Luckily, if you live in Europe (or are planning on going there), there are plenty of options within the same continent to escape the winter blues and get some vitamin D.
In this list, you will find 12 locations within Europe with mild winters and loads of sunshine. The temperatures might not be as high as they are in summer, but when going to one of these locations you definitely won't be freezing. And compared to other European capitals and cities, in this round you’ll be able to escape the dark and grey days.
1. Sardinia, Italy
This Italian island has a mild winter, especially on the coast (more into the mountains it is a lot cooler), with temperatures between 11 and 15 degrees in December. Sardinia is a place that is known for its beautiful beaches, where it will be too cold to swim around this time of year, but it will still be perfect to go for a walk. If you like hiking, there are kilometres of hiking trails, with stunning views, over the whole island.
Apart from this, the Italian island has a lot of history, with a civilization that is even older than the Romans, called Nuraghe. The remains of this culture can be seen at many places over the island, and date back to 1800 BC. If you are interested in history and would like to learn more, definitely give The National Archaeological Museum a visit.
A fun part of visiting Sardinia in winter is that you get to witness carnival. In January, there is the Mamoiada Carnival, and in February, you will be able to celebrate Sartiglia. Both of these events are a unique way to experience the local traditions.
2. Kotor, Montenegro
Montenegro might be a place you don’t think of immediately when booking your next holiday, but after seeing this place you won’t understand why. In Kotor, the green mountains stand out besides the blue water and the architecture makes it as picturesque as it can be.
If you are familiar with Venice, the architecture in Kotor will probably catch your eye, as from 1420 to 1797, Kotor was part of the Republic of Venice, and the Old Town is built in Venetian style. Stroll through the charming streets, go on a boat tour over the azure waters, or see the impressive view of the bay after climbing San Giovanni Fortress.
Although it’s not the warmest place you can go to in winter (an average temperature of 8 degrees in December), it is one of the more affordable places, and definitely one of the most stunning ones.
3. São Miguel, Portugal
São Miguel is one of Portugal’s Azores islands, and is absolutely stunning. The vivid colours, craters, waterfalls and lakes will blow you away while hiking one of the trails, or just visiting each one of them on their own. Since São Miguel is a volcanic island, there are hot springs you can bathe in. This is especially nice with the temperature in winter, which is around 15 degrees.
In the ocean around São Miguel, many whales and dolphins pass by. It’s best to spot them from a boat, and there is a high chance of seeing them all year-round. If you do miss them, most boat companies will give you a refund. Check out our itinerary tailored around an adventure in São Miguel here.
It is easy to get to São Miguel: from Lisbon it will take you two and a half hours by plane, and it will cost you under €100, depending on when you are flying.
Bonus: If you have extra time, discover the other islands in the Azores - and of course, we have the best tips and recommendations here.
4. Kumlubuk, Turkey
25 kilometers from the popular resort town Marmaris, lies an untouched, peaceful area that is known for its wonderful bay. Kumlubuk is located within a nature reserve area, and there is a lot to explore! Besides having a beautiful beach, this place has hiking trails and is one of the best places to dive.
Explore the mysterious cave that they claim to have been the site of the first settlement 5000 years ago, or take a 30 minute-hike to see the remains of the ancient city of Amos. In December, temperatures in Kumlubuk can go up to 17 degrees, with a maximum low of 10 degrees.
5. Isles of Scilly, United Kingdom
With clear blue water and a landscape like this, you would almost think this island belongs to the Caribbean, but in fact, it is in the United Kingdom. The Isles of Scilly are located only 45 kilometres southwest of the tip of Cornwall and consist of 140 isles, of which six are inhabited.
Visit the dreamy botanical gardens in Tresco, watch the stars and spot Saturn and Jupiter on St Martin’s observatory, or just enjoy the mild weather, because in winter the lowest it will go here is 7 degrees. In the winter months, it is best to take a plane from Land’s End Airport, because this is the only airport from which you can fly to the islands all year round (there are other options during the rest of the year).
6. La Gomera, Spain
This island might be the second-smallest one of the Canary Islands, but it has a lot to offer. Of the seven islands, La Gomera is one of the most untouched ones, with wild nature and lots to explore. The island has many hiking routes, some of which some are quite challenging but have breathtaking views.
