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8 Warm-Weather Destinations Where You Can Escape the Winter Chill

Thaw out and leave the winter blues far behind.

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Hi, I'm Claire!

Claire Bullen is an award-winning food, drinks, and travel writer and editor who has lived and worked in Chicago, Philadelphia, New York, Paris, and London. She is the author of The Beer Lover's Table: Seasonal Recipes and Modern Beer Pairings, and the editor at GoodBeerHunting.com. Her writing has also appeared in Time Out New York, The Daily Meal, Pellicle Magazine, and beyond.

If you’re dreading seasonal affective disorder and the post-holiday lull as January approaches, you’re not alone—but investing in a light-therapy lamp isn’t the only way to forestall the season’s worst effects. To truly escape the dark nights and deep-freeze, seek out the winter sun. From the volcanic topography of the Canary Islands to the unspoiled beaches of the Maldives, these warm and sunny locales provide a much-needed bit of July in the cold, dark depths of January.

1. Canary Islands, Spain

A sunny day in the Canary Islands.
The Canary Islands make for the perfect winter vacay destination.Photo Credit: Balate Dorin / Shutterstock

These islands boast almost year-round sunshine, making them ideal for a winter break.

The Canary Islands like to advertise that they have the best climate in the world, and it’s hard to argue. With temperatures that average around 75°F (24°C), the Atlantic archipelago offers a little slice of paradise all throughout the year. For those escaping blizzards and frosts back home, winter is an especially appealing time to soak up the beachy scenery and dramatic, volcanic landscapes—whether you choose to explore the heights of UNESCO–listed Teide National Park on Tenerife, visit wineries on Lanzarote, hike the rain forests on Gran Canaria, or go on a sailing and snorkeling or dolphin-watching boat tour, each island offers its own opportunities for discovery.

2. Barbados, the Caribbean

A sunny day in Barbados, home to some of the Caribbean’s most enviable beaches.
Barbados has everything you could want from a warm-weather winter vacation.Photo Credit: NAPA / Shutterstock

Home to Rihanna and rum. Who wouldn't want to visit Barbados?

The independent republic of Barbados isn’t just the home of “National Hero” Rihanna. It also boasts some of the Caribbean’s most enviable beaches, as well as the UNESCO–listed capital of Bridgetown, adventure-sport opportunities, a wealth of wildlife, and a thriving rum industry—all the makings of a celebratory winter getaway, in other words. From snorkeling in Carlisle Bay (famed for its sea turtles and undersea shipwrecks) and exploring the spooky grandeur of Harrison’s Cave to going on a Bajan food tasting tour, there are plenty of ways to make the most of your tropical excursion.

3. Cape Town, South Africa

Penguins walk around a beach in Cape Town.
Cape Town's penguins alone make it worth the winter visit.Photo Credit: Sergey Uryadnikov / Shutterstock

Swap the extremes of northern winter for the highs of southern summer.

Can you enjoy forever summer? If you time your hemisphere-hopping right, you just might manage it. There’s no better time to discover the splendors of Cape Town—from the tip-top of Table Mountain to the city’s dozens of beaches—than during the northern hemisphere’s winter, which happens to be the height of summer down south. From tours of the Cape of Good Hope (including meet-and-greets with the penguins of Boulders Beach) to daring shark-cage diving experiences and day trips to the internationally renowned Stellenbosch wine region, there are so many ways to discover this singular destination.

4. The Maldives

A bird's eye view of The Maldives which offers an idyllic tropical escape.
Escape to a remote island this holiday season.Photo Credit: Siraphob Werakijpanich / Shutterstock

This is the perfect place to kick back and relax after a stressful holiday season.

Often used as a byword for “paradise,” the Maldives offer all the hallmarks of an idyllic tropical escape, from powder-soft white-sand beaches and great expanses of bathtub-warm, azure seas to luxurious resorts and an abiding sense of serenity wherever you happen to find yourself. Go for a snorkeling safari to discover its marine life and coral reefs, embark on an island-hopping adventure, and sign up for beginner-friendly scuba diving. To change the pace, you can also opt for a gentle cultural immersion on a walking tour of the capital city of Malé.

5. Bali, Indonesia

A temple in Bali.
Bali is the Instagram-friendly dream destination for winter travelers.Photo Credit: Andri Tambunan / Viator

There's something for everyone in this accessible Asian destination.

No matter what type of traveler you are, bountiful, blissful Bali has something to offer you. Seeking luxury and relaxation? The Indonesian island is renowned for its many spa retreats and wellness getaways—there’s nowhere better to experience a traditional Balinese massage. Looking to let your hair down? Waterfront parties hosted by Bali’s many beach clubs are the perfect way to let loose. Want to escape into nature? Combination tours make it easy to discover highlights like the UNESCO–listed Tegalalang Rice Terrace, the Gates of Heaven at Lempuyang Temple, the Tukad Cepung Waterfall, and other top attractions.

6. Miami, Florida, US

A view of Ocean Drive in Miami, the second-warmest city in the country.
Miami is a year-round favorite for sun-seeking travelers.Photo Credit: Sean Pavone / Shutterstock

You needn't leave the country to enjoy some winter sun in the US.

Welcome to Miami; bienvenidos a Miami. If you’re traveling domestically, it’s only a hop, skip, and a jump to Miami, officially the second-warmest city in the country after Key West. The average winter temperature here is a balmy 75°F (24°C), meaning you can take in South Beach’s art deco buildings, stroll past the colorful street art of the Wynwood Walls, seek out the best Cubanos in Little Havana—and even treat yourself to a private yacht charter—all while soaking up those rays.

7. Dubai, United Arab Emirates

A visitor takes a tour on a camel in Dubai.
What better antithesis to the winter chill than a desert camel ride in Dubai?Photo Credit: Christopher Pike / Viator

Winter in the northern hemisphere is actually the best time to visit Dubai.

Winter isn’t just a good time to visit Dubai. Thanks to this glittering city’s desert climate, it’s actually the best time to discover its soaring super-skyscrapers, its glitzy shopping, its high-end dining, and its decadent nightlife options before the mercury-melting summer hits. For an escapist outing, cruise into the surrounding dunes for a camel-riding excursion and overnight stay in a Bedouin camp. Or, in keeping with Dubai’s ultra-modern urbanity, go for a yacht tour of its marina, jet-ski in the shadow of its skyline, or soar right up to the top of the Burj Khalifa: the world’s tallest building.

8. Yucatán Peninsula, Mexico

A colorful building on the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico.
Enjoy a spot of winter sun on the Yucatán Peninsula.Photo Credit: cge2010 / Shutterstock

Mexico has long been a favorite for people looking for a winter getaway.

Whether it’s culture that you seek, UNESCO–grade sightseeing, or a relaxing beach stay, Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula does it all. Mérida, the region’s largest city, is the perfect place for an urban adventure. Chichen Itza offers the chance to get up close and personal with the area’s ancient Maya history. For sand and surf, Tulum provides unspoiled beaches, while Isla Holbox, which is car-free, is even more tranquil. And wherever you are, be sure to have your bathing suit with you: you’ll want to take full advantage of the cenotes—sunken, natural swimming holes—that dot the peninsula.

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