Best winter sun destinations: Our top 15 picks

By Issariya Morgan

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You’ve got a few weeks of annual leave left, and you’re not sure where to go. Or perhaps, you’re planning to flee the colder seasons in search of beautiful, warm shores.

Either way, you’re probably wondering: where are the best places to visit in December? Where should I go in January? Where’s hot in February?

Here, we’ve compiled the very best of our winter sun destinations, with all the information you need to make the right choice.

Marrakech, Morocco

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Best for: Cultured city escapes
Average temperature: 20º / 68º
When to go: November – March

Like other countries in the Northern Hemisphere, Morocco has a seasonal climate, with winter temperatures averaging around 20º. Whilst the summer months can see temperatures reaching as high as 40º, winter offers a milder climate – perfect conditions for relaxed sightseeing.

One of the top experiences in Marrakech is undoubtedly the Medina, selling everything from hand-woven carpets to intricate goldwork. The main square Jemaa el-Fnaa comes to life at night, with snakecharmers and storytellers enacting Morocco’s rich traditions.

Art-lovers will appreciate the Jardin Majorelle, a beautiful cactus garden painted in a striking shade of cobalt blue; and history buffs should head to the Saadian Tombs, a medieval mausoleum housing the bones of royals and dignitaries down the ages.

And if you’re travelling between November 29th – December 7th, you may catch the Marrakech International Film Festival.

We run six trips that visit Marrakech, all of which can be found here.

Cuba

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Best for: Caribbean beaches
Average temperature: 26º / 79º
When to go: December – February

Cuba in winter enjoys pleasant tropical temperatures, with a spell of dry weather running from November to mid-April. The best thing about visiting Cuba at this time of year is that you avoid the heavy, humid heat of the summer seasons.

Havana is definitely one of the country’s star attractions, with its UNESCO Old Town, beautiful ruins and historical atmosphere. Cuba is a very musical country, and you’ll hear the rhythms of salsa and jazz drifting through the streets wherever you go. History-lovers will be well served with revolutionary landmarks at every corner, and we couldn’t speak about Havana without mentioning its iconic vintage cars, rum and cigars – all of which combine to create a lost-in-time effect.

On the coast, the white-sand beaches of Cayo Levisa are wonderfully warm during these months, with clear blue seas and palm-fringed shores. If you’re looking for sun-soaked winter escapism, Cuba should be your next destination.

Interested in Cuba? Take a look at our itinerary here.

Krabi, Thailand

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Best for: Rock-climbing adventure
Average temperature: 31 – 34º / 89º – 93º
When to go: December – February

Thailand is one of the best countries to visit during the winter months. Enjoying pleasant, dry weather with temperatures averaging between 31 and 35º, the south of Thailand is perfect for a winter beach escape.

Krabi, in particular, is one of our favourites, with its pristine shoreline, warm blue seas and craggy limestone cliffs. The islands of the Andaman Sea are a huge draw here, with the Phi Phi Islands attracting travellers with their powdery beaches and spectacular snorkelling opportunities.

Just across the water, Railay Bay has some of the best climbing spots in the region. You’ll find options available for all levels of experience, whether you’re a seasoned rock-climber or looking for your first introduction to the sport. Beyond climbing, there are hidden jungle lagoons to seek out, mysterious caves and ancient temples – the perfect stomping ground for the region’s mischievous monkeys.

We run three trips to Thailand, including our Krabi escape.

Belize

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Best for: Rainforest adventure
Average temperature: 28º / 82º
When to go: November – April

As a tropical country, Belize has two seasons: a wet season and dry season. November to April marks the dry season, so just as the Northern Hemisphere moves into winter, Belize is gearing up for glorious weather.

And whilst Belize may be tiny, its tropical charm cannot be ignored. Inland, the dense jungle of Pine Mountain Ridge offers activities such as ziplining and canyoning, with some epic hikes to be had. Along the coast, you’ll find crystalline seas perfect for snorkelling, and soft white beaches perfect for sunbathing.

The islands of Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker boast pretty Caribbean towns, and their lush shores are frequented by reef sharks and turtles. If you’re looking for wildlife and beaches, Belize is a very attractive option.

We offer two trips to Belize, which you can find here.

Baja California, Mexico

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Best for: Snorkelling with sea lions
Average temperature: 25 – 27º / 77º – 80º
When to go: November – April

Mexico has a diverse climate, which varies considerably depending on where you are in the country. Along the coast, winter means warm, dry weather. Temperatures are far lower than the summer months, yet remain pleasant enough for sunbathing and sightseeing. Sea temperatures during this period average around 20º, providing good conditions for swimming and snorkelling.

