Things are getting grim here in Blighty – the clocks have gone back meaning most of us go to work in the dark and leave work in the dark, the temperatures are beginning to plummet and one news site or another is predicting the ‘worst winter since records began’….just like every bloody year! So I don’t know about you, but this is the time I usually think about getting away for a week and getting some sun on my bones – the question is where? Here’s a quick round-up of where to go for a bit of winter warmth!
Under 4 hours
Málaga, Costa Del Sol, Spain
Flight time: 2 hours 36 mins
Distance: 1,043 miles
Temperature from Nov-Mar: 17°C-20°C
Fly direct from: London Stansted, London Luton, London Gatwick, London City, London Heathrow, London Southend
Fly with: easyJet, Ryan Air, Flybe, TUI, Norwegian
Cost: from £29 return (London Stansted to Málaga Jan 20th – 27th)
Málaga and the Costa Del Sol has a bit of a bad rep thanks to a wave of ex-pats upping roots and moving to the south of Spain coastline in the 80s & 90s. Málaga, one of the cities within Andalusia is right on the Mediterranean sea which affords the city an average high of 17°C in January, wide sandy beaches and the med itself. Like most European cities, it boasts a lively and pretty Old Town, full of bars and restaurants open all year round, plenty of Basilicas and Plazas to wander around and is the birth place of Pablo Picasso – although having the visited the Fundacion Picasso – Museo Natal myself last year I wouldn’t bother – head instead to the Museo Picasso Málaga. If you’re not looking for a city break there are plenty of lovely towns and villages along the coast within easy access of Málaga airport – Nerja is just a 40 minute drive and the Alhambra Palace, often a feature on ‘Top 50 places to visit before you die’ is just an hour and a half away in neighbouring Granada – definitely worth a visit!
Flight time: 3 hours 52 mins
Distance: 1,548 miles
Temperature from Nov-Mar: 18°C-21°C
Fly direct from: London Stansted, London Gatwick
Fly with: easyJet, TUI, Jet2, BA
Cost: from £112 return (London Stansted to Funchal Jan 20th – 27th)
Madeira is a Portugese archipelago off the West coast of Morocco. Its proximity to the African continent means it has a warm subtropical climate famous for its wine and landscape. Madeira is the largest island with Porto Santo, Desertas and Selvagens making up the archipelago. You are most likely to fly in to Funchal on the main island which is itself a popular tourist town with all the trappings one would expect. Base yourself here, but do explore the rest of island with its UNESCO Natural Site of the Laurisilva Forest, Porto Moniz with its lava pools and head for the beaches of Porto Santo for a bit of R&R. Porto Santo is 27 miles from Madeira but a ferry runs 9 times a week and takes around 2 hours 15 minutes.
Flight time: 3 hours 46 mins
Distance: 1,512 miles
Temperature from Nov-Mar: 22°C-26°C
Fly direct from: London Stansted, London Gatwick
Fly with: easyJet, TUI
Cost: from £65 return (London Stansted to Agadir Jan 20th – 27th)
The world and its wife visit Marrakech, and yes, it’s well worth it but for a cheeky winter break why not consider Agadir – with a high of 22°C in January it’s a popular winter sun destination with a long crescent beach offering a host of watersports for the energetic, from surfing, windsurfing and kitesurfing to SUP and parasailing, with sunbathing and people watching opportunities for the less energetic. Visit the Souk El Had d’Agadir – a huge bustling market where it’s easy to get lost amongst the heady mixture of stalls selling all things bright and beautiful. The city also serves as a great base from which to travel to the Souss-Massa National Park with its flamingoes, ibises and traditional Berber villages, Tamraght & Aourir collectively known as Banana Village thanks to the banana groves that separate the two and an excursion into the High Atlas Mountains.
