Hot ticket: where to head for winter sun


Hot ticket: where to head for winter sun

When the SAD lamp won’t cut it, beat the seasonal blues with these luxury sun-chasing breaks around the world

Amy Martin

BY Amy Martin27 October 2023

The days are getting shorter, the mercury’s creeping downwards and you’d swear you’ve not seen the sun since the Nineties. OK, so we’re only in October. But while you’re breaking out the knitwear and waging a battle of wills with the thermostat, there’s a world out there where swimsuit and sarong season is still in full swing. So whether your winter wonderland looks like wandering through a sun-dappled city or staying horizontal on middle-of-the-ocean shores, find your luxury winter-sun getaway here…


Hotel exterior and swimming pool under bright blue sunny skies

From the rainforest to the coconut-fringed coast, Sri Lanka squeezes in holy cities and mist-swirled highlands, tea plantations and elephant-populated parks – not bad going for a tiny teardrop of an island. In winter, the south and west are where you’ll want to be – so that’s sugar-soft sands, breezy surf towns and spectacular Unesco-preserved cities. Sold? Us too.

When to go Sri Lanka’s south-west coast puts its best foot forward between December and February; beaches may be busier, but when you’re basking in 30°C heat, who’s bothering with a head count? If you’re aiming further north or east for the ancient cities and highlands, February is your best bet for missing monsoon season.

Where to stay For seclusion, surf and serious style, all in gallivanting distance of Galle, head to hip Ahangama hangout Palm Hotel. Just up the coast in sleepy Ahungalla, Ahu Bay is your sea-gazing, jungle-adventuring home base.


Courtyard with sunset painting the skies orange and yellow

Sidestepping the spring-breakers and the soggy season, there’s a reason a winter stay in Mexico is a perennially popular prospect. High-season crowds are pulled in by the Yucatán Peninsula’s siren song of cenotes and sun-warmed sand. But don’t sleep on the inland cities, where Crayola-hued architecture, world-class cuisine and centuries of culture await under just-right-for-strolling sun.

When to go December kicks off the dry season, with winter weather ranging from mild and sunny to siesta-worthy (around 25-30°C). Just bring layers for nippy desert nights.

Where to stay For mezcal and ancient mysteries with a middle-of-nowhere vibe, make for desert distillery Casa Silencio near Oaxaca, or kick back at Colima 71 to collect some artsy new pals in Mexico City’s coolest neighbourhood.


Swimming pool and bar under sun drenched blue skies

When crafting your Egyptian itinerary, you might consider the surf- and sun- blessed coast, cities woven with labyrinthine back streets and lively markets…oh, and a few wonders of the world. In short, you’ll be spoiled for choice in Egypt, and handily, winter strikes the warm-but-not-wilting sightseeing sweet spot.

When to go Pack your cozzie and pitch up to the north coast in November and December, when the Mediterranean waters are still warm enough for a dip.

Where to stay Sultry and sea-lapped, adults-only stay Casa Cook North Coast makes a seductive starting point for exploring ancient Alexandria – if you can drag yourself from your lagoon-side daybed, that is.


Hotel exterior in the jungle

Rich with vibrant rainforest and volcanic va-va-voom, Costa Rica is the ultimate antidote to a grey-sky slump. Under the canopy, adventure is calling – wildlife treks, white-water rafting and deep-in-the-jungle lagoon dips provide a ready supply of pinch-me moments, soundtracked by crashing waterfalls and jaguar roars. Out on the Pacific coast, you can dive coral reefs, delve into the jungle or simply dig your toes into the unspoiled white sands.

When to go Dodge the downpours and go between December and February, when temperatures hover temptingly around 30°C.

Where to stay Take a (naturalist-guided) walk on the wild side at rainforest retreat Origins Lodge, or cosy up in one of Casa Chameleon Las Catalinas’ villas to revel in the Pacific coast’s romance-enhancing views.


Infinity swimming pool overlooking the ocean

Swaying palms, sun-baked sands and generously rum-soused cocktails – no wonder the Caribbean is the ‘close your eyes and imagine you’re on a beach’ poster child for sunshine-pining Brits. Each island rolls to its own distinctive rhythm, with scenes ranging from quiet coves and colonial-era towns to party hotspots and yachtie havens. Winter is high season here but handily, many hotels have their own private coastline, so footprint-free beaches aren’t hard to come by.

