Spa, an exclusive private members’ club just an hour’s drive from the city. Winter months are hot — temperatures average around 28C — so you’ll be glad of a bracing Atlantic dip. Alright, there’s no Big Five, but there are safaris: walking with elephants, world-class birding, humpback-whale-watching. Plus there’s that handy hour’s time difference in common with South Africa, with only half the flight time.

    Above: colourful fishing boats in the fishing village Anomabu, Ghana.

    Join us on a road trip in Africa.

    An epic road trip from west to east Africa

  • The 50 best winter-sun destinations

    INSTEAD OF ST BARTH’S, GO TO GUADELOUPE

    If St Barth’s is Caribbean-meets-St-Tropez, the French Overseas region of Guadeloupe is Gallic in a lower key. More akin to the lazy elegance of rural France, perhaps, or Brittany’s rustic-ruggedness eyed through an exotic filter. Life is simpler here; expect drowsy little guesthouses over big-wow hotels. Guadeloupe is in fact a chain of islands, the largest of which are Grande-Terre and Basse-Terre, close enough to be connected by a bridge. Basse-Terre offers a richer experience: Guadeloupe’s national park protects a playground of tangled, tropical forest; one can hike two hours up a volcano, if that’s one’s idea of fun. It also boasts the Cousteau Reserve, teeming with turtles, bright coral sponges, and seahorses. The lesser-known islands are treasures, too. Car-free Les Saintes’ bay was named one of the world’s best by Unesco. Flat, circular Marie-Galante has bright-white beaches and gîtes. And whichever you choose, you’re never far from a French pastry, cheese or vino. A votre santé to that.

    Above: Plage du Pain de Sucre in Les Saintes, Guadeloupe.

  • The 50 best winter-sun destinations

    INSTEAD OF THAILAND’S ISLANDS, GO TO THE MERGUI ARCHIPELAGO

    Thailand’s islands are heavenly — but they’re not exactly a secret. Head a little north of Phuket, though, and you don’t get much more secluded than Myanmar’s Mergui Archipelago, which can only be visited by boat. This is the place yachties talk of in hushed tones under late-night stars; a primal, barely-charted territory populated only by the Moken — nomadic sea gypsies — which has left both beaches and ocean thoroughly unspoiled. As Myanmar rejoins the international community after decades of pariahdom, the government is widening its permit policy, and luxury charters are becoming more frequent (Indo Yachts and the good ship Lamima offer especially blissful sails). The climate is hot year-round, but drier and the sky clearer in winter; the beauty of being boat-bound, of course, is that relieving sea breeze.

  • The 50 best winter-sun destinations

    INSTEAD OF MARRAKECH, GO TO TANGIER

    From the 1920s to the 1950s, port city Tangier was a playground for the maddest and baddest bohemians: Beat icons like Burroughs and Kerouac; glamorously demon-plagued playwrights from Tennessee Williams to Jean Genet. But it wasn’t just the romance of boxy white-washed buildings fanning along a too-blue African shoreline that brought them. The city’s status as a near-lawless “international zone” made strong drugs, strong cocktails and other strongly sordid entertainments all-too-readily available. The Moroccan monarchy later enacted punishment: the city was left to rot. A new king and a new attitude have revived it, widespread restoration inviting a smarter vitality, where cafés-cum-bookshops and speakeasies retain a raffish-cool, without segueing into seedy. In a hilltop casbah, El Morocco Club is where the leisure class make easy work of looking beautiful while slurping oysters and sipping Mojitos. And though chaotic Marrakech isn’t short of designer riads to escape to, Tangier is an infinitely jauntier option, and with T-shirt temperatures to boot.

    Read about our road trip in Morocco

    Start me up: A Moroccan rock ‘n’ roll road trip

  • The 50 best winter-sun destinations

    INSTEAD OF SYDNEY, GO TO PERTH

    One of the world’s most isolated cities, Perth isn’t an obvious go-to. The capital of Western Australia is tucked into the country’s south-west corner, separated from the rest of Oz by a hunk of wilderness amounting to around a third of the size of the nation. But against all odds, this laidback outpost is now flaunting a decidedly cosmopolitan luster. A recent AU$2.2 billion waterfront development filled Elizabeth Quay with slick new restaurants and galleries; nearby, COMO The Treasury offers 48 rooms in fabulous 19th-century state buildings, complete with a rooftop ‘farm-and-forager’ restaurant, serving knockout, floor-to-ceiling Swan River views. Other neighbourhoods, too, thrum with a new energy. William Street, in inner suburb Northbridge, is packed with imaginative cocktail bars, quirky fashion boutiques, live music and the unmissable, three-in-one Perth Cultural Centre. Riverside suburb Maylands, meanwhile, has gone the full hipster: cafe culture, gourmet pizza, rainbow-bright murals. And while Perth might be the new standard-bearer for Aussie cool, the weather is plenty hot. December to March temperatures average between 28C and 31C.

    Above: skyline in Perth, Western Australia.

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    Northbridge: Perth’s neighbourhood on the up

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