Thursday, 19 April 2012

Bring me sunshine!

Don’t let the weather get you down, says Sophie Butler. Dig out the suncream and use The Lady’s year-round holiday planner to help you make the most of the sun in 2012…

Written by Sophie Butler
Our British winter can make the toughest of us yearn for warmth and sunshine. Even the distant prospect of a sunny holiday can make the icy winds and chilly temperatures easier to bear. But where in the world to go for guaranteed heat? And when's the best time to head off?

If you can't put up with the cold for a minute longer, the good news is that you don't have to travel too far to bask in balmy bliss. Even in the bleakest months of January and February, you can find guaranteed sunshine (and virtually no rain) in Egypt, a bearable five hours' flying time from the UK. For water sports head to the Red Sea coast or consider the Nile resorts, such as Luxor or Aswan, for smart hotels that offer competitive rates for luxurious half- or full-board stays. Temperatures here will be in the mid- 20s with 10 hours of glorious sunshine – slightly cooler on the coast. For ideas, contact Classic Collection – 0800-0087299, www.classic-collection.co.uk

harbour-3nAnother good option for heat at this time of year is the Canary Islands. True, the sea can be too chilly for enjoyable swimming and some islands can be windy, but the big plus is that temperatures are akin to a warm summer's day in Britain (around 19C). Family-friendly hotels and sandy beaches make it a perfect destination for children (although unfortunately this means package prices rise steeply during the February half-term weeks). Pick of the islands is Lanzarote – an island featured by Cachet Travel – 020-8847 8700, www.cachet-travel.co.uk

Early spring is a great time to head to South Africa, where temperatures average around 23C, with eight hours of sunshine. Explore the winelands, Cape Town and the Garden Route with Kirker Holidays – 020-7593 2288, www.kirkerholidays.com The other prime long-haul destination at this time of year is the Caribbean – but it's also peak season, so prices are high. To bag a good hotel at an affordable price, be fl exible with departure dates and avoid school holidays. Caribtours – 020-3131 0175, www.caribtours.co.uk – can advise on accommodation in many of the islands.

By Easter, temperatures in southern European destinations such as Greece, Spain or Portugal are beginning to inch up. However, while just about warm enough for a walking or cycling holiday, these places are no good for lolling round the pool. Book a break in a Med resort at this time of year and you may find you've swapped wind and rain in the UK for the same abroad.

View-of-Mount-Teide-on-Tenerife-from-the-Parador-in-La-GomeraHowever, March and April are ideal for a visit to the aptly-named 'Sunshine State' of Florida, when the rainfall is low and the temperature is in the 80s. If you're taking the children, Jetsave – 0870-161 3403, www.jetsave.com – offers hotel packages with free transfers to local theme parks, or you might consider booking a villa next to a beautiful white-sand beach on the Gulf Coast through James Villas – 0800-074 0122, www.jamesvillas.com

The closest destination for reasonably reliable sunshine in late spring is southern Cyprus. Flight time is around fi ve hours and in May, temperatures are edging towards 24C. You'll find pampering hotels with lovely pools and private stretches of beach in the resort of Paphos and near the Akamas Peninsula in the west of the island. One of the most knowledgeable holiday companies operating to this island is Sunvil – 020-8758 4759, www.sunvil.co.uk

From June through to August, there's a plethora of possibilities in Europe. Whether you're camping in France, sailing in Croatia, island-hopping in Greece, lazing by a pool in Turkey, touring in Italy or clubbing in Ibiza, let's hope the sun shines brightly. You could even risk a summer holiday in the UK.

However, canny sun-seekers with no children in tow are happy to wait for the month of September – a prime time for golden warmth at bargain rates. Once schools are back, prices plummet and you can get great deals at hotels in the southern Med where the weather is still glorious and the sea is at its warmest. Get on the phone to Prestige Holidays – 01425-480400, www.prestigeholidays.co.uk – a luxury hotel specialist in this region.

aswan philae-temple2Even into October, beach-club operators continue to offer sundrenched activity weeks at resorts in Greece, Turkey and Egypt – there's plenty of choice with Neilson – 0844-879 8155, www.neilson.co.uk However, you do have to be wary of end-of-season resorts and unsettled weather conditions.

For those with deep pockets, November and December are ideal months to fl y to New Zealand and Australia for a dose of early Antipodean summer, and good value if you travel before Christmas when airfares down under are at their most expensive. A consultant at the long-haul specialist Trailfi nders – 020-7368 1200, www.trailfinders.com – can talk you through the options – but the key advice is to book well in advance for the cheapest prices, then you can sit back and dream about the sunshine in store.

The best websites for checking weather in resorts and destinations worldwide are www.weather2travel.com and www.holiday-weather.com



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