Hot, Hot, Hot: Where To Go For Winter Sun

The destinations to visit when you’re in need of a dose of sunshine this winter

Wondering where's hot in the world right now? While we might be donning beanies and scarves, it's always sunny somewhere in the world. Pack your sunscreen and put on your sunglasses: here are eight warm-weather destinations to visit for some much-needed winter sun.

The best destinations for winter sun, from Costa Rica to Kerala

Bangkok, Thailand
Bangkok, Thailand

Bangkok, Thailand

The Thai capital doesn't just offer a vitamin D reboot, but an irresistible vibey buzz. Make carving out time to get lost in the urban streetscape a priority, starting with creative hubs The Jam Factory, a riverside complex in Khlong San with a café, homeware store, gallery, restaurant and bookshop, and, on the other side of the river in Charoen Krung, Warehouse 30, where boutiques, eateries and art spaces have taken up residence in a 4,000sq m block of abandoned Second World War-era buildings. Fuel up on reimagined Thai soul food - think seared scallop on crispy coconut milk cupcake - at retro curry house Charmgang, in the electric Yaowarat neighbourhood, or linger over old family recipes with a modern edge at Café Craft in Thonglor's CHANINTR compound. When night falls, stop for a cocktail in three-storey destination bar Rabbit Hole, then round things off at ChangChui ("sloppy artisan") nightmarket and lifestyle space. You can always go to the beach tomorrow…

The Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica

The most remote region in Costa Rica, "the Osa", as it's known locally, is one of the most biodiverse places on Earth, and home to one of only eight whale heritage sites in the world, with humpbacks from both hemispheres using the surrounding waters as breeding and birthing grounds. Those looking to snorkel or dive can set off by boat from Drake Bay, in the Osa's north, to explore the Reserva Biológica Isla del Caño, off the coast of the uninhabited Caño island - the exposed part of an underwater mountain - spotting sea cucumbers, sea urchins, manta rays, barracudas, spiny lobsters and more. Puerto Jiménez, on the Pacific coast, serves as the gateway to Corcovado National Park, where sloths and monkeys number among rainforest residents, and where screensaver-worthy beaches such as Playa Preciosa are vital nesting grounds for green, olive ridley and hawksbill turtles almost all year round. Take a deep dive into the world of bean-to-bar chocolate production on a Finca Kobo tour, then feast on vibrant, Ayurvedically-led dishes made with organic local produce at brand-new adventure, wildlife and wellness stay Nereus Retreats.

Tunis, Tunisia
TUnis, Tunisia

Tunis, Tunisia

If ancient medinas, souks and swaying palms tick your boxes, and you've already explored Marrakech, make Tunis your destination to discover this winter. With average highs of around 20ºC, this is a great time of year to explore on two wheels. Join an organised Le Lemon bike tour that takes in the Unesco-protected ancient ruins of Carthage, with its crumbling villas, hammams and huge amphitheatre, and Sidi Bou Said, a picture-postcard town characterised by blue-and-white houses, cobbled streets and cliffside fish restaurants perched above the glittering Med. Make a pit stop at Patisserie Madame Hachicha on Rue de la République to select bite-sized syrupy filo pastries and petits fours to sustain you on the return leg of the trip. When you've had your fill of shopping in the souk, head to the Bardo Museum, a restored Ottoman mansion packed with mosaic art, archaeological finds and Islamic and Roman artefacts. Make your base the family-run, boutique El Patio Courtyard House, an eco-friendly stay in the heart of the medina, where you'll find quiet reading corners, artisanal Tunisian tea and delicious cuisine served beneath foliage-draped arches.

Hout Bay, Cape Town, South Africa

With December temperatures in Cape Town hitting a balmy 27ºC, it pays to be beachside in the city. Just 20km from the South African capital's V&A Waterfront, former fishing village Hout Bay fits the sandy-toed brief, borrowing its laid-back atmosphere from the surf community that congregates on nearby beaches and in its cafés and bars. This surf suburb is proudly independent - residents call it the "Republic of Hout Bay". Long Beach, Llandudno and the notoriously tricky surf spot of Dungeons Beach are all a short drive away. Start your explorations at Bay Harbour Market, an old fish factory reimagined as a community art market that's packed with stalls run by local craftsmen and artists, before making tracks to the harbour for a Hout Bay favourite: fish and chips. People travel from Cape Town's city centre to visit Fish on the Rocks, on Harbour Road. Alongside surfing, this slow-paced suburb is known for its Cape fur seal population, and with the many trailheads located around its edges, is a hotspot for hiking. Head up Orange Kloof, a protected region on the southern end of Table Mountain, for sky-tickling views, then drift off to sleep at Future Found Sanctuary, a wellness-focused hotel tucked between fragrant frangipani trees.