Cabo San Lucas is known for its beautiful blue seas and intriguing rock formations, best explored on a boat ride along the coast. Further north, the mysterious island of Espiritu Santo beckons with its desolate, volcanic terrain and biodiverse shores. Keep an eye out and you may spot dolphins, whales and sea lions.

Take a look at our trip to Baja California here.

Oman

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Best for: Wild wadi swimming
Average temperature: 26º / 79º
When to go: October – April

Oman has a hot desert climate, with temperatures reaching scorching levels in the summer, yet you’ll find it quite pleasant in winter. At an average of 26º, this is the perfect temperature to explore Oman’s enchanting cities and landscapes.

The capital Muscat overlooks the Gulf of Oman, and in winter, is graced with a refreshing sea breeze. With a heritage dating back to Antiquity, the streets of Muscat are lined with classical Arab architecture, offering a wealth of culture to be explored.

Further inland, Oman’s oases offer respite from the desert heat. Known as wadis, these emerald lagoons are usually found in valleys and ravines, surrounded by rugged desert. Fringed with palm trees and boasting some of the brightest waters you can imagine, this is one of the top experiences Oman has to offer. Wadi Bani Khalid and Wadi Shab are particularly worthy of a visit.

Our Oman adventure visits them both.

Cape Town, South Africa

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Best for: Swimming with penguins
Average temperature: 28º / 82º
When to go: December – February

Like other countries in the southern hemisphere, summertime in South Africa runs from December to February, coinciding with the winter months. Average sea temperatures run around 20º, making it perfect for a coastal escape.

New to South Africa? Cape Town is an excellent place to start. Table Mountain attracts adventure-lovers with its epic abseiling opportunities, and nearby Stellenbosch produces some of the world’s finest wines. The coastline is treated with magnificent Atlantic waves all year round, making this a great place to learn how to surf. And if you venture just a little south, you’ll find yourself on the Cape Peninsula, one of the few places where you can encounter African penguins in their natural habitat (and swim with them too).

You can find our South African adventure here.

Egypt

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Best for: Historical sightseeing
Average temperature: 19º / 66º
When to go: December – February

Whilst summer temperatures in Egypt can reach as high as 35º, winter offers a cooler climate with fewer crowds, meaning you can enjoy the best of Egypt without competing for space with the tourists.

Start your adventure in Cairo, from which you can easily visit the ancient city of Giza, home to the Great Pyramid and the legendary Sphinx. Follow the Nile south until you reach Luxor, a city constructed on the site of ancient Thebes. From the 16th – 11th century BC, this was the seat of power for Egypt’s pharaohs; the remnants of this legacy can still be seen today. The ancient city is now like an open-air museum, its walls carved with hieroglyphics and adorned with sacred statues. Here, you’ll find the Valley of the Kings, the ‘gateway to the afterlife’ where many pharaohs and nobles are buried. The Temple of Amun-Ra is equally impressive, built as an offering to the god of Luxor (believed in ancient Egypt to have created the universe).

Continue further south down the Nile and you’ll find yourself in Aswan, a southern city in the province of Nubia. Visit the UNESCO-founded Nubia Museum to learn all about this ancient African culture.

We visit all these landmarks on our Egypt adventure.

Kerala, India

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Best for: Lazy beach escapes
Average temperature: 28º / 82º
When to go: December – February

The best time to visit India’s far south is from December to February, with temperatures cooling to a pleasant average of 28º. The rest of the year is either too hot or too humid, with monsoon season occurring in June and October. Visit the south coast in winter and you’ll be greeted with beautiful, sunny weather without the humid heat of the summer months.

Kerala, in particular, is a fantastic location for chilled escapism. With a long stretch of coast overlooking the Arabian Sea, Kerala’s golden beaches are perfect for sunbathing with a book in hand. Mountain-lover? Head a little inland to the Western Ghats, a mountain range even older than the Himalayas.

And if you’re after local culture, be sure to catch a performance of Kathakali in Kochi. Originating from Kerala, this is one of India’s most revered and sacred dance forms, which sees dancers enact ancient Hindu stories using only facial expressions.

Take a look at our Kerala adventure here.

Bagan, Myanmar

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Best for: Lesser-explored cultural sightseeing
Average temperature: 21º – 24º / 70º – 75º
When to go: November – February

Winter is the best time to visit Myanmar, with the climate both drier and cooler than the humid summer months. This provides the best conditions for exploring Myanmar’s ancient cultural sights, from its golden pagodas to its ancient temples (bonus: having opened its borders in recent years, Myanmar doesn’t suffer from the kind of over-tourism that neighbours India and Thailand receive).

