Whether you're looking for a cheap holiday in the sun or somewhere far-flung and super luxurious, we've rounded up the hottest destinations for a winter sun holiday.
December, January and February are ideal months for escaping the cold British winter for sunnier climes abroad and there are a few places where you can have guaranteed sunshine and hot weather.
For an affordable getaway with beautiful beaches and relaxed island life, look no further than Cape Verde, Lanzarote and Bali. While those looking to splurge should hit Dubai, Cape Town or the Cayman Islands. Whatever your budget, there's a winter sun destination for you.
Aside from the heat and sunshine, winter offers an array of festivals and events - and Christmas surrounded by palm trees and warm sea is an experience you'll never forget.
Browse our pick of the most dreamy, exotic spots for a winter sun getaway...
Winter breaks with guaranteed sunshine
Winter sun holidays: Top breaks with guaranteed sunshine
Looking for an affordable week in the sun? The Cape Verde islands are located 500km off the coast of West Africa and share African and Portuguese influences. They're not as touristy as the Canary Islands and have gorgeous beaches in Sal and Boa Vista. Cape Verde is also a paradise for surfers, hikers and divers. Sunshine.co.uk offers holidays to Cape Verde in Sal, Boa Vista, Santiago and Sao Vicente.
Spend your festive break exploring the wonderful colonial architecture of Havana and Trinidad, wandering the famed tobacco fields in Vinales, climbing the beautiful Cuban mountain ranges and lounging on Baracoa’s laid-back Caribbean beaches. Prices for a December Cuba holiday with Intrepid start at £689 (excluding flights) for accommodation, city tours and excursions and the services of a tour leader.
Think Canaries, think bring on the Full English? Think again. Lanzarote, an island of brooding volcanoes, has managed to contain its tourist development, allowing its natural beauty to break through. Black volcanic fields, deep green cacti, whitewashed cottages: it’s a landscape to gladden the cool designer’s eye. December may be the beginning of the rainy season but don't let that put you off! The island experiences less than 20 days of rain in an entire year. Stick to the south for warm sunny days on the beach. TravelSupermarket compares cheap holidays to Lanzarote with prices starting from £166 per person in December.
This Indian Ocean island has a formidable reputation for great service wherever you go. Its white-sand beaches, sparkling in the heat in December, are hard to leave, yet there’s so much more to see. This island was an important trading post for merchants - and pirates - over the centuries and the influence of a league of nations lives on, from the bustling streets of Chinatown, in the capital Port Louis, to the serene shores of the sacred Hindu lake Grand Bassin. Turquoise Holidays is offering seven nights at Anahita Golf & Spa Resort, Mauritius from £1,650 per person.
The weather in the Cayman Islands from mid-December is hot and dry with cooling winds making it perfect for long days at the beach. An 80-minute flight from Miami, the Caymans encompass three beautiful islands in the western Caribbean. On Grand Cayman, stroll along coral-sand Seven Mile Beach and swim with yearling green sea turtles in the saltwater lagoon at Cayman Turtle Farm. For an all-in-one Cayman getaway, make family-owned Brac Reef Beach Resort your home base for beachfront lodging, diving, snorkelling, kayaking and birding.
For a Christmas family getaway in the sun, look no further than Portugal's sunny Algarve, where you can enjoy cultural festivals, sandy beaches and winter sunshine! Surrounded by the natural Costa Vicentina Park and a beach on its doorstep, the five-star Martinhal Hotel is perfect for families wanting all the Christmas trimmings as well as some sunshine. The resort will be transformed into a Christmas wonderland with fairy lights, Santa Claus, yuletide food and festive cheer. Take advantage of 27.5 per cent off seven-night half-board stays with Christmas dinner and Christmas day brunch included at just €113.50 (£90) per adult per night in a Hotel Room for a family of two adults, one child under 12 and one baby.
It's an old winter sun favourite and Barbados is the classic Caribbean island for a beach holiday. It's only eight hours away and temperatures reach up to 29 degrees in January with 10 hours of sunshine a day. The island is the culinary capital of the Caribbean and there are spectacular diving sites, as well as idyllic beaches. Virgin Holidays offers Barbados winter deals from £779 for seven nights.
