For many of us, winter is synonymous with biting winds, grey skies and the anticipation of snow. And many, many layers. But of course, that’s not the case in all countries, so if you dream of prolonging summer and feeling the heat on your skin, we have some perfect winter sun destinations that might be right up your street.
1. Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia experiences some sweltering summers, but if you’re looking for some winter sun but don’t want to feel like you’re holidaying in the actual sun, temperatures have cooled by December to the late twenties, early thirties, so it makes for a great destination to escape colder temperatures at home.
This is perfect for touring the country’s main archaeological sites like the former ancient kingdoms of Al Ula in the northwest, which also welcomes visitors to the Winter at Tantora music and arts festival at this time of year. Perhaps you’ll just relish the opportunity to escape the pre-Christmas build-up and immerse yourself in a different culture.
Alternatively, if you’re more comfortable in even cooler temperatures, January is the coldest month to visit, with Saudi Arabia's hottest city, Riyadh, hitting 20°C on average. The desert can get a lot colder at night, so pack accordingly if you plan to stay in the desert.
Temperatures remain near-perfect throughout Oman in November with climes akin to the Mediterranean. The beaches around Muscat are particularly lovely at this time of year and the coastal town of Bandar Jissah with its spa lies just half an hour to the east. Towards the end of November, Omanis celebrate their National Day with festivities across the land, flags flying and landmarks illuminated for the annual holiday.
For non-natives of the Arabian Peninsula, temperatures in December might just be at their most pleasant of the year, perfect for travelling around. Oman is a peaceful, humble nation, with a rich and fascinating history. Swap out the commercialisation of Christmas at home and instead dive into a world of sleepy fishing settlements, little-explored mountainous regions and the simple, generous hospitality of the Bedouin.
Like Saudi Arabia, the winter month of January sees its coolest temperatures, but you can also expect some showers at this time. Luckily, they don't usually last very long. If that doesn’t bother you, you can catch The Muscat Festival, held annually between January and February, which celebrates Omani culture and traditions.
November is an ideal time to tour Egypt as, once again, the summer heat has subsided and temperatures are far more comfortable, but the Nile Valley remains balmy and the beaches warm. The streets of Cairo are cooler in the evening and restaurants will be serving up a heartier fare - perfect to stay warm for the evening’s events. The Arab Music Festival takes place in November with the Cairo Opera House taking centre stage along with other smaller venues around the capital and the rest of the country.
The New Year period in Egypt can get busy, due in part to the comfortably balmy temperatures and sunny days. You might experience the occasional bout of rain but nothing that will dampen your holiday spirit. Just be sure to bring layers for the evening as the temperature does drop. In late January or early February (be sure to check ahead of time) The West Bank marathon takes place on the banks of the Nile and is worth checking out.
As India is such a vast continent, the weather is vastly different across different regions. Winter starts in November and lasts through to February, and in some parts of the country, this is a perfect time to explore because it’s warm, sunny and dry. The north gets a little cooler and foggier as December and January roll in, but there are clear skies and monsoon season in the south is over by November. In true Indian spirit, there are plenty of festivals to enjoy around this time, too. Rajasthan welcomes the Pushkar Camel Festival in November,
Spend Christmas in the South where it’s wonderfully warm at this time of year. That great weather lasts through to January, so winter is definitely an ideal time to embark on an Indian adventure.
5. Laos and Cambodia
In Cambodia, November marks the end of the monsoon season which means less rain, cooler temperatures and blue skies. Winter is a popular time to visit Cambodia and popular sites like Angkor Wat do tend to get busier in December and January, so a visit in November might be a slightly quieter month to explore. It’s a good time to visit the floating markets of Tonle Sap, too, where The Cambodian Water Festival takes place earlier in the month. Spending Christmas in Cambodia will reward you with amazing weather and January is dry with comfortably warm temperatures, perfect for relaxing on Cambodia’s gorgeous beaches.
The weather in November and December will be similar in Laos - dry, comfortable temperatures and plenty of beautiful flora and fauna, but with high river levels, perfect for taking a river cruise! Also, Vientiane will welcome the three-day religious That Luang Festival in November. January will also give you good weather but you may need extra layers if you’re travelling in the north as the temperature might drop a bit at night and in the mornings.
Guatemala has a lot to offer travellers in November. The weather is warm and dry and the countryside bursts into life with greenery and wildflowers, perfect for hiking in the beautiful national parks. You might also want to don the walking boots for a spot of volcano-trekking as it’s the best season to do so.
With the Christmas frenzy amping up by December, Guatemala would offer those who prefer to escape at this time a welcome antidote. Christmas is still celebrated in Guatemala, but their traditions are a world away from that of the west. If you’d rather experience the ‘Burning of the Devil’ custom than battle Christmas shoppers on the high street, or build a nativity scene than dress a Christmas tree, Guatemala might be your ideal Christmas destination. Christmas celebrations here kick off at midnight on the 24th with fireworks and feasting. Neighbours call on each other echoing the journey of Mary and Joseph before finding hospitality and heading to the town squares for dancing and celebration.