Winter sun: Hop and flop

Winter sun: Hop and flop

Image credit: Tenerife Tourism Corporation

Want winter sun but lack the time for a long-haul flight? Katie McGonagle has the answer

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We 21st-century types don’t like waiting – we stay up-to-date with 24-hour news, sum up our thoughts in 140 characters, and are never more than arm’s length from an iPhone.

So what happens when we fancy a cheeky week of winter sun without the hanging around?

Tempting as far-flung climes might be, there are plenty of shorter-haul winter-sun spots to offset the gloomy British weather. Here, we take a look at seven winter-sun destinations within seven hours of the UK.


With more than 200 miles of coastline and year-round warm weather, there’s no doubting Tenerife’s fly-and-flop credentials. Budget carrier easyJet is paying attention, adding twice-weekly flights ex-Newcastle from November 6, and from Southend starting December 13.

Popular resorts are clustered around the south, home to Playa de las Americas, Los Cristianos, or upmarket Costa Adeje and Playa del Duque. For a more peaceful escape, venture to the quieter north. Beaches such as Playa de las Teresitas – well-positioned for day trips to capital Santa Cruz – or the dark volcanic sands of Playa del Bollullo in La Orotava and Playa San Marcos in Icod de Los Vinos, are less crowded than their southern sisters.

Bored? Take the cable car up Mount Teide, or for those with kids, splash around at Siam Park and spot wildlife at Loro Parque.

Book it: Olympic Holidays offers seven nights’ room-only at the four-star Zentral Centre Hotel in Playa de las Americas for £299 in December, including flights from Gatwick.
0844 499 4449


Glitz and glamour is a given, but add eight hours’ sunshine a day and temperatures in the high 20s, and Dubai is a winter winner. Virgin Holidays reports a 6% rise this year and twice that jump in early sales for 2014, thanks to increased availability and clients switching from other Middle East destinations. The newly-expanded water park at Atlantis The Palm is a sure-fire hit, but neighbouring emirates are also attracting attention. Virgin-exclusive property Hilton Ras al Khaimah and Premier Holidays’ favourite the five-star Le Meridien Al Aqah Beach Resort in Fujairah are both growing in popularity.

Bored? Splash out in the Mall of the Emirates or Dubai Mall, while the kids stay entertained at Ski Dubai or, in the latter, Kidzania and Sega Republic.

Book it: Funway Holidays has a week’s B&B at JA Jebel Ali Golf Resort & Spa from £1,499 departing November 28, with transfers and Qatar Airways flights.
0844 557 0626


Smaller but just as sunny as its Canary cousin, Lanzarote is often associated with black-sand beaches, but boasts plenty of golden shorelines too. Try lively Puerto del Carmen with its historic old town, windsurfing paradise Costa Teguise, Playa Blanca and its recently rebuilt marina, or the secluded Papagayos beaches.

Classic Collection saw an 18% rise in Lanzarote bookings last winter and with new flight capacity this year, that performance looks set to continue.

Bored? Enjoy guilt-free retail therapy – shopping is duty-free – or visit Timanfaya National Park, where the lunar landscape has barely changed since a massive volcanic eruption in 1824.

Book it: Jet2holidays has a week self-catering at THB Flora Apartments, Puerto del Carmen, from £999 for a family of four including a free child place, flights from Leeds Bradford on November 16, and transfers.
0800 408 5599


Marrakech is a beautiful gateway to Morocco, but it’s not all this North African country has to offer. On a similar latitude to the Canaries, Atlantic resorts such as Agadir and ancient town Essaouira boast mid-winter sunshine, superb surfing conditions and ever-expanding hotel product. This embraces everything from large all-inclusive resorts such as Club Med Agadir, to smaller riad-style properties with a more traditional feel.

Bored? Windy conditions make the Atlantic Coast a haven for watersports, or go bird-watching at the Souss Estuary.

Book it: A week’s B&B at Riad Villa Blanche in Agadir costs £879 with Classic Collection Holidays, which includes flights from Gatwick and private transfers.
0800 008 7288


Brains and beauty aren’t supposed to go together, but one look at Oman proves that isn’t true. With its mix of cultural exploration and a truly stunning coastline, this destination offers so much more than sun.

The Private Travel Company reports Oman is selling “brilliantly”, and has re-ordered its 2014 brochure to give it greater prominence. Look out for the Salalah Rotana Resort, a five-star property with 399 rooms and 45 villas opening on December 25.

Bored? Historic forts Jalali and Mirani are easily accessible from Muscat, or add a diving extension on the Musandam peninsula.

Book it: A week’s B&B at Al Waha at Shangri-La’s Barr Al Jissah Resort & Spa (pictured below) costs £1,065 with The Private Travel Company, including flights, private transfers and a lounge at Heathrow.
020 7751 0880



Hate jetlag? Gambia is in the same time zone as the UK and with a six-hour flight, there’s no time wasted. Until recently seen as cheap and cheerful, its higher-end product is growing so much that The Gambia Experience reports bookings for its Luxury and Unique Collection properties are up 47% on last year, with flagship luxury hotel Coco Ocean Resort & Spa rising 62%. New additions such as the boutique Leo’s Beach Hotel and a new mangrove lodge at the Mandina Lodges at Makasutu look set to continue the trend. Add even more variety to winter breaks with The Gambia Experience’s Chris Packham birdwatching tour, departing February 21 or 28.

Bored? Take a dawn bird-watching trip, or a four-wheel drive adventure to a local village and school.

Book it: The Gambia Experience offers a week’s B&B at Kombo Beach Hotel from £499 in November, including flights.
0845 330 4567


With a similar flight time to Gambia and just an hour’s time difference, Cape Verde has the same jetlag-free bonus, plus a fun-filled island culture combining its West African, Portuguese and Brazilian roots.

Tourism is concentrated on Sal and the quieter Boa Vista, where visitors find glorious white-sand beaches and affordable accommodation. The Cape Verde Experience has added three-star self-catering Tropical Residence and modern boutique Dunas de Sal Hotel, both within walking distance of Santa Maria in Sal, and the three-star Don Paco Hotel in capital Mindelo in Sao Vicente.

Bored? You won’t be – beaches are packed with watersports such as windsurfing and sailing – or cruise to one of the other islands.

Book it: Thomson offers an all-inclusive week at ClubHotel Riu Garopa from £789, with flights departing Birmingham on November 19.
0871 230 2555


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