Bali has been revealed as the top long-haul winter sun destination for a bargain by Post Office Travel, with 10 holiday items including an evening meal, suncream, a bottle of water and glass of wine, costing just £40. The spectacular Indonesian island of Bali boasts kilometres of powder soft sand, swathes of lush rice paddies and an engaging native culture. Travelbag offers holidays to Bali from £569 per person.
Cruise holidays are ideal for winter sun seekers who want to experience a variety of sandy beaches, characterful cities and historic harbours, and with its diverse islands, the Caribbean is perfect for a winter break. P&O Cruises offers 15-night Caribbean fly cruises starting from only £1,399 per person, including return flights, resort transfers and 14 nights in an inside cabin with full-board meals and entertainment on board. Departing from and returning to Barbados, the cruise itinerary includes visits to Grenada, St. Lucia, Dominica, St. Kitts, St. Maarten, Tortola, Curacao and Bonaire.
With temperatures nearing an unbearable 50 degrees in summer, the winter months are ideal for exploring Dubai, when you can escape the cold UK weather and enjoy sunnier climes. If you're a shopaholic, the annual Dubai Shopping Festival takes place from 5 January until 5 February. Around the city, there are great golf clubs, stunning beaches and a buzzing nightlife scene. British Airways offers seven nights in the Melia Dubai from £615 including flights.
The magnificent temples of Angkor have attracted visitors from all over the world for thousands of years. Built from the 9th to 14th centuries - when the Khmer regime was at its most creative - these sites are architectural wonders. Angkor Wat is the largest and most well-preserved monument, and the colonial-style Siem Reap is the nearest town... Stay in the capital, Phnom Penh, which has vibrant nightlife, beautiful pagodas, and the humbling Cheong Ek. Elsewhere, there's beautiful jungle, stunning beaches (try Sihanoukville) and national parks to soak up. Check out the range of holidays on offer from Kuoni, where you can choose from an array of package holidays or organise your own tailor-made trip.
February sees Cape Town in its quieter months, but still in the height of summer - so it's hot (average 27C) and crowd-free! Head to the beautiful V&A waterfront for mooching and shopping, and to get the boat over to Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela spent 27 years in prison. Take a cable car up to the top of Table Mountain, then, after dark, check out Long Street for great clubs and bars. For something a bit swish, check out the popular beach suburb of Camp's Bay - full of shi shi cocktail bars with a view. And don't leave without visiting one of the beautiful vineyards, like Stellenbosch, for a spot of wine-tasting. TripAdvisor features reviews of hotels, attractions and restaurants in Cape Town.
Winter sun holidays: Top breaks with guaranteed sunshine
The 'Country of the Pyrenees' Andorra is nestled between Spain and France, and offers rugged landscape and mountain lakes that are perfect for nature lovers to explore in the summer. A staggering 90 per cent of Andorra’s total land mass is covered in forest, and in the summer months you can enjoy the unlimited array of activities, from gentle walking trips in the sunshine to more extreme sports including mountain biking, canyoning and climbing. Home to an endless amount of breathtaking scenery, Andorra is the ideal place for an adventure course in the trees, awe-inspiring mountain hiking routes and guided cycling tours of the hidden delights of the landscape.
Thousands of skiers flock to Andorra in the winter to enjoy the 300km of ski slopes. The resort of Grandvalira is the largest in the Pyrenees boasting six different sectors and is home to 200km of ski slopes ranging from beginner to intermediate. For those looking to relax, Andorra’s sulphur-rich river and lakeside hot springs in Escaldes-Engordany are a great way to unwind after a day on the slopes, and there's more than just skiing. Husky sledding, snowmobiling and night-time snowshoeing are some of the best ways to experience snowy Andorra in the winter.
Summer is the British Virgin Islands' quietest season, making it perfect for those looking for seclusion and deserted beaches. The calmer winds make it ideal for exploring the many islands by motor boat and the water is at its warmest and clearest so you won't want to miss out on the diving and snorkelling. Travel in August during the Emancipation Festival, one of the calendar highlights.
Winter is the breezier time of the year in the British Virgin Islands, when the waters become more active, creating a paradise for sailors, kitesurfers and surfers. The resorts and restaurants reopen after refurbishment and the islands are ready for the start of season. Enjoy the buzzy atmosphere from the offset with live bands, parties and festivals throughout. Foxy's Old Year's Night Celebrations at Jost Van Dyke is known as one of the best New Year's Eve parties in the Caribbean.
