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Where to go for winter sun in 2024

winter sun destinations
Best winter sun destinations 2024MCCAIG

When the days draw in, you might find yourself pining for sunnier climes and our favourite winter sun destinations are here to help you plan your escape during the UK's coldest months. Whether you're looking for inspiration to start the year on a high or you're looking for a later winter escape before spring arrives, you've come to the right place as we've selected the very best places to enjoy a spot of winter sun.

Perhaps a January holiday in Marrakech or a sun-kissed Christmas break in the Canaries takes your fancy. Well, these winter sun destinations will have you topping up your vitamin D in no time.

From short-haul European islands where the weather remains mild during the winter months, to the heavenly sands of long-haul beach locations that are best experienced between November and March, you'll want to keep reading for the places to soak up the warmest temperatures.

Our pick of the best holiday destinations for winter sun take you all around the world, whether it's a sun-kissed American city, an Indian Ocean paradise or a culture-packed Mediterranean island you wish to explore.

Check out the best winter sun destinations for 2024.

Lanzarote

Famous for its black sand beaches, stark volcanic landscape and balmy Mediterranean climate, Lanzarote is a winter holiday hotspot. Located 80 miles off the northwest coast of Africa, it's the northernmost of the Canary Islands and a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.

Beautiful beaches and resorts daisy chain along the south of the island, while the Timanfaya National Park is the volcanic centre where you'll find stark black lava fields from the eruptions of the Timanfaya volcano. Once the home of Spanish artist and architect, César Manrique, don't miss a visit to the César Manrique Foundation, a museum and gallery set in giant lava bubbles.

Where to stay: Swerve the larger beach resorts for a stay in Hotel Villa VIK, a charming boutique property in Playa del Cable, just outside Arrecife. It's a quiet, relaxing spot set in lush subtropical gardens dotted with palm trees and Jacarandas. Aside from its 14 suites, it offers a range of spa treatments using hot volcanic stones.

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Beachfront views, volcanic gardens and even a mini golf course, Hotel Lava Beach in Puerto del Carmen is another easy option for some delicious Canary sunshine. Many of the bright rooms have balconies and views over the Atlantic, while a handful of cool dining options, include Canarian specialties gives it an authentic Spanish feel.

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Vietnam and Cambodia

Southeast Asia is a dreamy place to escape the British winter gloom. It's far less humid than during the summer months, yet still promises plenty of sunshine and winter warmth. If you're looking for culture rather than a beach escape, consider a two-centre holiday to Cambodia and Vietnam, and then throw in luxury river cruise down the Mekong which links the two.

In Cambodia, explore the vast Angkor Wat temple complex in Siem Reap, see the floating villages on Tonlé Sap Lake, and pay homage at the Killing Fields in Phnom Penh. Vietnam is more about the lush paddy fields of the Mekong River Delta, the lantern-lit streets and tailor shops of Hoi An, and the atmospheric Old Quarter in Hanoi, but together, they make the perfect winter adventure.

How to visit: An easy way to see the best of both countries is on Good Housekeeping's 17-day adventure through Cambodia and Vietnam which has dates departing in December, February and March. A highlight of the trip is a seven-day cruise down the Mekong River. Sailing on the Mekong Jewel, a luxury riverboat with two pools and an alfresco restaurant, you can relax and watch life unfold along the longest river in Southeast Asia.

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Costa Rica

Costa Rica is a country blessed with a bounty of wildlife, from monkeys swinging in lush rainforests to vibrantly colourful coral reefs in its surrounding waters. It’s a great location for anyone looking to escape the grey and gloom of the UK winters, with warm weather year-round.

To experience a true tropical paradise you might want to visit Costa Rica’s Tortuga Island, where giant coconut palms frame powder-soft white sand beaches lapped by crystal clear turquoise waters - the perfect location for soaking in some winter sun.

How to visit: Plan ahead for Good Housekeeping's nine-day cruise in January, February or March 2024 and you’ll visit Tortuga Island and several other breathtaking destinations in Costa Rica. You’ll sail on the glorious Star Clipper, a traditional tall ship with 36,000 feet of billowing sails, where you can relax with other like-minded travellers in the dining room, Piano Bar, on the lively Tropical Bar.

