The largest and most culturally diverse of the Canary Islands, Tenerife provides a more varied choice of activities, accommodation and eateries than its neighbours. Chic 5* contemporary hotels perch on ancient harbours, alongside much less expensive (but often equally attractive) establishments – while almost all of the buildings either look out onto crystal clear seas or lush green mountains. January and February see temperatures of 20 – 25 degrees centigrade with plenty of sun, and you’ll find it’s warmer and drier in the south of the island. There’s a huge choice of self-catering flats and villas offering fantastic value for money, and being just a 4hr flight from London, you won’t break the bank when booking your travel either.
A popular tourist destination, Cyprus is the warmest island in the Mediterranean and offers a familiar, almost homely environment for Brits. This is one of the only inexpensive winter sun destinations that can actually guarantee winter sun, with temperatures reaching the 30s in April. Paphos is a particularly picturesque, historical and absorbing city that has the huge advantage of direct access onto a beautiful and spotlessly clean sandy beach – and it also offers some fantastic coastal walks and good value hotels. It may be just a 4hr flight to Cyprus, but you really will feel a million miles away…especially if you’re a seafood lover, as this is one of the best places on Earth to order the Catch of the Day.
All of Malta is scenic and tranquil, but we would particularly recommend a trip to Valletta – also known by its highly apt nickname, Superbissima, which means ‘most proud’. While it seems logical to search for an all-inclusive dal at a beachfront hotel when visiting this country, we can tell you that actually, it can be cheaper (and so much more fun) to book your trip to the unspoilt city of Valletta. This mind-bogglingly beautiful place is home to a wealth of fascinating historic sights, and you will hardly see a glimpse of modern architecture or contemporary corporate buildings. A truly romantic and almost spiritual place, the city is also surprisingly inexpensive, with a range of hotels, bars and restaurants offering honest prices, local wines and fresh food. The street markets are really worth a look, and it’s only a short journey out of town to some truly spectacular beaches.
The Red Sea
The Red Sea occupies a unique location, where the desert meets the ocean between Asia and Africa. It is one of Earth’s most exotic and unusual seascape environments. To the North and West, you’ll see far-reaching desert plains, while the South offers stunning views of the mountain ranges that reach as far as Saudi Arabia. Not only is this a brilliant place to simple chill out, relax and take in the breath taking scenery, it’s also a fantastic destination for snorkelers and divers. The sea here is called home by some of the most rare and exquisite aquatic life on the planet – and it can all be enjoyed from hotels that offer almost unbelievable price tags. A family of four can enjoy a 2-week holiday here with all the bells and whistles for under £1,000, while still enjoying the fact that it won’t take an eternity to travel there.
This secluded handful of islands sits off the West coast of Africa, and Sal is the sunniest and most idyllic of them all. This beautiful sandy island is surrounded by turquoise blue ocean, with deserts, dry valleys and dormant volcanoes making up the jagged skyline. Sal gets its name from the roaring salt trade that used to occur here, and even though this the mining has now largely stopped, the 20,000 people on the island (only 10% of which are over 40 years of age) have done well to recover its economy by providing watersports, hikes and activities for the tourist trade. Consequently, you find that there’s an awful lot to do on not a lot of land mass, and you find yourself making friends and contacts extremely quickly. Having said that, it’s easy to find private spots on the many, many beaches should you wish for some R&R. The city of Santa Maria has large, luxurious hotel complexes and access to beaches that can stretch to 200 metres wide, and you’ll spot the staff venturing down to the fresh fish markets every day to collect the choices for your specials menu. The island is also a serious hotspot for surfers, and you can arrange brilliant package deals that include accommodation, food, equipment hire and a local guide without spending much money at all.