As cosy and festive as winter is, it can leave you desperate for some sunshine. A winter sun holiday will warm you right up
While it’s cold and grey in the UK, you’ll be away basking in the sun with our pick of four alternative winter sun destinations – all easy, direct or one-stop flights from Birmingham Airport.
IF YOU LIKE BARBADOS, TRY CUBA (13 hours, 15 minutes, 27°C on average)
Barbados and Cuba are two gems of the Caribbean – energetic but tranquil, relaxing but not boring, developed but authentic. While Barbados has long been a tropical winter paradise, Cuba has recently been opening up as a major travel destination. If you love the sunshine and pulsing nightlife of Barbados, you’ll enjoy Cuba just as much.
Feel the beat: Spanish, Caribbean and African influences merge to create son, salsa, rumba and more. In Havana, hear salsa at the beachfront Jardines del 1830 and jazz at the intimate La Zorra y el Cuervo.
Hit the beach: Magnificent strips of sand line Cuba’s shores and clusters of cays dot its waters. You can go swimming, snorkelling and diving to your heart’s content. Try one of the more secluded beaches of Cayo Sabinal or Isla de la Juventud.
See old and new collide: Its political history and communist government have preserved Cuba’s heritage while the entrepreneurial spirit and widespread diaspora are bringing in new life. Check out architectural treasures in Havana Vieja, or Old Havana.
IF YOU LIKE THE MALDIVES, TRY CAPE VERDE (6 hours, 26°C on average)
These two small island nations have a lot in common, with beautiful beaches, vibrant underwater life and a welcoming atmosphere. Cape Verde’s topography is more varied, and its blend of Portuguese and African influences makes for a unique culture. If you’re dazzled by the Maldives’ aquatic riches, Cape Verde will wow you too.
Go island hopping: Cape Verde is made up of 10 islands, each with its own personality. Sal has tourist resorts and incredible diving; Boa Vista has pristine beaches; São Vicente has music and carnival; and Santo Antão has hiking and green valleys.
Enjoy the sun: Boa Vista’s beaches are spectacular – over 55km of mostly undeveloped white sand and emerald green water. Santa Monica, Curralinho and Sal Rei are top spots. In winter you’ll see dolphins, tiger sharks, manta rays and flocks of migratory birds.
Indulge in the arts: São Vicente is the country’s cultural hub, where many artists, musicians and writers make their home.
IF YOU LIKE MARRAKESH, TRY DUBAI (6 hours, 45 minutes, 25°C on average)
History, heat and culture blend to perfection in Marrakesh – colourful souqs full of spices and crafts, renovated riads clad in intricate tiles, desert day trips on camels or 4x4s. If this sounds like your ideal winter sun holiday, why not visit Dubai instead? It’s warmer than Marrakesh in winter and offers another lively version of Arabic culture.
Wade in the water: There are many ways to enjoy the water in Dubai. Children will love the water playgrounds at the Wild Wadi and Aquaventure waterparks. Two enormous aquariums mesmerise with their sharks and schools of bright fish. Sunset Beach and Al Mamzar Beach Park are great for swimming.
Go on a shopping spree: You can get deals on luxury items at Dubai Mall or Mall of the Emirates. To find one-of-a-kind items, wander around the souqs. Haggle over carpets and pashminas at Bur Dubai Souq; saffron and sumac at Deira Spice Souq; and necklaces and bracelets at Deira Gold Souq.
Explore the desert: Massive sand dunes are just outside the city, where you can go sandboarding, dune bashing and camel riding. You can even camp overnight to get a taste of the nomadic lifestyle.
IF YOU LIKE GRAN CANARIA, TRY FUERTEVENTURA (4 hours, 22°C on average)
With seven large islands to choose from, there’s a lot to explore in the Canaries. If you always go to Gran Canaria or Tenerife, venture to Fuerteventura, the second-largest island. It’s known for its breath-taking beaches, consistently sunny climate and laid-back vibe.
Soak up the sun: Long stretches of sand with warm blue water perfect for swimming. Playa del Matorral, Parque Natural de Corralejo, and the secluded Lobos Island are great options.
Ride the wind: Fuerteventura is a windsurfer’s paradise. With reliable trade winds, sizeable waves and lots of places to take lessons and rent equipment, it’s easy to get active. You can also surf, kiteboard, snorkel and sail.
Tour rural villages: Slow down and chill out as you wander through the island’s small villages. Photograph whitewashed stone houses; eat fresh fish and majorero – the delicious local goat’s cheese; and visit one of the several lovely art museums on the island.