Written by EMMA SPARKS

Where to find winter sun in Europe

Winter in much of Europe consists of gloomy clouds, biting winds and grey sludge with a side of hail. But there are warmer options on the continent.

And you needn’t go far: while you might not find tropical temperatures, Europe’s southern reaches provide sunshine year-round – and traveling in the low season can be cheaper and less crowded.

Feel your toes thawing out already? Escape the worst of the cold with these European winter sun holidays.


Malta can be scorching in summer, so the cooler days of winter (which rarely fall below 50°F/10°C) are perfect for exploring the great outdoors. Rock climbing and hiking is particularly pleasant.

Culture and history buffs should catch a winter solstice sunrise at Mnajdra Temple, where the sun accurately lights up the edges of a megalith, or come for the Maltese Carnival in February.

Rainy day rescue: If you need to seek shelter, choose one that shimmers. The baroque interior of St John’s Co-Cathedral in Unesco-listed Valletta offers a dazzling way to ride out a rain shower.

Crete, Greece

In winter you’ll need to fly via Athens to reach Crete.

Many resort towns will be pretty much deserted – base yourself in Heraklion or Chania for a sense of low-season life before hiring a bargain rental car for an island road trip.

On sunny days you might find you have the pink-tinged sands of Elafonisi or the Palace of Knossos all to yourself. Temperatures can reach of 61°F (16°C) in January, but the nights are much colder.

Still chilly? An evening with a bottle of local raki should warm you up nicely.

Rainy day rescue: Uncover five millennia of history at Heraklion Archaeological Museum, one of the best museums in Greece.

Turquoise Coast, Turkey

Turkey’s Turquoise Coast is a tourist magnet in summer, but when the crowds have dispersed, there’s nothing but you, those views and an average of 10 hours of sunshine a day.

Moderate temperatures mean hiking is nowhere near as sweaty as it would be in August – so why not tackle some of the 335 mile (540km) Lycian Way?

The route winds between Fethiye and Antalya, passing countless ancient ruins and clifftop wonders including the Levissi ruins, ancient Patara, and the (mostly) sunken city of Simena.

Rainy day rescue: Warm up, give your legs a rest and enjoy a treatment at a hammam (Turkish bath), found in most major towns.