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GREAT ESCAPES: WHERE TO GO FOR WINTER SUN

20.12.15

It's natural, when skies darken and temperatures plummet, the entirely rational response is to think of escaping to somewhere a little closer to the equator. Though the forecasts for the foreseeable future may not be anything to get excited about, Christmas and all of its rituals go a long way to alleviate the gloom of short, dark and dreary days. When the festive season draws to its close, there is little to feel enthusiastic about until spring's first days have sprung. You don't have to accept your lot though. From a European location with a more favourable thermometer reading to the places that spend all year long basking in heat, a winter sun getaway doesn't have to just be a flight of fancy, it can be a lifeline during an endlessly long winter. Just pick a place and brace yourself a return to summer.

WHERE: THE MALDIVES

With endless stretches of pristine white sandy beaches, a gratifyingly stubborn year-round average temperature of 30 degrees and crystal clear waters, the Maldives is about as close to textbook tropical paradise as it's possible to get. And as each one of the country's 1,192 coral islands is as Instagrammable as the next, wherever you head there's a surplus of natural beauty (all of which comes bookended by vividly blue sky and sea).

There's no bad time to go and no underwhelming place to see in the Maldives.

STAY: COCOA ISLAND

Where does one stay when surrounded by epic beaches, barrier reefs and towering palm trees? Cocoa Island is a pretty wise choice. The resort is arranged into 33 villas which sit above the water on a gangway that links back to this intimately small island's heart.

Though this minuscule piece of land plonked in the middle of the Indian Ocean may seem immune from the reaches of modern life, it boasts a 25 meter infinity-edge swimming pool, a water-sports centre, its own restaurant and bar, and crucially it has complimentary Wi-Fi for those who aren't quite ready to familiarise themselves with a non-digital existence. Perhaps the greatest of pleasures this island has to offer - and the simplest - is watching the sun set over the ocean.

WHERE: COSTA RICA

Costa Rica may not have the same pull as its Goliath-like stable mate, Mexico, but what it lacks in size and star-power it more than makes up for in tropical tranquillity. Plus, for the exercise averse, it’s the perfect place to soak up the best of Latin American culture without committing to a physically demanding trek.

Waterfalls, untamed rainforests and secluded beaches are so numerous they’re practically passe in Costa Rica and there’s wildlife enough for a whole continent to be spotted everywhere you look.

Then there are the beaches - which make up a sizeable portion of the country's landmass - that we could wax lyrical about for days.

SEE: SANTA TERESA

Like many of Costa Rica’s hottest spots, Santa Teresa began life as a modest fishing village and up until the 1980s retained this way of life. Now, it’s the country’s answer to Malibu Beach.  Frequented by surfers, dog walkers and runners, the destination has more than a dash of the bohemian and is perfect for those city dwellers who want to escape the restraints of the city.

Despite this laid-back feel, Santa Teresa is serious about its cuisine and should be a foodie's first port of call thanks to the generous smattering of high quality restaurants.

WHERE: CANARY ISLANDS

Located just off the west coast of Africa, the Canary Islands can officially lay claim to offering the warmest temperatures in Europe throughout winter and over 200 hours of sunshine. So then, they're the ideal place to escape encroaching chills while leaving behind only a modest carbon footprint. You'll no doubt be familiar with this archipelago's main islands, but a little foraging off the beaten tourist path reveals a surprising amount of natural diversity, dramatic scenery and things to see and do.

If it's instant sun you're after, look no further than this Spanish mainland offshoot.

VISIT: MASCA

Nestled at the foot of Tenerife's northwesterly Teno Mountains is the hamlet of Masca which feels a chasm away from the island's holidaymaker hub. Best described as a lost world on a Spanish isle, there's lush greenery as far as the eye can see with some rustic restaurants and a minuscule museum added for good measure.

There's a catch though. You'll need to take a white-knuckle car journey along a sharply winding road which is flanked by eye-wateringly steep ravines to get here. The ride is worth the reward - Masca is the ultimate breath of fresh air for those fatigued by dazzling white beaches dotted with deckchairs.