10 alternative winter sun holiday destinations you can book with TUI

Kirsten Henton

Kirsten Henton

If the winter cold snap has you dreaming of sun drenched shores, you may be surprised by the variety of exotic destinations on offer from TUI that promise fantastic sunny weather, be it hot and beach worthy or simply warming and great for exploring. Read on to discover more about where you can go with TUI in the winter months for a little R&R, whatever your interest and budget.

Alternative winter sun destinations you can book with TUI © L M Spencer - Fotolia.com
Alternative winter sun destinations you can book with TUI © L M Spencer - Fotolia.com

1. Cuba

  • Fly direct from: Gatwick
  • Flight time: 9 hours
  • Maximum daytime temperature: 26-30°C
  • Sunshine hours: 8-9 hours per day

The colourful Caribbean island of Cuba has hardly been out of the headlines of late, with more and more travellers shouting about their wonderful experiences, the island's distinctive charm, and its brochure-worthy beaches. While it's certainly popular, it's still a relatively new destination for adventurous holidaymakers, which makes it the ideal winter sun spot for 2018/2019.

One of the best things about visiting Cuba is the variety of things you can do: yes, you can sip Cuba libres on the implausibly white beach by the gloriously clear, warm ocean but you can also try a plethora of water sports including sailing, diving, and snorkelling. Then there's hiking in Varahicacos Ecological Reserve, Varadero, the stunning natural landscapes and exotic flowers found at Villa Pinares de Mayari, Holguin, and the chance to spot Cuban crocs at Montemar National Park.

Cayo Santa Maria, Cuba © Laura.rr - Flickr Creative Commons
Cayo Santa Maria, Cuba © Laura.rr - Flickr Creative Commons

Basing yourself at one of TUI's coastal resorts give you the best of both worlds, with the beach on your doorstep and day trip options aplenty: head to Havana (don't miss the Havana International Jazz Festival in January), Matanzas, Santiago de Cuba, or Bayamo, each offering an insight into the history of this bewitching Caribbean island.

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2. Costa Rica

  • Fly direct from: Gatwick
  • Flight time: 11 hours
  • Maximum daytime temperature: 31-33°C
  • Sunshine: 6-8 hours per day

Costa Rica is fast becoming Central America's de facto holiday destination for adventurous travellers, nature lovers, and eco warriors alike. Its diverse landscape and wildlife makes it a real treat for the senses with eye popping scenery and long swathes of stunning beaches included. The weather on Costa Rica's northwest Pacific coast, where TUI hosts a number of stunning beachfront resorts at Playa Matapalo, Playa Conchal and Playa Tamarindo, is pretty consistent when it comes to temperature, however the winter months see the most sunshine and least rain, making it the best time to visit.

As well as the usual beachy delights, such as surfing, swimming, and snorkelling, there's so much to do inland on holiday in Costa Rica. From jungle treks and zip lining through the forest canopy to rafting, bird spotting, and quad biking, there are countless ways to get out and experience the rainforests and their rivers.

Exploring the forest canopy in Costa Rica © Robin Runck - Dreamstime
Exploring the forest canopy in Costa Rica © Robin Runck - Dreamstime

The Rincon de la Vieja Volcano combines a national park and an iconic volcano, with activities such as horse riding, rock climbing and even hot springs for a relaxing soak. Costa Rica is a real gem of a winter sun destination and one that sparkles for those who love to get a little more from their seasonal getaway than simply lying by the beach.

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3. Mexico's Pacific coast

  • Fly direct from: Gatwick, Manchester
  • Flight time: 11 hours 10 minutes
  • Maximum daytime temperature: 29-32°C
  • Sunshine hours: 6-8 hours per day

So you've heard of Tulum, passed through Playa del Carmen, been to Cancun, and feel like you really know Mexico's Caribbean coast; what about its Pacific coast? TUI has a number of great value breaks to the further reaches of Nuevo Vallarta, Puerto Vallarta, and Punta de Mita, which offer a very different type of break found in the country's Yucatan Peninsula. The good news is that winter is also the finest time of year to visit with hot temperatures and loads of sunshine.

Mexico's Pacific coast resorts have stood the test of time: long before Cancun's nightlife stole the show, Puerto Vallarta was pulling in big names and establishing itself as the glitzy resort for the well heeled in Hollywood - and it's easy to see why. Long ribbons of platinum sand and boisterous stretches of turquoise water await, as do all the facilities you could wish for.

The beach at Riu Palace Pacifico Hotel, Nuevo Vallarta, Mexico - photo courtesy of TUI
The beach at Riu Palace Pacifico Hotel, Nuevo Vallarta, Mexico - photo courtesy of TUI

Puerto Vallarta is the shining star of the show, with great restaurants and a buzzing nightlife, while Nuevo Vallarta, with its swanky marina and expensive shops, is one you won't forget in a hurry. While the beaches are the main draw here, a boat trip whale watching and excursions into the Sierra Madre Mountains to go abseiling or zip lining complete the picture.