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Algarve

While not scorching hot, in winter the Algarve is one of the warmest places in Europe. And the great weather isn’t the only reason to visit Portugal's southern region: the beaches are particularly picturesque, with their golden sand backed by limestone cliffs. Some of the best are Marinha Beach, Praia da Rocha and Praia do Camilo. As for where to make your base, choose Tavira for its whitewashed homes and medieval castle, Silves for its terracotta-roofed homes and the Moorish Silves Castle, and Vilamoura for teeing off in the winter sun – the Portuguese region has an impressive 31 golf courses – and luxury accommodation.

Where to stay: Set in 50 acres of beautiful subtropical gardens, there is no finer place to banish the winter blues than in Vila Vita Parc. Designed like an old Portuguese village, this luxury family resort is minutes from several beaches, including Benagil, which is renowned for its rugged sea caves. Infinity pools, a luxe spa and kids' clubs keeps everyone entertained by day, while restaurants like the two Michelin-starred Ocean, and Cave de Vinhos, an adults-only wine cellar situated eight metres underground are perfect for evenings.

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Or the Grand House, originally built in 1926 on the banks of the Guadiana River, is a beautifully restored Belle-Époque house with just 26 rooms and suites. Located steps from the beach and the historical town of Vila Real de Santo António, it's a charming place for some much needed winter sun. Relax on the rooftop terrace and watch the sunset, before dining on organic, locally sourced food in the waterside restaurant.

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Marrakech

Mosques, medinas and Moorish minarets, Marrakech is one of the most evocative cities in the world. One of Morocco's four imperial cities, with its traditional riads, bustling souks and fascinating history it ignites all the senses.

The beating heart of Marrakech is the medina – the old walled town – and Djemaa el Fna, the main square where everyone from snake charmers to acrobats, musicians to magicians flock to entertain the crowds. For a quiet moment away from the throng, take a stroll through the colourful Majorelle Gardens, once owned by Yves Saint Laurent.

Where to stay: For the ultimate romantic stay, head to the Royal Mansour, a palatial hotel near the gardens owned by the King of Morocco. From its elegant walled gardens to the dusky pink riads surrounded by tall palms and water fountains, this atmospheric hotel is the essence of luxury.

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Sydney

Sun-drenched beaches, an eclectic dining scene and some of the world's most iconic sights – Sydney Opera House, Bondi Beach, the Harbour Bridge – Sydney is simply the dream destination for a winter sun holiday.

Go beach-hopping around the eastern suburbs of Coogee, Bronte and Bondi, soak up the cosmopolitan vibes in Surry Hills and Darlinghurst or explore the natural side of Sydney in Ku-ring-gai National Park with its sweeping views over the harbour. A trip Down Under is a guaranteed way to ban those winter blues.

Where to stay: With a rooftop pool and views over Sydney Harbour and the Opera House, you simply can't beat the Park Hyatt for location. Located in The Rocks, Sydney's historic waterfront district, it's within walking distance of Circular Quay, Sydney Opera House and the Botanical Gardens. After a busy day exploring the city, kick back in the spa for some Sydney-style pampering.

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Alternatively, perched at the base of Sydney Harbour Bridge, Pier One Sydney Harbour also has sweeping views of the world's most famous harbour. Upgrade to a waterfront room or suite and get a private terrace with an outdoor bath and views over the bridge. For a real treat, order oysters and champagne in Pier One's waterfront bar and watch the sunset.

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Malta

Thanks to its strategic position in the Mediterranean Sea, Malta has been ruled by Romans, Moors, French and British over the centuries, which has given it a wealth of historic sites and influences.

Add to these magnificent Baroque cathedrals, stunning rock formations, fascinating museums and ancient ruins, and you’ll find that the world’s 10th-smallest country punches far above its weight. With highs of 17C in winter, the island is ideal for a mild weather getaway close to home.

Where to stay: Housed in a historic 17th-century palazzo, the Xara Palace is one of the most elegant and charming hotels in Mdina. Located within the medieval city walls, stay in one of the opulent suites, enjoy cocktails on the roof terrace and dine out in Modion, the hotel's Michelin-starred restaurant.

