Ed Leahy rounds up some of the top winter sun destinations

There has been an unusual amount of sunshine brightening up this Emerald Isle over the past two summers. But once September comes and the evenings start getting colder and shorter, those winter sunshine brochures will surely be sourced and the escape route planned from the dark days ahead. Here are some destinations worth exploring this winter:

Zighy Bay, Oman

Travel off the beaten track for some winter sunshine and discover Oman’s unspoilt landscape and ancient heritage, a surprising contrast to the diet of sand dunes and skyscrapers of some of its Arabian neighbours. Luxurious hotels rest on pristine unspoilt beaches framed by the rugged grandeur of the Hajar Mountains. The capital, Muscat has retained much of its ancient charm and its narrow streets, forts and souks are fascinating, friendly places to explore. Six Senses Zighy Bay is located on the northern Musandam Peninsula, offering indigenous, village-style accommodations and a private marina, with the dramatic mountains on one side and the sandy beach of Zighy Bay on the other.

Winter Sun Offer

Trailfinders: 7 nights at the 5-star Six Senses Zighy Bay, from €2449pp. www.Trailfinders.ie

Mellieha Bay, Malta

Enjoy a winter sunshine break with a cultural combination in Mediterranean Malta with unspoiled beaches, sapphire waters and architectural delights dotted throughout this most interesting and diverse island. Home to nine UNESCO World Heritage sites across the archipelago, the island’s fascinating past is visible across its landscape, especially evident upon visiting the capital Valetta, a World Heritage site in itself. Buzzing with lively bars and nightclubs, St Julian’s is the top spot for your lively evening entertainment, and visit Gozo to experience its unique, rural charm. A bike ride between the coastal towns is a great way to take it all in.

Winter Sun Offer

LowCostHolidays.ie:  7 nights at 4-star Ramla Bay Resort from €219pp B&B in November. www.LowCostHolidays.ie

Cape Town, South Africa

Cape Town proves the perfect city break destination and the best time to visit is right in the middle of an Irish winter as the South African city sparkles in the summer sunshine, particularly when viewing from on high, atop Table Mountain, which overlooks the harbour city and Cape peninsula. And you are not going to travel that distance without sampling a bit more of what the southern tip of Africa has to offer, whether hitting the nearby Western Cape vineyards, including the famous Stellenbosch, Paarl, Franschhoek and Robertson or travelling the Garden Route. The icy waters around Cape Town are not for the fainthearted but the warm waters of the Indian Ocean can be enjoyed further around the coast towards Port Elizabeth.

Winter Sun Offer

GoHop.ie: 11 nights in Cape Town from €1186pp. www.GoHop.ie

Agadir, Morocco

Located on the southwest coast of Morocco, at the foot of the Atlas Mountains, Agadir is almost as far south as the Canary Islands, so its climate boasts year-round sunshine with daytime temperatures rarely falling below 20 degrees Celsius. The resort boasts a spectacular and sprawling crescent-shaped beach, which proves ideal for water-sport enthusiasts enjoying the waves that roll in off the Atlantic Ocean, while the seafront boasts many beautiful hotels and fine restaurants. The Paradis Plage Surf Yoga & Spa Resort is located just outside Agadir and is ideal for those wanting to nurture body, mind and spirit through excellent yoga classes and spa treatments.

Winter Sun Offers to Agadir

ClickandGo.com: 7 nights at the 5 star Atlantic Palace Agadir - Golf Thalasso & Casino Resort from €475pp in November & December. www.ClickandGo.com

Sunway: 7 nights at 4*+ Paradis Plage Surf Yoga & Spa Hotel €999pp. www.Sunway.ie

Khao Lak, Thailand

Khao Lak is a quiet beach resort 100km north of Phuket town with long stretches of white sandy beaches, surrounded by lush tropical forests and crystal clear waters of the Andaman. The unspoilt environment of Khao Lak makes it perfect for nature lovers and also for anyone looking for a relaxing, peaceful getaway. Khao Lak is also is a great spot for scuba diving both for beginners and experienced divers. Plus the pristine reefs make it one of the best spots for snorkelling in Thailand.

