We’ve found 10 affordable hotspots where you can shed those winter layers and top up your vitamin D, all with great value off-season price tags.
Best for: a holiday with something for everyone
There are several reasons UK travellers flock to the Canary Islands when they head south for the winter. There’s the sub-tropical climate – the islands stay a balmy 20°C when most of Europe is freezing – and the snappy flight time (less than four and a half hours from London). Then there are seven islands to choose from depending on your holiday style, and all of them come with inviting beaches and impressive volcanic landscapes. Choose from something-for-everyone Tenerife, glamorous Gran Canaria, rugged Lanzarote or surfers’ paradise Fuerteventura – the latter two are slightly cooler, but also drier. Whichever island you choose, look for hotels and resorts on the south coast for the most pleasant weather.
2. Cape Verde
Best for: beautiful beaches
Like the Canary Islands, Cape Verde is an archipelago of volcanic islands west of Africa. It’s a little further away – a six-hour flight – but with the extra distance comes warmer weather. Even midwinter, temperatures range from 21-26°C. Expect to find Creole Portuguese-African hospitality that’s just as warm as the weather. Fill your days hiking craggy mountains, sunning yourself on powdery beaches – Sal and Boa Vista islands have some of the best – and when the sun goes down, hit the bars and clubs for a taste of the lively music scene. Accommodation is affordable too, like Boutique Hotel Praia Maria on Santiago from £40 a night, the largest of the islands, or Pontao Hotel on Sal starting at £51. Take a look at our guide to Sal, which is one of the most popular islands to visit and is home to some excellent kite surfing spots.
3. The Gambia
Best for: nature lovers
It may be the smallest country in Africa, but there are plenty of postcard-worthy beaches to be found in The Gambia. Daytime temperatures hover in the high-twenties, often tipping 30°C. Plus, winter is dry season, so you can leave your brolly at home. Soak up the sun and sea at the coastal resorts of Bakau, Fajara and Kotu – you’ll be spoiled for choice with cheap and cheerful hotels, too, like the beachside Lemon Creek Hotel Resort in Bijilo where prices start at £56. After you’ve had your fill of beaches, head inland to explore the namesake river at the heart of the country. Its verdant basin brims with wildlife: spot hippos, manatees, monkeys and hundreds of bird species.
Best for: a sunny city break
Just beyond Europe, Morocco feels a world away despite its relatively short flight. Perched on the edge of the Sahara Desert, it remains warm throughout winter, which also happens to be the cheapest time to fly. For a city break in the sun, head to the enticing city of Marrakech. After you’ve whiled away the day sipping mint tea and wandering the labyrinthine souks, relax in a traditional Moroccan house, called a riad. Riad Chi-Chi is a great value boutique hotel, with prices starting at £48, situated in the heart of the medina. Check out our round-up of the nine best things to do in the city. If you’ve already explored Marrakech, a trip to Agadir or Fez could be an equally affordable, sun-soaked Moroccan escape.
Best for: getting outdoors
Winter feels like spring on the island of Madeira owing to its pleasant climate, mild waters and fresh mountain scenery. There are some lovely beaches, but the lush flora and laurel forests are real highlights. The island’s volcanic peaks and rich-yet-rugged terrain make it the perfect place to get outdoors for walks, rambles or hikes with a view. Hire a car to experience the landscape on four wheels or catch a boat for a spot of dolphin and whale watching. Get a taste of Portugal in the capital, Funchal, where you can photograph the colonial architecture, listen to traditional fado music and have a tipple of its namesake wine.
Best for: glitz and glamour
Year-round sunshine and a relatively short flight are two big draws to this shimmering oasis in the desert. Superlative Dubai is well known for its glitz and glamour, but skyscrapers and malls aside, we’re here for the sun. Even in winter, expect temperatures of around 25°C. That’s perfect weather for sun-worshipping on Jumeirah beach or heading out on a desert safari for a camel’s-eye-view of the city. The overwhelming choice of flights and hotels keep top-line prices down. But be warned, the cost of eating, drinking and shopping can quickly add up in this sleek city. Take a look at our local’s guide to Dubai for more ideas on what to do, including where to find the best Emirati cuisine.
Best for: adventure seekers
Similar to the UAE, this Middle Eastern country comes with year-round sunshine and an achievable flight time. Oman isn’t as well-known or flashy as Dubai, but what it lacks in cutting-edge modernities, it more than makes up for with its rich cultural heritage. It’s perfect for adventure lovers looking for something a little more than a fly-and-flop beach break. Instead, spend your days driving to Jebel Shams (Oman’s highest mountain) and exploring the desert wilderness of Sharqiya Sands. Both Pioneer Hotel (prices start at £48) and Al Ferdous Hotel Apartments (prices start at £41) offer great value for money in Muscat. Whether you’re looking for a base to explore or beachside luxury, browse more hotels in Oman and find the perfect fit for your stay.
Best for: affordable long-haul
If you’re willing to spend a little more time in the air, unlike other long-haul, winter sun destinations like Thailand or the Caribbean, there are plenty of deals that make Mexico an affordable option. Winter is the coolest time to visit Mexico, which helps bring the price down further. Plus, thanks to its tropical climate you can still expect temperatures in the early- to mid-twenties most days. Head to the Riviera Maya for beautiful beaches and golden sand and soak up the varied Mexican culture. You’ll be spoilt for choice with budget hotels too – couples will love Villas El Encanto where prices start at £76 in Cozumel, while Hotel Los Girasoles is a cheap option in Cancun with prices starting at £22.
Best for: history buffs
Thanks to its location, Cyprus has some of the best winter weather you’ll find without leaving Europe. Some like it hot, sure, but for those who don’t mind it mild, a winter’s day in Cyprus is just like a spring day in the UK, around 17-19°C. With a divide of Turkish and Greek influence, this little island is one, quite literally, of two sides. As one of the oldest civilisations in the Mediterranean, it’s steeped in myths and history, which means that beyond the beaches, there are plenty of ancient ruins to explore. Take a pit-stop from your adventures for a meze feast – no trip to Cyprus would be complete without a slither (or five) of halloumi. Some hotels close for the winter season, but expect great low-season value at the ones that stay open.
Best for: something a bit different
Sometimes referred to as ‘the new Dubai’, Doha is one of the most dynamic cities in the Gulf and a world-class city in the making. While it might not spring to mind as easily as its glitzy neighbour across the water, everything in Qatar’s capital is, quite literally, up and coming. With reinvented souqs, a new metro system, several world cup stadiums in the works, and skyscrapers popping up all over the place, this city has plenty to boast about. You can expect the weather to stay in the low twenties, and so unlike the summer months (when everyone becomes a slave to the aircon) winter is a great time to explore the city on your own two feet – stroll along the Corniche, a long seaside promenade that curves around Doha Bay with places to eat and beautiful views. Hotels in Doha, like Warwick Doha, are luxurious but affordable and start at £54 a night.
Where will you find some winter sun?
All flight and prices mentioned in this article are estimates of the cheapest prices based on Skyscanner’s flight search tools. These are subject to change and were correct at time of writing on 23 October 2018.