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Alternatively, head to the neighbouring island of Gozo and stay at the Kempinski Hotel San Lawrenz. Situated a little inland from San Lawrenz, it makes a good base for exploring the island. Or, with its multiple pools, palm-lined gardens and excellent Gozo cuisine, why not just kick back and enjoy some winter sun?

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Palm Springs

A notorious hangout of the Rat Pack in the Fifties and Sixties, Palm Springs with its elegant palm tree-lined boulevards, mid-century modern architecture and kitsch hotels is perfect for a warm winter getaway. Promising no less than 350 days of sunshine a year, soak it up in a slew of stylish hotels and retro motels, many with piano shaped pools and cutesy Tiki bars.

While there are no direct flights from the UK to Palm Springs, it's an easy two-hour drive from Los Angeles International Airport, yet feels a world away from a dreary winter in Britain.

Where to stay: For a real treat, stay in the beautiful Villa Royale which has been charming the LA weekend crowd since it opened in 1947. This adults-only hotel brings a mix of Spanish revival – whitewash walls and plenty of terracotta – and old school Hollywood with over 50 specially-commissioned paintings including portraits of Lana Turner, Clark Gable and Debbie Harry. After exploring the desert city, dine out on Spanish tapas and craft cocktails in Del Rey, the hotel's intimate restaurant.

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Or, glamorous boutique Fleur Noire Hotel has a charming French vibe. Originally opened in the 1940s, the fully restored hotel is made up of 21 casitas set around a beautiful desert garden and pool. After lusting over Palm Springs' mid-century modern architecture, relax with sushi in Sandfish or cocktails in La Boisson, the hotel's cool speakeasy bar.

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Madeira

Madeira’s climate is agreeable year-round – so much so that it’s fondly described as the 'Eternal Spring'. Nevertheless, winter is a particularly good time to visit as the island becomes less crowded and the price of accommodation drops.

The scenery on this Portuguese island is incredible, and the best way to experience it is to go hiking among the subtropical forests, taking in small villages and waterfalls along the way. On the coast, look out for the species of dolphin and whale that visit in winter.

Where to stay: Love golf? The PortoBay Serra Golf is right by the 27-hole Santo da Serra course, and is housed in a whimsical building that dates back to the 1920s.

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Meanwhile, perched on the cliffs on Madeira's east coast, Albatroz Beach & Yacht Club is a beautiful mid-century modern boutique hotel near Santa Cruz. While it has plenty of bright, comfortable rooms and offers some excellent Canarian dining, it's the spectacular clifftop pool which really sets this hotel apart from the others.

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Or, for sweeping views over Funchal Bay, a two-Michelin starred restaurant and a fancy spa, The Cliff Bay is just the ticket for relaxing winter sun holiday. Set in sprawling gardens dotted with ancient palm trees, the five-star hotel does have an outdoor heated pool, along with direct access into the Atlantic Ocean for the brave.

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Dubai

Ostentatious hotels, colossal shopping malls and record-breaking architecture, it's no surprise Dubai is dubbed the Vegas of the Gulf. Once a dusty fishing village, since the discover of oil in the Sixties Dubai has expanded at a rapid pace. Dominating Dubai's ever growing skyline is the 830m-tall Burj Khalifa, still the tallest building on the planet.

A popular place for some winter warmth, enjoy the turquoise sweep of the Persian Gulf from the white-sand fronds of the world's largest artificial island, the Palm Jumeirah.

Where to stay: The pleasingly ostentatious Palazzo Versace Dubai is one of Dubai's most opulent and impressive hotels. Grand and gilded, it's designed like a neoclassical palazzo reminiscent of those found in 16th century Tuscany. Rooms and suites are awash in Versace Home Collection, while the nine bars and restaurants are all decked out in its signature style.

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Alternatively, curved around a private white-sand beach, the Waldorf Astoria Dubai on Palm Jumeirah is perfect for a sun-drenched winter holiday. With views over the Burj Al Arab, this relaxed beach hotel on the Palm Jumeirah is well-placed for exploring the Palm's fronds. Equally, it's just as as nice to relax by the pool or in the spa before dinner at Social, which offers a modern take on authentic Italian cuisine.

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Panama

Panama is renowned for its incredible beauty and biodiversity, with protected rainforests and marine parks to explore. It’s a great country to visit if you’re looking for warm weather in January or February, when you can expect hot weather and little rain - ideal conditions for basking on the pristine beaches.

