When days are damp, sunlight is in short supply, and you have to don a fleece just to put the bins out, it’s time to make a break for it. If you're hankering after sunshine and want to throw off your winter woolies, our run-down of the best winter sun destinations around the world has you covered.
Catch winter sun on Tenerife, Canary Islands
Mention Tenerife and you probably think of Brits on beaches turning pink in the sun. And sure, it’s one of the best winter sun holiday destinations for vitamin D-deprived folk in search of guaranteed rays. It certainly delivers on the sun front, and a whole lot more,
If you enjoy the hubbub of resorts, head to Tenerife’s south side for busy bars, restaurants, and tourist entertainment.
Alternatively, if you're looking for somewhere quieter, picturesque Puerto de la Cruz is more likely to be your cup of barraquito — a local coffee liqueur that packs moreish punch.
Venture beyond the tourist hotspots and you’ll find staggering beauty in the form of volcanic, lunar-like landscapes, pine forests and charming mountain villages.
Keen hikers should pack their boots for the UNESCO-listed Teide National Park, home to Spain’s tallest peak, El Teide. This also happens to be one of the world's top star-gazing spots.
Meanwhile, both El Tiede and the cloud forests of the Anaga mountain offer superb cycling terrain.
If that wasn't enough, Tenerife has a stack of Michelin-starred restaurants, including Haydée in the lovely hilltop town of La Orotava. In fact, you'll find plenty of great places to eat here, and La Orotava makes a beautiful base from which to explore the island.
- Best for couples: Hotel Alhambra, Orotava, An elegant mansion with a pool, courtyard and exotic garden.
- Best for luxury: Ritz Carlton Abama. This southwest gem has a spa, golf course and private golden-sand beach.
- Best for families: Hotel Best Jacaranda. Six pools, plus on-site activities and entertainment.
Where to stay
Discover more places to stay in Tenerife.
Tropical Southern Sri Lanka — among the best winter sun destinations around the world
If you're wondering where to go for winter sun, but don't want to limit your experiences to the beach, you'd do well to consider Sri Lanka. Its diverse offerings make it one of the world's best winter sun destinations.
After experiencing the manic buzz of the capital, Colombo, head south to Galle. This enchanting port town has a wonderfully preserved, UNESCO-designated Old Town and fort.
From Galle, nip between a string of low-key coastal resorts in a tuk-tuk. Take your pick from catching waves at Weligama, relaxing on the golden sands around Tangalle, or sipping coconut cocktails on one of the best beaches in Sri Lanka in Mirissa.
Fancy walking on the wilder side? Sri Lanka's not short of incredible national parks, which are among the reasons Sri Lanka should be the next place you take your kids. Head to Yala for leopards and Udawalawe for elephants.
Meanwhile, if you fancy combining chilling out with hikes around lush tea plantations, waterfalls and temples, journey inland to the laid-back village of Ella.
Given that range, it can be tricky to focus your plans, so you could consider booking a tailor-made trip.
For example, Rough Guides' customisable Culture and Coast trip includes wildlife safaris, Kandy's temples and tea factories, plus time on those legendary southern beaches.
- Best for surfers: The Green Rooms, Weligama. A family-run, sustainability-conscious surf camp..
- Best for hikers: Queenswood Cottage, Central Sri Lanka. Well-located for walks, and beautiful with it.
- Best for luxury: Villa Vista, Mirissa. First-class facilities in sublime surroundings.
Where to stay
Visit Taghazout, Morocco, during the winter months
Every morning fishermen return to shore in wooden blue-and-white boats with their catch. At the same time, hopeful surfers squint into the sun at the waves rolling in, before paddling out on their boards.
If surfing doesn’t float your boat and you're seeking the best winter sun destinations for R&R, you can simply stretch out on the beautiful golden beaches.
When all that lounging around has worn you out, take a day trip to Paradise Valley, a delightful oasis at the foothills of the High Atlas Mountains.
A short hike leads to a limestone flanked gorge, where enticing pools and waterfalls appear out of nowhere — the ideal swimming spot during hot and dusty months.
- Best for surfing in style: oceanfront Amouage boasts a pool, gardens and elegant style.
- Best for families: Paradis Plage. Modern Morrocan décor, with a kids' club and activities.
- Best for indie travellers: Rayane Guest House. Good-value, with great views and shared facilities.
Where to stay
Browse more places to stay in Taghazout.
