Did you know that one in three Brits suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a form of depression that can be triggered by a lack of vitamin D that comes from the sun? For some it can be debilitating and they will need professional treatment, but for those who suffer from a more mild case of the ‘winter blues’ there are lots of things you can do to keep it at bay, including prescribing yourself a big dose of winter sun.
During the heart of winter the UK gets just eight hours of sunlight (often fighting to be seen through the clouds!), so December, January and February are the perfect times to escape to warmer climes and drench yourself in some well needed sunshine. Whether you want to travel mid or long haul you’re spoilt for choice of winter holiday destinations – here’s our personal recommendations!
Our top winter holiday destinations
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Skip the crowds on the Gold Coast or in Cairns, and head to the Sunshine Coast for a day on the beach. There are plenty of quiet spots and loads of great food options. If that’s not your thing though, think about heading to Tasmania, which is still warm, but probably not as hot and humid as Queensland – it’s also home to beautiful scenery and top notch food.
Sadly, Australian summer days aren’t as long as European summer days, but you’ll definitely come home with a tan. Make sure you use that sunscreen though – you don’t want to come home as red as a lobster.
Expect: 9 hours of sunshine, temperatures between 18-36°C
Visit Angkor Archaeological Park’s ancient temples, discover what else Siem Reap has to offer or head to the coast. Cambodia isn’t just hot, it’s also humid, so make sure you’re balancing out your activities with relaxation time that includes a cold drink in your hand.
Expect: 8 hours of sunshine, temperatures between 21-32°C
Whether you’re after a beach holiday in Varadero or want some city culture, Cuba’s got you covered. Havana is a great place to go to find out about the country’s tumultuous history, or you could venture further afield to somewhere like Viñales, where you can meet Cuban cowboys and discover the most amazing countryside views.
Expect: 8 hours of sunshine, temperatures between 20-27°C
Just a seven hour flight from London, Dubai is a great winter holiday destination for Brits. Shop to your heart’s content at the souks or mega malls, head to the Atlantis Water Park, or get closer to nature by sleeping under the stars in the desert – you’re spoilt for choice when it comes to activities.
Expect: 8 hours of sunshine, temperatures between 16-26°C
Known as the ‘Pearl of the Orient’, Goa is know for its lovely beaches and the wide variety of watersports available here. Goa also has a number of churches, temples and ancient structures which people love visiting, and foodies will love Goan cuisine which focuses on seafood dishes.
If this takes your fancy, why not have a look at some other top destinations to visit in India?
Expect: 11 hours of sunshine, temperatures between 21-31°C
Morocco is one of the closest destinations from the UK for a decent chunk of winter sunshine, but be warned, it can still get quite chilly, with lows down to single figures. Either head to the hustle and bustle of Marrakesh, or if you prefer to take it a bit easier, check out Essaouira (we recommend staying at the beautiful Jardin des Douars).
Expect: 10 hours of sunshine, temperatures between 7-20°C
Oman is becoming more and more popular as a winter holiday destination, and we can see why. It offers not just great weather, but a more authentic Middle East experience plus the chance to snorkel around remote coral reefs and go camping in the desert. If that’s slumming it a bit too much for your liking, then you’ll love the growing number of affordable luxury hotels popping up all over the country.
Expect: 10 hours of sunshine, temperatures between 17-27°C
Just like Australia, in South Africa the weather is the reverse of ours – when our winter arrives their summer begins. So, make the most of that fact and head over there to enjoy the fine wine and white beaches. The more active what the country has to offer, from hiking and bungee jumping through to biking and surfing.
Expect: 11 hours of sunshine, temperatures between 15-26°C
Spot Leopards or elephants on safari in one of Sri Lanka’s national parks, visit an ancient city within the country’s Cultural Triangle or unwind on one of its pristine beaches. Want to know more? Here’s our Sri Lanka top five!
Expect: 8 hours of sunshine, temperatures between 22-3°C
This is a popular destination for people looking for a tropical escape during our grey winter months and you can see why. Amazingly warm waters that are perfect for snorkelling, jaw-dropping views, white beaches and palm trees – what more could you want?
It’s also an amazing destination for foodies, as Lou found out, and a firm favourite of the Ladies What Travel team!
Expect: 9 hours of sunshine, temperatures between 21-33°C
Head to the rainforests of St Lucia, take in a Caribbean festival like Crop Over in Barbados or even go swimming with pigs in Exuma. There are so many islands to explore and so much to do that it’s easy to see why this region continues to be high on Britain’s list of winter holiday destinations!
Expect: 11 hours of sunshine, temperatures between 23-29°C
Cruise Halong Bay on a traditional junk or kayak along the shorelines of Danang before doing sunset yoga – you’ll be recharged and refreshed after a winter break to Vietnam.
This is also home to one of my favourite hotels to date, the Victoria Phan Thiet in Mui Ne, worth checking out if you venture to this part of the country!
Expect: 11 hours of sunshine, temperatures between 19-26°C
For a culture and hot weather fix, Qatar is the perfect place to go. The Capital city, Doha offers something for everyone, from art lovers to foodies. You can wander the Souq Waqif for hours checking out local wares (and the odd bit of touristy stuff); visit the Museum of Islamic Art for some culture; and of course, leave some time for chilling out in the sun. There’s plenty to do, so you’ll probably need at least three days and it can get very hot and humid, so definitely schedule in some time to relax.
And if you’re feeling extravagant, why not travel business class with Qatar Airways? Karis tried it for herself recently and loved it!
Expect: 10 1/2-11 hours of sunshine, temperatures between 17-30°C
Where will you go for some winter sun?
So there you have it, our ultimate list of winter vacation destinations. Are these the places you head to for winter sun? We’d love to hear where you’re heading for your winter holidays in early 2019 – let us know your plans in the comments below and also feel free to add your own winter holiday recommendations!