Winter escapes

Escape the cold: The best destinations for winter sun

Looking to swap single-digit temperatures for warm sandy beaches and outdoor adventures? Hit up these destinations for a much-needed dose of vitamin D this winter

After the merrymaking of the holidays comes to an end, we’re often hit with the winter blues. Thankfully, there’s a cure: a dose of winter sun. Whether it’s Thailand’s turquoise waters lapping at your toes, sampling wines in the vineyards of Melbourne, or adventuring through ancient Balinese jungles, your seasonal affective disorder will quickly melt away in these tropical destinations. Read on for our pick of the best winter sun destinations.

Australia – Explore an outdoor paradise

Bondi Beach swimming pool at sunrise

There’s nothing quite like winter (or do we mean summer?) in Australia: the hot, sunny weather of the southern hemisphere is perfect for embracing the outdoors lifestyle at this time of year, with pristine oceans, remote landscapes and inviting cities.

Sydney is a great tourist destination year-round, but the city really comes into its own in December, with parks, beaches and al fresco beer gardens calling out for sunseekers to fill them up. Enjoy classic sights like the Sydney Opera house, climb the Sydney Bridge, stroll around Darling Harbour under clear blue skies or catch some rays at Bondi Beach – a surfing paradise boasting azure blue waters, soft white sand and dazzling cliff walks.

For a more laid-back option there’s Melbourne, with its hipster coffee shops, art galleries and lush green parks. Exploring its beautiful wine country is an ideal way to enjoy a slower-paced winter sun holiday. From the warm coastlines of the Bellarine and Mornington Peninsulas to the misty, moody mountains of the Macedon Ranges and Yarra Valley, there’s no shortage of vineyards to explore.

December through February are also the best months to visit Tasmania, when you can spend your days hiking in one of the island’s stunning 19 national parks, canoeing between historic, rocky islands, or exploring gorgeous wineries and apple orchards.

Related: 12 of Australia’s best beaches

Bali – Jungle adventures and lazy beach days

Tegallalang Rice Terraces at Sunrise, Bali, Indonesia

With its awe-inspiring temples, dazzling beaches, lush jungles and year-round sunshine, it’s no wonder tropical paradise Bali is a popular winter sun destination. Though the rainy season falls between October and February, showers don’t tend to last longer than a couple of hours, meaning you’ll still have plenty of time to explore in a much more enjoyable temperature than at other times of the year.

Verdant Ubud is famed as a thriving artistic hub, home to sublime heritage and traditions. It also boasts plenty of outdoor delights: take a bike ride through the dazzling emerald rice terraces of Tegallalang; marvel at ancient temple complexes like Gunung Kawi; or wander through the cool lush rainforest – while keeping an eye out for cheeky monkeys.

Prefer the sun and sea? There’s no shortage of beaches to choose from in Bali. Hop between hip bars and beach clubs in Seminyak, learn to surf in Canggu, or stretch out at the resorts of Nusa Dua.

Related: Bali’s lift treehouse hotel takes luxury to new heights

Singapore – Cool city delights

gardens by the bay greenhouse with tourists

If a city break is more your thing, Singapore is the destination for you this winter. The Lion City is known for year-round sunshine – but the slightly cooler winter months are the perfect time to explore the outdoors, with everything from centuries-old temples and heritage architecture to extraordinary gardens and parks.

Gardens by the Bay is filled with a huge variety of plants, displayed in beautiful and unique ways, but it’s the majestic ‘Supertrees’ that truly draw the eyes. These giant tree-like structures rise 50 metres above ground, illuminated as part of a spectacular musical light show at night.

In Bay South you’ll find the Flower Dome, the largest glass greenhouse in the world; and the Cloud Forest, a lush mountain scene featuring indoor waterfalls and Venus flytraps, treetop walkways and a 114-foot waterfall. Meanwhile a walk through the green space of Bay East will reward you with stunning views of the Singapore skyline.

Survive steamy afternoons by shopping at the Marina Bay Sands and Orchard Road, or laze by the pool at one of Singapore’s most exclusive hotels, followed by an evening spent feasting at hawker centres. These hubs of good, affordable food feature everything from Malay satay and Indian biryani to Chinese oyster omelettes, reflecting the country’s diverse multiculturalism – united by a powerful appetite.

Related: Easy island getaways from Singapore

Sri Lanka – Surfing and safari adventures

surfer riding wave in sri lanka

This idyllic island has something for everyone. It boasts spectacular beaches, exhilarating safari parks, mesmerising countryside, and a year-round tropical climate. But what makes Sri Lanka stand out as a winter sun destination is its surfing season, which takes place from November to April.

Whether you’re a pro surfer or haven’t yet mastered how to stand on the board, Sri Lanka has breaks suitable for all levels on its southwestern shores. There are a variety of idyllic beach and reef breaks for surfers to choose from, such as The Rock, Mirissa and Weligama.

Looking for a wildlife adventure? Safari parks in Sri Lanka (including Yara and Udawalawe) offer visitors the chance to catch a glimpse of elephants, leopards, crocodiles and more.

Or if you’re hunting for cooler, shadier climes, head up to the hills of the Tea Country, and escape to the picturesque towns of Ella and Nuwara Eliya.

Related: Follow chef Gisela Alesbrook on a food tour of Sri Lanka

Thailand – A taste of island life

Tourists enjoying Thailand beach
Credit: iStock

The gulf of Thailand has beautiful islands and postcard-perfect beaches, making it the perfect spot to find catch much-needed winter sun. Choose the island that suits you: whether you want a secluded paradise with untouched coral reefs or somewhere to party till dawn.

Boasting some of the best luxury beach resorts in the world, Koh Samui is a great option for a relaxing romantic getaway. Stay in a beautiful beach bungalow overlooking the island’s white-sand beaches and azure blue waters and spend your days lazing in the sun. Meanwhile, lively bars and nightclubs in Chaweng are perfect for late-night fun-seekers.

Koh Tao, known as ‘Turtle Island’, is a great option for scuba diving in the Gulf of Thailand. The island is lined with small sandy coves, charming restaurants and lots and lots of dive shops which make it easy to explore the ocean’s vibrant coral reef and wildlife. On the other side of the country, Koh Lanta lies in the Andaman Sea, and is also studded with gorgeous beaches, nature reserves and tropical waves.

Related: 7 of the best wellness resorts in Phuket

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