When to go Let yourself be lured by long, dry days of Caribbean sunshine (and high-20s heat) from December to February. November is quieter, but can still lean a little stormy.

Where to stay In Turks and Caicos, treat your winter blues with a double whammy of spa coddling and private beach sprawling at luxury resort Amanyara.


Bedroom with sunlight streaming in

The lure of Cyprus’ beaches lessens in winter, all the better to unearth the island’s inland treasures. Once the stomping ground of the Greek and Roman gods, there are ancient cities, frescoed tombs and a sanctuary of Aphrodite to explore here. And up in the cedar-clad mountains, hiking trails weave past pretty villages, where lacemakers and silversmiths sell their wares and coffee with the locals is a lazy morning ritual.

When to go Winter sees Cyprus cooled off and quieter. Between November and February, the waters may be a little brisk, but sunny, 22°C days were made for strolling and sightseeing – so you’ll still have an excuse to excavate your tank tops from the back of the closet. From February, the mountain villages are fragrant with almond blossom.

Where to stay Head for the hills to the Agora Hotel, a homely base for discovering Lefkara’s cobbled lanes and hand-crafted lace.


Swimming pool and deck looking out over the ocean

When you need to put other-side-of-the-world distance between you and winter, flee to Fiji and – surprise! – it’s steamy South Pacific summertime. Watersports junkies make the pilgrimage for the tropical islands’ world-class surfing, snorkelling, kayaking and coral reef diving. More shallows paddler than PADI pro? Fiji shines just as much at a lower-octane pace – unspoiled sands and desert islands are yours to discover (and doze on) at your leisure, and luxury spas put the local natural bounty to blissful use.

When to go As far as off seasons go, Fiji’s is pretty enticing – 30°C sun, balmy sea and (outside December) near-deserted sands. Aim for November, before the wet season sets in fully; and if you do have a rainy day, head out to watch the waterfalls – they’ll be more spectacular than ever.

Where to stay Surf’s up and the spa’s something special at Earth- (and ocean-) friendly Six Senses Fiji. For full-blown seclusion, cast yourself away on Vomo Island’s private shores.


Hotel exterior at sunset in the skyline of Bangkok

Between eye-candy islands and a culture-splicing capital, Thailand pulls off a tightrope walk of pulse-raising clamour and cast-adrift calm. Bangkok’s luxury hotels cocoon and cosset, but beyond their sound-proofed walls, the capital buzzes with kaleidoscopic culture, linger-till-late markets and nightlife as spiced-up and sizzling as its world-famous, wok-star street food.

In Phuket, you’ll find a happy middle ground, where bar-dotted beaches give way to more peaceful sands, panther-prowled jungle dominates the hills and gilded temples tower over the towns. Plus, should a night of full-moon festivities leave you in need of a tranquility top-up, the hushed shores of Koh Kradan are in easy reach.

When to go You’ll want to take Thailand on in the winter, when the weather leans less sticky, more sunny and temperatures stay around a manageable 32°C.

Where to stay Make the Standard the sceney, sky-scraping centrepiece of your Bangkok break, or defrost on Phuket’s balmy, palm-fringed shores at the Slate.


Side view of room and swimming pool looking out onto the ocean

There are almost 2,000 islands in the Maldives and not a bad shout among them, each one a cliché-confirming idyll of dazzling sands, turquoise sea and seasonal-blues-banishing sun. In the face of such across-the-board appeal, you could close your eyes and point at a map, and you’d most likely land on a winner.

But even better, let yourself be guided by the impressive range of luxury resorts. Whether you’re after a grown-up getaway or escaping en famille, craving an eco haven or a cool-crowd hangout, you’ll find your ‘just-right’ island stay here.

When to go Shivering Brits, we have brilliant news – in the Maldives, it’s bikini weather all year long. From December to February falls in the high (and dry) season, when sun-drenched days reach 30°C and the ocean temperatures hit an enticing 28°C.

Where to stay Mingle with jet-setters and taste-makers at luxury modernist resort Patina Maldives, or bring the Indian Ocean to your doorstep in one of Como Cocoa Island’s out-on-the-water villas.

Find out where else to check-in this season with our AW23 where to stay guide