Holidays & Travel

Want to escape the dreary weather? These are the best sunny short-haul destinations

These winter sun winners are within reach of the UK. By Katie Wright.

Winter is a great time to explore the stunning coastal paths of Madeira
The north eastern cliff walk of Madeira Winter is a great time to explore the stunning coastal paths of Madeira (Alamy Stock Photo)

After the raging storms, plummeting temperatures and torrential rain we’ve been having lately, isn’t it tempting to pack your bags, hotfoot it to the airport and jump on the next plane to a far-flung country basking in balmy weather?

Unfortunately, holidays to places like Dubai, Thailand or the Caribbean have a tendency to cost an arm and a leg and come with a jetlag-inducing long-haul flight.

The good news is, there are plenty of pleasantly warm destinations within reach of the UK, so you can easily escape our grey skies in not much more than around four hours’ flight time.

Here’s our pick of the best nearby winter sun locations to visit right now…

Madeira

Monte Palace botanical gardens, Funchal, Madeira
Monte Palace botanical gardens, Funchal, Madeira Monte Palace botanical gardens, Funchal, Madeira (Alamy Stock Photo)

The Portuguese island of Madeira is located 1,000km south of the mainland, off the northeast coast of Africa, meaning its climate is significantly warmer than continental Europe’s.

Boasting spectacularly rugged scenery and beautiful beaches, the volcanic isle is famous for succulent seafood and, of course, Madeira wine.

Coastal capital Funchal is an ideal spot for first-time visitors. Wander around the picturesque grounds and gardens of Monte Palace, grab a bite at local market Mercado dos Lavradores, then take the cable car to enjoy a bird’s-eye view of the town.

Tenerife

Explore the cragy peaks of Tenerife
Tenerife mountains Explore the cragy peaks of Tenerife (Alamy Stock Photo)

A haven for hikers, Tenerife is home to dormant volcano Mount Teide and hundreds of miles of trails that are suitable for all abilities.

Winter is a great time for a walking holiday on the largest of Spain’s Canary Islands, because you’ll still get plenty of sunshine while avoiding the sweltering heat of summer.

Within Teide National Park, the Roques de García trail is an easy option for families or beginners.

More experienced hikers will get a thrill out of the 3,715m ascent of Mount Teide. Stay overnight, and embark on a pre-dawn climb to watch the sunrise from the summit.

Sicily

Piazza del Duomo with the Cathedral of Sant’Agata in Catania, Sicily
Piazza del Duomo with the Cathedral of Sant'Agata in Catania, Sicily Piazza del Duomo with the Cathedral of Sant’Agata in Catania, Sicily (Alamy Stock Photo)

Italy’s biggest island is bathed in Mediterranean sunshine almost year-round.

The historic hotspot has plenty to keep culture vultures occupied, as well as the incredible cuisine you’d expect from Italy (the deep-fried arancini and cream-filled cannoli are unparalleled, locals say).

Some of the most beautiful Sicilian architecture can be found in the eight villages that make up Val di Noto, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Rebuilt following a devastating earthquake in 1693, the baroque townscapes with their elegant churches and mosaic steps are perfect for winter wandering.

Malta

Perched just off the tip of the ‘boot’ of Italy, Malta is a tiny island (just 122 square miles) with a lot to offer.

Capital city Valletta, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is a fantastic option for a winter city break.

Upper Barakka Gardens
Upper Barakka Gardens Upper Barakka Gardens (Alamy Stock Photo)

Don’t miss stunning St John’s Co-Cathedral, Upper Barrakka Gardens (reached via a ride in a glass lift), and trendy Merchant Street, lined with cool cafes, independent shops and a daily market.

Morocco

Moroccan market (souk) in the old town of Marrakech
Moroccan market (souk) in the old town of Marrakech Moroccan market (souk) in the old town of Marrakech (Alamy Stock Photo)

Bordering the Mediterranean sea to the north, vibrant and historic Morocco offers a feast for the senses – and plenty of sunshine.

The North African country’s dazzling capital city Marrakech is a must-visit for first-timers.

Try your hand at bartering for handicrafts in the bustling souks, then relax with a saunter around spectacular, blue-hued Jardin Majorelle or indulge in an invigorating hammam treatment.