Short haul winter sun 2016/2017: Deals & destinations

Looking for short haul winter sun holiday deals in 2016/2017? We uncover five favourite spots where you can soak up some off-season sunshine within six hours flying time from the UK, as well as share the latest online deals and discounts to get you there for less.

Short haul winter sun 2016/2017 © nito - Fotolia.com
Short haul winter sun 2016/2017 © nito - Fotolia.com

Latest short haul winter sun holiday deals 2016/2017

Check out the latest online deals and discounts on short haul winter sun breaks in 2016/2017 from leading travel brands:

  • Save 20% on Iberostar hotels in Spain & the Med
  • Minimum 5 nights stay at Iberostar hotels & resorts
  • Book at least 90 days in advance
  • Travel between 1st Feb & 31st Mar 2017 (inclusive)
Show discount code ******0D2

Expires at 23:59 on Tuesday 27th December 2016 · View all Iberostar offers

  • Book online & save 8% on winter 2016/2017 holidays
  • Including the new destination of Sri Lanka
  • Travel before 30th April 2017 (inclusive)

Expires at 23:59 on Sunday 30th April 2017 · View all Thomson offers

  • Save £200 on selected destinations in winter 2016/2017
  • Including the Canaries, Balearics, Cape Verde, Gambia & Spain
  • Travel before 30th April 2017 (inclusive)

Expires at 23:59 on Sunday 30th April 2017 · View all Thomas Cook offers

  • Save £100 per person on winter holidays in 2016/2017
  • Book winter sun or ski holidays - £200 off per couple
  • £400 OFF per family of 4 - Now flying from Stansted
  • Browse top offers on holidays to short haul destinations
  • Destinations include Malta, Cyprus, Madeira & the Algarve
  • Also book holidays to the Canaries & mainland Spain
  • Check out the top winter sun holiday deals from On the Beach
  • Whether you head to the Canaries, Malta or further afield
  • Save up to 15% on winter sun holiday deals for 2016/2017
  • Book early for winter 2016/2017 with First Choice
  • Save 8% when you book online + low deposits from £75
  • New destination for winter 2016/2017 is Sri Lanka
  • Travel before 30th April 2017 (inclusive)

Expires at 23:59 on Sunday 30th April 2017 · View all First Choice offers

  • Save on European city breaks for 2016/2017 with BA
  • Destinations include popular cities across Europe
  • Book flight + hotel online with British Airways
  • Book cheap winter sun holidays for 2016/2017 with Monarch
  • Prices start from just £275 per person
  • Destinations include the Algarve, Canaries, Spain & more
  • Save up to 50% on beach holidays with Love Holidays
  • Book all-inclusive breaks, family holidays & romantic escapes
  • Filter deals by price, star rating, board basis & more
  • Discover the new holiday destinations for winter 2017
  • Book holidays to Italy, Portugal, Spain, Croatia, Greece & more
  • Early Bird Guarantee on bookings before 31st May 2016
  • Save up to 55% on holidays to the Caribbean in 2017/2018
  • With resorts in Jamaica, Bahamas, St Lucia, Barbados & more
  • Travel before 20th December 2018 (inclusive)

Expires at 23:59 on Monday 19th December 2016 · View all Sandals offers

More holiday deals and discounts >>

Short haul winter sun destinations: top destinations close to home

Our guide to five fantastic short haul winter sun destinations takes you on a tour of the African continent, from West Africa's smallest nation, The Gambia, to the beaches of the Costa Blanca, the exotic Kingdom of Morocco, the idyllic archipelago of Cape Verde, and the well-known holiday haven of the Canary Islands, which are uniquely African in their geography yet culturally European.

Each of these short haul winter sun destinations has a huge amount to offer those seeking a seasonal break, picking which to visit is the hardest part...

1. Gambia

If you're looking for a truly exotic destination for your short haul winter sun break in 2016/2017, this English-speaking slice of West Africa, surrounded entirely by French Senegal, is the place to try. It's estimated that around 100,000 UK travellers visit Gambia on holiday each year, and many come during the winter months due to the eight to nine hours of sunshine, and temperatures in the low thirties every day.

At just six hours from the UK, and sharing the same time zone as Britain, Gambia makes a perfect short haul winter sun beach break; but Gambia's laidback vibe has given GMT a different meaning here: 'Gambia Maybe Time'; it won't take you long to adjust to the relaxed and leisurely pace of life African-style.

Along the beach in Gambia © petermilli - Flickr Creative Commons
Along the beach in Gambia © petermilli - Flickr Creative Commons

Of course another way to learn more about a destination is through its food, and tourists can try an authentic and tasty way to get under the skin of Gambian cuisine and culture with The Gambian Home Cooking School. This combines dressing up in traditional Gambian outfits with a visit to the colourful and atmospheric Tanji fish market to buy the catch of the day direct from the fishermen, before preparing it in the traditional way, over an outdoor fire.