- Take a full-day tour to see Sahara dunes, flamingos, and the ancient silver capital of Tiznit.
- Into wildlife and culture? This tour of Sous Massa National Park also includes lunch at a Berber house, and visiting a fishing village.
What to do
Go on winter sun holidays to Kerala, India
Coconut palm-fringed beaches, green rice paddies, serene backwaters, and undulating hills of tea and spice plantations. The diverse landscapes of Kerala make this region of southern India one of the best destinations for winter sun.
For a glimpse of village life, glide along Kerala’s meandering waterways on a wooden houseboat. Perhaps base yourself in the harbour city of Kochi, where you can wander the streets of Fort Kochi, with its grand architecture, palaces, and spice markets.
For deserted beach bliss, head north of Kozhikode, or join fellow sun worshippers on the golden sands of Varkala in the south.
To cool down from life on the coast (and all that hot-headed romance), head for the mountains around Munnar.
Here the lower slopes are blanketed in emerald-green tea gardens, while the higher peaks offer fine trekking routes and stunning views over misty mountaintops.
Discover more in The Rough Guide to South India and Kerala.
- Best for couples: Tissa's Inn. An elegant boutique hotel with rooftop yoga and a pool.
- Best for birders: Hornbill Camp. Luxury tents, plus 300+ bird species on-site and in the adjoining bird sanctuary.
- Best for home comforts: Nirrvaan homestay. Family-run, near Varkala Beach, with home-cooked meals.
Where to stay
Explore more places to stay in Kerala.
Relax on white sand beaches in Barbados, the Caribbean
Picture yourself strolling along a powdery white-sand beach. Maybe you stop at a rum shack to sip an ice-cold cocktail to the tune of rustling palm trees. Maybe you pause to have your toes tickled by the turquoise waters.
While that's all well and very, very good, there's a lot more to the Caribbean island of Barbados than picture-postcard clichés — albeit clichés that are entirely, sublimely true. As a result, Barbados is unquestionably one of the world's best places for winter sun.
Beyond the beach, birders will want to get back to nature at Chancery Lane Swamp. This protected zone is a nesting spot for pelicans, blue herons and frigate birds. It's also a significant migration site.
Head to Harrison's Cave to view an astounding gallery of stalactites. The tram tour takes you through streams of crystal-clear water that cascade from waterfalls.
To experience the island's wilder side, canter along the shoreline on horseback, or snorkel in the company of green turtles. Meanwhile, surfers will want to tackle the wild waves of the Atlantic east coast.
Keen on culture? Visit Barbados' UNESCO-listed capital, Bridgetown, and the low-key coastal village of Speightstown.
Then there's all that top-notch nosh and nightlife, not least the famous Friday fish fries — think sunset sips, fresh fish, and beats that boom well beyond the golden hour.
All of which means Barbados is one of the best winter sun destinations if you want to chill and experience natural and food-themed thrills in equal generous measures.
For more Caribbean inspiration, dive into the pictorial Insight Guide to the Caribbean.
- Best for romantics: Bougainvillea Barbados. A Maxwell Beach beauty with swim-up bar, three pools and a spa.
- Best for laidback style: Little Good Harbour, Lovely garden cottages in a fishing village.
- Best for budget travellers: Worthing Court Apartments. Kitchenettes and a pool across from a top turtle beach.
Where to stay
- Experience geological and floral wonders on a tour that takes in Harrison's Cave and Hunte's Gardens.
- Visit Mount Gay distillery to discover how rum is made — tasting included, and totally recommended.
What to do
Explore Valencia – the best place for winter sun in Europe
Offering a blend of history, beach, great food and sunshine in a glass, Valencia gets our vote for being one of the best places for winter sun.
In fact, there are plenty of reasons to consider Valencia the perfect Spanish city break destination.
Enjoying over 2,660 hours of sunshine per year, and daily temperatures in February and March in the high teens, what more could you ask for from a quick winter escape? Al fresco lunches are a definite possibility.
Any trip to Valencia should start in the city’s market, where you’ll find great local cheeses, and a wealth of seafood. What’s more, several wine merchants will let you taste their latest offerings. It’s certainly a great place to experience some of the best eating and drinking in Spain.
While we’re on the subject of food, you’ll find all the classic Spanish tapas dishes here like huevos rotos, and of jamon iberico. But most people know that Valencia really means one thing — paella.
To work off your lunch, rent a bike and cycle along the leafy pathways of Turia park – the city’s riverbed-turned-greenspace.