And with a temperature between 17 and 12 degrees around this time of year, it is better to go on challenging hikes than during the high season. Get a boat tour and see Los Organos, a unique and fascinating rock formation with pipe-shaped rocks that developed because of the slow cooling magma. Try the local wine from one of the 500-year-old vines or visit one of the natural parks. La Gomera can be reached through Tenerife, by ferry or plane.
7. Lagos, Portugal
With a temperature that can go up to 17 degrees in December, Lagos is the perfect location to escape the cold in winter. If you are into partying, this place has great nightlife, but if you are more interested in spending time in nature, you are also in the right place.
There is Praia do Camilo, which is considered the most beautiful beach in the Algarve, and some even say as one of the most beautiful ones in the world! Because of its clear blue water and sandy beach that is surrounded by rocks, this is a popular destination and can get quite crowded in summer. But since Lagos is a lot quieter in winter, you’re most likely to have this stunning beach more for yourself as well.
8. Conil de la Frontera, Spain
This fishing town in the South of Spain is located on the beautiful Costa de la Luz. It has a historical old town and is great for surfers. Climb the Torre de Guzman, which is part of the old castle and admire the view from the top. Rent a surfboard and ride the waves, or if you’re not an experienced surfer yet, take surfing lessons in one of the many surfing schools that Conil de la Frontera has.
When it comes to food, Conil de la Frontera also has a lot to offer: since it is located on the coast, the fish here is amazing. Try red tuna, fried fish in a cone (typical for Conil), or go bar hopping and try different tapas. There is much more to see and to do in Conil de la Frontera, and with highs of 17 degrees in December, it is another great place to hide from the cold.
9. Akyaka, Turkey
A place where everything is about slow life, a life where there is no rush. This is what sets Akyaka apart from the rest. No big clubs and bars streets, but relaxed boat trips, hikes, Turkish delicacies and shopping for handcrafted souvenirs.
The authentic houses in Akyaka make this place stand out. That’s why while walking around in this Turkish town, you will be amazed by the mixture of traditional combined with modern architecture. Another thing that will amaze you, is the beautiful nature: Akyaka is surrounded by mountains, has a river flowing through and a forest to hike through.
In December it can get up to 15 degrees here, with a maximum low of 6 degrees.
10. Crete, Greece
Crete is a popular destination during the warmer months, which is understandable because it is a beautiful island and there is lots to do and to see. But because it is so popular, it gets very crowded in summer. One of the pros of visiting Crete in the low season is that you won’t have to worry about that! Crete is one of the colder places in this list: it only gets up to 7 degrees in winter, and it can get down to -1. But that doesn’t make it any less of a destination, as there is still so much to do in winter.
Crete has some interesting museums and archaeological sites, and there is great news for history fans: from the 1st of November until the 31st of March, most of them offer free entrance every first Sunday of the month. Another reason to visit Crete in winter.
When it comes to low season on the Greek island, some places close their doors, but luckily there are still a lot of restaurants and bars that are open. Especially in Rethymnon, a university city, where it is very much alive in winter. Go shopping in the main shopping street Arkadiou, stroll along the Old Venetian Port, or visit Giorgos Hatziparaschos, a traditional pastry shop.
The Maltese say ‘you can’t buy heaven with money’, but money can buy you a ticket to Malta, and that comes very close. With a maximum temperature of 17 and a minimum of 11, Malta is great to explore during the winter months. Rent a scooter and ride Zurrieq or Triq Wied Iż-Żurrieq, two roads that take you along parts of the coast (and the second one gets you to the Blue Grotto as well), or explore the rest of the island. While you’re in Malta, you can’t miss the sunset, and one of the best places to admire this from is the Citadella in Victoria, Gozo.
Because of rainfall during winter, the flora and fauna in Malta which can be dry and brown in summer, comes to life during this time of year. The fields are greener and the flowers bloom, which will immediately get you excited for spring and make you forget about winter.
Last but not least is this stunning island in the Mediterranean Sea. During the winter months the temperature will be between 17 and 19 degrees, but be aware that there can be some rainy days, especially in December. Nevertheless, Cyprus is still a great place to visit in the wintertime.
Rent a car to explore the island and visit the Blue Lagoon, or visit the picturesque town of Kakopetria, which has a church from the 11th century (and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site). Apart from visiting places, Cyprus is the perfect place to try different foods, as they have an amazing cuisine that is a mix of Greek and Turkish.