Gambia's markets (Brikama is the biggest and best) make a wonderful way to interact with the local culture and people, but more adventurous travellers might like to meet a different kind of local at Kachikally Crocodile Pond.

Kachikally Crocodile Pond, Gambia © Lars Curfs - Wikimedia Commons
Kachikally Crocodile Pond, Gambia © Lars Curfs - Wikimedia Commons

Here you can get up close and personal with a pool of crocs, touching those that venture out into the sun. Gambians believe that women can swim with these crocodiles to be blessed with a baby, who they the name Kachikally in honour of the fertile pond's powers - though you may prefer to simply pick up a crocodile tooth necklace, or colourful bracelet from one of the local sellers as a souvenir of your short haul winter sun day out.

Holidays to Gambia with Thomas Cook >>

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2. Cape Verde

A relative newcomer to British holidaymakers looking for white sands in winter, the ex-Portuguese colony of the Cape Verde islands was impossible to reach direct from the UK up until 2006, and the secret of its accessible, mid twenties, winter climate is still only partially out.

This 10-island archipelago is an adventurer's choice for a short haul winter sun holiday in 2016/2017, especially if you're keen to try a destination which has a unique geographical setting and cultural mix that hasn't yet been totally transformed by tourism, though you might want to brush up on your Portuguese!

Sal Island beach, Cape Verde © Alex Dunkel - Flickr Creative Commons
Sal Island beach, Cape Verde © Alex Dunkel - Flickr Creative Commons

It's just six hours from London to Sal or Boa Vista, the islands' international hubs, but you'll step off the plane to a different world, and one where the traditional short haul winter sun tourist resort doesn't exist in large quantities. This set of tropical volcanic islands, situated 500 kms off the coast of West Africa directly west of Senegal, offer a mixture of European and African influences shaped by the slave trade and Portuguese settlement from the 1450s.

Kitesurfing on Boa Vista, Cape Verde - photo courtesy of Cape Verde Tourism
Kitesurfing on Boa Vista, Cape Verde - photo courtesy of Cape Verde Tourism

Cape Verde has an arid climate, which means you're most unlucky to encounter any real rain, making it the perfect destination for exploring the sandy shores whether on horseback or volcanic trails on foot. Thanks to the ever present northeast trade winds, windsurfing, kitesurfing and sailing are also popular activities.

You could time your visit to experience the Sao Vicente Creole Carnival in February, when the island's nightlife scene really heats up with Brazilian samba, but come in November for the highest winter sun temperatures, when it reaches around 29°C.

Holidays to Cape Verde with Thomson >>

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3. Costa Blanca, Spain

The Costa Blanca is one of Spain's most popular holiday destinations, and within just two hours of the UK, it's easy to see why. Catch a flight to Alicante from airports across the UK, and you'll soon find yourself enjoying warming sunshine and spring-like temperatures. Evenings can be chilly, dropping by around 10°C from the daytime high, so you will need an extra layer or two.

Poniente Beach, Benidorm, Costa Blanca, Spain © Valery121283 - Fotolia.com
Poniente Beach, Benidorm, Costa Blanca, Spain © Valery121283 - Fotolia.com

Unlike summer, when conditions can get incredibly hot and close, there's no heat and humidity to worry about, and the UV level is also low in December and January. If you're hoping to swim on your winter sun escape to the Costa Blanca however, make sure you find yourself a hotel with a heated pool as the sea is simply too cold to be enjoyed - unless you're donning a wetsuit and hitting the waves.

There's plenty to do in the Costa Blanca in the winter months away from the beach as well. Benidorm is well stocked with every facility and restaurant you could wish for, and for a day to remember, catch the little train from Benidorm to the old Moorish town of Denia with its pretty marina and scenic rocky backdrop.

Almond blossom in January, Costa Blanca, Spain © Eberhard Drews - Fotolia.com
Almond blossom in January, Costa Blanca, Spain © Eberhard Drews - Fotolia.com

Go hiking in the Sierra de Bernia - look out for the blossoming almond trees, which are in full splendour from January into early February. There are some good golfing options in the Costa Blanca also: try Puig Campana Golf and Villaitana Golf. Meanwhile, fresh seafood is easily found in peaceful Altea and Albir.

Search Costa Blanca holidays to First Choice >>

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4. Canary Islands

The Canary Islands need little introduction as the ease of accessibility, multitude of flight options, and warm sunny climate that have defined these Spanish islands as a perfect short haul winter sun paradise for UK travellers over the years.