If you're stiill undecided about where to go for winter sun and want to make the most of a shorter trip, consider booking an immersive city break to vibrant Valencia.
Or how about exploring Spain's most iconic cities — Madrid, Granada, Seville, Valencia, and Barcelona — on a single trip? 100% customisable. 100% unforgettable.
- Best for foodies: Hospes Palau de la Mar. A fine dining 5-star in the heart of historic Valencia, with lush gardens.
- Best for central style: Vincci Lys. Elegant, classical-style décor, and top service.
- Best for water-lovers: Hotel Center Valencia. Pretty close to the beach, with a pool and sauna.
Where to stay
View more places to stay in Valencia.
Discover the beaches and culture of Durban, South Africa
With over 320 days of sunshine a year, for a sun-soaked. long distance winter escape, set your sights on Durban, South Africa's third biggest city.
Though somewhat under the radar, there are plenty of reasons your next trip should be to Durban. Reasons that reveal exactly why Durban is among the world's best winter sun holiday destinations
Set your alarm for 6am and start early with a walk or jog along the beachfront “golden mile” at sunrise in the company of fitness-minded locals.
The city’s beaches are perfectly positioned to enjoy the pink glow of the morning skies, or to hit the surf.
Ready for a dose of culture? You’ll find a number of good contemporary art galleries in Durban. The Campbell Collections are well worth a visit to see artefacts and documents reflecting Zulu and Natal culture.
Everyone knows South Africa is synonymous with safari, but did you know you can see rhinos, giraffes, hippos and more just an hour’s drive from Durban?
A bushwalk or jeep safari at the Tala Game Reserve will give you the chance to see these magnificent beasts in their natural habitat.
Planning to go it alone? Read up on South Africa's best road-trip routes, and discover the scenic beauty of South Africa. The Rough Guide to South Africa will also help you plan. We even have a guide devoted to South Africa's game parks.
If you prefer to leave the planning to someone else, browse our customisable South Africa trip itineraries.
- Best for cool couples: Concierge Boutique Hotel. Lush gardens, elegant rooms and friendly service.
- Best for luxury: Oyster Box. A 5-star, beachfront beauty with opulent touches.
- Best for families: Holland House B&B. Warm atmosphere, family suites, and a pool.
Where to stay
Discover more places to stay in Durban.
Visit the Maldives — a dream winter sun destination
If you're looking for the ultimate escape-from-it-all experience, the Maldives is hands-down one of the best winter sun holiday destinations around the world.
Comprising 26 coral atolls and over 1200 islands, the overall land area of the Maldives archipelago is just twice the size of Washington DC.
But, with some of the finest deep sea diving on the planet (with visibility of up to forty metres), and the absence of any agriculture or industry, the Maldives has become the ultimate island getaway.
Though associated with unadulterated luxury, a number of Maldives resorts are embracing sustainable holidays — that's good news for the 96% of you who said this matters in our sustainable travel survey.
Many resorts employ resident marine biologists who run coral propagation and restoration programmes.
If you're seeking all-out luxury — hand-picked hotels, fine food, tailiored excursions — take a look at our customisable Luxurious Maldives trip. It really does capture why the Maldives is one of the best places for winter sun.
- Best for special family breaks: Amilla: Locally owned and run, with an in-house biologist and kids' village.
- Best for all-inclusive pampering: Siyam World. Stretched across Noonu Atoll, the over-water villas have slides.
- Best for big spenders: Patina. Palm Springs-style villas, sleek service, sleek design, and activities for all ages.
Where to stay
Moon over more places to stay in The Maldives.
- Explore Maldivian history, heritage and culture on a local experience tour, like this trip run by Amila.
- Snorkel, learn to scuba dive, canoe — whatever floats your boat, really.
What to do
If this run-down of the best winter sun destinations has sparked your thirst for out-of-this-world travel ideas, you might want to gawp at our gallery of the most adventurous places to travel. While you're at it, why not discover the world's best adventure holidays?
Wherever you're heading, grab yourself a Rough Guide to help you plan and make the most of your winter sun holiday, or your world-beating snow holiday, for that matter.
If, however, you'd prefer to forgo the hassle of planning, explore Rough Guides' tailor-made trips. Our local experts are based in many of these best destinations for winter sun, so start planning your perfect trip with Rough Guides.
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Top image: Bottom Bay, Barbados © Simon Dannhauer/Shutterstock