The ancient city of Bagan is particularly enchanting; a UNESCO World Heritage Site, this was once the capital of the Pagan Kingdom, and its sacred architecture endures to this day. Take a hot air balloon ride over the temple complex, to see the landscape unfolding beneath you – a special experience, we guarantee.

Interested in Myanmar? Browse our itinerary here.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

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Best for: Carnaval in February
Average temperature: 29º / 84º
When to go: December – February

Summertime in Brazil runs from December to March, making this a brilliant destination for your winter sun escape.

Rio de Janeiro is one of the world’s best city escapes; where golden beaches expand beneath rugged mountains, at the doorstep of a vibrant and energetic city. Why choose between mountains and beach, city or nature, when you can have all of them in one?

Travel to Rio in February, and you’ll find yourself face-to-face with the world-famous Carnaval – undoubtedly the highlight of the year. The beaches receive majestic waves, perfect for budding surfers. And, of course, there’s Christ the Redeemer, the iconic mountain-top statue overlooking the city and the sea.

Luang Prabang, Laos

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Best for: Buddhist temples and heritage
Average temperature: 27º – 29º / 80º – 84º
When to go: December – March

Like neighbouring Thailand, the winter months coincide with Laos’ dry season. Temperatures average between 27º – 29º, making this a warm destination to escape to as the winter chills set in.

Luang Prabang, the former royal capital, is possibly the country’s loveliest town. With a deeply spiritual local culture, you’ll see monks in saffron robes collecting alms every morning before daybreak. The streets are fringed with ancient temples decorated in mosaics depicting Buddhist stories, and boutiques selling handmade crafts and textiles.

Travel just a little further south, and you’ll find yourself at Kuang Si Falls, a beautiful three-tiered waterfall deep in the rainforest – perfect for a wild swim after a jungle hike.

Read the details of our Laos adventure here.

Yucatán, Mexico

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Best for: Wild cenote swimming
Average temperature: 28º / 82º
When to go: December – March

The winter seasons see the temperatures on the Yucatán Peninsula fall to 28º, providing balmy conditions for exploring the region’s archaeological and cultural sites.

What can you expect on an adventure in Yucatán? Firstly, the beaches. Isla Holbox is simply beautiful; think striking white sands and aquamarine waters home to a diverse range of wildlife. Snorkelling is a must; be sure to visit the Cancún Underwater Museum to swim your way through a series of sculptures and artworks surrounded by coral reefs.

Then, there are the Mayan ruins. From Chichen Itza, one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World, to Tulum Ruins, the wealth of heritage here is remarkable. And we couldn’t talk about Yucatán without mentioning the cenotes. These secluded lagoons are often located inside caves, and their turquoise waters have an ethereal, otherworldly quality that will cast away all your winter blues.

Take a look at our Yucatán adventure here.

Hoi An, Vietnam

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Best for: Delicious food and cultural heritage
Average temperature: 25º / 77º
When to go: November – February

Whilst summer in central Vietnam sees temperatures reaching 35º, winter brings cooler weather which you’ll find refreshing and pleasant.

Looking for a relaxing winter sun escape? Swap the bustle of Hanoi for the lantern-lit streets of Hoi An. Located on the coast of Central Vietnam, this historical port city has a unique atmosphere, owing to its blend of Chinese, French and traditional Vietnamese influences. Hoi An’s cosmopolitan history has also left its mark on the local cuisine; expect grilled meats paired with spicy salads, rice noodles and banh mi (an elaboration on the French baguette).

The Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is renowned for its historical character, with Japanese houses, Chinese pagodas and many tailor shops lining the streets. Tailoring is a true local craft in Hoi An, with a breadth of Vietnamese silk produced here.

Interested in Hoi An? We visit this beautiful town on two of our Vietnam adventures.

Sri Lanka

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Best for: Ancient UNESCO ruins
Average temperature: 27º / 80º
When to go: November – February

Like other tropical countries, the best time to visit Sri Lanka is during the dry season, which coincides with the winter months. With sea temperatures averaging around 27º, Sri Lanka’s golden beaches are a worthy winter sun destination.

Beyond its unspoilt beaches, however, this is a country steeped in ancient heritage and UNESCO World Heritage ruins. Take Sigiriya, for instance. One of Sri Lanka’s most iconic sights, this fifth-century city is carved from a slab of sheer rock towering over the landscape; a fortress like no other. Then, there’s Polonnaruwa: an ancient city lined with temples and crumbling Buddhas, this was once the religious heart of Sri Lanka, and is today best explored by bike.

Take a look at our Sri Lanka itinerary here.

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