Winter Sun Offers

Topflight: 7 nights at the 4-star Khao Lak Merlin Resort from €858pps.

7 nights at the 5-star The Sarojinn from €1,299pps. www.Topflight.ie

Malaga, Spain

A visit to the Costa del Sol in the winter months is nothing like what goes on during high season when thousands of English and Irish holidaymakers go wild on the south coast of Spain. The city of Malaga proves a popular city break destination throughout the year and the winter months are ideal to explore this interesting city as the sun shines, virtually on a daily basis without the searing heat of summertime. Malaga’s main attraction is its traditional old town, where you can visit the beautiful Moorish Alcazaba Palace and saunter the winding alleyways enjoying the art and architecture. As with any Spanish city, the nightlife will make you forget that the evenings are a little bit cool throughout the winter months.

Winter Sun Offers

Trivago: Hotels in Malaga during the winter months average at €57 per night. www.Trivago.ie

Madeira, Portugal

The island of Madeira is located off the coast of Morocco, and just north of the Spanish Canaries. This subtropical archipelago offers year-round sunshine with plenty of activities and attractions to be enjoyed at a leisurely pace on this relaxed island. The Laurisilva Forest, in the Madeira Natural Park, is the largest evergreen forest in the world and is a world heritage site, so the island is a haven for hikers, mountain bikers or birdwatchers. Surfing and other water-sports are available throughout the island and while the winter temperatures may not be hot enough for dedicated sun seekers, the weather will really suit anyone looking for an active break. The island is also gaining a strong reputation for its gastronomy due to the abundance of fish on offer.

Winter Sun Offer

Hotels.com: Hotels in Madeira during the winter months average at €80 per night. www.Hotels.com

Canary Islands

The islands off the west African coast remain a firm favourite every winter as Gran Canaria, Tenerife, Lanzarote and Fuerteventura host thousands of Irish holidaymakers looking to boost their vitamin D levels throughout the winter months. The amazing sand dunes of Playa del Ingles are waiting to be explored, the nightlife of Los Americas continues throughout the winter months, the volcanic landscape of Lanzarote is like no other, while water-sports enthusiasts will be at home on the windy island of Fuerteventura. The islands are only a short hop away, which makes them so attractive to the alternatives on offer.

Winter Sun Offers

Falcon Holidays: 7 nights in the Canary Islands from €349. www.falconholidays.ie

Thompson Holidays: 7 nights at 4-star Canary Island hotel from €499. www.thomsonholidays.ie

Mauritius

The paradise island of Mauritius is a rugged beauty with over 200 miles of coastline, fringed by powder soft white beaches, encircled by coral reefs. And aside from the idyllic beaches, the Indian Ocean island also offers a lush and mountainous interior, home to an array of exotic flora and fauna and many beautiful parks such as the Pamplemousse Royal Botanical Gardens, Black River Gorges National Park and Domaine des Pailles. The Oberoi resort allows you to experience the best of what Mauritius has to offer, located in 20 acres of superb, sub-tropical gardens with a 600-metre oceanfront. Villas with private swimming pools and luxury pavilions offer panoramic views of the ocean. The resort also offers a range of water-sport activities, including windsurfing, waterskiing, diving and sailing.

Winter Sun Offer

Trailfinders 7 nights at the 5+ star, The Oberoi Mauritius, from €2579pp. www.Trailfinders.ie

Cancun, Mexico

The resorts around Mexico’s coast offer relaxation and adventure in equal measures. You can head for one of the many great resorts in Cancun and enjoy the blue seas and the warm sands while sipping chilled cocktails. And if you prefer a more active holiday then hiking in the Copper Canyon in the northern area of the country will reward you with some of the most stunning scenery in the land. And while you are there you will enjoy discovering about the extraordinary history from ancient Mayan temples to the ruins of Aztec civilisations.

Winter Sun Offer

Travelmood.ie: 7 nights in the Viva Wyndham Maya All Inclusive, €1199pp. www.Travelmood.ie

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