So, even if you didn’t get your fill of Mediterranean sunlight this summer, there’s still time to take advantage of those yearly vacation dates. If you’re not ready to travel large distances just yet, there are plenty of spots closer to home where you can get your sun fix during the off-season. We’ve compiled a list of our favorite European destinations to keep us warm during the colder months of the year.
Where in Europe can you find the sunniest winter days?
Cyprus has always been a popular summer destination for Britons, with one million of us visiting annually (during regular times), but don’t let that put you off. Paphos, a coastal city surrounded by ancient buildings and postcard-perfect beaches, offers a healthy mix of both. The city has a romantic feel about it, because to its relationship with Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love, whose fabled birthplace was the Old Town of Kouklia.
Malta, the Mediterranean’s most understated jewel (and still on our green list), has a lot going for it: 300 days of sunlight a year, prehistoric temples, and crystalline waters that entice even in the dead of winter. Valetta, Malta’s golden-hued capital, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the European Capital of Culture for 2018 — with its museums, fortresses, and historic churches, it’s a must-see.
Lanzarote, Canary Islands
The Canary Islands are a sure bet for truly balmy evenings long into winter, with exotic vistas and year-round subtropical temperatures — just remember to take your one-piece. Lanzarote, a UNESCO Geopark since 2015, is home to over 300 (mostly dormant) volcanic cones, blackened lava fields, and palm-filled valleys, all of which can be explored via the island’s numerous hiking and cycling paths.
The sun-drenched city of Seville is Spain’s best-kept secret, with pleasant temps all year. The Alcázar castle complex, erected during the Moorish Almohad dynasty, and the very Instagrammable Plaza de Espaa are both located in the capital of Spain’s Andalusia region, which is smaller and more romantic than its busier counterparts of Barcelona and Valencia (pictured above).
While the Greek islands are mostly deserted during the winter months (many hotels and restaurants close between November and April), it is the best time to visit to avoid the crowds. Skip the touristy Cyclades and drive east to the Dodecanese, which are located close off Turkey’s coast. Karpathos, the second largest in the group, is the least commercialized, allowing visitors to get a true sense of Greek culture. The sea is always gleaming, and the villages are dotted with white-washed sugar-cube cottages.
Swarming to the Algarve as soon as there’s a smell of summer is a long-held British hobby, but the Portuguese beach city of Lagos is probably even more attractive in the winter when the hordes have dispersed. Visit the coast to see the famed rock formations and golden beaches that have been featured on your Instagram feed, or simply sit in the old town with a pastéis de nata in hand and watch the world go by.
The Mediterranean’s largest island, which cuts a lonely figure off the coast of Italy, is a treasure mine of delights. In the winter, historic attractions such as Agrigento’s Concordia temple and Selinunte’s columns are much less crowded, while beaches are nearly vacant. Outside of the usual tourist traps, foodies will find a paradise at Noto, which is home to Café Sicilia and the famous almond granite with brioche buns, and Taormina, which has the best seafood on the island.
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