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News 8 of the cheapest flights to get winter sun right now

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8 of the cheapest flights to get winter sun right now

To paraphrase Frank Sinatra, ‘Fly me to the sun, let me play among the sandbars. Let me see what winter is like in Florida and Oman.’ Ol’ Blue Eyes might have liked the moon, but as his perma-tan showed, he loved the scorching sun – as do we. So we’ve sorted the not-hot-enoughs from the far-too-expensives to bring you a rundown of flight bargains to destinations sure to be beaming with golden rays this winter.

Fishing boats in Puerto de Mogan, Gran Canaria

GRAN CANARIA, SPAIN

February flights: from £42 return

Feb average high: 20C

Feb hours of sun: 7

Feb average days with rain: 3

While Britain shivers in the post-Christmas blues, Gran Canaria continues in festive mood with an annual Rio-style carnival that sees the island reverberating with music and dancing (26 January – 18 February 2018 in Las Palmas; lpacarnaval.com). Parties and parades aside, Gran Canaria is a perennial favourite among the Canary Islands – those Spanish havens off the coast of West Africa – for its reliably warm weather and dramatically varied landscape, which attracts hikers and surfers as much as fly-and-floppers. The latter flock south to the beaches of Playa del Inglés and Maspalomas, with its Sahara-style dunes. But strike north from the resorts, and Gran Canaria’s real beauty reveals itself: pretty villages, rugged mountain trails and in the capital, Las Palmas, great tapas, tons of history and a smashing beach.

Marrakech souk at sunset

MARRAKECH, MOROCCO

February flights: from £61 return

Feb average high: 20C

Feb hours of sun: 7

Feb average days with rain: 6

For short-haul winter sun with oodles of exotic atmosphere, Morocco’s ‘Red City’ can’t be beat. A three-and-a-half-hour flight from the UK (with no time difference) lands you in another world, where old men drive donkey carts down crowded streets and chic riad hotels hide behind thick medina walls. Take a big bag: you’ll want to fill it with pointy-toed babouche slippers, stylish kaftans, fragrant spices and Berber jewellery, all haggled over amiably in the cacophonous souks. Unwind afterwards amid towering cacti, tall palms and shoots of bamboo in Yves Saint-Laurent’s Jardin Majorelle, adjacent to the new museum dedicated to the fashion icon.

Fishing boat upside down on Santa Maria beach on Sal island, Cape Verde

CAPE VERDE

February flights: from £168 return

Feb average high: 25C

Feb hours of sun: 7

Feb average days with rain: 1

Cape Verde’s long, spotless beaches rival the Caribbean’s – but you’ll reach them via a shorter five-and-a-half-hour flight and significantly less outlay. Pitched 570km off the coast of West Africa, this sun-baked cluster of 10 volcanic islands comes with a guarantee of bikini-worthy sunshine in February. Soak it up on the sands of Sal island or nearby Boa Vista. Then lace up your boots and explore the Jurassic Park-style canyons and tropical plants of rugged Santo Antão island. Fancy a party? Bring your feather boa to music-loving São Vicente, which blasts away winter blues with its raucous annual Creole Carnival (13 February 2018).

Cluster of white houses in Muscat, Oman

OMAN

February flights: from £203 return

Feb average high: 26C

Feb hours of sun: 9

Feb average days with rain: 3

Want Arabian nights without Emirati bling? Oman combines sun-sure relaxation with a timeless Middle Eastern mystique you won’t find in its flashier neighbours. Many visitors never venture beyond the laid-back capital, Muscat, with its Grand Mosque, colourful souks and luxury beachfront hotels. But a network of superb roads makes it easy to head off on a self-drive adventure in search of the Arabia of old – all statuesque forts, time-warp villages and dramatic shifting sands. Motor through the Hajar Mountains, exploring desert oases and peering over the edge of Oman’s very own Grand Canyon, then steer towards the Wahiba Sands for camel rides and luxury camping under the stars.

white mosque in Abu Dhabi

ABU DHABI, UAE

February flights: from £276 return

Feb average high: 25C

Feb hours of sun: 8

Feb average days with rain: 3

With their man-made islands and extravagant beach hotels, the Emirates get a bad rap as soulless fly-and-flop suntraps. But while Dubai breaks records with its giant malls and desert theme parks, Abu Dhabi has been setting itself up as the Middle East’s cultural hub. The most drummed-up new attraction, the vast-domed Louvre Abu Dhabi opened in the Saadiyat Cultural District last year, with a vast haul of knock-out art from prehistoric statues to 20th-century Picassos. Duck in to the gleaming Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, then unwind like an Emirati at a shisha cafe after a stroll along the seaside boardwalk of the Corniche.

Sunset at Key West, Florida

FLORIDA

February flights: from £298 return

Feb average high: 24C

Feb hours of sun: 8

Feb average days with rain: 6

In summer, Florida can be stiflingly hot, but go now and you can stretch out your beach towel in mid-20s heat before the madness of Spring Break (usually the two weeks around Easter) turns its southern coastline into a scrum of whooping college students. Fast track to southern Florida with a flight to Fort Lauderdale – the more modest, less expensive sister of Miami, 35 minutes’ drive south. Bronze your winter-white limbs on its long sandy beaches, or hire a convertible for a four-hour one-way drive on the long, ocean-flanked sliver of highway and bridges that connects the islands of the Florida Keys archipelago. Spend a couple of nights eating Key Lime Pie, meeting the six-toed cats of Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum and drinking margaritas and listening to country music in the bars of Duval Street.

Gardens lit up at night

SINGAPORE

February flights: from £337 return

Feb average high: 30C

Feb hours of sun: 7

Feb average days with rain: 10

Skyscrapers and temples, space-age gardens, opulent hotels and glamorous beach clubs – Singapore slings them all together for a spectacular more-than-just-a-layover fling. When the razzle-dazzle of Orchard Road’s neon malls and colourful night markets overwhelms, rise above it all in a cable car to Sentosa Island, to kick back on powdery beaches toasted by 30-degree heat. Or hop on a 15-minute bumboat (little ferry) to Pulau Ubin, Singapore’s last kampong (traditional village) to explore the island on a hired bicycle, spotting monkeys and toucan-esque hornbills, and lunching by the waterfront on black-pepper shrimp.

A group of friends having Mexican food and cocktails

PUERTO VALLARTA, MEXICO

February flights: from £329 return

Feb average high: 29C

Feb hours of sun: 8

Feb average days with rain: 1

A-listers have been kicking back in this glittering haven on Mexico’s Pacific Coast ever since Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor set up home here in the 1960s. With high temperatures, cool nightlife, affordable hotels and beaches basking in tropical sunshine, it smoulders with winter-sun appeal, but there’s mucho more to Puerto Vallarta than celebrities, tanning and tequila. Stroll its pastel-hued old town, known as the Zona Romantica; take a street-food tour sampling spicy swordfish tacos and jalapeño margaritas; or hop on a boat to spot the humpback whales that come to Banderas Bay to calve every year from December to March.


*In early January 2018, we looked at the latest flight deals found with the Skyscanner.net ‘UK to Everywhere for the month of February’ search tool, then used editorial insight to select a mix of the cheapest destinations with hot weather. We determined this by choosing only destinations with weather averages in February of a minimum daily high of 20C, at least seven hours of sunshine and fewer than three days of rainfall, based on data from weather2travel.com. We narrowed it down further by including no more than one destination per country, and by avoiding destinations the Foreign & Commonwealth Office advised against travelling to. Published January 2018. Any prices are lowest estimated prices only at the time of publication and are subject to change and/or availability.


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