Being a digital nomad, I’ve had the luxury of escaping the harsh Canadian winters these past few years. Last year it was Hawaii and Central America; before that, it was Greece and the Mediterranean. I had planned to grin and bear this winter in my new home (Berlin), but already I feel myself itching to escape to warmer destinations.
So if you’re travelling around Europe (or living here) and you want a warm escape for a little while, where do you go? Luckily, I have the answers. The things I do for the sake of travel!
Morocco is actually my warm weather destination this year. With ridiculously cheap airfares from Berlin (30 EUR one way!), it just seems like a good idea. Plus I’ve been fascinated by this chaotic conglomeration of humanity for years now. A French speaking, Arabic, Northern African country bordered by mountains, deserts, and ocean? Yes, please!
Morocco isn’t super warm during the winter months, but the temperatures average around 20 degrees Celsius in most parts of the country. It gets even warmer in the south. The Atlas Mountains aren’t great for hiking at this time of year, but you can still enjoy ‘em. The same goes for the desert – temperatures drop considerably in the evenings, but are pleasant throughout the day.
Marrakech is generally always warm. This is where you get the true taste of Morocco madness – souks overflowing with local goods and buskers and panhandlers who have a tendency to overwhelm and dazzle. You can also head to Casablanca, where the art deco scene rivals Miami’s. Then there’s the blue city of Chefchaouen, the coastal town of Tangier, and the up-and-coming Fez. Take your pick.
Did you know that Cyprus gets 340 days of sunshine a year? Temperatures can be cold during the winter months, but when winter starts creeping into spring, you might find this the best time to be there. It’s warm, there are few tourists, and shops and attractions are finally reopening. Plus, the heat in the summer months can be absolutely stifling.
Most people tend to hang out along the coast in the south. Towns like Larnaka, Lemesos, and Pafos are all excellent choices, although they do get quite busy. This is mostly due to their fabulous beaches and historic old towns. While it probably won’t be warm enough for swimming in the winter months, you can still appreciate the warm sun on your face as you soak up the Cyprus vibes. If you’re seeking that perfect resort vacation, Coral Bay is the place to be.
The Canaries are probably the most popular islands for Europeans escaping the brutal winters. It’s still not quite warm enough for sunbathing, but temperatures tend to hover between 15 and 20 degrees Celsius…with lots of sun. Overall the weather is pleasant, albeit there can be some rain.
The famous Carnival celebration takes place here in February every year, and diehards tend to become regular attendees. (Yes, it’s that good.) Then there are the other noteworthy places to explore, like Timanfaya National Park, created by a massive volcanic eruption that occurred in the 1700s. In Tenerife, you can also visit Mount Teide – one of the largest volcanoes in the world.
If you’re looking for a more relaxing kind of winter destination, there are plenty of secluded beaches around the Canary Islands. You can even charter your own yacht to find the ultimate hidden beaches…like Papagayo, on Lanzarote.
It’s kinda funny that Malta doesn’t really get the respect it deserves. This itty-bitty Mediterranean island has over 7000 years of history and has at some point or another been occupied by every major power in the region. It has its own language, its own government, and it just kind of hangs out there in the middle of nowhere doing nothing except looking great.
Malta is home to megalithic temples, insanely beautiful churches, hilltop citadels, and some stunning island scenery. There are limestone cliffs and endless beaches.
And yet, it’s pretty much under the radar.
Your ideal arrival time depends on what you want to get out of the experience. Things get crazy from July to September, in the peak tourism season (remember – Malta is small). Up to October, the weather is fab. November to March is considered the “rainy” season, but this really ends up just being a few showers here and there. Sometimes a storm will blow in, but they’re uncommon. While you can’t do much sunbathing, you can certainly enjoy the sights.
If you’re seeking that sun-kissed, ultra tropical winter vacation…you’ll find it in Dubai. October to April is the perfect time to visit. The skies are blue and the water is warm, especially at Jumeirah Beach, where you’ll find most of the big resorts and swanky hotels.
But if you’re not the kind of person who enjoys sitting around on a beach for a full week, Dubai has a pretty impressive roster of sightseeing activities. It’s home to the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa. You can embark on a guided desert tour in Dubai. You can go skydiving, or shopping (there’s literally a Gold Souk), or simply spend some time sampling all the local fair.
Dubai is probably one of the most opulent cities in the world and can be on the expensive side – the whole city emphasizes luxury and riches. If you can come here for New Year’s Eve, you’ll be dazzled by one of the greatest fireworks displays on earth.
Abu Dhabi is probably Dubai’s toughest competitor in flashiness, riches, and “is this real life?” commentary. Temperatures throughout the winter months are hot, hot, hot.
Abu Dhabi is like a carnival. It has a Ferrari theme park with the world’s fastest roller coaster (up to 150mph!). You must stroll The Corniche – an elaborate, four-mile promenade, also home to The Avenue at Etihad Towers (a massive shopping mall). You can also take a guided trip to the Liwa desert, or check out Hatta Mountain.
Keep in mind that while cities like Abu Dhabi and Dubai are quite liberal, being respectful and wearing proper clothing goes a long way. You can dress casually at most of the tourist attractions, but covering your legs and shoulders is necessary if you’re visiting any government offices, etc.
Greece was my destination of choice during my first winter escapade. Unfortunately, it was just a little chillier than I thought it’d be. (Still, it was much warmer than Canada!) It was February, and temperatures on Santorini hovered between 15 and 20 degrees. Some days were much nicer than others.
But I loved my winter experience in Greece. The tourist season was nowhere near starting, and so prices were much cheaper, it was easier to meet people, and when dressed properly, the weather was still lovely.
Head a little further south and you’ll come to Crete, the biggest island in Greece. There’s a lot to love about this island, including the slightly warmer temperatures. Nature lovers should head to Samaria Gorge, or really, any of the insanely beautiful beaches along the coast. Then there are the quaint Greek towns, like Chania, with its Venetian Harbour. Crete might actually be my favourite island – there’s literally a little something for everyone. But you need to budget some time here, at least maybe five days. Like I said, it’s big!