Europe is gorgeous in the winter. Walking the Christmas markets of Germany. Sipping hot chocolate in the Alps. Watching the snowflakes fall over the Eiffel Tower. So quaint. So bone-chillingly cold. If you’re ready to warm up, head to southern Europe to soak in the culture and, most importantly, the sun.
Canary Islands: There is nothing like Spain to add a little ray of sunshine to your life. While the mainland sees its share of cold rainy days during the winter, the Canary Islands are still a true paradise. Sitting off the coast of Africa, you’ll still see many days reaching 25C/77F during the winter with ample sunshine. While the beaches are flawless year-round, there is more to the Canary Islands than just lounging around with sangria. Trek through the mountains and take in the stunning beauty of the natural parks. If you have the time, learn how to scuba dive there. It’s one of the most underrated scuba spots on the planet.
Be sure to read up on each individual island before you go. The Canary Islands are comprised of seven large islands and countless little dots of land emergencing from the Atlantic. Tenerife is the most popular island and it’s a must-see if you can go during the first three weeks of February when The Carnival of Santa Cruz de Tenerife takes over the capital city. Really though, if you can make time for it, every island is worth a visit.
Cyprus: If you want the Mediterranean atmosphere without the crowd, head to Cyprus. While it’s not quite beach weather, it is the warmest island in the Mediterranean and you’ll see consistent temperatures around 18C/65F. If you can hold off until late March or early April, you might find yourself soaking in the warm sunshine beachside. Regardless of the weather, you’ll find plenty to do any day of the week. Despite being a relatively small island, Cyprus is home to three Unesco World Heritage Sites and countless other wonders. Be sure to check out the Omeriye Hamam in Nicosia’s old town. The 14th Century Turkish bath is one of the most beautiful places on the island to unwind.
Sicily: It’s no Dubai but if you come from a cold country, you’ll still appreciate the Sicilian winter. Stick close to the coast and you’ll have daytime temperatures around 15C/60F. You won’t be sitting around the beach but there are festivals galore during the winter. Like many Mediterranean countries, this is a place of festivals. You couldn’t let Feast of the Dead, Christmas, Feast of Saint Lucia, Feast of Pirandello, The Festa di Sant’Agata, Saint Barbara Day, San Antonio Abate, and the International Folklore Festival pass without at least a few celebrations. Take advantage of the low prices and lack of crowds. Grab a glass of Marsala and celebrate like a local.
Athens: Greece is one of the most beautiful countries on earth. It’s also packed with tourists and has oppressively hot afternoons during the summer months. Want to take in a few thousand years of history? Head to Athens in the winter when crowds are small and the weather is comfortably cool. Even in January, you’ll see afternoons reaching around 20C/70F so, while you’ll need a jacket at night, you won’t be shivering. And, as far as the whole economic crisis, don’t worry! While some experts thought that the migrant influx and financial struggles would affect Greek tourism, the country is actually gearing up for a record breaking year of international tourists.
Related: Places to visit in Greece