Here's where to find winter sun in less than five hours

What do we want? Sun. When do we want it? Now. Good news. You don't even have to eat up the air miles - one short flight and you've left winter trailing in your slipstream. With the highest average winter temperature in the UK around the 8°C and only a few hours of sunshine a day (that's if we're lucky), it's no surprise that our thoughts turn to heat as soon as autumn creeps towards a close. So find out where's hot now and then read where to get winter sun within a few hours of the UK.

Less than three hours flying time

Spain

Costa del Sol

Malaga beach at night -Image by Matt Biddulph via Flickr Creative Commons
Malaga beach at night -Image by Matt Biddulph via Flickr Creative Commons

The temperature gauge still reaches 20°C in November here on the south coast of Spain. And even in December or January, you're looking at highs of around 17°C to 18°C. You can head west Torremolinos or Marbella, but we recommend hanging out east, in and around Malaga. You can hike up to the Castillo de Gibralfaro to get great views of the coast and city and then head back to the Picasso Museum - the great painter was born in Malaga. You should also head out to some of the famous pueblos blancos (white towns), like Mijas and Ronda. February is a really good time to go, as the sunshine hours jump from an average of five hours up to seven. Hours of sunshine: Flight time: 2 hours and 40 minutes Getting there: Flights to Malaga Staying there: Malaga holidays

The Balearic Islands

Hiking in Majorca. Image by Kristoffer Trolle via Flickr Creative Commons
Hiking in Majorca. Image by Kristoffer Trolle via Flickr Creative Commons

You've got the choice of Ibiza, Majorca or Menorca at this time of year. All three have about five hours of sunshine per day during the winter and temperatures averaging in the mid teens. You can take advantage of the cooler days and explore the islands by boat, bike, horse or on foot. The smallest island, Menorca, is protected as the Menorca Biosphere Reserve, so it's a great time to visit the lagoons, dune systems and islets. Try spotting as many of the 220 species of bird and more than 1,000 types of plants as you can. There's plenty of fiestas going on in January and February - so go then if you're in the party mood - Festes de Sant Sebastia (January 20) in Palma is one of the biggest events in the calendar. Hours of sunshine: 5 Flight time: 2 hours, 25 minutes Getting there: Flights to Palma, Majorca Staying there: Hotels in Palma

Three to four hours flying time

Malta

malta
malta

The average temperature is still in the mid teens in winter. Both November and February have an average seven hours of sunshine. Head to Paceville, the party capital of Malta, especially if you're planning on a New Year sunshine trip - it's still busy despite it not being peak tourist season. Malta has loads of churches to visit, 359 to be precise (nearly one for every day of the year). If you happen to catch a rainy day, St John’s Cathedral in Valletta is definitely worth a look. You could also take a hike and visit Malta's version of Stonehenge - the Megalithic Temples of Malta. If you want something very different visit the Popeye Village. It's the preserved set from the 1980 film starring Robin Williams; you can make your own movie and appear on the big screen. Hours of sunshine: 5.5 hours Flight time: 3 hours, 15 minutes Getting there: Flights to Malta Staying there: Holidays to Malta

Morocco

Marrakech

marrakech
marrakech

Temperatures get as high as 20°C in winter, but the average is more likely going to be around 15°C to 16°C. You're not going during peak season, so you should have more time and space to barter in one of the many souks. It's also a pretty good time to go hiking during the day in the Atlas Mountains. You'll still get plenty of sunshine, but it won't be the sweaty experience it is in the summer. Toubkal National Park is just a short drive from Marrakech The cold weather probably hasn't done your skin any favours, so you could also head to a hammam (spa) and get exfoliated. It does get very nippy at night however, so you'll still have to pack your coat. Hours of sunshine: 7 hours Flight time: 3 hours and 30 minutes Getting there: Flights to Marrakech Staying there: Marrakech hotels

Essaouira

Essaouira. Image by Lawrence Murray via Flickr Creative Commons
Essaouira. Image by Lawrence Murray via Flickr Creative Commons

The historical Atlantic coastal port in Morocco is pretty warm in winter. It's still in the mid to late teens in December and January. It's also very windy - in fact its vast beach is one of the windiest in the world, which means  it's perfect for wind and watersports, like kitesurfing. Don't worry, the average water temperature isn't bad either if you want a dip (between 17°C to 18°C)

Game of Thrones fans might be interested to know that this was where Daenerys Targaryen met the Unsullied, with Essaouira doubling for Astapor in Season 3.

