WHERE TO SEEK WINTER SUN IN EUROPE

By Amira Hashish

As the nights draw in, it is time to seek a happy dose of Vitamin D. The good news is you may just be a brief journey away from sunnier climes with many European destinations still offering warm temperatures, blue skies and longer days. Here are some great winter escapes with tips on stylish hotels that still have availability to book…

Paphos, Cyprus

Temperatures: upwards of 22°c in November and 18°c in December.

Brimming with history and beauty, Paphos is fittingly thought to be the birthplace of the Greek goddess of love, Aphrodite. A UNESCO world heritage spot, it has breathtaking sea views, rich history and plenty of romance. Coral Bay, nestled among banana plantations and vineyards, is the beach to head for a swim or enjoy walks amongst the ancient ruins for that beautiful blend of culture and escapism.

Where to stay: Almyra is a design-led hotel that underwent a revamp during 2020. The result is a cool, contemporary property with a playful ambience. Spread across eight acres of landscaped gardens, it is right on Paphos’ seafront with five freshwater swimming pools and a smooth wave-free zone protected by stone breakwaters. The adults-only Almyraspa is dedicated to holistic hedonism with treatments featuring apothecary. Private rooftop yoga, pilates, personal training and tennis lessons can all be booked, almyra.com.

Costa Adeje, Tenerife 

Temperatures: upwards of 25°c in November and 23°c in December.

There is a romantic and intimate feel about Tenerife during the winter with plenty of sunshine to soak up. Costa Adeje is one of the most prestigious resorts. A sunset and stargazing tour at the Mount Teide National Park is a must. Tenerife’s wine production goes back to the XVI century so a vineyard tasting tour makes for a delicious experience. Scuba diving and snorkelling should be high on the agenda. Or try standup paddle-boarding along Los Gigantes, where you can admire cliff after cliff. Make a day trip to the Old Town to discover the beautiful patios and the eclectic architecture with a mix of the XV to XVIII centuries Spanish, Portuguese, British, Flemish, Italian, and French influence. Visit Roque Cinchado and Las Cañadas to see reminders of Mount Teide’s violent eruption in 1706. The Los Roques de Garcia trail leads you around the base of the Teide volcano; this eroded rock curves out of the ground and defies gravity. 

Where to stay: Bahia del Duque and Las Villas are all about family-friendly luxury, privacy and Canarian flair. With Atlantic Ocean views and a design that recreates traditional Canarian Colonial villas from the 19th Century, this is a truly sumptuous base. The tropical gardens create a fabulously exotic setting. As well as spacious suites, there are many private villas for ultimate exclusivity. The hotel has five swimming pools, direct access to the promenade of the beach Playa del Duque, the award-winning Bahia Wellness Retreat and nine restaurants including the new fine-dining option, Kensei. It is home to some of the most personalised experiences in the Canary Islands. For true luxury, guests can travel to the hotel by private jet following a recent partnership with the Private Jet Services Group, thetaishotels.com/bahia-del-duque.

Lanzarote, Canary Islands

Temperatures: an average of 23°c in November and 21°c in December.

Only 64 nautical miles from the Saharan coast of Africa, it is little wonder that Lanzarote is a destination where ocean swims and sunbathing are perfectly possible throughout the festive season. The island has a secret following of A-list fans including Justin Bieber who splashed out on his very own villa there. A volcano-top restaurant, black-sand vineyards and Europe’s only underwater museum are fun places to visit.

Where to stay: With access to an almost private cove, Hotel Fariones was the first hotel built on the island in 1966 and has garnered a loyal following. It is now welcoming guests to its new chapter. The five-star retreat was renovated in 2020 and merges a contemporary design with sprawling sea views from every room. Gastronomy is taken very seriously with a selection of restaurants and bars on-site serving local produce and wine, hotelfariones.es.

Palma, Mallorca

Temperatures: an average of 19°c  in November and 16°c  in December

This may not be the time to go for a dip in the water at Deià but a city break in Mallorca’s capital Palma is always a pleasure. The historic destination merges characterful buildings including the striking La Seu Cathedral, the Royal Palace of La Almudaina, ‘La Lonja’ or the Arab Baths with contemporary restaurants, shopping, cafes, galleries and markets. Little wonder it is proving to be a popular filming destination with Netflix’s The Crown pitching up. The town will celebrate the 17th annual tapas TAPALMA festival from November 24 to 28. More than 50 restaurants, bars and cafes are expected to participate. Each year three routes are prepared for visitors to follow centred around Palma’s town centre, the market area of Santa Catalina and the Paseo Maritimo, tapalma.com.

Where to stay: Right in the middle of the historic centre, Sant Francesc Hotel Singular offers a brilliant base for a sophisticated city-break. The five-star boutique is set within a former Mallorcan mansion, built in 1860, which was lovingly restored in 2015 and is home to elegant rooms and signature suites, three restaurants and a fitness and a wellbeing centre. The stunning roof terrace with an enticing pool is the perfect sunbathing spot, and during the evenings the rooftop bar is just the place to enjoy a cocktail with panoramic views across the city. The relaxed fine-dining spot Quadrat Restaurant & Garden serves Mediterranean specialities with a modern twist, hotelsantfrancesc.com.

Madeira, Portugal

Temperatures: an average of 21°c in November and 19°c in December.

Nicknamed ‘the Island of eternal spring’, Madeira is fast becoming a coveted spot for a wellness-focused European getaway. The volcanic influences, clean, clear waters and unique ecosystem create the ideal climate for the luxury wellness and spa properties that have popped up. The island is centred around nature, golden beaches, turquoise coastlines and the outdoors with sun and clear skies all year round. Those looking for a more active winter break will also not be left disappointed, with rugged mountains lending themselves to biking routes, stunning walking trails and golf courses with panoramic views.

