Travel Advice: Ten places to find some winter sun

The Canaries and Florida are great options for those wanting to escape the rain

There are sunny places within a one-hop flight from Ireland, such as the Canaries. Photograph: iStock

There are sunny places within a one-hop flight from Ireland, such as the Canaries. Photograph: iStock

 

The combination of the darkness and damp of our long winters makes us want to escape to the sun if just for a few days to feel the heat. The luxury of sitting outside to eat or take a dip in the sea is wonderful.

1. The nearest destination from Ireland for winter sun is the Canary Islands, though January can be a bit rainy. The average temperatures are 18-22 degrees. There are plenty of flights from Dublin, Cork, Shannon and Ireland West and package holidays with falconholidays.ie and sunway.ie. Ryanair and Aer Lingus have added extra flights for the winter and fares are good at present.

An influx of tourists from other European countries has pushed accommodation prices in the Canaries up, so book early. Sixteen million people will visit the islands this year. The cheapest weeks in the Canary Islands are those just before Christmas.

2. In Spain there are a few places that have micro climates and while you will not fry in the sun, the weather is pleasant, especially if you are looking for a long break by the sea. Expect temperatures of 14-18 degrees. They are Almeria, which is one of the driest places in Spain and where some famous westerns by Sergio Leone were made.

Almuñecar on the Costa Tropical is protected from harsh winds by the Alpujarras and the Sierra Nevada mountains which gives it a sub-tropical climate where pineapples and avocados grow. It sits on two lovely big sandy bays. Good transportation means it is easy to explore Andalucia. The beautiful city of Granada and the Alhambra are 40 kms away. Malaga is the nearest airport and is 80 kms away. The Alpujarras are perfect for walkers.

3. Florida is a firm winter time favourite, especially with golfers. The Gulf coast attracts the snowbirds with pleasant average temperatures of 21 degrees and a strong cultural offering of museums, music and dining.

Miami is even warmer over the winter, a nice 28 degrees and very busy. The throbbing mix of Cuban music, hopping nightclubs and super trendy hotels lures a younger crowd. Star spotting is usually successful and who can resist the people watching on South Beach.

4. On the west coast, the Sunny State of California has great access from Ireland with flights to both San Francisco and Los Angeles. Flying in to SFO and departing LAX provides an opportunity to explore the central coast and the stunning scenery. At an average of 15 degrees it is not the hottest but can be very relaxing. 5. The advantage of having two Middle Eastern carriers with daily services from Dublin means some excellent deals for us. Package holidays to Dubai and Abu Dhabi where you can expect 20 degrees are great value with lots of nice luxury hotels. In recent years cruising from the Emirates has become popular and prices are great.

6. Find summer in South Africa with averages of 22 degrees and lots of bang for your buck. Explore the coast of the Cape, go whale-watching, taste some fantastic wines, discover the natural landscape of the Garden Route and swim in the Atlantic or the Indian Oceans. The Rand is currently 15.5 to the Euro and fares are cheaper than previously.

7. The coldest month of the year in Phuket, Thailand is January where the temperature is 27 degrees and low humidity! It is hugely popular over Christmas. There are many high-end resorts and lively nightlife in Patong. The beaches are what you expect of a tropical island and there are more than 30 to choose from.

8. The Caribbean has the best weather in the winter with warm seas and an average of 28 degrees and low humidity. It is very popular with the jet set that flock here in droves with their yachts and designer clothes. Prices can be surprising; it’s cheaper to drink local rum than imported wines or beers. Top islands are St Barths, BVIs and Aruba. Get a cheaper Caribbean experience in Cuba.

9. The Riviera Maya of Mexico has a great selection of top class hotels and is a perfect for a winter break. White sugar sand beaches invite you to swim in the warm sea and temperatures are 23 degrees. Beyond the beaches explore the Mayan culture of Mexico.

10. Mauritius in the Indian Ocean is a tropical island shaped by volcanoes. The coast is ringed by a variety of luxury resorts. It is perfect for water-sports and mucking around in boats. It is not cheap and best booked with a travel agent. Try and book holidays with some or all meals included.

jscales@irishtimes.com

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