Beat your winter blues with sunshine, blue skies, smaller crowds, and affordable accommodation.
Although we’ve made it past the most depressing day of the year, it’s still grey and miserable across much of Europe.
If you’ve had enough of storms and snow, why not switch the cold for some winter sun? With the promise of the blue skies, smaller crowds, and affordable accommodation, these sunny destinations in Europe are sure to melt away your winter blues.
Here are some of the top destinations for early sun in Europe.
Wander scenic coastline in Madeira, Portugal
With some of the best scenery in Europe – think botanical gardens, scenic coastline, rugged wind-swept beaches and magnificent mountains – Madeira is one of Europe’s most exotic islands.
And, you’re guaranteed a dose of sun with temperatures hovering around 21°C in winter.
Though there is some risk of rain, showers don’t last long and are the reason why the area is abundant with lush green landscapes.
Nature lovers can walk alongside the zig-zagging network of levadas – man-made channels created to carry water for irrigation of agricultural fields around the island. Funchal, the island’s picturesque capital, has plenty to offer its visitors including beautiful architecture and buzzing nightlife.
Indulge in sea urchins in Sicily, Italy
Sicily is a year-round destination thanks to its mild Mediterranean climate.
Even in the depths of January, average temperatures linger around 16°C with spells of bright sunshine.
That also means the sea urchin (ricci di mare) season is in full swing by February, so the adventurous foodies can indulge in this distinctive delicacy in numerous local restaurants.
With the island less busy in winter than other times of the year, visitors can also enjoy the stunning Baroque towns and archaeological sites all to themselves.
If you love festivals, winter is the perfect time to visit Sicily. The Festa di Sant’Agata in Catania is held in early February to celebrate the patron saint of the city, while in Agrigento there are festivals in December to celebrate the dramatist Pirandello.
Head to Cyprus for the sunniest winters in the Med
True sun worshippers should head to Cyprus for the warmest winters in the Mediterranean.
While temperatures hover around 17°C, you’ll get a vitamin D-boosting five hours of sunshine a day. This means the weather is comfortable for roaming around and exploring the culture and history of the island.
Located in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, Cyprus has some of the most beautiful beaches in Paphos, vibrant nightlife in Limassol and some of the best museums and restaurants in the island country’s capital Nicosia (Lefkosia in Greek).
If you want to explore Cyprus on a day trip, tours are a fraction of the price during the quieter winter months.
Lounge on sun-drenched beaches in the Canary Islands
With their proximity to the African coast, the Canary Islands have a desirable climate all year round with at least 300 days of sunshine.
Take your pick from Tenerife, Lanzarote, Fuerteventura and Gran Canaria, which all have plenty of activities and sandy beaches for lazing, depending on what you’re after.
And while some popular summer destinations can become ghost towns in the winter, many resorts on the islands remain buzzing for the majority of the year.
Dose up on sunshine and culture in Malta
If you want a side of culture with your winter sun, head to Malta. The island is home to no less than nine UNESCO Heritage World Heritage Sites.
And as it hardly rains during winter, there’s not much need for an umbrella. Temperatures of around 16°C make it pleasant enough to walk around the streets of Valletta.
There are plenty of harbours, cute fishing villages, cliffs and rocky coves to explore or you can wander into the untouched countryside.
For a boat trip, head to the neighbouring island of Gozo where you’ll discover the Ggantija Temples – the oldest and most impressive megalithic complex in Malta. They are older than the Egyptian pyramids.
Shop and sunbathe in Marbella, Spain
Finding the best spot on beaches to soak up the sun won’t be a problem in Marbella outside of the peak summer period. And you won’t be fighting for that perfect open-air terrace space to enjoy a sundowner either.
Winter is prime golf season here but if you prefer a more rigorous workout, there are plenty of hiking and walking opportunities abound in the area. Head to the hills and be treated to spectacular views across Africa.
Meanwhile, bargain hunters can up their step-count at the shopping boutiques in Puerto Banus.