After almost two years of lockdowns and travel uncertainty, the idea of escaping to a warmer climate in the dead of winter is more alluring than ever. As travel restrictions continue to be lifted worldwide, it’s a perfect time to plan an escape to a warm winter travel destination. Whether it’s a blissful tropical beach that appeals, or your heart yearns for an adventure in the mountains, deserts or jungles, options are becoming more bountiful from one week to the next.
As temperatures drop and the nights draw in, there’s nothing more exciting than sitting by a roaring fire surrounded by guidebooks and maps, planning a getaway to exotic lands. Luckily, it’s always summer somewhere. Here are fifteen warm winter travel destinations to escape the chill and quell your seasonal blues.
Dahab – Chilling out by the Red Sea in the Depths of Winter
Egypt can almost always be relied on for sunshine while much of the world is shivering. Dahab, tucked between the mountains and the Red Sea, is a small laidback town where hippie-inspired restaurants and bars overlook the sea. Activities include snorkeling, diving, camel rides, and quad biking, as well as a whole bunch of other stuff. Fifth century St. Catherine’s Monastery is an hour away by road and a night hike to the summit of nearby Mount Sinai for sunrise makes for a memorable experience.
Curaçao – A Caribbean Island with a European Twist
A tropical island skirted by pristine beaches, with a colorful capital of elegant colonial buildings and Dutch forts, Curaçao is a slice of Europe in the Caribbean. The wild north of the island is home to two incredible national parks perfect for exploring the great outdoors while the rest of Cuacao’s cacti-covered mountains, rugged bluffs, blow holes, and caves make it an adventurer’s paradise. Visiting in February? Be sure to visit the capital of Willemstad for a once-in-a-lifetime Carnaval celebration.
Arugam Bay, Sri Lanka – Surf by Day and Party by Night
Attracting surfers and backpackers, this crescent moon of golden sand is located on Sri Lanka’s east coast. Low-rise hotels and restaurants line the beach and Arugam Bay has a chilled ambience—yoga and meditation are popular pursuits. Safaris can be arranged to nearby Kumana National Park, which is home to elephants, wild buffalo, crocodiles, and leopards. As the sun sinks, the party gets started—Friday nights at Whiskey Point are legendary.
Marrakech, Morocco – Lose yourself in the City Souks
For an exotic winter city break, Marrakech is unbeatable. Sizzling with energy, the old city is a maze of markets and mosques and a shopaholic’s paradise. Jemma el Fnaa is the sprawling main plaza where snake charmers and storytellers ply their trade. At night, food stalls are set up and the aroma of savory cuisine fills the air. It’s a spectacular sight, especially when viewed from a nearby roof terrace while sipping on mint tea.
Cahuita, Costa Rica – A Paradise for Lovers of Wildlife
Situated on Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast, it may be small, but Cahuita packs a punch with its proximity to some of the world’s most captivating wildlife. It’s a perfect winter getaway for those who prefer nature and unspoilt beaches to glitzy resorts and crowds. The highlight is a national park located a mere stone’s throw from downtown. The beachside trail is brimming with monkeys, sloths and fluttering morpho butterflies, and you’ll find a spectacular coral reef just offshore.
Koh Samui, Thailand – A Perfect Warm Winter Destination for Everyone
Thailand is always a good bet for a winter escape and Koh Samui, with its white sand beaches, crystal clear water and swaying palm trees, appeals to a wide range of travelers. Beyond beach life, there are waterfalls, jungles, and temples to explore. Ang Thong National Park, an idyllic spot for snorkelers and kayakers, is a short boat ride away. A hike to the summit of Mae Koh provides spectacular views of the Emerald Lagoon.
Sedona, USA – Sunshine and Spirituality
Although the temperature dips on winter nights, daytime temps warm the soul as well as the body in Sedona. The red rock formations set against clear blue skies are a striking sight. There are an abundance of trails for hikers and bikers to explore. Believed to be a place of healing, curious travelers make a beeline for the numerous mystical ‘vortex’ sites. The main drag is lined with galleries, new age stores and restaurants.
