From Malta and the Canary Islands, to The Azores and Madeira, these are the best European winter sun destinations!
The winter months in the UK can be a challenge for all of us. Waking up to bleak scenes and frosty temperatures often has me dreaming of getting away. Thankfully there are plenty of amazing destinations in Europe that are several degrees warmer, even in the coldest winter months.
From Malta and Cyprus, to the Algarve and Cadiz, these destinations offer great beaches, culture, food and weather. The only difficult part will be choosing which one to visit!
A few years ago I jetted off to Malta at the end of November. It was one of the best decisions we’d made as it gave us a chance to escape the chilly UK temperatures and soak up some vitamin D. I wandered the picturesque streets of Valletta in a summery dress, toasting sunset with a cocktail and enjoying dinners al fresco.
Whether you’re planning a weekend break or a proper holiday, lots of these European winter sun destinations won’t break the bank. Although I’d say the opportunity to relax in the warmth is worth every penny anyway!
So whether you fancy some sunshine and wine tasting in southern Portugal, fancy a beach break in the Canary Islands or are considering an island-hopping adventure in Sicily, here’s my guide to the warmest places in winter in Europe.
10 Top European Winter Sun Destinations
One of my favourite European winter sun destinations, Malta has a lot going on! The capital Valletta is a UNESCO world heritage site and offers a lot for anyone interested in history. Added to that, Game of Thrones fans will love seeing some of the original filming sites!
With decent sunshine all year long and an average winter temperature of 15 degrees Celsius, Malta is a great place to visit during the winter months. The country has a beautiful coastline with beaches, caves and cliffs to explore. You might know a little about Valletta, but there are some other great spots, such as Mdina, just a short drive away.
I visited Malta in late November and remember walking around in light dresses and skirts during the day. I even returned home with a suntan!
The Algarve, Portugal
This southern region of Portugal is a beautiful place to visit all year round, but is definitely one of the best places in Europe for winter sun. The Algarve’s scenery is spectacular with large beaches and rugged cliffs overlooking the Atlantic.
The stretch of coast between Lagos and Faro, the main towns in the Algarve region, has plenty of hotels and restaurants to choose from. Plus if you fancy a day trip, you could visit some local vineyards for a tasting session, or enjoy a round of golf at one of the Algarve’s many golf courses.
If you time your visit for February you’ll be in for an extra special treat, as this is when a lot of the region’s carnivals take place.
Canary Islands, Spain
Hugely popular for Brits travelling abroad, the Canary Islands are well known for their warm climate. The most popular islands to visit are Tenerife, Lanzarote, Gran Canaria and Fuerteventura. It’s easy to see why these islands one of my top recommendations for places to visit in Spain in winter.
Thanks to their location, the Canary Islands are warm all year long. In fact, winter temperatures rarely go below 15 degrees Celsius. No matter what you’re interested in, there is something for everyone in the Canaries, including spectacular beaches, epic volcanic scenery, vineyards, national parks, resorts, shops and museums.
I’ve went to Lanzarote in December, and I chose it because it’s one of the warmest places in Europe in winter! I loved exploring the island’s rugged landscapes, eating delicious seafood and relaxing in the sunshine.
With a balmy 20 degrees Celsius as an average temperature in January, Cyprus is one of the warmest places in Europe in winter. If you feel like a warm Christmas escape this year, Nicosia has a popular Christmas market during December.
The island is large, so I’d recommend hiring a car and going on a road trip. The most popular cities to visit include Paphos and Limassol, which both make great winter destinations if you want to have lots right on the doorstep. Cyprus is also a great place for sports lovers, with hiking, cycling and kite surfing all on offer.
When I visited I explored some of Cyrpus’s traditional villages, vineyards and even ventured up into the Troodos Mountains (they’re incredible if you get the chance to go!) You can read more about my recommendations in my guide to visiting Cyprus.
Crete might be one of the best European winter sun destinations, but if you want to go off the beaten track and dive into ancient history while still enjoying some winter sun, why not visit Rhodes instead? This Greek island was once home to the magnificent Colossus of Rhodes, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The Old Town is a maze of pretty Medieval streets, and has been certified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Palace of the Grand Master in Rhodes old town and the acropolis in Lindos are other famous sites to visit on the island. Once you are done soaking in the historical sites, you can take a stroll on one of the beautiful beaches such as St Paul’s Bay or Anthony Quinn Bay, or enjoy a five-star hotel like the Ixian Grand. If you want to find out more about the island, I’d recommend reading my guide to the top things to do in Rhodes.
Aeolian Islands, Italy
While Sicily offers a lot, the Aeolian Islands are one of the least known European winter sun destinations. This small volcanic archipelago, also a UNESCO world heritage site, gets quite busy in the summer. However, visit in the winter and you’ll enjoy the picturesque islands without the crowds.
Clear skies, warm winter sun, stunning volcanic landscapes and of course delicious Italian cuisine – what more could you want for your holiday? Hike up Stromboli volcano, tuck in to tasty Italian dishes in Lipari, explore the beauty of Salina and enjoy the relaxed pace of life on the islands. I loved my time exploring these islands by boat a few years ago, and would love to return for a winter break.
Located on the southern coast of Spain, Cadiz might not be as popular as other destinations in Spain but it is definitely worth a visit! In fact, it’s one of my favourite Spanish cities – I’m desperate to go back!
It’s absolutely packed full of historic sites, including a huge cathedral and impressive roman theatre. If you fancy a relaxed break, you can amble along the main promenade, laze on the beach, get lost in the charming skinny streets or take photos of all the picturesque buildings and fishing boats.
If you’re looking for a bit more entertainment, visit in February during Cadiz’s popular carnival. Winter temperatures are usually between 16 and 20 degrees Celsius with a lot of sunny days. I have written lots of guides to Cadiz, so definitely read my travel guide, restaurant guide and accommodation guides before you go!
The Azores, Portugal
The Portuguese Azores archipelago is a little gem amongst the winter sun destinations in Europe. The temperatures rarely dip below 12 degrees Celsius, although be warned the month of December can be a little rainy. The nine islands offer striking landscapes and plenty to do for nature lovers, including hiking, scuba diving, surfing and mountain biking.
São Miguel is the most populated island, where international flights fly into. If you feel adventurous, hop on a short flight to Santa Maria for more warmth and nature, to Terceira to visit the UNESCO-listed capital Angra do Heroísmo, or to Pico to hike the 2,350 m high volcano of the same name.
Less popular than Barcelona or Madrid, the city of Seville in Andalucia benefits from warm winters and is ideal for a city break. With several UNESCO world heritage sites to visit such as the Real Alcazar, you’ll find yourself marvelling at the beautiful architecture while soaking up some Vitamin D.
The city is also famous for its flamenco performances and tapas culture. Even in winter you’ll be able to sit outside while waiters bring you dish after dish of tasty Spanish cuisine. Seville is one of my top picks for places to visit in Spain in winter – have a read of the post to see where else I’d recommend.
This small Portuguese archipelago is also a great place for a short winter break. Less popular than the Canary islands which are close by, Madeira has a warm and sunny climate all year long.
The pretty streets of the capital Funchal are filled with restaurants, plus if you’re interested in wine, you could book onto a wine tasting experience and really get to grips with Portuguese reds and whites.
Outside of the city, you’ll find beaches, plenty of hiking spots and beautiful landscapes. It’s got everything you need for a winter escape in the sunshine.
I hope this post has given you lots of inspiration for where to travel to for some warm sunshine this winter! There’s nothing like a few days of sunshine and adventures to give you a little boost of energy to get you through the colder months.