Varkala, India

Varkala, India

Kerala is known for its golden syrup-hued beaches; less so for its surf scene. But along the sprawling sands of the Indian state's coast line, a homegrown community of barrel rollers is putting the area in the limelight. The small town of Varkala sits at the centre of the action. Book a room at guesthouse Soul & Surf for access to daily surf lessons, yoga classes and one-to-one sun salutation sessions. The on-site restaurant, Soul Food, plates up vibrant, colourful meals inspired by Kerala's local larder and recipes from around the world. Other dining destinations to check out in the town include the beachside Darjeeling Café and Om Luna Azul for tiptop chai tea. Those not suiting up and hitting the surf should take in some history: start with a tour of the 200-year-old Janardhana Swami Temple, an important shrine with spellbinding architecture. Then, grab a bike (the Soul & Surf team can help you out) and head out to Ponmudi Hill Station to take in the local wildlife: en route to Meenmutty waterfall, you'll spot elephants and a kaleidoscope of colourful birdlife.

Manaus, Brazil

This Amazonian city is often thought of as simply a launchpad to Brazil's vast wilderness, but deserves deeper exploration in itself, not least for the indigenous culture that it showcases. Cradled by the Rio Negro and Rio Solimões - whose acid, coffee-coloured waters and alkaline, lighter-hued currents converge just outside town - Manaus enjoys year-round warm weather, thanks to its proximity to the equator. It's home to the Teatro Amazonas opera house, a symbol of the region's rubber prowess during colonial rule that today makes a great place to catch a local performance. Explore the colourful, Renaissance-inspired space on a guided tour, then savour lunch or dinner under an impressive glass dome at the Opera Restaurante - the flagship diner of the namesake hotel, which, with its rooftop pool and numerous design and sustainability credentials, is one of the best stays in the city. Also check out indigenous restaurant Biatuwi, where chef Clarinda Ramos serves up grilled fish in cocoa leaves, and hearty fish bowls, alongside other traditional dishes, the serving of which is as much a political statement as a culinary one. Vegan? Try Edi Sabor. To experience more of the area's diverse flavours (the North Region is home to over 92 ethnic groups and 36 languages, and counting), graze your way around the many food stalls at the Mercado Adolpho Lisboa. At Yandé Muraki, meet a collective of native creatives - mainly Sateré-Mawé women - producing jewellery, sculptures and more. Finally, explore the city's riverine life - a serene world in its own right. Cruising from one floating village and houseboat to the next offers a window into how the river's ebb and flow influences locals and ecosystems alike. Ecological wonders within easy reach of the city, meanwhile, include treetop canopy walks and nighttime excursions to swim with pink dolphins and meet communities intent on preserving rainforest heritage. In the blackwater region, south of Manaus, stay at Juma Lodge, where solar systems are in place to minimise the property's environmental footprint.

miami, USA
Miami, USa

Miami, Florida, USA

Welcome to Miami - it's bold, brilliant, and probably not what you expected. Something of a renaissance has taken place in this US city of late: there's the soon-to-open new home of Oolite Arts, offering visitors get-involved activities such as painting and printmaking, and a handful of box-fresh hotels popping up, such as the colourful, creative Arlo Wynwood, alongside high-style stalwarts including South Beach's The Goodtime Hotel (which is co-owned by Pharrell Williams). Plus, the city is abuzz with new restaurants and bars offering sunshine-filled menus. The ceviche at Peruvian joint Maty's is the hottest dish in town right now. After polishing that off, head to the just-launched taproom of the Biscayne Bay Brewing Company, which has been years in the making. The Sunshine State's loudest, proudest city radiates warmth: with temperatures hardly ever falling below 24ºC, and a plethora of tropical fruits, sandy beaches and residents dressed up in bold threads on tap, it's got that hot, hot, hot feeling year-round.

La Guajira, Colombia

Skip the crowds in Colombia's Tayrona National Park and venture north-east from Palomino to the untamed beauty of the Guajira Peninsula - an otherworldly and seemingly endless expanse of golden desert sands. The heart of La Guajira beats with the culture of the indigenous Wayuu people, who make up 45 per cent of the population and remain vital to the region's evolution and the production of local crafts such as geometric chinchorro designs. In Cabo de la Vela, where turquoise waters meet windswept cliffs, you'll see kite surfers dance on the waves and rub shoulders with flamingos wading in sparkling lagoons. These warm waters are good for swimming, too: for a truly deserted beach, head to Camarones or Pilón de Azúcar, both just a short drive from the small town. Then, journey even further east to Punta Gallinas, mainland South America's most northernmost point. It won't get more offbeat than this rugged landscape dotted with dunes and craggy cliffs; a stark contrast to your usual Caribbean vistas. Watch the sunset paint the sky with hues of orange and pink, then stay beachside for dinner, feasting on freshly caught fish and fusions of indigenous, African and Spanish dishes under the stars.

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