Chase the winter sun


By Harriet Cooper

Photography by Andreas Weibel/Getty Images

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March 2017

If you’re craving a dose of Vitamin D this winter, head to one of these short(ish)-haul destinations for a sunshine fix – we guarantee you’ll return home sporting a tan and feeling rejuvenated. Just no gloating in the office, please

The Algarve

Flight time: two hours and 40 minutes

Beat the chill in southern Portugal, with its golden beaches, great surf, pretty inland villages and fantastic year-round temperatures.

Fun in the sun

Jump aboard a jet-powered boat at Albufeira for an exhilarating trip out to sea, stunning vistas of the coastline and the chance to spot wild dolphins.

Feast al fresco

Jardim Das Oliveiras is a must-visit. Located in the mountains, it has wood ovens, a rustic menu (slow-cooked wild boar, anyone?) and a huge terrace. Also essential is lunch at Gigi’s (open from March to December) on the Praia da Quinta do Lago, where genial chef-proprietor Gigi serves the day’s catch to a glam crowd.

Where to stay

Perched above an aquamarine bay and surrounded by verdant gardens in the centre of Algarve, Vila Vita Parc Resort and Spa is all about attention to detail. Be prepared for outstanding food, five-star service and some serious relaxation in the spa – the latter can cater for any pampering need, from body shaping in its Hypoxi Studio to manicures and pedicures by cult London brand Margaret Dabbs.

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  • Seek out the souk in Manama, Bahrain, for glittering gold jewellery and aromatic spices © Alamy

    How bazaar

    Haggling is commonplace in Manama – the vendors even expect it – so be prepared to negotiate over the price of your finds. Book flights from London to Bahrain from:£439 return

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  • Unwind on the private beach at Vila Vita Parc Resort and Spa in the Algarve

    Seeing stars

    As well as its dreamy sea views, an outstanding spa and an onsite wine cellar, Vila Vita Parc Resort and Spa is also home to a two Michelin-starred restaurant. Hosting just 30 diners, Ocean Restaurant’s award-winning chef Hans Neuner designs a monthly-changing menu that showcases locally sourced ingredients.

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  • Las Palmas’ historic Vegueta neighbourhood © Lunamarina/Getty Images

    Did you know… ?

    Christopher Columbus made an unscheduled stop in Las Palmas in 1492 on his voyage west across the Atlantic. The home he stayed in during his time on the island in Vegeuta is now a museum, Casa de Colon.

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Madeira

Flight time: three hours and 35 minutes

Thanks to its moderate climate, this Portuguese island off the coast of Africa has been a popular spot for sun-seekers since the mid-19th century.

Fun in the sun

From show-stopping views in the mountains to quaint villages built into a volcano, this Madeiran countryside tour is topped off with a visit to a private wine cellar to sample the local drop.

Feast al fresco

There’s no menu at the laid-back O Tasco in Funchal – when you are ready to order, you’re taken to the open kitchen and shown the dishes of the day. Book an outside table and enjoy the good, honest cooking.

Where to stay

The iconic Belmond Reid’s Palace has been welcoming guests for over a century (including a certain Winston Churchill). These days, expect a Michelin-star restaurant, splendid spa and afternoon Champagne tea on the terrace.

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  • Explore Algarve’s stunning coastline from Albufeira © Santiago Banon/Getty Images

    Top tip

    The Algarve coast is home to pods common and bottlenose dolphins, which can be spotted in their natural habitats year round. But for your best chance of a sighting, head out on an early morning boat tour when the sea is calmer. You might even spot sharks, whales and orcas.

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Fuerteventura

Flight time: four hours and 20 minutes

The second largest of the Canary Islands boasts an average daily temperature of 24˚C, making it the perfect place to escape the bad weather back home.

Fun in the sun

There’s only one place to head and that’s the beach – you’ll find golden sand and a clear sea in every direction. Don’t miss the 17-mile-long Sotavento Beach, a surfer’s paradise, or Corralejo Beach in the north, which borders a nature reserve. The isolated Cofete Beach is home to wild seas.

Feast al fresco

Restaurant Marabu – with its wooden terrace set in a sunken garden – is all about decent Mediterranean food served with a good dollop of sunshine. For the romantics, it’s an excellent choice for a meal under the stars.

Where to stay

Close to the old town of Corralejo beach and nature reserve, Gran Hotel Atlantis Bahia Real is ideally located for everything from sightseeing and hiking to diving and kite surfing. Or just kick back at the hotel, with its beach club, heated pool and spa.

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Gran Canaria

Flight time: four hours and 15 minutes

Compared to most of Europe, Gran Canaria’s winter weather is positively tropical – though you may need a jumper to sit out in the evenings, the temperature rarely dips below 20˚C.

Fun in the sun

Explore the cobbled streets of Las Palmas’ historic town quarter Vegueta, once the stomping ground of Christopher Columbus. Take a walking tour and you’ll discover the local landmarks, before finishing the day with Canarian tapas.

Feast al fresco

In the heart of Vegueta, you’ll also find 16th-century merchant palace-turned-restaurant Casa Montesdeoca, a favourite of King Juan Carlos. Guests can eat in the leafy courtyard with its traditional wooden balconies or in one of the dining rooms, which are lined with historic paintings.

Where to stay

Seaside Palm Beach is located in a lavish palm garden, which sets the tranquil tone for this five-star resort. There’s everything from tai chi to tennis, but the five pools, spa and sandy beach could mean all you’ll want to do is stay horizontal.

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Bahrain

Flight time: six hours and 30 minutes

When the weather outside is frightful, escape grey skies with a visit to this sun-soaked island in the Persian Gulf.

Fun in the sun

The souk in Bahrain’s capital, Manama, is an assault on the senses. Buy a chai and marvel at the dazzling displays of gold jewellery, locally-blended perfumes, mounds of fragrant spices and traditional clothing and carpets.

Feast al fresco

Located in the bohemian Adliya neighbourhood, Al Bindaira Café buzzes with locals and tourists alike, who flock there for the Middle Eastern mezze, the knockout tagine, and vibrant atmosphere.

Where to stay

Everything about the Ritz-Carlton Bahrain says comfort and luxury. From its elegant, Arabic-inspired décor to the multi-level spa and refreshing variety of restaurants and bars, this five-star number ticks all the right boxes.