Best Winter Sun Destinations in Europe

6th November 2018
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Looking to escape the cold this winter?

Classic winter travel destinations always seem to include a flurry of Christmas markets, mulled wine and, if you’re lucky, a light sprinkling of snow that hasn’t yet become that horrible slush that gets absolutely everywhere. Now, I am never one to turn down a warm glass of alcohol, but sometimes I just need a little sun over the cold, dark winter period!

If, like me, you are looking to top up your vitamin D levels this festive season, here are some must-visit winter sun destinations in Europe – perfect quick getaways to escape the winter for a few days! If you’re just looking for a winter getaway and don’t mind the cold, check this post for some more winter destinations in Europe to travel to.

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Feurteventura is one of the most perfect winter sun destinations in Europe!


1.) Athens, Greece

“Most people visit Greece in the summer, but I think Athens is a great winter sun destination too. First, it’s a lot cheaper to fly to Athens in the winter, when demand is low and the hotels aren’t as expensive either. In fact, our hotel gave us a great view of the Acropolis and still cost less than £80 a night!

Being the off-season, there will also be far fewer tourists visiting the city’s numerous attractions. All the sights stay open throughout winter, so there’s no fear of missing out – you’re just much more likely to have the place to yourself. Who doesn’t want that?

But perhaps the best thing about visiting Athens in the winter months is that it still stays pleasantly warm. There’s no need to pack massive winter coats or gloves, as the average temperature in December remains a balmy 12°C. So if you’re looking for a little warmth, Athens is the perfect winter sun destination!”

Anna blogs at Would be Traveller. Check out her post on things to do in Athens in the winter here.
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Why not visit Athens this winter?

2. Madeira, Portugal

“If you love the outdoors, Madeira is a perfect place to visit in winter. The island is often called the “spring island”, as it has lovely weather all year round.

With beautiful mountains, waterfalls, cliffs, beaches and amazing plants, this Portuguese island is famous for its levada walks. They are the island’s irrigation system, used to distribute water from the wet north side of the island to the dry south. Along these mini-canals, there are paths, which nature lovers began to use as hiking trails. The trails are open all year round and winter is a good time to go hiking as the temperature isn’t too hot or too cold.

destination in winter is the perfect place to visit in the winter if you are looking for sunshine and pleasant weather.

Apart from the Christmas period, winter is considered the low season in Madeira so prices are very reasonable. However, if you want to experience something special you should visit Madeira during the Christmas holidays. There are normally lovely Christmas markets and a fireworks display on New Year’s Eve.

If you’re looking for sunshine, hiking and festivities, Madeira is the perfect winter sun destination!

Eniko writes at Travel Hacker Girl. Read more about hiking the levada walks in Madeira here.
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Hiking in winter is one of the best ways to see Madeira

3. Bari, Italy

“Bari may not be your typical winter destination, but with average high temperatures ranging between 12 C /53.6 F in  January and February and 17 C/62.6 F in November it is the perfect place to get some winter sun.

Why did I like Bari in winter aside from the weather? The lack of crowds. I like to have the cities for myself to explore without bumping into crowds (and I’ve been to the city in late spring, too).

Plus, Bari is the perfect gateway to the rest of Puglia, the region of Italy that covers the ‘heel’ of the boot. Alberobello is a short train or bus trip away and a perfect day trip choice.

If you come to Bari in December, head to the Old Town to check the (small) Christmas Market. And then just get lost on the streets. You’ll have fun.

Top tip: Pack layers. Your body will get used to the temperature and it can also get windy. So a windbreaker is not a bad idea.

Bari gives you an excuse to escape the cold winters in Europe – but, despite it’s balmy temperatures, there is a very slight chance it could snow!

Cris shares info on her travels on her blog, Looknwalk. Read her post on Alberobello here.
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Bari is the perfect destination for some winter sun!

4. The Algarve, Portugal

If you’re in need of a little sunshine and some Vitamin D, there are few places in Europe better than the Algarve. Situated in the South of Portugal, the Algarve is known for its 300+ days of sunshine, laid-back lifestyle, and beautiful beaches.

Although most people visit the Algarve in the summer, winter is actually a fantastic time of year to visit this part of Portugal. The weather is still fairly warm: it’s maybe not warm enough for swimming in the Atlantic ocean, but you can still expect a few days in the low 20s – perfect weather for sightseeing, and maybe even getting a bit of colour in your cheeks as well.

