The long, dark winter that Brits face each year can leave many feeling down, unmotivated, and more tired than usual. Around 2 million people in the UK suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD), struggling with lower moods and energy during the winter months.
There are various ways that people try to combat these winter blues, from taking vitamin D supplements to enjoying cosy nights in with hot chocolate. One of the most effective remedies is taking a winter break abroad to warmer climates and sunnier destinations.
Package holiday provider Holiday Best has partnered with mental health expert and PhD researcher Anna Bailie to examine the benefits of winter sunshine for mental health. “Exposure to sunlight, leisure time in green spaces, and physical activity all have a significant positive impact on people’s mental and physical health,” explains Bailie.
“Research shows that people are happier in scenic locations, where the aesthetics of the environment improve everyday well-being. Planning winter holidays, especially to sunny destinations, can provide a boost to mental and physical health during the season when it often declines.”
Ideal destinations for winter sun
Some of the best winter sunshine destinations recommended by Bailie include:
- Marrakesh, Morocco. With average temperatures of 17–22°C and abundant sunshine, Marrakesh offers outdoor sightseeing, vibrant culture, and exotic escapism during its shoulder season from November to February.
- Santorini, Greece. The iconic island destination enjoys mild temperatures averaging 15–18°C during the winter months. Visitors can take in the beautiful caldera views and charming villages without the crowds.
- Abu Dhabi, UAE. This Middle Eastern hotspot sees sunny days and low rainfall from November to March, with temperatures ranging from 22–28°C, making it perfect for beach getaways.
- Giza, Egypt. Home to the Great Pyramids, Giza averages highs around 22°C in winter with 7–8 hours of sunshine, ideal for exploring ancient sights.
While long-haul winter sun holidays have clear benefits, shorter budget-friendly breaks within Europe can also lift the spirits. According to Bailie, “It can be really important to have things to look forward to when the world feels bleak.” Having a trip planned provides motivation and optimism during gloomy winter days.
Budget winter sun destinations
Some top-value destinations for quick sunshine fixes recommended by Holiday Best include:
Canary Islands, Spain Thanks to their proximity to Africa, the Canary Islands enjoy 20°C temperatures and seven sunny hours even in winter. Resorts in Tenerife and Gran Canaria are especially warm from December to February.
Malta Malta sees highs around 18–21°C during November and December, doubling the UK’s sunshine hours. The island offers history, architecture, and scenic trails to explore crowd-free.
Cyprus Cyprus averages 19–20°C on its south coast in winter, with 6 hours of daily sunshine. Visitors can enjoy strolls along charming villages, ancient ruins, and rugged landscapes.
Madeira, Portugal – the “Island of Eternal Spring” – lives up to its nickname, with pleasant temperatures of 17–21°C and blooming flowers even in winter. The volcanic island features breathtaking hiking trails through laurel forests.
Tips for mental health at home
For those unable to jet off during the winter months, Bailie provides some suggestions for maintaining mental wellbeing closer to home:
- Use SAD lamps to get daily light exposure and support hormone balance.
- Engage in self-care through relaxing baths, exercise, and social activities to reduce stress.
- Join local clubs or groups to improve social connections that support mental health.
- Make plans for enjoyable winter outings or short getaways to have things to anticipate.
While the winter may seem long and dreary, a dose of sunshine and a change of scene can make all the difference. Whether basking on Mediterranean beaches or admiring ancient sights, a winter holiday can provide mood-boosting benefits to the mind and body that will carry you through the colder months back home.