101 Holiday ideas

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Winter holiday destinations

Winter sun holiday destinationsWinter holiday ideas in DubaiCaribbean winter sun

By Mark Hodson, Sunday Times Travel Writer and Editor of 101 Holidays

What are the best winter holiday destinations for sunshine? Here is some expert independent advice on where to find the best deals in the sun. Or you can visit the 101 Holidays homepage to see our full collection of holiday ideas.

Note: all the travel companies featured are personally recommended by our editors.

Cheap winter sun holiday destinations

Tenerife and Lanzarote in the Canaries – and the Egyptian Red Sea resorts – are all less than five hours’ flying time away from the UK, and offer year-round sunshine. We also recommend The Gambia on the West coast of Africa where you’ll find great-value hotels, lovely beaches and wildlife excursions. It’s a six-hour flight from the UK.

The beautiful island of Madeira is a superb winter destination within 4 hours flying time thanks to new direct flights with British Airways. The rugged landscape is ideal for walking, or you can simply lie back and soak up the sunshine. You can stay at either a resort hotel or one of the beautifully-restored countryside quintas.

If you want somewhere more unusual, remote and great value, try the smaller Canary Islands such as La Palma (which has direct flights from the UK), the gorgeous La Gomera reached by ferry crossing from Tenerife or tiny La Graciosa just north of Lanzarote. Find our tips on where to go in the Canaries.

Egypt is not just about sunbathing, of course. If you want to see the Pyramids, Luxor and the Valley of the Kings, we recommend a Nile Cruise which is a fabulous way to view some of the greatest historical sites on Earth.

The Indian State of Goa has tremendous beaches, a great winter climate and it’s cheap, whether you opt to stay in a beachfront hotel or a luxury homestay (such as Sol de Goa or Casa Anjuna).

Florida can be very good value, although it’s hard to resist all those discount shopping malls. Try a fly-drive to discover the highlights of the Sunshine State, or check out some cheap deals in Orlando.

Check out my guide to the cheapest long haul destinations.

Tropical islands

For a taste of winter paradise, head to the Indian Ocean and the idyllic island of Mauritius. You can also soak up the sun in the gorgeous settings of the Maldives and the Seychelles. With perfect beaches, stunning hotels and first-class service, they’re the perfect antidote to wintry weather.

The Cape Verde islands off the coast of west Africa are great value and just 6 hours flying time from the UK. There are six islands where you can stay, all with different scenery from Sao Vicente – the cultural heart – to volcanic Fogo and Santo Antao, the greenest island. See the latest special offers.

The islands of Thailand offer amazing beaches, great food and excellent value. It’s best in winter to stick to the west coast islands such as Phuket.

Hawaii is a fabulous destination with stunning surf beaches, awe-inspiring volcanic landscapes and a colourful local culture. You can join an escorted tour of the islands, take a small ship cruise to see the highlights or laze on a perfect beach in Kaua’i. You can even take a cycle tour of Big Island.

Caribbean holidays in winter

A winter break in the Caribbean is a real treat, whether you opt for the quiet charm of Grenada or the celebrity stardust of Barbados. The soft sandy beaches and lush scenery of Tobago and Jamaica provide the ideal backdrop for a lazy winter sun holiday.

As long as you avoid the peak season of Christmas and New Year, you can find some great prices. Some of the best deals are in Cuba where you can flop on a beach or, if you are more adventurous, take a self-drive tour. Other options include this 11-night Highlights of West Cuba tour that features more simple but characterful accommodation such as La Moka Ecolodge.

Other hotels you should consider are elegant Round Hill or Sandals Royal Plantation in Jamaica (see the latest special offers), and boutique-style Laluna on the small friendly island of Grenada.

On St Lucia – another beautiful island with lush volcanic peaks and charming fishing villages – for something really special, we recommend Anse Chastanet and its ‘big sister’ Jade Mountain.

