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Sea swimming in Madeira | © Artur Malinowski/Flickr
Sea swimming in Madeira | © Artur Malinowski/Flickr

The Best and Cheapest Winter Sun Destinations in Europe

Picture of Lauren Williams
Freelance Travel Journalist
Updated: 19 September 2017

If you’re looking to escape the cold this winter but don’t want to spend one of your precious holiday days travelling half-way across the world, look no further than the southern and far-reaching islands of Europe. Here are six sunny getaways which will not only melt your cold heart in the depths of winter, but will keep your bank balance in check too.


Winter in Sicily means big blue skies, beautiful almond trees in full blossom and no crowds getting in the way of your photos in those stunning Baroque towns. Enjoy archaeological sites without the hustle and bustle of summer tourists, wander Taormina with the locals, sample all your favourite gelato without having to wait in line and if the warm Sicilian sun gets a bit too much, you can ski on Mount Etna too.


Malta is a wonderful destination for some winter sun and with nine UNESCO World Heritage Sites dotted around this small island, you can twin heat with a spot of culture too. Winter in Malta sees very little rainfall and temperatures which rarely drop below 15C, meaning that it is almost always comfortable for sightseeing, strolling the pretty streets of Valletta or hiking in the stunning countryside. The coast of Malta is a delight to explore at any time of year and with soaring cliffs, quaint fishing villages and hidden caves, there’s something here for every member of the family.


Sitting pretty 1,000 miles from the coast of Portugal, Madeira is one of Europe’s most exotic and remote islands. Madeira is lush, green and fringed with giant cliffs which rival any found in the northern reaches of the Faroe Islands, meaning that it is a pleasure to visit no matter the weather. There is a chance of rain during the winter months, but temperatures rarely drop below 18C, making it a destination with a climate fit for sun-worshippers and adrenaline junkies alike.


Floating in the Med and with temperatures at around 20C, Cyprus is a firm-favourite with Brits for a winter escape. This little island nation gets as many hours of sunlight in winter as London does in May and there is a wealth of fresh seafood, culture and beaching to make everyone suffering the long, hard winter back home jealous.

Canary Islands

The Canaries boast a pleasantly warm climate year round, and offer low travel costs as standard. Although this may make the likes of Tenerife, Gran Canaria and Fuertaventura popular and busy, the heat on these Spanish hunks of rock is perfect for thawing out the winter blues. All of the Canaries are teeming with culture and beaches, but there are options for those seeking out the path less trodden, for example, check out El Hierro and La Gomera for a much quieter getaway.


Greece’s largest and most populated island, Crete sees sunshine year round, and although the locals will deem the winter average of 15C to be chilly, those from further north will take pleasure in the welcome sunshine. The southern coast of the island is the warmest, but the balmy Grecian temperatures also allow for comfortable exploration of the island’s more mountainous regions.