If you want to escape winter this year and enjoy a warm Christmas far from the UK’s ice and snow, there is no need to travel too far. A short flight south to many European destinations will land you in some of the warmest places Europe has to offer in December.
A Spanish holiday in one of the Canary Islands, like Tenerife or Lanzarote, is the tip of the iceberg for winter sun destinations. Greece, Portugal and Turkey also promise hours of sunshine and average temperatures of 14℃ to 17℃ in December.
If sandy beaches and old town charm are must-haves for your European getaway, Malta, Crete, and Sardinia are all fantastic choices at this time of the year. The off-season prices, combined with fewer tourists, make December the perfect time to visit southern parts of Europe and enjoy some warm weather while you’re there.
Where is the warmest place in Europe in December?
The Canary Islands are among the warmest places to go without leaving Europe. These Spanish islands are off the coast of Morocco in the Atlantic Ocean. Here, you can expect warm temperatures year-round.
Southern Turkey around the Mediterranean Sea is another winter sun destination worth considering. The Mediterranean coast is another favourite for escaping the cold winter in Europe. Here, you'll enjoy warmer temperatures and find white sandy beaches where you can soak up some sun. Some of the best beaches in the south enjoy average temperatures of 17℃ in December and often reach as high as 20℃.
Although December in the Canaries is unlikely to provide sultry summer-like evenings, Gran Canaria, Las Palmas, Fuerteventura and Lanzarote do have balmy spring-like temperatures at that time of the year.
Which European countries are hot at Christmas?
Heading to the southern parts of Europe in December means you’ll have fewer tourists to contend with and cheaper off-season rates for accommodation in the early weeks of December. Although the weather isn’t what you’d expect from a hot summer, temperatures are still high enough to enjoy alfresco dining at cafes or an evening wander along the beach.
Although not yet part of the EU, Turkey is located partially in Southeastern Europe. A flight from London to Antalya, on Turkey's southern coast, will take around four hours.
Expect temperatures of around 17℃ in December on the turquoise coast, the best part of the country for a winter sun getaway. The aptly named region stretches from Fethiye to Antalya. Dotted with ancient ruins, sun-kissed beaches and roman baths, there are plenty of things to do and see while exploring the area.
What are the best European countries to go to in December?
A little closer to home are some tremendous European countries that have warm temperatures through December. Another bonus to enjoy are the fewer tourists crowding sites of interest. Try island hopping in Greece or surfing in southern Portugal this Christmas while you enjoy your beak from winter in the UK.
Greece and the Greek Islands
Mainland Greece enjoys a milder winter than the UK. Still, average temperatures of 12℃ in December hardly make for a winter sun holiday. So for warmer days, head to the Greek Islands.
Crete is the most southerly island, with the warmest temperatures of all the Greek islands in December. Flights to the island’s capital city of Heraklion take around four hours. Heading to Chania or Sitia takes approximately the same amount of time.
Chania’s harbour is an excellent place for a day trip with the Venetian Lighthouse and the Firka Fortress to explore. This western side of Crete is warmer and has the best beaches.
Averaging highs of around 15℃ in December, evenings in Rhodes are often much cooler. A top travel tip is to pack a warm coat and possibly a hat and gloves for evening strolls. Winter is the best time to explore the old town. This is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and less crowded with holidaymakers in December.
Perfect for a quiet winter getaway surrounded by natural beauty and gentle sunshine. Karpathos is situated between Rhodes and Crete. This small island is known for its extraordinary landscapes, mountain villages and olive picking.
More photogenic in the winter months than in the summertime, Hydra is perfect for a trekking holiday in December. The temperatures are warm but not too hot for hill climbing and extended walks.
5. Halki and Tilos
These two tiny islands are perfect for holidaymakers looking for a slower pace along with their sunny days. Halki has just one inhabited village and breathtaking views from the highest points. Tilos, between Rhodes and Kos, has 54 kilometres of walking trails that lead to tiny chapels, tranquil beaches and secret coves.
A Portuguese holiday will also deliver warm weather in December. Heading south to Faro in the Algarve region is just one option. A bit further north, in Nazare, between Lisbon and Porto, average highs of 14℃ in December can be expected. Here you’ll have a chance to watch the big wave surfers of the world from the safety of Sitio da Nazaré.
If surfing’s not your style, try one of these warm places for your winter trip to Portugal.
6. The Algarve
Offering scenic beauty and a golf course by the beach, the Algarve is an excellent destination for a mildly active holiday. There are numerous bars, restaurants and cafes to while away the sunny days or make the most of the nightlife.
This is a city for book lovers. Sweet little cafes are scattered around the streets, along with beautiful white houses, charming scenery and many cosy bookshops. All combine to make the city the perfect place for a romantic winter break.