Nature lovers will want to stop off at Coiba Island, one of the 38 islands which make up Coiba National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The surrounding waters support the eastern Pacific's second largest coral reef.

How to visit: Good Housekeeping’s nine-day cruise in Panama and Costa Rica in January, February or March 2024 will take you to Coiba Island, as well as Parida Island, where you might spot howler monkeys, nesting sea turtles, and 280 recorded bird species.

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Tenerife

Sun, sea and good times are on the menu in Tenerife, where colourful beach bars spill out onto sandy beaches. But away from the tourist hotspots of this Canary Island, you’ll also find wonderful scenery in the interior, in the Parque Nacional del Teide’s pine forests, which surround the highest mountain in Spain, Mount Teide – take the cable car up for the best view on the island.

Elsewhere, historic towns such as La Orotava and Puerto de la Cruz abound with delicious Spanish and seafood restaurants.

Where to stay: Perched on Santa Cruz de Tenerife's main rambla, the Occidental Santa Cruz Contemporáneo is a stylish city hotel well situated to explore the old capital. Rooms are simple but smart, and some have balconies with far-reaching views of the Atlantic Ocean. While it's only a 10-minute walk to the Museo Histórico Militar de Canarias, it's just as tempting to soak up the winter sun from the rooftop pool.

For old-school Canarian charm, look no further than La Quinta Roja in Garachico, with its rustic-chic rooms, a rooftop hot tub and an authentic Canarian restaurant. Handily, it's only a few minutes' walk from the beach and the town's famous lava rock pools making it a comfortable base for exploring this fascinating corner of Tenerife.

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Cape Town

Sun-drenched beaches and a hip-to-the-hilt dining scene, it’s easy to see why Cape Town tops the hit list for winter sun escapes. Dominating the pointy nub at the very bottom of Africa, Cape Town brings both the Atlantic and Indian Oceans together at the Cape of Good Hope.

Originally developed as a holding port by the Dutch East India Company, the city mixes traditional Cape Dutch architecture, a buzzing beach scene with a modern skyline giving it a distinctly European appeal.

Where to stay: Opened in 1899 by shipping magnate, Sir Donald Currie, Mount Nelson is one of Cape Town's most historic hotels. Although it lacks the waterfront views other properties may boast, the luxury hotel is set in eight acres of lush subtropical grounds and its opulent rooms, grand spa and brace of pools set it aside from the rest.

Meanwhile, overlooking Table Mountain and the V&A waterfront, the super-swanky One&Only is decorated by local artists and craftspeople giving its a real vibe of Africa. Add in the infinity pools, a cool kids' club and the only Nobu restaurant in Africa, and the One&Only could well be the only place to stay in Cape Town.

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Maldives

The heavenly Maldives is the place to go for an idyllic island retreat. The shallow, clear waters that surround each of the coral islands in the archipelago are rich in sea life, with clownfish and rays visible near the shore.

Take a boat out to spot dolphins and manta rays, or simply snorkel leisurely around your island, looking out for turtles and eagle rays. No matter how you choose to spend your time, the islands’ all-inclusive resorts make it easy to completely unwind.

Where to stay: In the UNESCO-protected Baa Atoll, enjoy good food and great value at Reethi Beach Resort, where you can choose from villas that open out directly onto the sand and overwater villas on stilts.

In the same atoll, relax in the overwater spa, take a sunset cruise, go wine tasting, or enjoy a stargazing dinner at the Anantara Kihavah – that’s if you can tear yourselves away from the luxurious overwater villas.

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Barbados

Picture an island paradise, and it would look a lot like Barbados. And with its palm-fringed beaches, flavoursome Bajan cuisine, and relaxed atmosphere, it’s one of the best winter destinations for a chilled-out holiday.

Luckily, from December to April, the weather in Barbados is dry and sunny, hovering around 30C, making lying back on a sun lounger with a rum cocktail in hand even more tempting.

Where to stay: Go all out with a suite at the pink hotel Cobblers Cove, which lies right on the beachfront and serves fantastic food – some of the best on the island – at its Camelot restaurant.

