Escaping the cold: 5 Sunny spots to visit this winter

Tyrrhenian Sea off Sicily | Photo by Andrew Mayovskyy
Tyrrhenian Sea off Sicily | Photo by Andrew Mayovskyy

Escaping the cold: 5 Sunny spots to visit this winter

by Mary Del Rosario
Stripes Europe

As fun as skiing in the Alps may be, winters in Northern Europe can be bleak and dreary. Cold, dark days and frosted windshields can make even the most winter-loving person turn into the Grinch over time. Unless you’re in Southern Europe, feeling the warmth of the sun seems like more of a distant memory.

Instead of plopping yourself on the couch curled up in a blanket, try escaping to these sunny European destinations this winter.

Italy - Sicily 

Boasting as the largest Mediterranean island, Sicily is an ideal place to visit during the cold winter months. With bright blue skies and lush trees, winter in Sicily is not only an escape from the freezing temperatures, but it also means having the island mostly to yourself. The average temperature is between 41 and 53 degrees Fahrenheit, so although you’ll still need a light jacket, your body won’t feel like an icicle!  

For those who can’t get away from the pow pow, try skiing in Mount Etna, an active stratovolcano on the east coast of Sicily. Though the slopes may not be as exciting as skiing in northern Italy, to say you skied on a volcano would be a great story to tell!  

For the travelers who want to explore the sunny streets of this beautiful island, head to Palermo where you can shop till you drop. Palermo has many outdoor markets filled with fresh fruit. Be sure to stop by and sip on sweet organic orange juice, as they are surprisingly in season during the winter.

Camara de Lobos on Madeira Island | Photo by Paul Grecaud 

Portugal - Madeira

With an average winter temperature of 61 degrees Fahrenheit, who wouldn’t want to escape to this Portuguese island? Madeira, an island 1,000 miles from mainland Portugal, is considered to be one of Europe’s most exotic islands. Blanketed in lush green landscapes and a tropical garden, it’s easy to see why visitors want to migrate here for the winter.

The more active tourist can enjoy outdoor activities such as mountain running, golf and hiking along the levadas which are aqueducts. Some of the more popular hikes can be found at Levada do Caldeirao Verde, Vereda do Arieiro (the hardest hike), Levada das 25 Fontes and Vereda da Ponto de Sao Lourenço.

If sports aren’t for you, sunbathe the day away at one of the many beaches such as Porto Santo, Praia de Calheta and Reis Magos Beach. Porto Santo has soft golden sand, perfect for walking along the shores while Reis Magos Beach, though pebbly, is ideal for snorkeling due to its crystal-clear water. 

Be sure to bring rain boots and a rain jacket because while balmy temperatures are perfect, rain is in the forecast for most of January. After all, the landscape isn’t green without a reason!

Puerto de Málaga | Photo by Phillip John Mearman  

Málaga - Spain

Situated in the Andalusia region in Spain is Málaga, a port city that serves as a popular winter destination. With resort towns along the coast of Costa del Sol (Sunny Coast), forgetting about the cold is an easy task. Many historic sites, restaurants and museums will be sure to keep you busy. A personal favorite area of mine is Calle Larios, a marble-lined pedestrian street filled with shops, both international and specific to Málaga.

To catch a spectacular view that can only be found in an area where sun is abundant, head to Puerto de Málaga where you can watch a beautiful sunset and stroll down the harbor. This port also has many shops and restaurants which make for a relaxing evening.

Corralejo Beach | Photo by industryandtravel

Fuerteventura - Spain

Sun, sand, surf, tapas and sangria. What could be any better? At Fuerteventura, the jewel of the Canary Islands’ crown, winter is enjoyable and pleasant! The sun is out almost 300 days a year with the average temperature being 64 degrees Fahrenheit during this season.

If the beach is what you’re looking for, walk along the beach at Corralejo, one of the most popular beach resorts in the northern part of Fuerteventura. Corralejo is a bustling, small town that provides a mix of modern and traditional city vibes. Meander through the streets and find street performers, fisherman hoisting their fish for display and eating, old shops and the locals chatting alongside one another while sipping on sangria.

As you go further south on the island, you will find Sotavento Beach, which is home to the kitesurfing and windsurfing championships held every year. Playa de Sotavento is divided into two sections: Playa Risco del Paso and Playa Barca. Note that because this beach is so windy, you may experience a sandstorm!

Marsaxlokk in Malta | Photo by Balate Cristian Mircea  


Known as the archipelago with the gorgeous turquoise sea, Malta is just a short trip from a warm getaway. Since the average winter temperature is a comfortable 55 degrees Fahrenheit, enjoy the quaint cities and laid-back atmosphere this island offers.

Marsaxlokk, a picturesque fishing village is a must-see! This village hosts a popular open-air market daily and offers a fine selection of fresh fish from the island. There are also swimming areas for those who love that water.  

While rain may be a familiar sight in most of Europe during the winter, in Malta it hardly rains, making it pleasant to stroll through Valleta, Malta’s capital. It’s also known as a European art and world heritage city.

With this list of warm getaways, fixing your winter blues will be easy! Grab your sunglasses, a beach towel and sunscreen to forget about the snowy, grey days for just a while!

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