Winter Europe: Where to Look for Sun in January

Late December and early January are wonderful times for a European vacation. The magic in the air and the comforting songs of Frank Sintra coming from every store? Checked. The Christmas fairs luring in everyone passing by with beautiful lights and the smell of spiced mulled wine and heavenly baked goods? Checked. The gorgeous Christmas trees scattered around the cities’ streets, bringing a bit of gentle happiness even to the most salted cynics? Checked again! 

But at the end of January, when the last celebrations die down, the anticipation of spring settles, making us crave warmth and sunlight. Unsurprisingly, not many travelers choose Europe as their vacation spot, as it doesn’t exactly associate with any of those things. But what if we tell you that there are some amazing European destinations where you can get a dose of vitamin D even in the midst of the winter?

Best Winter-Sun Destinations in Europe

Tenerife, Spain


Let’s start with Tenerife, a beautiful island in Spain that boasts an average day temperature of 23°C in January. Hundreds of beaches colored from classic yellow to Instagram black, the majestic Mount Teide, the third largest volcano in the world, and dozens of incredible national parks make Tenerife a stunning place to visit all year round. This destination is famous for its beach resorts and vibrant night life, but it also has a lot to offer if you prefer classic sightseeing or active holidays to spending all day in a lounger with a book in one hand and a cocktail in the other. And while this magical island is very much a part of Spain, it feels nothing like lively Madrid or breathtaking Barcelona, making it a must-visit place for everyone who wants to truly see the hundreds of facets of the gem that is this remarkable country.

And yes, you theoretically can swim in the sea if you really want to, but the average water temperature is about 20°C off-season, so in winter most travelers prefer to stick to the hotel swimming pools.

Madeira, Portugal



While Tenerife has a fame of an excellent party destination and not in the last place because of its amazing carnival which can easily rival in grandeur with the renowned Rio celebrations, breathtaking Madeira has a much calmer vibe and can be an excellent alternative for Hawaii. It boasts slightly cooler weather, with the temperature rarely exceeding 19°C during the day in January, and while it’s generally agreed that it’s too cool for a day on the beach (even if they are truly stunning), it’s a perfect temperature to give in to temptation to explore this remarkable place.

The island is a dream destination for any visualist and a perfect choice for all hiking enthusiasts out there. Lash natural parks, steep mountains, amazing opportunities for whale watching, exquisite wines and brandy, and natural swimming pools are only a fraction of the things you can enjoy on your getaway. Actually, scratch the statement that the island is a perfect choice for hikers. Madeira is a perfect choice for everyone, as this Portuguese city has everything you can dream of. Well, apart from an easy way to reach it, as the only direct weekly flight from America departs from JFK in NYC, so everyone else will have to take a flight to Lisbon and jump on a quick flight to Madeira from there.

Limassol, Cyprus


Limassol is another great option you can consider on your quest to find sun in winter Europe. The destination is the second-biggest city in Cyprus, and this popular tourist hub welcoming thousands of people every year is quite a sight to see. It’s a city of contrasts where modern buildings are nestled next to amazing historical treasures, and it’s a separate form of pleasure to get slightly lost exploring the narrow streets of its Old Town.

The things you can add to your muse-see list are endless: from a majestic castle in the city center and other stunning archaeological sites to mountain monasteries and beautiful wine routes. In summer, wakeboarding and surfing are also popular activities, but not many are brave enough to enjoy them in the middle of the winter, as the average daily temperature is about 17°C. As for anything else, this beautiful Cyprian destination can easily be the perfect setting for your winter vacation.

Valletta, Malta


Of course, we couldn’t ignore Valletta when speaking about the most sunny destinations in Europe. The capital of Malta boasts a cheerful 16°C in the middle of winter, which combined with the predominantly sunny weather makes it a very good option to consider.

The city’s narrow cobbled streets and beautiful architecture feel distinctly Italian, which is no surprise as it’s located just 50 km from Sicily, but make no mistake—it is its own glorious place first and foremost that has a lot to offer. Make sure to check out Caravaggio’s masterpiece “The Beheading of Saint John” in St. John’s Cathedral, the stunning Barrakka Gardens, the excellent Museum of Fine Arts, and the magnificent Grand Masters Palace, among the first things you explore.

Malaga, Spain

And we are back in Spain! If you are not in the mood for the island vibes this winter and are on the market for something more urban, consider visiting lively Malaga. In the best traditions of the glorious Spanish capital, it’s a city buzzing with energy and character. The birthplace of Piccasso has an incredible cultural scene, and the museum dedicated to the most famous Spanish painter is a must-visit place even if you are not that much into art. And let’s not forget about Malaga’s incredible food scene, ranging from high-end restaurants to busy bars open till early hours in the morning and busy street vendors where you can buy delicious bocadillos and empanadas.

And while all of it is great, we haven’t covered the topic of weather in January yet, so let’s go. The average daily temperature in January is about 17°C, and with 300 sunny days per year, the chances of rain are pretty slim. While it’s not exactly T-shirt conditions, a warm pullover and a light jacket should be quite comfortable.


As you can see, there is more to winter travel than magnificent Dubai, lovely Costa Rica, and tropical Thailand if you are looking for the sun. Europe, in all its glory, has a few very interesting options to offer with all the perks that come from traveling in the low season! So why not treat yourself to an unforgettable vacation this winter? Choose your dream destination, and we will take care of all the details.

by Ksenia Zaiceva