9 top winter sun destinations
Shorter days and chilly weather getting you down? Just imagine how much better you'd feel with warm sunshine bathing your face, sunglasses on your nose, a good book in your hand... Winter sun is just the tonic you need, so try these top winter sun destinations to see you through until spring.
See also: Brand new winter sun destinations
Canary Islands: The nearest place to the UK you can hope to visit (at low cost) for guaranteed heat during the winter months. Tenerife is the largest of the islands, and it has the most facilities, in contrast to tiny El Hierro and La Gomera, where tourism has had less of an impact. Gran Canaria has the best beaches, while Lanzarote is volcanic, so parts of the island are covered in lava and ashes, and many of the beaches have black sand.
Weather: Expect winter temperatures of mid-20sC. Rain is rare
Beware: The mega-resorts (for example, Playa del Ingles on Gran Canaria) with their cavorting hordes
Also try: Goa, Tunisia, Cyprus
Florida: You can fly direct from the UK, so there are no tedious stopovers, and once you get there the kids will eat the food, speak the language and enjoy the beach life. Miami Beach is a good base, with its huge sandy beaches and warm water. Hire a car and visit the Seaquarium to meet sea lions, dolphins, manatees and even a killer whale. It's also a good idea to make time for the Science Museum, Planetarium, kayaking through the Everglades and the mother of all Florida attractions: the Orlando theme parks.
Weather: Temperatures average 16C-30C December to May
Beware: A car is essential
Also try: Canaries, Balearics
Dubai: Expect to rub shoulders with the stars at beach resorts in this city, which has been dubbed the Hong Kong of the Gulf. David Beckham and Michael Owen are among those who are said to have bought property here, and the glittering hotels on Jumeira beach are testament to the rich clientele this spot attracts. The Burj al Arab hotel has got to be seen: it's the world's only seven-star hotel, plus take a walk through the souks to check out the Persian carpets and gawp at the gold on sale.
Weather: Between 20C and 25C, though it can be windy in winter
Beware: Overdoing it on your credit card
Also try: Barbados, St Maarten
Egypt: Treasure house of the ancient world. Visit Karnak and Luxor in the winter months and enjoy almost guaranteed sunshine, without the searing heat of midsummer. History buffs will love the temples, tombs and pyramids, while sun seekers can soak up the rays from aboard a Nile cruise ship.
Weather: Southern Egypt basks in mid-20sC during the winter months
Beware: Relentless touts can test your sense of humour
Also try: Jordan
Maldives: The stuff that dreams are made of: coral-fringed islets, white sand and warm seas. No one can fail to be seduced by this cluster of tropical islands in the heart of the Indian Ocean. The smaller resorts tend to be quieter and therefore more appealing to couples and honeymooners. Choose a full-board option - the islands are so small that there's nowhere else to eat, anyway.
Weather: Temperatures sit at 28C plus throughout the winter
Beware: Boredom. There is, literally, nothing to do apart from read, swim and gaze into the eyes of the one you love
Also try: The Seychelles, Mauritius
Marrakech: This medieval walled city in Southern Morocco has barely changed over the centuries, with its narrow alleyways and merchants trading from tiny stalls. Make way for the donkeys hauling great loads through the crowded streets, and don't worry about getting lost - a helpful passer-by will be happy to point you in the right direction. Sip mint tea in one of the cafés overlooking the bustling Djeema el-Fna market square, where snake charmers, food vendors and freelance dentists rub shoulders with magicians, musicians and storytellers.
Weather: Take a jacket, as winter sunshine can still feel a little chilly. Winter temperatures range from 15C to 26C
Beware: Spur of the moment purchases. You may find yourself trying to stuff carpets, pottery, metalwork and leather goods into that suitcase for the journey home.
Also try: Seville, Granada
Rio de Janeiro: The city of samba, where life revolves around dance, drink, beach and sun. For 24-hour party people, February's Mardi Gras carnival is a must. But there's no such thing as a quiet night in Rio, so winter revellers at any time can be sure to catch a vibe. Ride the cable car to the top of Sugarloaf Mountain, then work on your tan on Copacabana beach.
Weather: December to March temperatures range from 25C to 40C
Beware: High crime rate, so take care and stay safe
Also try: Canaries, Cuba
Safari: What could be more exciting than sleeping under canvas as lions prowl around your tent? Or coming within feets of an elephant as it plods through the bush? Going on safari is the ultimate adventure holiday, and Europe's winter months are the best time for game viewing, so taking a trip on the wild side is the ultimate winter getaway. Tanzania is a good choice - there's snow-capped Mount Kilimanjaro, the plains of the Serengeti, the spectacular Ngorongoro Crater, Great Rift Valley and Zanzibar. Intrepid travellers will choose a couple of camps and make the transfer by light aircraft for the best views. (Get more information on safaris)
Weather: Mid-20sC in the Serengeti, hotter at the coast
Beware: Early starts - 6am is normal - to catch the best animals
Also try: sailing in the West Indies, diving in the Red Sea
Australia: It's a long way to go, but worth it if you've got itchy feet for a big winter holiday. Make it a multi-centre trip and travel from Melbourne up the east coast via Sydney, Brisbane and the Whitsunday Islands to the tropical rainforests of Queensland and the Great Barrier Reef. Guaranteed sunshine, as our winter is their summer, but remember to slap on the UV protection - those rays are mighty fierce down in the southern hemisphere.
Weather: Gets hotter as you head north to Cairns, with mid-20sC in Melbourne and Sydney
Beware: Creepy crawlies. Australia is home to some of the world's deadliest bugs
Also try: Fiji, Far East