Cape Town, South Africa – A Vibrant City in a Jaw-Dropping Setting
Nestled in the lap of nature, between the mountains and the ocean, and overlooked by Table Mountain, Cape Town is a city of extraordinary beauty as well as being a cosmopolitan metropolis. With a plethora of colorful stores and a hip café scene, the city center is a lively place to explore. A visit to a township to learn about apartheid is essential, as is a trip to Robben Island where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned and ex-inmates now work as tour guides.
Most importantly, don’t forget to dive into the vibrant food scene. Check out Best Eats: Cape Town for our insider tips on how to get the most out of it.
Rajasthan, India – A Feast for the Senses
A magical land of ornate palaces, historic forts and colorful markets, Rajasthan is the largest state in India and is a feast for the senses. It’s best visited between October and March when it’s dry and warm during the day. From the magnificence of the pink city of Jaipur to the golden sands of the Thar Desert and tigers of Ranthambore National Park, Rajasthan is rich in culture and history and a captivating winter destination.
Tenerife, The Canary Islands – Climb a Volcano in the Morning and Hit the Beach in the Afternoon in this Warm Winter Destination
Although Tenerife is warm and sunny throughout the year, its lack of crowds during the winter months makes it an appealing destination when it’s cold elsewhere. From hiking in Mount Teide National Park to chilling out on deserted beaches or exploring mountain villages, Tenerife is an ideal island to explore by car. Another bonus of a winter visit is that it’s the perfect time for whale and dolphin watching.
Havana, Cuba – Exploring the Enchanting City of Music and Mojitos
For those who really want to feel the heat in the mid-winter, hot and steamy Havana is a travel experience like no other. As soon as you land at the tiny airport, you know you are somewhere unique. Classic cars cruise past crumbling colonial buildings while the sound of Cuban music drifts from the bars. Nothing beats strolling through the streets and plazas of Old Havana, dipping into an occasional bar for a cheeky mojito.
Hawaii, USA – Go Whale Watching in the Warm Pacific Waters
Although the Hawaiian Islands receive more rain during the winter months, the south-west coasts of Oahu, Maui and Big Island remain warm and fairly dry. The season’s big waves attract the world’s best surfers who compete in major tournaments. Winter is the best time to go whale-watching and is when the humpbacks return to the islands to mate and give birth in the warm waters. In January, cherry trees burst into bloom throughout the islands.
Top tip: Carve out time to catch a sunrise atop Mt. Haleakala in Maui’s Haleakala National Park for the experience of a lifetime.
Luang Prabang, Laos – Temple-Hopping in Laidback Laos
Consistently dry and balmy in the winter, UNESCO world heritage site, Luang Prabang, is a small tranquil city which possesses a dream-like ambience. Located at the confluence of the Nam Khan and Mekong Rivers, saffron-robed monks wander through the streets and golden temples stand on every corner. In addition to an abundance of funky cafes and cute shops brimming with treasures, there’s a nightly market selling crafts and tasty local treats.
Baja, Mexico – Where the Desert meets the Sea
Whether swimming with whale sharks, exploring tiny colonial towns or chilling on a deserted beach, Baja is an alluring winter destination. Sunshine and blue skies are guaranteed in Baja and the pure light accentuates the colors of the sea and desert. With the Pacific Ocean on one side, the Sea of Cortez on the other and an arid mountainous landscape dotted with cacti, Baja is a desert playground for nature lovers, surfers, and beach bums.
Cape Verde – Sunshine, Beaches and Adventure in the Midst of Winter
This group of ten islands lie 250 miles off the West African coast and each of them have their own individual characteristics. Although Cape Verde’s main attraction are its many sandy beaches, there are plenty of thrilling activities to participate in including volcano hiking, crater swimming, off-road dune buggy adventures, and horse riding. In February, revelers attired in colorful costumes and flamboyant floats hit the streets for carnival time in Sao Vicente.
Looking for some winter sun but still want to indulge in the holiday season? Check out this year’s Best Christmas Markets to visit in Europe from Bruges to Zagreb and beyond.