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More for less: the closest and cheapest places to get guaranteed sunshine

It’s January, it’s dreary and all you want to do is run away somewhere exotic, but your post-Christmas bank account won’t stretch to anywhere far-flung? No worries – just book a cheap flight to one of these closer-to-home destinations instead. No, of course the temperatures won’t be quite as full-on tropical but they should certainly be a good 10˚C or so higher than they are at home. And as we head ever nearer to spring they’ll be hotting up every day – plenty warm enough to cast aside hats, gloves and scarves and go frolic in the sunshine. But maybe not swim in the sea. Not just yet…

Paphos

Paphos Old Town
Photo credit: Pixabay

Down in the southwest corner of Cyprus, Paphos is said to have the best weather on the island – the locals’ idea of ‘cold’ in February feels positively balmy to anyone jetting in from the frozen north. With few tourists around and no fierce summer sun beating down on you, this is a great time to stroll along the coastal path that stretches for several miles or explore some of the many archaeological sites that have earned the town a place on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites. Particularly impressive are the ruins of Nea Pafos, home to some of the best ancient mosaics ever unearthed in the Mediterranean, and the Tombs of the Kings, a huge necropolis with underground tombs and chambers carved out of the solid rock. With culture ticked off the to-do list, retreat to a waterfront bar and order in a bottle from one of the local vineyards – the island has been producing good wines for centuries.

Stay: Alexander the Great Beach Hotel

Relaunched in 2013, the Alexander the Great Beach Hotel sits right on the shore, with direct access to the coastal path. It has a huge outdoor pool, a health club and spa and even some archaeological ruins, and though it may be a rather swish four-star you can still get rooms for under £100 at this time of year – they start from around £78.

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Valencia

Castle by the sea - Valencia
Photo credit: Pixabay

Spain’s third-largest city manages to appeal to just about every traveller, no matter how varied their tastes. Like your destinations all cobbled and quaint? Central Valencia fits the bill, with its winding streets, pretty plazas and impressive cathedral. Prefer all things modern? Head to the futuristic City of Arts and Sciences, where Santiago Calatrava’s curvy steel and glass structures shine dazzling white against a clear blue sky. Foodies can sample endless takes on paella, the local speciality; seaside-lovers can lounge on broad sandy beaches, wilder and emptier to the south of the port, busier and with more facilities to the north. If you’d rather get more active, head to the wonderful central market and pick up picnic supplies from stalls piled high with wonderful local produce then spend the day wandering the length of the Turia Gardens, a ribbon of green that runs for nine kilometres through the city, following the course of the old river bed.

Stay: Hotel One Shot Mercat 09 or Hotel Balandret

If you like being right in the heart of things, Hotel One Shot Mercat 09 will do the job – it’s a cool little boutique hotel in the historic centre, with rooms from around £76. Rather be down by the sea? Try the chicly decorated Hotel Balandret, where doubles start from around £60.

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Seville

Seville, Spain
Photo credit: Pixabay

In high summer, Seville’s scorching heat can cause even the most ardent of sun-lovers to wilt and anyone with any sense spends the day hiding in the shade doing as little as possible. Winter, on the other hand, is perfect for getting out and about, and an extensive new network of cycle lanes makes the city easy to explore on two wheels, so grab yourself a hire bike and you can work your way round the sights without collapsing into a total sweaty mess. Classic attractions include the huge Gothic cathedral and extraordinary Alcazar Palace complex (known to most as Seville’s answer to Granada’s Alhambra but more familiar to Game of Thrones fans as Sunspear, capital of Dorne), but you’ll find newer landmarks too. The Metropol Parasol building, for example, also known as Las Setas (‘the mushrooms’), is a sinuous wooden structure that shelters a market, open air performance spaces and cafés and has a canopy-top walkway with fabulous views of the city.

Stay: Adriano Hotel

You get good value for money at Adriano Hotel. The location is handily central (only a five-minute walk from the cathedral and Alcazar) and rooms (from around £75) are a good size and smartly furnished. Don’t be surprised if the look is a little more lavish than expected – despite the low-key exterior, inside is a riot of feature wallpapers and statement bedheads.

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Palermo

Sicilian street - Palmero
Photo credit: Pixabay

Sicily has been fought over and conquered by many different cultures over the centuries, leaving Palermo, the capital, with a rich legacy of historic sights. You could easily spend your whole trip working your way round churches, museums and monuments – but a more laidback plan might be to devote your time to exploring the city’s culinary scene instead. It doesn’t mean spending a fortune – Palermo has a great reputation for street food, so you can fill up on all kinds of delicious snacks at just a few euros a pop. Local specialities to try include arancini (fried rice balls), cannoli (crispy pastry shells with a creamy ricotta filling) and pane cunzato (bread with tomatoes, anchovies and fresh cheese). If you can cope with the Sicilian way of driving (things can get a tad hairy on mountain bends), this could also be a good time to hire a car and explore further afield. As late winter turns to spring, you can walk on beaches empty of tourists and admire clouds of blossom as thousands of almond trees come into pretty pink bloom.

Stay: Hotel Palazzo Brunaccini

Even luxury hotels are good value for money here. At Hotel Palazzo Brunaccini, in the historic centre, the elegant rooms and suites (some with their own balcony; others with four poster beds) start from around £68.

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Looking for something a little further afield? Flights to these destinations are £££s cheaper than you might think this year:

  • Kazan, Russia. From £152

Have these destinations not ticked the right boxes? Search ‘Everywhere’ for the cheapest flights you can find.

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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 publication on 15 January 2019.