Here in the Middle East we are not really short of winter sunshine but sometimes a change of scenery can have a reinvigorating effect.
Check out our picks of the 10 best places around the world to top up your tan through cooler months.
Tenerife, Canary Islands: Tenerife, the island of the eternal spring and to some the eternal party, is the largest of the Canary Islands. Its golden beaches may be as busy as its hotels, but you can leave the resorts for a dramatic hike up Pico del Teide, the tallest peak in the Atlantic, or head north for quieter spots of cheap rate paradise.
Fes, Morocco: If you’re travelling through seasons, you might as well travel through time. Fes was Morocco’s capital in medieval times, and little has changed since then. Stay at one of the restored palaces – Dar Roumana is a delight (www.darroumana.com) – and prepare for sensory overload. Artisans labour in colourful shopping streets as they have for hundreds of years, and the donkey is still the chosen means of transport.
Sinai, Egypt: There are two ways of visiting Sinai. You can opt for a luxury resort in the spectacular diving and pampering capital Sharm El Sheikh, or join a camel safari on a rustic desert adventure to Mount Sinai, where Moses is believed to have received the Ten Commandments. Either way, you’ll have plenty of sunshine to enjoy, as even in winter the temperature peaks at 26 degrees.
Dominican Republic, Caribbean: The Caribbean is for serious summery sunshine all year round. For vast stretches of deserted white-sand beaches, head to Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic. Dotted with palm trees, it is surprisingly easy to walk the coast for miles without seeing anyone but the odd local sitting in the shade with a machete and mound of fresh coconuts. Inland, the mountainous rainforest offers respite from the heat.
The Gambia, Africa: There may be no time difference between the UK and the Gambia, but the six-hour flight will take you from the middle of the European winter to the height of the African summer. Palm-fringed beaches and chic hotels are found in Kololi and Kotu, but it would be a pity not to take advantage of a stay in this exotic land to discover the wildlife in its parks, mangroves and islands.
Azores, Atlantic Ocean: A thousand miles west of Portugal, warmed by the Gulf Stream, the nine temperate islands ofthe Azores are warm all year round, although you may need a jumper in January. The ravines and rocks contrast with the lush green meadows, bursts of flowers and stone settlements dating back to the archipelago’s first visitors in the 1400s. Local specialities include fine liqueurs, cheeses and cakes.
Beirut, Lebanon: After 5,000 years of civilisation, Beirut still trembles with political conflict; but be a bit daring, and you’ll get to discover Lebanon’s capital before the crowds do. The ‘Paris of the East’, its museums and attractions match those of many European cities, and Beirut’s restaurants are said to serve the best houmous in the Middle East. Visit in April or October, when the heat is in the moderate 20s.
Cape Town, South Africa: Cape Town combines a sultry Mediterranean climate with African culture and a dramatic natural setting. Refugees from the winter come here frequently for the white sand beaches and the internationally famed wine valleys. Those with a taste for adventure can go diving with great whitesharks, or hike to the peak of Table Mountain, where its spectacular national park stretches into the sky for over a kilometre.
Salvador da Bahia, Brazil: Founded in 1549, Salvador was Brazil’s most important city for the next three centuries. Even then, it was renowned for its decadence and sensuality, and colonial buildings – some peeling and evocative, some prettified – remain the backdrop to wild street festivals, beating drum music and capoeira circles. Cool off in the tropical waters along the coast and follow your nose from the plazas to refuel with the city’s delicious African cuisine.
Cancún, Mexico: The Miami of Mexico, Cancún is a more exotic version of its Floridian cousin; white-sand beach stretches around the vast lagoon of Nichupte for 22 kilometres. If you can bear to lose sight of the Caribbean, try a jungle tour in the mangrove near Puerto Morelos, and visit one of the many ancient Maya ruins; the Yucatán peninsula where Cancún is found is home to the sites of Uxmal, Kabah, Labna, Sayil, Dzibilchaltun and the impressive ceremonial grounds of Chichen Itza.