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Abu Dhabi

Less crowded than Dubai, but still offering sleek shopping malls, desert safaris and luxurious places to stay, Abu Dhabi is a superb Middle Eastern alternative. There’s plenty to keep you busy: the last race of the Formula 1 calendar takes place here each November; Warner Bros World is a great stop for those travelling with children; and there’s art and culture at the Louvre Abu Dhabi.

Dry, sunny days make winter the best time to visit Abu Dhabi, as in summer the emirate state's temperatures rise to a stifling 40C or more.

Where to stay: For its eye-catching design alone, the Bab Al Qasr Hotel is worth staying in. Add a location right on the beach, spacious rooms with floor-to-ceiling windows, and well-equipped kitchens, plus a spa and restaurant, and you’ll have everything you need for a stress-free stay in Abu Dhabi.

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Mauritius

Once a stop on the Spice Route, Mauritius has been influenced by the French, African, Indian and Chinese cultures. This means that the food is brilliantly varied, with curries, dim sum and croissants all waiting to be tried in waterside restaurants and cafes across the island.

What’s more, fresh ingredients abound, and you’ll find yourself winding past tea and sugar cane plantations, walking through fragrant markets piled high with pineapples, and wandering along fields of bananas as you explore the island.

Where to stay: Embrace Mauritius’ great outdoors at the Bubble Lodge Bois Chéri Plantation, where glass domes make for a quirky yet sophisticated place to stay among the tea leaves. Alternatively, the child-friendly Zilwa Attitude on the island’s north coast offers an impressive array of activities, with sunrise pirogue trips, an aqua gym, tai chi lessons and pétanque.

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Miami

With its palm-lined boulevards, slick high rises, vibrant neighbourhoods, tropical climate and famous beaches, Miami has an irresistible allure. As you’d expect, there’s a rich arts and cultural scene, with museums and modern art galleries to keep you busy.

And you’ll eat well too, with a diverse food scene that takes in cuisines from all over the world. As if that wasn’t enough, the 35 miles of beach will give you plenty of space to chill out away from the throngs in the busiest areas.

Where to stay: Feel like you’re in the heart of the action as you laze in the poolside cabanas at the SLS Lux Brickell, featuring sumptuous rooms with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking downtown Miami. In a Beaux Arts building that dates back to 1925, the Eurostars Langford is a smart hotel, with parking and a rooftop bar.

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Seychelles

On a list filled with destinations that are blessed with picture-perfect beaches, those of the Seychelles still manage to stand out. Here, lush greenery undulates down from the archipelago’s mountains, leading to bays of soft, white sand that curve onto the crystal-clear Indian Ocean.

The north-west trade winds between December and January cool the island’s temperature to a comfortable 27 or 28C.

Where to stay: From the apartments at Treasure Island Retreat on Praslin, which have fully equipped kitchens and access to a barbecue, you can step right out onto the beach and walk to local restaurants.

To really get away from it all, the Denis Private Island Seychelles feels truly remote, with a shallow lagoon where you can spot turtles, lots of birdlife, and nature tours, plus a restaurant serving food made from produce grown on the island.

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La Palma

One of the lesser known Canary Islands, La Palma is one of Europe's starry eyed secrets for a winter sun holiday. By day, you can hike through the rainforest or around spectacular volcanic ridges, paddle in the Atlantic waters or simply wander along its black sand beaches. However, this verdant volcanic island is renowned for it exceptional night skies and the winter's clear nights are the perfect time to explore the celestial world.

Don't miss a visit to Mercadillo de Argual, a bustling weekend market in Los Llanos de Argual. The shady, tree-lined square is lined with incense stalls and tie-dye merchants, while the live Cuban music and rum shacks make it feel like a slice of the Caribbean in Europe.

Where to stay? A 10-minute drive from the island capital, Hacienda San Jorge is one of La Palma's more traditional beach hotels. Designed by celebrated Spanish artist, Facundo Fierro, this colourful hotel set in lush gardens of giant ficus, palm and dragon trees has more than a touch of the Caribbean about it.

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Alternatively, stay in Faro Punta Cumplida in Barlovento, a chic boutique hotel set in the oldest lighthouse on the island. Climb the 158 steps to the top for a sundowner in the Sky High mini bar or relax by the gorgeous infinity pool on the lower terrace overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.

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