Even during the bleakest winter months, most of the Canaries enjoy six to seven hours of sunshine each day with temperatures touching 20°C. Even though Tenerife is a shade cooler than the hottest of the archipelago, Gran Canaria, it makes up for this with its abundance of things to do and see.

Which island?

Each island has a distinct offering all of its own for those on short haul winter sun holidays: Fuerteventura is the sleepiest of the main islands despite being the second largest, and is home to huge beaches rather than nightclubs, making it popular with families and windsurfing enthusiasts as opposed to party animals.

Tejeda and Roque Nublo, Gran Canaria - photo courtesy of Gran Canaria Tourist Board
Tejeda and Roque Nublo, Gran Canaria - photo courtesy of Gran Canaria Tourist Board

Gran Canaria lives up to its reputation as a continent in miniature, with a variety of jaw-dropping landscapes, from the sand dunes of Maspalomas in the far south to the national parks of the interior; you can easily forget that the resorts of Playa del Ingles are just a short drive away.

Lanzarote is the fourth largest of the Canary Islands, positioned at the northeastern point of the archipelago, and the closest of all the Canaries to the Sahara. As well as the lure of popular resorts such as Puerto del Carmen, Lanzarote is also a nature lover's playground packed with stunning vistas, many of which are other worldly in their appearance, and often more fun to explore during the quieter, cooler season on a short haul winter sun break.

Timanfaya National Park, Lanzarote © kanbron - Flickr Creative Commons
Timanfaya National Park, Lanzarote © kanbron - Flickr Creative Commons

It's worth making time for Timanfaya, a volcanic national park created 300 years ago when an enormous eruption spewed tonnes of lava creating The Montañas del Fuego. For more raw natural beauty visit the Emerald Lake at El Golfo, one of Lanzarote's geological marvels made famous in the film One Million Years B.C. Inland, you can take an excursion to the charming town of Teguise where a market is held on Sunday mornings selling plenty of local crafts from pottery to lace in a quaint setting

Over on Tenerife, which attracts the largest share of the annual nine million visitors, there's the same mix of mainstream holidaying and authenticity. Tenerife is also home to Spain's highest mountain, as well as the third highest volcano on earth, Mount Teide, underlining the fact that whatever you're looking for from your short haul winter sun holiday, you'll be able to find it on one of the Canary Islands.

Holidays to the Canaries with On the Beach >>

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5. Morocco

One of the most versatile of our short haul winter sun destinations, Morocco is perhaps best known for its atmospheric cities, but is equally blessed with natural attractions from sandy Atlantic Ocean beaches to the Saharan desert via the peaks of the Atlas Mountains.

Menara Gardens, Marrakech, Morocco © Acp - Wikimedia Commons
Menara Gardens, Marrakech, Morocco © Acp - Wikimedia Commons

For a country the size of the state of California, Morocco boasts a disproportionate number of sought-after city break options for Brits seeking a blend of sunshine and culture, from cinematic Casablanca to ever popular Marrakech, the exotic Imperial city of Fez and the port of Tangiers.

Those seeking a short haul winter sun destination will be pleased to know that in the winter months, temperatures in Marrakech hover around the 20°C, ideal conditions for sightseeing, while still providing respite from the cold climate of northern Europe.

This French-speaking country's urban highlights are undoubtedly exploring the bustling souks, eating at the chaotic food stalls, staying in traditional riads, and taking in the Arabesque architectural marvels from the medinas to the mosques.

Shop in Essaouira, Morocco © mwanasimba - Wikimedia Commons
Shop in Essaouira, Morocco © mwanasimba - Wikimedia Commons

Those searching for something a little more laidback should head to ex-hippy haven and sixties celebrity hangout Essaouira, an 18th Century fortified town and UNESCO World Heritage Site with an artsy vibe, packed with boutique shops and hotels.

For a more traditional package holiday resort experience, make for Agadir; this purpose built beach resort is extremely family-friendly and packed with high end resort-style hotels offering all inclusive packages, making it a popular and stress-free choice for short haul winter sun in Morocco.

Wherever you choose to go in the Kingdom of Morocco you can indulge in the country's classic pursuits, from drinking mint tea harvested by hand in the Atlas mountains, to shopping for spices in a souk, heating up in a hammam, and tucking into tasty tagine.

Holidays to Morocco with Love Holidays >>

Each of our five favourite places to search out short haul winter sun in 2016/2017 has a distinct character of its own, and plenty to offer off-season sunshine seekers, all within a six hour flight from the UK. You just need to decide which short haul winter destination is right for you...

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Jaillan Yehia

Jaillan Yehia

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