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4. United Arab Emirates

  • Fly direct from: Gatwick, Heathrow, Birmingham, Glasgow, Manchester
  • Flight time: 7 hours 30 minutes
  • Maximum daytime temperature: 25-33°C
  • Sunshine hours: 8-10 hours per day

Everyone knows the UAE is hot in summer - in fact, it's really too hot for most people, and much more comfortable in the winter months. Days are still long and hot but not ferociously - or even dangerously - so, as in summer. TUI offers holidays to Dubai and its neighbouring emirate, Ras Al Khaimah, both situated on the south coast of the warm Persian Gulf.

If you choose to enjoy some winter sun in the UAE, you'll be spoilt for choice when it comes to deciding where to stay and what to do. Of course, you can put your feet up and do nothing except relax by the pool with every need met. You could, however, also mix in a few activities and day trips - after all, Dubai is one giant playground for all ages! From the world's largest shopping mall, Dubai Mall, to indoor skiing, desert safaris, water parks, and theme parks, there's plenty of ways to fill your days in the UAE.

Further afield, consider visiting nearby Abu Dhabi, the UAE's capital and home to the striking Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. Then there's Al Jahili Fort in the desert oasis of Al Ain by the border with Oman, or try shooting over Jebel Jais in Ras Al Khaimah on the world's longest zip line.

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5. Vietnam

  • Fly direct from: Gatwick
  • Flight time: 12 hours 30 minutes
  • Maximum daytime temperature: 30-33°C
  • Sunshine hours: 6-8 hours per day

Vietnam joined TUI's ranks as a winter sun favourite in 2016, and has proved to be incredibly popular with those after a taste of something a little exotic. The idyllic island of Phu Quoc is the destination of choice for beach lovers, and said to be home to the country's finest stretches of golden sand.

Head to Long Beach for 12 km of uninterrupted coastline and fantastic swimming opportunities. Phu Quoc is also clad in dense forest, and the Phu Quoc National Park makes for a wonderful place to get back to nature. Owing to large swathes of swampy mangroves, hiking trails are limited, while you can easily hire a motorbike and explore the wider trails by yourself. Look out for macaques swinging in the trees above, orchids blooming below and other rare birds such as the hornbill.

Phu Quoc beach, Vietnam © Felix Nagel - Flickr Creative Commons
Phu Quoc beach, Vietnam © Felix Nagel - Flickr Creative Commons

One of the best things about booking a winter sun break to Vietnam with TUI is the chance to opt for a multi centre holiday - this lets you combine time on Phu Quoc beautiful beaches with a few days in the hustle and bustle of Ho Chi Minh City - formerly infamous Saigon. Take a tour of the city by motorbike before learning about Vietnam's tumultuous modern history at the Chi Chi Tunnels and in the War Remnants Museum; get stuck into bowls of steaming hot pho, go temple spotting or hop on a boat for a day trip in the Mekong Delta.

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6. Cape Verde

  • Fly direct from: Gatwick, Birmingham, Bristol, Glasgow, Manchester
  • Flight time: 6 hours
  • Maximum daytime temperature: 25-28°C
  • Sunshine hours: 6-9 hours per day

A winter sun break to Cape Verde is all about sun, sea, sand, and serious R&R - and why not? It's a wonderful option for families and couples looking to kick back and make the most of the warm weather and long, open beaches. Sal and Boa Vista (just two of Cape Verde's nine inhabited islands) are the two islands where TUI has a number of resorts for all budgets.

While Cape Verde ticks the 'beach holiday' box, there's much to be discovered for anyone keen to look a little deeper. Given its location off the west coast of Africa, Cape Verde has an intriguing and - in part - troubling history. Everything from Portuguese settlers to the slave trade has helped to shape this archipelago, and this legacy can be seen today in the most positive and colorful of ways: just visit local towns, sample traditional delicacies, and tune your ears to the vibrant music and nightlife, and you'll soon see a whole other side to Cape Verde that merits a few days away from your lounger.

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7. Malta

  • Fly direct from: Gatwick, Heathrow, Manchester, Newcastle
  • Flight time: 3 hours 10 minutes
  • Maximum daytime temperature: 15-20°C
  • Sunshine hours: 5-8 hours per day

The rocky Mediterranean island of Malta attracts visitors all year round owing to its eclectic mix of cultural activities and stunning scenery. While winter may not be the best time for taking a dip in the Med, it's excellent for enjoying warm days and really experiencing everything the island has to offer. TUI has winter sun breaks to resorts across the island, including Valletta, St Julian's and Bugibba.

Malta oozes history, both ancient and modern. The UNESCO-stamped walled city of Valletta is crammed full of museums, galleries, and places of interest such as St John's Co-Cathedral, the Lascaris War Rooms, and the National War Museum. Meanwhile, tiny Mdina, a former capital of Malta, has an old town that begs to be explored. Then there are the many natural wonders from beautiful Gozo with its turquoise lagoon (which can be enjoyed by boat in winter) to the range of coastal paths, perfect for breezy hikes with exceptional sea views. Take your pick!

