6 of the best places to escape the British winter

Batten down the hatches, winter is coming and those of us who live on fair Albion’s shores will not see a glint of sunlight for the next six months.

Okay I’m exaggerating a tad but you get my point. I usually find it all becomes unbearable around February time and, if there’s any chance of heading off for a glimpse of sunshine, that’s when I’d choose to go.

So here are 6 places, from 3 hours to half a day away from the UK, where you can escape the British winter and, as an added bonus, any likely debate about Brexit.

Morocco

Ait Ben Haddou - Morocco
Ait Ben Haddou – Morocco

Reaching highs of the mid-twenties in the winter makes it pleasant weather for taking in the sights instead of just baking on a beach. Marrakech is the most famous destination but there are plenty of other towns and villages to explore, like Fez with the tomb of Moulay Idriss ll and the Chouara tannery which is around 1,000 years old.

Tannery - Fez Morocco
Tannery – Fez Morocco

Flying time from UK: Around 3 and a half hours.

Winter temperatures: January is the coldest month with daytime temperatures around 13 centigrade although it could get up to about 23.

Average hours of winter sunshine: Expect around 7 to 8 hours of sun each day.

Out of season activities: Morocco’s semi-arid climate makes for mild winters so it’s perfect for the sort of sightseeing the sweltering summer months don’t allow. Walk the medieval streets in ancient Fez, take a desert trek, indulge in a hammam or seek out a local street market.

Spices in the market place - Morocco
Spices in the market place – Morocco

Northern Cyprus

View of the old harbour from the castle in Kyrenia - Northern Cyprus
View of the old harbour from the castle in Kyrenia – Northern Cyprus

Not yet in the Euro zone so you should be safe from the “what’s going to happen to all the expats” conversations currently going on in the south of the island. Cyprus is beautiful and somewhere we return to frequently but we have yet to make it across the border to the Turkish side.

Market in North Nicosia - Northern Cyprus
Market in North Nicosia – Northern Cyprus

Flying time from UK: Around 5 hours.

Winter temperatures: Averages 18 – 20 degrees centigrade, unless you are in the mountains where you will find snow.

Average hours of winter sunshine: Expect about 6 hours a day.

Out of season activities: It’s the perfect time for sightseeing, as in the summer it can get too hot to think about moving! Towns and villages seem to have escaped the hustle and bustle of most tourist resorts and its chequered history – from Assyrians to the Egyptians, Persians to the Romans – is still visible today.

Kyrenia - Northern Cyprus
Kyrenia – Northern Cyprus

Thailand

Tuk Tuk (Taxi) - Bangkok Thailand
Tuk Tuk (Taxi) – Bangkok Thailand

It’s many years since we last visited Thailand, but its appeal remains strong for tourists and travellers alike. We spent a memorable December long ago, trekking in the northern part of the country and then heading south to the islands to see in the New Year.

Buddha - Thailand
Buddha statue – Thailand

Flying time from UK: Around 11 and a half hours.

Winter temperatures: Around 27 degrees centigrade but increasing to 30 by March.

Average hours of winter sunshine: Pretty dry too so you should see around 8 to 9 hours sunshine a day.

Out of season activities: Temples, street food and tuk-tuk rides are probably the most definitive activities for visitors, but strike out away from the busiest areas and explore the country’s glorious nature. If you can’t resist the elephants, make sure you go to one of the sanctuaries where the animals are well treated.

Patara Elephant Sanctuary - Chiang Mai Thailand
Patara Elephant Sanctuary – Chiang Mai Thailand

Maldives

Palm tree and beach - Maldives
Palm tree and beach – The Maldives

If you really need a burst of proper sunbathing then heading for the Maldives should top up your vitamin D levels. There are plenty of top class hotels or you could stay in a family-run guest house to experience more of the Maldivian way of life.

The Maldives
The Maldives

Flying time from UK: A longer haul – direct flights take around 13 and a half hours.

Winter temperatures: From November through to February it averages 27 degrees centigrade.

Average hours of winter sunshine: Expect 7 – 10 hours a day.

Out of season activities: It’s plenty warm enough for lazing on a beach but there’s lots to see too. Manta Reef and Hammerhead Point offer opportunities to spot turtles and sharks. Several ancient sites can be found among the bustling streets of the capital Male. Island hopping is also high on most visitors’ lists.

Diving Maldives: Hawksbill Turtle Eretmochelys imbricata
Hawksbill Turtle – The Maldives

Sri Lanka

Traditional Sri Lankan fishing boat - An Oruwa outrigger, on the beach at Negombo - Sri Lanka
Traditional Sri Lankan fishing boat – Sri Lanka

Another Indian Ocean paradise, with perfect weather for sun-seekers. But it’s not all beaches and tea plantations – the central highlands offer mountains, waterfalls and lush tropical forests.

Sunset over Hikkaduwa beach - Sri Lanka
Sunset over Hikkaduwa beach – Sri Lanka

Flying time from UK: Direct flights could take up to 12 hours, but most carriers have stopovers which means you could be travelling for a lot longer.

Winter temperatures: January is meant to be the coldest month at…wait for it… 27 centigrade. And it’s the dry season from December to March.

Average hours of winter sunshine: You can expect around 9 hours of sunshine each day.

Out of season activities: Well it’s kind of in-season here, so beaches, water sports, whale watching, hot air ballooning, scuba diving – the list is endless. December is a dedicated tourism month portraying Sri Lankan food, entertainment, culture and shopping. Sri Lanka is home to one of the oldest civilisations in the world and has temples, monuments, cities and monasteries spanning more than 2,000 years.

Hand crafted jewellery - Sri Lanka
Hand crafted jewellery – Sri Lanka

Iceland

Northern lights at Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon - South-East Iceland
Northern lights at Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon – South-East Iceland

Yeah, I know, as cold as Britain but at least it’s set up for it and it’s the best season to see the Northern Lights if the skies are clear. The weather in the Land of Fire and Ice is actually quite mild in the winter (comparatively) because of the Gulf Stream, but can be very changeable so pack for almost any eventuality.

Snaefellsjokull National Park - Iceland
Snaefellsjokull National Park – Iceland

Flying time from UK: Just under 3 hours.

Winter temperatures: It rarely gets much above freezing, but in the south it usually stays at about that point. Further north you could get -10 centigrade or even as low as -30 C.

Average hours of winter sunshine: The winter days are short, so don’t expect to see much sun. Daylight can last as little as 5 hours, but that leads to some amazing twilight and dawn scenes without having to lose any sleep! It’s one of the many reasons why Iceland’s on our “to do” list, just for the photo opportunities.

Out of season activities: Volcanoes don’t care about the seasons and the mountains. Lakes and coast are waiting all year round. Winter gives you a chance to enjoy the indoor life too, with warmly welcoming locals. There’ve been concerns recently that tourists are putting the island under strain, but go out of season and spread your wings further afield than the capital Reykjavik and there’s no need to worry.

Ólafsvík village in Snæfellsnes - West Iceland
Ólafsvík village in Snæfellsnes – West Iceland

Do you have a special winter-getaway destination? Would love to hear about it in the comments.

Photographs are copyright their respective owners.

For more winter sun inspiration try these

Moroccan National Office of Tourism

Welcome to North Cyprus – tourist information

Thailand Tourism Authority

Visit Maldives

Sri Lanka Travel

Inspired by Iceland

6 places to escape the British Winter by Rosemary and Pork Belly

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