European winter sun islands

Last updated 10th July 2022

1/10 Lopud, Croatia

A 50-minute ferry ride off the coast of Dubrovnik is the pine-scented cove of Sunj and its fine sandy beach (unusual for the oft pebbly shores of Croatia). It also has a large shallow bay, perfect for children to paddle in while you read a book.

Price: Completely Croatia (01323 832538) offers seven nights from £585 per person, based on a family of four sharing.

Azores Islands, Portugal

2/10 Azores Islands

Head for Furnas, on the island of Sao Miguel for hot-springs and thermal mud baths. Horse-riding, sailing, diving, surfing, canyoning and golfing are all also at hand. And there are ace whale and birdwatching opportunities. Try to avoid going in February, when it’s more likely to rain.

Price: Sunvil Discovery (020 8568 4499) offers seven nights on Sao Miguel (the main island) from £430 per person, based on a family of four sharing.

Maderia, Portugal

3/10 Madeira, Portugal

Make for the seafront promenade that runs the length of Funchal to Camara de Lobos, or neighbouring Machico, which has a sandy beach and good swimming. A cable car from Funchal town centre will take you to its Botanical Gardens, but some would say that a wicker basket sleigh is the only way to travel – tobogganing on dry land.

Price: Anatolian Sky (0844 273 2606) offers one week in Madeira for £2,600 for a family of four.

windmill, greece

4/10 Crete, Greece

Amnisos beach has excellent archaeological and historical museums, with a couple of large El Greco paintings. Just a few miles west of Heraklion is Agia Pelagia beach, with its sheltered bay and hilltop views. Southern Crete is in the North African climate zone, so it’s one of the best winter bets in the Greek islands.

Price: Simpson Travel (0845 508 8211) offers one week for four for £610 per person.

Sicilly northern coast

5/10 Sicily, Italy

A small, medieval seaside town near Palermo on Sicily’s northern coast, Cefalu is staggeringly beautiful – October or November are the best times to go. The stunning beach, winding streets and mosaic-bedecked Norman Cathedral – in one of Italy’s prettiest squares – are all reason enough to go.

Price: Long Travel (01694 722193) offers one week in Sicily in November for a family of four for £493 per person.

Ibiza, spain

6/10 Ibiza, Spain

Pine forest-clad Portinatx is laid-back, and away from the clubbing community. Older children can do the cliff walks for the views, while younger kids can just eat ice cream at every bar. There’s lots of snorkelling, good coastal trails and a waterpark attached to the Marconfort El Greco hotel.

Price: Travel Supermarket (0845 345 5708) offers one week in Ibiza in December for a family of four for £980.

7/10 Kefalonia, Greece

In early November, the summer crowds will have disappeared, the sea will have lost none of its allure and the weather will be mostly warm. The island’s sandy beaches such as Myrtos are a sight to behold. Poros beach is the most family-friendly as it has shallow waters with lots of snorkelling opportunities.

Price: Ionian & Aegean Island Holidays (020 8459 0777) offers one week in Kefalonia from 26 October for £550 per adult; £500 per child.

gozo malta

8/10 Gozo, Malta

This is an ideal location for snorkelling and diving, but more adventurous children – and indeed adults – can head for the caves in a kayak or abseil down rocks. Cycle down dusty coastal paths to Dwejra bay, get a fishing boat through the tunnel and you’re out into true blue, clear waters.

Price: Original Travel (020 7978 7333) offers one week in Gozo for a family of four from £1,270.


9/10 Lanzarote, Canary Islands

For families, Costa Teguise, to the north of Arrecife, is where it’s at – it has the only water park on the island. Windsurfing is a major event, head for the beach at Las Cucharas for the best around. In the unlikely event that it does rain, hop over to Arrecife and explore its two castles.

Price: First Choice (0844 871 1604) offers one week in Lanzarote for a family of four for £1,850.


10/10 Tenerife, Canary Islands

Base yourself in the south and there are great sandy beaches for small people and sunshine. Trips include a Parrot Park (not just full of birds), a Quad Park (ages six to 12 go free as passengers) and a Camel Park. On your doorstep is Aqualand Costa Adeje, with a waterpark and ‘dolphinarium’.

Price: Olympic Holidays (020 8492 6868) offers one week in Tenerife from £300pp.