Okay, so your summer holidays didn’t turn out as you’d hoped. The good news is that it’s always summer somewhere, and you can still get some heat in your bones this year. As more tropical countries get added to the travel corridor list, we’re looking at the best winter sun destinations from the UK.
While you’re enjoying some sunshine in these toasty destinations, remember that their guidelines might be different from the UK. For example, people in Tenerife, Lanzarote and Gran Canaria are required to wear masks while outside. Before booking your flights, check local regulations to make sure you know what the rules are and that you’ll be comfortable following them.
Winter sun destinations currently open to UK travellers
Recently re-opened for British travellers, Crete’s warm climate makes it one of the best destinations for winter sun. Because of its location at the southern end of the Aegean sea, it averages temperatures of 14-15°C in the winter. The island offers spectacularly diverse natural landscapes, with snow-capped mountains and lush hills giving way to endless sandy bays. The best beaches in Crete include Alafonsi, Balos and Falassarna.
Take advantage of the lack of crowds to explore the island’s beauty. Crete is usually a very popular destination, especially during summer. Visit the ancient ruins of the Minoan Palace outside Heraklion, stroll the old streets of Chania and Rethymnon and marvel at the Venetian architecture, or lose yourself in the palm forest of Vai. Cretans are famous for both their food and their hospitality, so expect at least one glass of complimentary raki (strong, local spirit) to come your way when dining out.
The Canary Islands
While mainland Spain remains closed to British tourists, its island chain near Africa is open for business. Luckily, it’s also one of the best places for winter sun in Europe. There are several reasons UK travellers traditionally 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).
There are seven islands to choose from depending on your holiday style, and all of them have 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.
Another benefit? The government of the Canary Islands has pledged to cover the costs for any tourists who catch COVID-19 while holidaying there. This built-in insurance policy will cover all your medical, quarantine and repatriation costs should you fall ill during your trip.
Plan your visit with our Canary Island travel advice:
Mainland Portugal is currently off the travel corridor list, but you can head to its sub-tropical island of Madeira without having to quarantine. Rugged mountain scenery, mild weather and lush tropical plants make this one of our favourite places for winter sun.
It’s a volcanic island, so the best beaches in Madeira are actually made from imported golden sand from the Sahara. However, the lush flora and laurel forests are the real draws to this hiker’s paradise. The island’s volcanic peaks and rich (yet rugged) terrain make it the perfect place to get outdoors for walks and rambles 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. Photograph the colonial-era architecture, sample the namesake dessert wine or spend an hour exploring the weird and wonderful museum dedicated to footballer Cristiano Ronaldo.
Is there anywhere more luxurious to experience social distancing than The Maldives? This archipelago in the Indian Ocean recently made it onto the government’s travel corridor list. As it’s one of the best places for winter sun, we couldn’t be happier. It’s also one of the most luxurious.
Most hotels and resorts are set on their own private islands, so you’re all but guaranteed to get the best beaches in the Maldives to yourself. One of the most iconic ways to stay in the Maldives is to book an overwater villa. You get your own self-contained unit. Some also have private pools but, as they’re perched over the calm, still and turquoise waters of the lagoon, you can easily enjoy a spot of swimming sans pool.
Due to current restrictions, excursion activities are on-hold and tourists can’t travel between resorts and islands. But when you’ve found your own little slice of paradise, why would you want to move?
Search for flights to Male, Maldives, and our other top winter sun destinations
Discover where you can go
With the UK and UAE governments currently in talks about adding Dubai to the UK’s travel corridor list, the chances of getting some winter sun this year keep getting better. Stay up to date about whose borders are open with our interactive global map, and sign up to receive email updates so you’ll be first to know when your top destinations reopen.
Coronavirus travel advice (updated daily) – keep up to date with the latest government travel advice, flight cancellations and more.
Travel restrictions by country (updated daily) – find out where you can go with our interactive travel map, showing which destinations are currently open for business.
Empty sun loungers and zero queues: 2020 travel first-hand – not sure what to expect from a winter sun break? We spoke to some frequent flyers to learn about the unexpected positives of travel during a pandemic.
How to use Skyscanner to plan travel during COVID-19 – our tips and tools will help to make your travel planning and booking much easier, even while everything is a bit “up in the air”.
Where to go for Christmas holidays 2020 – the festive season is going to look slightly different this year, so why not head to one of these staycation hotspots for a bit of extra joy?