Other options in the Caribbean include a tall ship cruise with Star Clippers. Find more ideas for cruise holidays.

See my fellow editor David Wickers’ selection of the best Caribbean holidays.

Dubai in October

Asia and the Middle East

You can fly to the Arabian Gulf in less than 7 hours and find guaranteed sunshine, endless sandy beaches and stunning hotels. For glamour, shopping and mouth-watering restaurants, try Dubai.

If culture and natural beauty are your priorities, head to neighbouring Oman where you’ll find desert, medieval forts, remote beaches and mountains. One of the best hotels is the Six Senses Zighy Bay. See the latest special offers.

Bali is heavenly in our winter months. Try the family-friendly resorts of Sanur and Nusa Dua or stylish Seminyak. You can also combine Bali with other gems in Indonesia, one of Asia’s most exciting and fastest-growing destinations. Explore pristine marine parks with some of the world’s best snorkelling, visit spectacular temples and enjoy wildlife encounters such as Orang-Utans and the dragons on Komodo Island.

For good-value beach holidays with a heavy dose of culture we also recommend Sri Lanka. We love the East Coast of Malaysia, particularly the gorgeous Tanjong Jara.

If you’ve been to Asia before – perhaps Thailand or Vietnam – your next stop should be Burma. It’s not only a beautiful and fascinating country with natural and man-made wonders (such as the temples at Pagan), but the Burmese people are wonderfully warm, welcoming and gentle. You could also take a fascinating cruise on the Ayeyarwady river.

Back in the Middle East, Jordan is a glorious country and ideal for a touring holiday in winter.

Wrap up warm

Treat yourselves to a ski trip. For families we recommend Esprit Ski which has 27 years experience of making sure you and your little ones have a wonderful winter break in the Alps. However, if you want to ski in real style, try The Lodge, Verbier or head to Colorado in America. One of the best value options on the slopes is a chalet holiday (check out these late deals).

Go north for a glimpse of the magical Northern Lights – for the next two winters the chance of a spectacular display is greatly increased. You’ll also have a good chance of seeing the lights while staying at Sweden’s Ice Hotel. For a wonderful family treat, you can visit visit Santa in Lapland.

One of the world’s most under-rated holiday destinations is Canada. In winter you can explore the majestic unspoilt landscapes of the Yukon – and see the Northern Lights – or go dog-sledding and snowmobiling in the Rockies or stay at the Ice Hotel in Quebec. It’s a true winter wonderland.

If you want to get away from modern commercial Christmas celebrations, head for a traditional Christmas market in Europe. You’ll find huge markets in Cologne, Munich and Prague, along with hymn recitals, ice staking and lots of mulled wine. Lesser-known cities such as Freiburg, Koblenz and Wiesbaden are even more traditional.

Adventure holidays

A safari is a great winter holiday. Choose between classic safaris in Kenya or Botswana. Kenya offers affordable prices and a great selection of game drives plus horse-riding and walking safaris. If you want a challenge, how about climbing Mount Kilimanjaro.

India is one of the world’s great destinations. Take a private tour of Rajasthan with TransIndus or set off on a luxury tiger safari with Audley Travel. In winter you can expect mild comfortable temperatures of around 25ºC.

In the Southern Hemisphere, Argentina is an amazing country packed with treats, and it is at its best in the European winter. So is BrazilChile is particularly attractive if you’re in search of natural wonders. See our full guide to holiday destinations in South America.

In North America, you can track wolves in the wintry snows of Yellowstone National Park. Or if you prefer guaranteed sunshine head to Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon.

For something completely different, consider a volunteering holiday in a choice of destinations including Costa Rica, Thailand, New Zealand and India. It’s a chance to combine unique travel experiences with voluntary work on a local community or wildlife project.

Last updated: 10 July 2015

Find more winter sun holidays. Also see our holiday weather guide.

More winter holiday ideas

Where to go on holiday at Christmas

Where to go in November

Where to go in December

Where to go in January

Where to go in February

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