From free outdoor festivals like the Chicago Air and Water Show, Chicago Blues Festival and Taste of Chicago, to the 26 miles of public beaches (some that offer free WiFi), plus water sports on Lake Michigan including kayaking and paddle boarding while soaking in the amazing city skyline views, we can't think of a reason not to visit Chicago in the summer. Head for Millennium Park and spread out a blanket in front of the Pritzker Pavilion for a free concert, or cool off in the park’s Crown Fountain, a shallow reflecting pool bookended by 50ft towers.
A winter city break in Chicago means ice skating in Millennium Park before sipping hot chocolate, dining at one of the 300 restaurant that offer special menus to showcase their best dishes during Chicago Restaurant Week and shopping at the open-air Christkindlmarket Chicago for handmade ornaments, gingerbread and other Christmassy treats. It's the perfect time to check out the indoor sites too, including the Museum of Contemporary Art, Art Institute of Chicago and The Adler Planetarium.
It may not be the first place you think of for a summer holiday but Estonia knows how to celebrate the season with the arrival of the summer solstice affording the country two full days of national holidays. Estonians take the summer solstice (or Jaanipaev, locally) seriously: two days of national partying. As one of the country’s most important celebrations, the solstice is welcomed in with huge bonfires, fireworks displays and large parties up and down the country. In a traditional rite of passage, party-goers are encouraged to leap over the fires to guarantee prosperity and avoid bad luck. Summer is also the perfect time to explore the stunning islands of Saaremaa and Hiiumaa when old fishing boats are burnt in large pyres and where the Suure-Janni Music Festival takes place, with a final concert at 3am on Midsummer morning.
In winter, Estonia transforms into a magical wonderland, with the beautiful forests all glittered in snow. Home to Europe’s longest ice road at 26km, Estonia’s ice driving experience is an absolute must for adrenaline junkies and those looking for an alternative winter break. The ice route, which is a long standing part of Estonia’s history and culture, stretches across the Baltic Sea connecting the Estonian coast to the enchanting island of Hiiumaa. The deep forests also make Hiiumaa an ideal destination for nature lovers with plenty of hiking routes on offer to those who want to get off the beaten track. In the cultural capital of Tallinn you can shop at the Christmas markets in the city that claims to be the birth place of the original Christmas tree.
You could spend hours arguing over the best time to visit Paris but the fact is the French capital is a pretty wonderful city to visit in the summer or winter. Go in the summer for the artificial beaches, walks around the parks and chateau grounds, and the outdoor events (the open-air cinema and Paris Street Music Festival are just two of the best). July and August is also when Paris slows down and Parisians head for the coast - so fewer cars and a more relaxed atmosphere. It's also the ideal time to check out the rooftop bars and watch the world go by from the terraces.
Many will tell you that the city of romance is at its most beautiful during the darker, winter months. It's when Paris lights up more than any time of the year (literally) and if you've ever seen the city covered in snow, you'll know exactly what we mean. A few of our favourite things to do in Paris during winter include visiting the museums (the Musée du Louvre and Musée d'Orsay are perfect on a rainy day), eat (a hot cassoulet or steaming onion soup are the ultimate winter warmers) and hit the ice rink in front of the Hôtel de Ville.
With its four distinct seasons, Japan is a wonderful place to experience the best of summer and winter - and Kyoto offers the most diverse seasons of all. In the summer, the average temperature is 26C in Kyoto, making it the perfect time to check out the stunning gardens and blooms, such as the famous hydrangeas at the Hydrangea Festival in June. Kawayuka, is the summer tradition of dining outdoors on temporary platforms built over running water. It's a great way to beat the heat and experience traditional Kyoto cuisine. Gion Matsuri, in July, is the biggest festival of the year and is where you can witness huge floats being pulled through downtown Kyoto and people partying dressed in cotton robes.
As well as lower prices during the winter in Kyoto, the colder months see an average temperature of 5C, making it a popular time to visit the famous Onsen hot springs. Winter is the quietest season, when the scenery is often coated with snow. In December, you can experience Arashiyama Hanatouro when hundreds of lanterns made of bamboo and ceramic line the evening streets and bamboo forest, illuminating your path and creating a magical atmosphere.