It’s also far less crowded than it is in the peak summer months of July and August, which means that visiting restaurants, museums, and other attractions is going to be a much more enjoyable experience than in the summer.

Winter is also a fantastic time of year to visit the Algarve for outdoor activities, and in particular walking. Although the Algarve is primarily known as a beach destination, it’s actually a fantastic walking destination as well. There are plenty of full and half-day hikes, as well as two multi-day hikes: The Algarve Way and The Fisherman’s Trail.

Regardless of whether you’re looking for a walking destination, or just somewhere to get some sun in your bones, the Algarve is a destination to consider for your winter break this year.

James blogs at Portugalist – read his post about beaches in the Algarve here.
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Lying on a beach in the middle of winter – perfect!

5. The Three Cities, Malta

In the shadow of the European Capital of Culture 2018, Valletta, and just across from the Grand Harbour, you’ll find the Three Cities.

Once part of a defence system called the Cottonera lines, Vittoriosa, Senglea and Cospicua (or, as originally named, Birgu, Isla and Bormla, respectively) managed to keep their authenticity intact. You’ll still find more locals than tourists wandering the maze of narrow streets or having a drink in a hole-in-the-wall café.

Vittoriosa (Birgu), once Malta’s capital, is our favourite of the Three Cities thanks to its stunning marina and manicured passages. Malta’s mild climate make it an ideal winter destination for those that seek the bright winter sun.

Taking in those Grand Harbour postcard views from the Gardjola Gardens, at the tip of Senglea (Isla) or from the Fort Sant Angelo, at the tip of Vittoriosa (Birgu) is a true delight. You’ll be just a 5-minute water taxi ride away from bustling Valletta, lingering in the picture-perfect heart of authentic Malta.

So why not visit Malta for some winter sun this year?

Sarah writes at Cosmopoliclan. Read her post on exploring the Three Cities here.
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The Three Cities in Malta are an ideal winter getaway!

6. Fuerteventura, Spain

If you want to escape the European cold and spend winter in the sun, without flying halfway around the globe, the Canary Islands are the perfect destination. Specifically the island of Fuerteventura is one of the best places to visit. Fuerteventura is the second biggest island in the Canary Islands and is located just 100km away from the coast of Africa. It’s blessed with sunshine and warm temperatures all year round.

Fuerteventura is a popular destination for fans of water sports, thanks to the prime wind and wave conditions that make it the perfect place to go windsurfing, kitesurfing, sailing and surfing. The conditions are especially good in winter due to decreased storm activity around the equator and tide levels, which mean smaller but more even waves – perfect for beginners.

If you’re not a water sports lover, there are still loads of fun things you can do in Fuerteventura. Why not spend a day exploring the sand dunes of Corralejo Natural Park, visiting the island of Lobos or even doing a day trip to the nearby island of Lanzarote? For those just looking to escape the cold and relax in the sun, there are plenty of beaches all along the coast of Fuerteventura where you can do so. It really is a must if you are looking for some winter sun in Europe!

Read Greta’s post on where to go surfing in Fuerteventura here.
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With so many water sports to offer, Fuerteventura is the ideal winter sun destination!

Have you been to any of these winter sun destinations? Where in Europe would you recommend for a sunny getaway over the Christmas period?

Thanks for reading and happy travels!

Abbi X

This post contains affiliate links. If you click on them and purchase something from the linked site, I’ll earn a tiny (and I mean tiny!) commission at no extra cost to you, which contributes to running this blog.

Many thanks to Anna at Would be Traveller, Eniko at Travel Hacker Girl, Cris at Look n Walk, James at Portugalist, Sarah at Cosmopoliclan and Greta at Greta’s Travels for contributing to this post with their prose and photos. The header image and the Pin image below are by Travel Hacker Girl.

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One response to “Best Winter Sun Destinations in Europe”

  1. Joseph Jones says:

    Appreciating the time and effort you put into your website and in depth information you offer. All beautiful places across the Europe to plan and visit in winter, especially the most useful information for someone who plans the vacation and the travelers to add these places into the checklist. A stupendous photography. My top picks? It’s a tough choice…Italy! Thanks for sharing!

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I’m a travel-loving sustainability advocate, on a journey to live a low-impact lifestyle alongside seeing the world. I’m obsessed with my two dogs, secondhand shopping, and growing vegetables.