London to Lanzarote 4 hours 15 mins | London to Fuerteventura 4 hours 23 mins | London to Gran Canaria 4 hours 32 mins | London to Tenerife 4 hours 32 mins | London to La Palma 4 hours 33 minutes | London to La Gomera (fly to Tenerife 4 hours 32 mins + transfer to Los Cristianos, ferry to La Gomera 40 mins) | London to El Hierro (fly to Tenerife 4 hours 32 mins + transfer to Los Cristianos, ferry to Puerto de la Estaca 2 hours 45 mins)
Lanzarote 1,701 miles | Fuerteventura 1,755 miles | Gran Canaria 1,816 miles | Tenerife 1,818 miles | La Palma 1,823 miles | La Gomera 1,844 miles | El Hierro 1,888 miles
Temperature from Nov-Mar: 18°C-22°C
Fly direct to Lanzarote from: London Stansted, London Luton, London Gatwick, London Southend
Fly direct to Fuerteventura from: London Stansted, London Luton, London Gatwick
Fly direct to Gran Canaria from: London Stansted, London Luton, London Gatwick, London Heathrow
Fly direct to Tenerife from: London Stansted, London Luton, London Gatwick, London Heathrow, London Southend
Fly direct to La Palma from: London Gatwick
La Gomera & El Hierro – no direct flight, see journey time above
Fly with: BA, TUI, Norwegian, Jet2, Ryanair, easyJet, Thomas Cook
Cost: from £63 return (London Stansted to Arrecife Jan 20th – 27th)
Cost: from £52 return (London Stansted to El Matorral Jan 20th – 27th)
Cost: from £76 return (London Stansted to Las Palmas Jan 20th – 27th)
Cost: from £68 return (London Stansted to Tenerife South Jan 20th – 27th)
Cost: from £83 return (London Gatwick to La Palma Jan 20th – 27th)
Cost: from £68 return (London Stansted to Tenerife South Jan 20th – 27th) plus €34
Cost: from £68 return (London Stansted to Tenerife South Jan 20th – 27th) plus €49.50
NB – the ferries don’t necessarily run logically with the flights so you will need to work out the best route and times.
The Canary Islands cover the Spanish archipelago of the seven islands above. Situated off the West Coast of Morocco they are more southerly than Madeira and you can pretty much guarantee an average of 21°C all year round, although be warned they can be windy (Fuerteventura means ‘strong wind’). Best for beaches? Tough one – they all have great beaches – Tenerife has mainly black sand which some people don’t like but some beaches have imported ‘golden’ sand such as the rather exclusive Playa del Duque and the stunning Teresitas at the base of the Anaga mountains surrouned by laurel forests and palm trees. Gran Canaria has Maspalomas which wouldn’t be out of place in a desert thanks to the dramatic dunes, La plama has Playa de Puerto Naos – think palm trees and stunning sunsets and Fuerteventura has Corralejo where you literally walk down the main street and it turns into sand…Best for watersports: for diving try the lesser known El Hierro with its crystal clear waters and stunning fish, for surfing and windsurfing head to Fuerteventura or Lanzarote known for their wind and waves making perfect conditions. Gran Canaria is fabulous as seen from the water so kayak the coastline with its rocky cliffs and secluded coves but really – they all have something to offer the thrill seeker. Best for partying head to Santa Cruz on Tenerife, yes Playa de las Americas and Los Cristianos are known party resorts but for my money I tend to head for Santa Cruz.
The Gambia, Africa
Flight time: 5 hours 25 mins
Distance: 2,764 miles
Temperature from Nov-Mar: 25°C-27°C
Fly direct from: London Gatwick
Fly with: Thomas Cook
Cost: from £252 return (Jan 19th – 26th)
This tiny West African country is known as ‘the smiling coast of Africa’. It only has 80km of coastline, but what is does have is beautiful, from the unspoilt Bijilo beach to the livelier Kotu beach there is something for everyone. But don’t just stop there, the Gambia is renowned for its ecosystem courtesy of the River Gambia that runs through it so definitely take a trip to an eco lodge inland and see manatees, crocodiles, colobus monkeys, hippos, monitor lizards, baboons and chimpanzees. And for the sporty types amongst you, being on the Atlantic, there’s surfing and windsurfing off some of those stunning beaches.
El Gouna, Egypt
Flight time: 6 hours
Distance: 3,892 miles
Temperature from Nov-Mar: 21°C-26°C
Fly direct (to Hurghada) from: London Gatwick
Fly with: Thomas Cook
Cost: from £271 return (London Gatwick to Hurghada Jan 20th – 27th) plus from £7
We all know Sharm el Sheikh and Hurghada on the Red Sea but El Gouna is something else and just up the coast. Built on series of small islands, El Gouna is famous for its lagoons and coral reefs along with stunning sandy beaches – a perfect spot to soak up some winter sun. Split between ‘Marinatown’ and ‘Downtown’, El Gouna offers everything from kitesurfing in shallow waters to wakeboarding and waterskiing at the newly built Sliders Cable Park. Being on the Red Sea you know the diving is going to be superb with access straight from El Gouna to some of the finest reefs & wrecks. Travel in to the desert and experience Bedouin culture first hand and use El Gouna as a base from which to explore Luxor, Aswan, Cairo and Sinai.