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8. Majorca, Spain

  • Fly direct from: All London Airports, Belfast, Birmingham, Bournemouth, Bristol, Doncaster, East Midlands, Edinburgh, Exeter, Glasgow, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle
  • Flight time: 2 hours 20 minutes
  • Maximum daytime temperature: 13-17°C
  • Sunshine hours: 5-7 hours per day

While Majorca need no introduction as a summer holiday hotspot, did you know this Balearic island also makes for a wonderful winter sun escape? Forget rowdy nightclubs and busy beaches, in the winter months Majorca offers warming sunshine and a chilled pace with holidaymakers there to soak up the rays and revel in the peace and quiet.

While the weather in winter doesn't serve up prime beach conditions - and if you do want to swim ensure your TUI hotel has a heated pool - it's perfect for exploring. In Majorca, for example, head to Palma, the island's capital which is full of gothic treasures including Palma Cathedral and Bellver Castle, while tasty tapas bars and boutiques make excellent pit stops. Hire a car and you could soon be exploring the island's more sedate fishing villages and pine clad interior, or take a boat trip to one of the other islands, such as Menorca.

Most of the hiking trails in Majorca are very well marked © Bernhard Schmerl - Fotolia.com
Most of the hiking trails in Majorca are very well marked © Bernhard Schmerl - Fotolia.com

Majorca is also popular with walkers, and winter is a great time to spot migrating birds making the most of the warmer climate, with a wide variety of ducks and small wading birds all easily spied. There's so much to do in Majorca, and a winter sun break gives you the excuse to get out and about and truly under the skin of this Mediterranean charmer.

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9. Maldives

  • Fly direct from: Gatwick, Heathrow, Birmingham, Glasgow, Manchester
  • Flight time: 10 hours 40 minutes
  • Maximum daytime temperature: 30-32°C
  • Sunshine hours: 6-10 hours per day

For the ultimate in winter sun luxury it has to be the Maldives. This Islamics island nation is made up of 26 atolls in the Indian Ocean, and guarantees Instagram-worthy beaches and residences. Come for the scenery, weather - think hot days, loads of sunshine, and warm water for swimming - and a bit of pampering; stay for the friendly people, the marine life, and the range of water sports you can try. Snorkelling and diving are obvious favourites in the Maldives, while fishing excursions, boat trips, and watching the manta rays also feature on the list.

Spend some time in the archipelago's capital, Malé, to get a different perspective on the people and the place. Peer inside the ornate 17th-century Hukuru Miskiiy (known as the Malé Friday Mosque) to see intricate carvings and stonework, while the the National Museum of the Maldives showcases the country's history with everything from ancient coral carvings to traditional costumes and dress. A winter sun break to the Maldives is sure to be one you'll remember for years to come.

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10. Egypt

  • Fly direct from: Gatwick, Birmingham, Bristol, East Midlands, Glasgow, Manchester, Newcastle
  • Flight time: 5 hours 40 minutes
  • Maximum daytime temperature: 21-28°C
  • Sunshine hours: 9-10 hours per day

Egypt was once the 'go to' winter sun destination for Europeans after reliably hot and sunny conditions on the edge of the glorious Red Sea. World events and politics seem to have cast a shadow over this North African nation and, although the FCO advice (correct as of December 2017) hasn't changed, holidaymakers have been staying away and missing out not only on exceptional bargain breaks from TUI but also on the well equipped resorts and delights of this ancient country.

Snorkelling in the clear waters of Marsa Alam, Egypt © John Walker1 - Fotolia.com
Snorkelling in the clear waters of Marsa Alam, Egypt © John Walker1 - Fotolia.com

TUI offers holidays to two Red Sea resorts: Hurghada and Marsa Alam. While the name of the game is relaxing with water spots, including snorkelling and diving to see beautiful tropical fish and corals thrown in, there's plenty to see and do away from the beach also. Quad biking, camel treks, and haggling in the souk are all fun things to do in both Marsa Alam and Hurghada, while day trips can be taken to the likes of Luxor and its enchanting Temple of Karnak or via a short flight to the Pyramids of Giza and unforgettable atmosphere in Cairo. Egypt has so much to offer and TUI gives you plenty of choice when it comes to finding a safe and comfortable home by the beach on the Red Sea during the winter months.

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Feeling inspired to book that winter sun break for 2018/2019? Don't miss the very latest deals on winter sun holidays from TUI, including discount codes, money off promotions, and sales. Don't forget, you can also check out the weather in any of the destinations featured, or try our dedicated TUI weather guide, which helps you decide where to go based on your preferred weather conditions. Happy winter sunning!

Kirsten Henton

Kirsten Henton
Article updated on Monday 1st January 2018 in: Beach Season Winter sun

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