Winter may not officially start until December, but with the long summer nights now a distant memory, you can certainly be forgiven for looking longingly at those summer holiday photos. Unless, of course, winter just so happens to be your favourite time of year. Perhaps you’re a snow sports junkie, or simply like the cosy feel of those dark winter nights? Whatever your travel personality is, there’s a host of fantastic European destinations just waiting to be explored in the coming months.
So whether you’re planning a last-minute getaway before Christmas, or looking to book an escape to break up those long winter months at the turn of the year, our top five winter escapes are sure to provide you with plenty of inspiration. Are you happy to soak up the rays on a beach, or are you thirsting for a bit of culture and adventure? Check out our selection of locations below and get ready to hit the road continental style…
Located a mere 125km off the western coast of Africa, the island of Lanzarote basks in over 300 days of sunshine a year and enjoys average temperatures of around 20 degrees throughout the winter months. Over the decades it has established itself as a favourite destination for wintertime sun worshippers, thanks in part to its sandy beaches, warm ocean temperatures and large variety of resorts.
The easternmost of the Canary Islands lends itself well to a lazy holiday spent by the poolside or on the beach however, this Spanish island also offers plenty of outdoor adventure should you start to feel a bit restless. Volcanos make up a big chunk of the island’s mountainous landscapes, and large-scale eruptions in the 1700s caused parts of the island to be covered in blackened ash and lava. Many of these areas can be accessed via hiking routes which offer spectacular views of the island and beyond.
Pick up a car hire in Lanzarote and head to the Timanfaya National Park where you can explore a variety of trails, as well as learn about the scorching lava fields which still exist below the surface.
The Culture Vulture
The stunning port city of La Rochelle dates back to the 14th century and is the ideal destination for those keen to soak up a heady mix of culture, history and fascinating architecture.
Located on the west coast of France, roughly halfway between Nantes and Bordeaux, the city is very much built around its historic port area, which features two large stone-built towers at the harbour mouth. The surrounding quayside and streets form the heartbeat of the city, with bars, cafés and restaurants spread throughout the easily accessible central area.
The Aquarium La Rochelle is one of the most popular attractions in town, featuring huge open-air aquariums, shark tanks and a tropical greenhouse where you see and learn about fascinating sea creatures from around the globe.
And don’t forget that the city’s prominent position on the beautiful French coast lends itself well to a road trip or two. Book a car hire at La Rochelle Airport and explore the city and surrounding coastal area in your own time.
The Family of Adventurers
Snow sports is the name of the game at this time of year and also just so happens to lend itself perfectly to family holidays. But where to, we hear you ask? For a fantastic choice of resorts and plenty of natural scenery to boot, look no further than south-eastern France. Pick up a car hire in the city of Grenoble, ideally located at the foot of the French Alps, and take your pick from a host of world-class ski resorts – all within a few hours’ drive from the city.
The popular Chamrousse Ski Resort is located just 30km east of Grenoble, meaning you can either drive back and forth on a daily basis or stay at a hotel by the resort. Hit the slopes and explore 90km of skiable terrain, as well as 40km of cross-country skiing trails.
Alternatively, continue east on a delightful two and a half hour journey along mountain roads towards the Serre Chevalier resort. Recognised as one of the biggest ski areas in the region, it features 102 slopes spread over 250km of ski terrain. Renowned for its powder snow and fantastic facilities, not to mention the over 300 days of sunshine it enjoys each year, Serre Chevalier is a firm favourite with skiers and snowboarders of all abilities.
Let’s face it, the winter months in the UK don’t lend themselves particularly well to romance – unless you have a penchant for howling winds and horizontal rain, that is. Over on the continent, however, many of the cities are blessed with those snow-filled fairy tale winters, and few places do it better than Tallinn. The Estonian capital comes alive during the colder months, when generous helpings of the white stuff covers the city’s Old Town. It’s perfect for a romantic evening stroll, complete with outdoor ice rinks and concerts.
If you’re lucky enough to pay a visit to the city between late November and early January, then you can’t miss the magical Tallinn Christmas Markets. The Town Hall Square is transformed into a festive wonderland of Christmas lights, wooden stalls and a giant Christmas tree. Browse local handicrafts, admire a variety of ice sculptures or sip mulled wine whilst taking in one of the nightly choir performances.
So, how about that winter getaway then? Check out these posts for further inspiration:
• A guide to the European Capital of Culture, part 1 – Riga, Latvia
• A guide to the European Capital of Culture, part 1 – Umeå, Sweden
• 5 family snow sports destinations to hit this half-term