You probably picture knee-deep powder and snow-capped peaks when you think of Colorado but in the summer when the snow has melted the mountains are fabulous for hiking and biking, filled with wildflowers and a summer line-up of musical and local food festivals. Summer is when you'll meet more locals, when the Greely Stampede allows you to get in touch with your inner cowboy and when the National Parks are perfect for exploring the diverse landscapes. Mountain biking is a treat in Colorado and Crested Butte offers 500 miles of trails with some of the best terrain in America.
Colorado's winter needs no introduction. As a renowned winter sports destination, you'll have 26 world-class ski resorts (including Breckenridge, Aspen and Vail) to choose from to experience skiing, snowboarding, ice skating and tubing. There's an impressive array of winter events to check out, such as the Ouray Ice Festival and Wintersköl in Aspen. Those looking to relax on a winter break can snuggle up under a blanket on a horse-drawn sleigh ride, soak in a steamy hot spring or browse the art galleries in Vail.
Summer in Italy's Dolomites is simply stunning. The meadows are covered in wild flowers, it's the perfect time to get active with hiking, mountain biking and rock climbing. South Tyrol offers an awe-inspiring range of jagged peaks and large alpine pastures, making it an adventure playground and a natural home for Nordic walking, climbing and hiking. The South Tyrolean Wine Road is a must on a warm summer's day. Italy's oldest wine road takes in three cycling routes along the Adige (Etsch) River and through the orchards that thrive in the valley. As the trails have no demanding grades, visitors of all ages can enjoy winding through apple orchards and vineyards.
Incredible skiing, Michelin-starred food on the slopes and exciting festivals make the Dolomites a terrific place to visit in winter. Sella Ronda is a 26km circular route around the dramatic Sella Massif Peak, offering well-groomed pistes and modern lift systems. If you're looking to combine your winter holiday with amazing food, South Tyrol's Michelin-starred restaurants have spectacular views over the Dolomite Mountains. Other ways to enjoy the Dolomites in the winter include snowshoeing, ice climbing, horse riding in the snow and watching the World Cup ski races in Alta Badia and Val Gardena.
The Swiss will tell you that summer is the best time to fall in love with the mountains and landscapes of Zermatt. Every summer, Alpinists flock to the 4,000-metre summits to enjoy the 400km of walking trails, climbing and cycling in the Swiss Alps. The "Matterhorn Glacier Paradise" also offers Europe's largest and highest lying summer skiing region, for visitors to take part in every kind of winter sport in the summer. Fly fishing, paragliding and mountaineering are other fun activities to try in Zermatt during the summer.
In winter, Zermatt is a snow-assured ski region offering 360km of pistes in three varied ski areas: the Sunnegga-Rothorn, Gornergrat-Stockhorn, Schwarzsee and Matterhorn Glacier Paradise. Snowboarders can hone their skills in the Gravity Park freestyle fun park, where Olympic hopefuls also train. A crossover to the Italian ski region of Breuil-Cervinia is also possible from the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise/Theodulpass. Those in search of something different can try their hand at off-piste heli-skiing accompanied by an experienced mountain guide, tobogganing, ice hockey or curling.
The almost endless summer days mean a long and lazy holiday in Finland. The daylight hours can stretch to 11pm in some places, including Helsinki. In the summer months, Finns like nothing more than to head to the countryside and rent a cottage by a lake for a long weekend. Cycling in the archipelago and the Lakeland in summer is hugely popular - especially in the Åland Archipelago which lies at the foot of Finland and consists of more than 6,500 islands. A lattice of bridges connects the central islands as well as special bicycle ferries, which function as an extension of the Åland roads. The flat, compact scenery, comfortable distances, varied nature and sea views at pretty much every corner make Åland a bicycle heaven.
In winter, Christmas spirit lasts the whole season in Finnish Lapland. The magical Santa Claus village in Rovaniemi, the capital city of Finnish Lapland and official hometown of Santa Claus, is a must-visit for kids and adults alike to meet the man himself and his friendly reindeer. Days can be spent skiing and husky sledding in Finland’s fantastic ski resorts such as Ylläs - with 61 slopes and 29 lifts it is the largest resort in Lapland and Finland. For cross country skiers there are a total of 330km of mechanically prepared trails, some through the great fells, of which 38km are illuminated. Nights in Finnish Lapland can be spent heading out on midnight snowshoeing expeditions to catch a glimpse of the awe-inspiring Northern Lights and in enchanting ice igloos and wooden cabins with a warming sauna or Jacuzzi.