In the Algarve region, Lagos is famous for its walled old town, limestone cliffs and picturesque Atlantic beaches. A boutique hotel in the off-peak season will cost you around £60 a night, making it a bargain choice for some winter sun.
These small islands are off the south coast of Portugal in the Atlantic Ocean, just north of the Canaries. The capital, Funchal, faces the Atlantic and has a beautiful cathedral combining Gothic and Romanesque architectural styles.
A direct flight to Funchal from the UK takes around three and a half hours. Expect average daytime temperatures of around 20℃ in December and 11℃ at night. The island is well-known for its subtropical climate and red wine.
A long-time favourite for Brits wishing to escape the dreary winter, Spain has a wide range of warm places to head to in December. The beauty of travelling to Spain in winter is the access to festive Christmas markets, delicious tapa bars in nearly every village and, of course, the almost guaranteed sunny days.
For the warmest places, head as far south as you can in this beautiful country. Fights take two to three hours from the UK to Spain’s south coast regions.
One of the hottest places you could choose to visit in Spain in December is the Andalucia region. The area enjoys temperatures of up to 19℃ in December but lows of 3℃ in places like Granada at night. The Moorish roots of this region have gifted residents and visitors beautiful sites such as the Alhambra in Granada and the Royal Alcázar in Seville.
This city in the region of Andalucia is full of exciting places to see and things to do on a winter break. From speciality museums to mountain bike tours and even a cable car ride up Mount Calamorro, you can enjoy an active holiday in this city.
12. Las Palmas
Gran Canaria's largest city, Las Palmas, has beaches protected by a coral barrier. In December, nativity scenes made out of sand appear on the city’s main beach, Playa de la Centeras.
Lanzarote is tucked on the eastern edge of the Canary Islands and is a popular location year-round. Timanfaya National Park, one of four such locations across the Canaries, is one of the main attractions on the island. This area was declared a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 1993. It's the perfect destination for winter sun or to tick off another bucket list travel experience.
This is a well-loved spot for Brits escaping winter in England. More than 70 wineries and local cellars tempt visitors with wine tours and tastings. In addition, top-quality restaurants, specialist delicatessens and food markets make Mallorca a foodie's paradise year-round.
The intermittent rain in December brings Cyprus to life, clearing the air and clothing the hills in lush greenery. The best travel tip for finding warm places to enjoy while England’s winter drags on is to head to Limassol and Paphos on the south coast. Here you can expect average December temperatures of around 19℃.
Here you will find a castle by the same name and Cyprus's Medieval Museum. It's the perfect place for a day out if a bit of rain does dampen your holiday spirits. The Tombs of the Kings, ancient Roman and Byzantine ruins at Kourion and warm sandy beaches all make a trip to Limassol in December worthwhile.
Head an hour northwest of Limassol, and you'll find the Kato Paphos Archaeological Park. The area was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1980 and is a wonderful day out for anyone interested in ancient cultures.
Famous for its Renaissance artists, Italy has an excellent choice of winter sun destinations, particularly if you head toward the toes where this boot dips into the Mediterranean sea.
Sicily may be the most famous place in Italy to head for some winter sun, but Naples, Campania and Apulia are also fine choices. Expect milder temperatures on the mainland in the daytime between 10℃ to 14℃ in December.
17. Sicily and Palermo
Speaking of Sicily, it's easily one of Italy's hottest places in December. This densely populated island enjoys average temperatures of around 16℃ during the day and lows of 11℃ at night. This time of year is perfect for enjoying Christmas markets, Sicilian delicacies and exploring ancient ruins scattered near the capital city of Palermo.
Flights from the UK take around three to four hours.
Malta is a popular destination year-round, so there's no need to worry about arriving at closed shops and amenities in December. The traditionally Roman Catholic country celebrates Christmas in a big way, too, but without the snow and grey skies!
This fortified city is Malta’s capital. Located on a hilly peninsula between two natural harbours, many of Valletta's buildings are steeped in history dating to the 16th century. UNESCO has designated the city as of outstanding universal value. A visit in December is an excellent way to escape winter, as average temperatures reach around 17℃.
Finding your hot European escape this December
Travelling to escape England’s cold winter and enjoy a few sunny days in December is as easy as getting on a short-haul flight to Europe. The further south you go, the warmer the temperatures will be. If December is dedicated to Christmas with family and friends in the UK, a trip to Europe in November or January is sure to ease any winter blues.
Often, these European destinations are quieter through the winter months, yet many of the typical tourist sites and entertainment are open to enjoy. This makes taking a winter sun getaway all the more tempting and enjoyable for anyone dreaming of sandy beaches and more hours of sunshine.