Where to stay: Reid’s Palace is a magnificent island retreat that has been the grande dame of Madeira for more than 125 years. Its mix of refined luxury, discreet service and excellent cuisine is typical of the Belmond group to which it belongs. Swim in the magnificent pools, including an enchanting tidal pool right by the ocean’s edge. Indulge in a soothing therapy at the beautiful spa and dine in Michelin-starred William Restaurant, soaking up the panoramic views. Each room or suite is designed to be a private oasis with a balcony or terrace from which to cherish the outlook, belmond.com.

The Algarve, Portugal

Temperatures: around 20°c in November and 17°c in December.

From deserted islands to award-winning beaches such as D.Ana, Meia Praia, Praia da Marinha and Falésia (which was voted best beach in the world by Trip Advisor), the Algarve has long been a haven for sea lovers. However, there is so much more to do in the region beyond the beach. Walkers and wine enthusiasts will enjoy hiking part of the Via Algarviana trail. The route crosses 11 of the 16 municipalities, so you can discover the natural landscapes and vineyards on foot. Or if you are looking to immerse yourself in watersports go surfing at Odeceixe Beach on the west coast with the best surf conditions found in the autumn and winter months. 

Where to stay: Vila Monte Farm House has fresh and bright interiors by designer Vera Iachia to match its surroundings of citrus trees and pink bougainvillea. With its two local-flavour restaurants, twin swimming pools, many lounge spots and sandy beaches, this is one for fans of refined boho style, vilamonte.com.

Valletta, Malta

Temperatures: up to 21°c in November and 17°c in December.

In the heart of the Mediterranean, Malta is a small island with a big draw. Perhaps the most prominent selling point is the 300 days of sun guaranteed a year. In the Winter the streets are no longer packed with tourists and the beach is relatively quiet. The ancient capital of Valletta has had a revival in recent years, with the City Gate area being remodelled by The Shard architect Renzo Piano and many of the townhouses converted into design hotels. St. Elmo Bay, on the south side of the city, is a  good swimming spot and also a famous diving site where many flock to see the underwater wreck of the WWII British destroyer HMS Maori. 

Where to stay: Spread across four exquisite Maltese townhouses and their ancient vaults, dating back to the 1600s, Iniala Harbour House & Residences opened in April and has 23 uniquely designed rooms and suites. The hotel is the latest opening from philanthropist, Mark Weingard and overlooks the famous Grand Harbour. The chic rooftop restaurant, ION – The Harbour was awarded a Michelin Star within six-months of opening, inialamalta.com.

Crete, Greek Islands

Temperatures: An average of 19°c  in November and 15°c  in December.

Blessed with stunning landscapes, beaches, food and a laid-back atmosphere, Crete is a great destination for an off-season break. It’s one of the warmest Greek islands to visit outside of the summer months when the rich history of the island can be experienced without super high temperatures. There are several ancient palaces and archaeological sites to explore, the best known being the Palace of Knossos near Heraklion. Another highlight includes Balos Lagoon and Elafonissi Beach, recognised as one of the best beaches in the world.  

Where to stay: Villa Ellinka is a majestic luxury villa to rent in Crete which has a very private and picturesque location outside the quiet village of Elounda. Once a fishing village it’s now an ideal destination for people who want a Greek island holiday in a place which is neither too busy nor too isolated. The villa has six double en-suite bedrooms, one of which has a Jacuzzi. The top floor bedrooms open to private balconies with amazing views to the sea and mountains while the bottom floor bedrooms have individual patios and the garden. There is a tennis court, boules court, a croquet lawn and a large infinity pool. The pièce de résistance is direct private access to the sea. It is part of The Luxury Travel Book Collection with prices from £13,3000 for a week, theluxurytravelbook.com. For a hotel option, Abaton Island Resort & Spa is on Crete’s northern coastline. It has panoramic views and overlooks the rocky shores of Hersonissos. The turquoise waters of the Aegean sea provide a dramatic backdrop come sunrise and sunset, and an immaculate infinity pool, private sandy beach and 364m shoreline serve as the perfect settings for rest and relaxation. The  Elemis spa is divine and the Buddha Bar restaurant is always buzzing. There are guest rooms, suite or villa options, abaton.gr.

Athens, Greece

Temperatures: around 20°c in November and 17°c in December

Ideal for a city break with the sea on your doorstep. In addition to the old town, Athens’ key neighbourhoods each have their own attractions and character. Explore the cafe culture in Exarchia, the vibrant nightlife in Gazi or independent shopping in Koukaki. There is a thriving art and design scene – the latest being the port city of Piraeus. With a rich history and maritime legacy that stretches back thousands of years, it is fast becoming a hip hub for art lovers.

Where to stay: The Perianth Hotel, part of the Design Hotels collection, is a modernist structure from the 1930s that has undergone a rather remarkable conversion. Architects K-Studio tackled the building’s trapezoid shape by having short corridors in a radial disposition that connect the guestrooms to a wide space in the core of each floor. Glass walls allow light to enter from the shaft of the building into the lounge areas, perianthhotel.com.

Amira Hashish is the founder and director of content, creative and events agency Rapport. Previously, executive editor of the Evening Standard, she writes columns for leading newspapers and magazines about design and travel. Follow @thedesigneditor and visit www.clubrapport.com for more.

*Before travelling abroad check the latest Covid rules and advice. The official Government rules are the best starting point and can be found here.  Each country has its own rules in place for foreign arrivals so check the official tourist board guidance for your chosen destination.