The fortified town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and it's very well preserved for pottering about and perhaps looking for dragons (spoiler: you won't find any). Hours of sunshine: 6 hours Flight time: 3 hours, 40 minutes Getting there and staying: Find holidays to Essaouira

Portugal

Madeira

madiera
madiera

It doesn't really get that cold on this Atlantic island, with temperatures hovering around the late teens on average throughout the winter Capital, Funchal, has got one of the biggest fireworks display in the world on New Year's Eve, so heading there for a warmer Christmas and New Year is a decent option. Take the time to get out of town - and you should start by visiting Cabo Giro, which is the second highest sea cliff in the world for top views. If you feel brave you can try their skywalk (just glass between you and a 580m drop). Or go and watch the water cascade down the 100m high Risco Waterfall. Of course if it does by chance rain, there's always footballer Cristiano Ronaldo's museum (CR7) solely dedicated to the island's favourite son. Hours of sunshine: 7-8 hours Flight time: 3 hours, 45 minutes Getting there: Flights to Funchal Staying there: Find hotels in Funchal

Four to five hours flying time

Canary Islands

Each Spanish island has it's own distinct character and attractions. Here's what the four Atlantic Ocean islands, just off the west coast of Africa, have to offer.

Fuerteventura

Fuerteventura. Image by helpel via Flickr Creative Commons
Fuerteventura. Image by helpel via Flickr Creative Commons

You can easily do some sunbathing with the average temperatures around 18°C and often hitting the 20s. However as it isn't sweltering, it would be rude not to explore the island on foot or by boat. It's an UNESCO designated Biosphere so you're going to see some of the best natural sights in the world. You could visit the famous 11km sand dunes in the Corralejo Natural Park. In fact, it's a really sandy island with 50km of beaches.. It will be breezy though - this is the place to go windsurfing - so head to Flag Beach Water Sports Centre and book yourself a lesson. Hours of sunshine: 8 hours Flight time: 4 hours and 23 minutes Getting there: Flights to Fuerteventura Staying there: Fuerteventura holidays

Gran Canaria

gran-canaria
gran-canaria

While the average temperature is 19 to 20°C, it's not unheard of to have winter days approaching the late twenties (the south of the island is the sunniest). The sea is also still really warm - with average temperatures in the late teens to early twenties if you fancy a dip. We're not saying a lot of Brits holiday here - but one of the most popular spots is the Playa del Inglés (English Beach). However the Dunas de Maspaloma, at the southern tip of the island are worth a visit if you really want to see some sand. The capital, Las Palmas, has a historic old town and it's noted for its blend of early-American / Spanish architecture. It was the place Christopher Columbus stopped on his voyages of discovery. Hours of sunshine: 6 hours Flight time: 4 hours and 5 minutes Getting there: Find flights to Gran Canaria Staying there: Holidays to Gran Canaria

Lanzarote

lanzarote
lanzarote

The average temperature here is 19°C to 20°C - ideal if you're planning a beach break to Playa Blanca or Puerto del Carmen. While the volcano is still technically active (it hasn't erupted since 1730), you should take a trip to the lava fields of Timanfaya National Park. You could walk, but you could also make the trip by camel and admire the scenery from the top of a hump. If you can wait until February for some sun, the island's biggest fiestas take place then. The week-long Arrecife Carnival in the middle of the month and the Puerto del Carmen Carnival at the end. Hours of sunshine: 7 Flight time: 4 hours and 15 minutes Getting there: Lanzarote flights Staying there: Lanzarote holidays

Tenerife

tenerife
tenerife

The average temperature is around 18°C but it does get up into the 20s and it's pretty sunny. The water temperature is also a positively balmy 20°C. Handy for surfing, which Tenerife is famous for. There are some serious waves here - and if you're lucky you'll see "El Bravo", a rare phenomena in the world. This giant wave can best be seen near Punta Brava (just don't go in the water then).

January is a good time to go as you'll be arriving for the fiestas at the turn of the year.  The Three Kings procession takes place across the island on 5th January.

Sometimes it snows on Mount Teide, the highest point on the island (and in fact the highest Spanish mountain) - so you can even do a spot of skiing before heading back to the beach.

Hours of sunshine: 7 Flight time: 4 hours and 15 minutes Getting there: Find flights to Tenerife Staying there: Find Tenerife holidays

Cyprus

Paphos

paphos
paphos

There's an interesting climate here. In January and February you can potentially go skiing in the Troodos Mountains one day and then hit the beach another. That might make packing a bit tricky, though. It's worth heading about an hours drive out to the mountains for hiking if nothing else, to visit the painted churches of Troodos. Or visit Paphos Archaeological Park, there's so much to see here including neolithic sites, Roman mosaics and the Tombs of the Kings - the island is the legendary Aphrodite's birthplace. November and February are the best times to visit as it can tip it down in December, with the majority of the yearly rainfall coming then. But the weather is still warm (average 16°C). Hours of sunshine: Flight time: 4 hours Getting there: Flights to Paphos Staying there: Paphos hotels

Where are you heading for some winter sun?

Let us know where you're aiming to catch some rays during the colder months by leaving a comment below. And following the sun doesn't have to be just confined to the winter. Here's our where's hot guide to help you get some heat all-year-round. Not found the destination you're looking for? Well we've got loads of deals to help you get away - see the latest cheap flights to see where you could end up next. On the other hand if you want to chase the snow and scenic landscapes - here's 10 places that are beautiful in winter.