When temperatures plummet and winter overstays its welcome, sunshine and sand are the only cures for the dreaded seasonal slump. Trading in snow for sun is undoubtedly the best way to recharge your body and soul. When the windchill dips below zero, it’s time to start researching the best winter escapes. These are some of the most outstanding winter “hot” spots.
Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain
Located off the coast of Africa, Tenerife is the largest of the Canary Islands. This popular island destination boasts year-round sunshine, with an average high of around 72 degrees Fahrenheit in December and 70 degrees Fahrenheit in January. For those seeking maximum heat, the southern part of the island is generally the warmest and driest.
Tenerife offers over 42 miles of pristine white sand and volcanic beaches. The most popular beach on the island is Playa de las Vistas, which is located in Los Cristianos. However, Tenerife is more than just beaches, ocean and sunshine. The inner part of the island is home to Teide National Park. Covered in craters, calderas and solidified lava, the terrain is undoubtedly otherworldly. Visitors can explore the extraterrestrial landscape on the many walking trails weaving through the park. Mount Teide is at the center of Teide National Park. At 12,198 feet, it is the highest point in Spain. It is also an active volcano. Take the cable car to the summit to revel in panoramic views of the entire island.
If hiking and relaxing on the beach aren’t enough, check out Siam Park – a water park that claims to be the most spectacular in Europe. However, there is truth to those claims, as Siam Park currently holds seven world records.
Phuket is the largest island in Thailand. With an average high of 89.1 F degrees Fahrenheit in December and 90.9 degrees Fahrenheit in January, it is the perfect place to bask in warm sunshine. Phuket is widely known for its luxurious hotels and party atmosphere, but the island is more than just the famed beach in Patong. Numerous quaint beach towns dotting the curvaceous western coastline of the island offer the perfect location to relax on white sand beaches and swim in the clear blue water of the Andaman Sea.
When you aren’t sipping a cocktail and soaking in vitamin D, Phuket offers ample opportunities to explore what is under the water. Take a boat to the Phi Phi Islands for some of the best snorkeling or SCUBA diving the world has to offer. If you prefer to stay on dry land, sign up for a Thai cooking class. The cuisine in Phuket is some of the best and most diverse in the country.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Winter in the USA is summertime in the Brazil, and Rio de Janeiro is one of the most-visited and vibrant cities in the Southern Hemisphere. With an average temperature of 83.5 degrees Fahrenheit in December and 86.4 degrees Fahrenheit in January, the wintertime blues will rapidly melt away on Copacabana or Ipanema Beach. This delightful city boasts great people-watching along the shoreline, but the inner areas of the city are definitely worth a visit, as well.
One of the most famous attractions in Rio de Janeiro is the 125-foot-tall Christ the Redeemer statue perched on top of Corcovado Mountain in the dense rainforest of Tijuca National Park. Take the electric train to the base of the statue for stunning views of the city. For the more adventurous, there is a strenuous 8-mile hike up the mountain. If that trek isn’t enough, Sugar Loaf Mountain also offers great hiking.
Costa Rica maintains a tropical climate year-round, but mid-December to April is the dry season, making it the perfect time to relax on the beach and explore the rainforest. It’s widely renowned for its ecotourism, so make sure to visit national parks and other protected areas. The capital city of San José makes for a great home base to explore other parts of the diverse country.
The Nicoya Peninsula is comprised of 80 miles of coastline, surrounded by turquoise water and laid-back beach towns. Located 4 to 5 hours from San José, Guanacaste, or the “Gold Coast”, offers numerous secluded beaches and a flourishing cowboy culture. The Arenal Volcano is one of the most active in the world. Wherever you choose to visit in Costa Rica, you are guaranteed to forget all about the snow back home.
Located approximately 1,000 miles from the mainland of Portugal and 250 miles north of Tenerife, Madeira is one of the most remote islands in Europe. With an average high temperature of nearly 70 degrees in both December and January, winter is the perfect time to walk around the capital city of Funchal or explore the tropical gardens and diverse landscape of the rest of the picturesque island. The New Year’s celebration in Madeira features one of the world’s largest firework displays. Plus, Madeira wine makes the celebration that much better.
Panama City, Panama
The capital and most populous city in Panama, Panama City is diverse and bustling with activity. With high temperatures in the low 90’s over the winter months, the city will quickly make you forget that winter even exists at all. Panama City offers beautiful 18th-century architecture, tropical rainforests and a vast culinary scene.
Much of the tourism in Panama City is based around the Panama Canal. Head to the Miraflores Locks to learn more about this feat of human engineering. For a different museum experience, the Biomuseo features rotating exhibits on biodiversity in Panama. This fascinating museum opened in 2014 and was designed by Frank Gehry. To work off some of the amazing food, trek up Cerro Ancon – a 654-foot hill overseeing the city. Finally, Calle Uruguay and Casco Viejo are home to some of the most vibrant nightlife in Panama City.
Sydney is the gateway to Australia for most travelers, and one of the most recognizable cities in the world. The average high temperature lingers just around 80 degrees Fahrenheit during our winter months, which makes it a highly desirable destination for those looking for a winter escape. Sydney boasts the iconic Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge. To soak in some much-needed sun, look no further than world-renowned Bondi Beach.
If you have time, travel beyond Sydney, as well. Cairns is near the Great Barrier Reef, which makes it ideal for snorkeling and diving. For something completely different, Melbourne is one of the most culturally rich cities in the country.
These winter escapes provide much-needed sun and relaxation. Whether you’re looking for a secluded beach or a city bursting with life, these world-class destinations are sure to impress. After your vacation, you can confidently head back home prepared to take on the rest of winter.