Craving some winter sun? Four of the best holidays to book in 2023

From birdwatching in Madeira to sailing alongside racer dolphins in Oman

1. Beaches and lagoons in South Africa

Three fishing boats on the beach at Paternoster

The fishing village of Paternoster
(Image credit: Cookedphotos/Getty Images)

Most tourists leaving Cape Town head east to the winelands around Franschhoek or south along the Garden Route, but there are also glorious beaches and pretty seaside towns set in beautiful countryside to the north, said Antonia Quirke in Condé Nast Traveller.

The region’s most “cherished” spot is Paternoster, a fishing village where most of the houses are built in the vernacular “langhuis” style – low-slung and limewashed, with black thatched roofs and massive end chimneys. Shops selling “surfboards, pricey kaftans and artisan tiles” line its “cheerful” main drag; there’s a wide beach of “iron-silver” sand, and some great places to eat (Oep ve Koep is a “botanical treasure trove” thanks to its chef’s enthusiasm for foraging).

Nearby is Langebaan, one of South Africa’s oldest towns, which sits beside a vast saltwater lagoon. Just down the coast, Yzerfontein is justly famed for its 16-mile beach, the longest in South Africa, with sand so pale it dazzles and dunes patrolled by ostriches in the mornings.

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Perfect Hideaways has beautiful holiday lets in the area

2. The majesty of untamed Madeira

Woman in natural pool in Madeira

Winter is a good time to visit Madeira
(Image credit: Marco Bottigelli/Getty Images)

For a long time, Madeira had a slightly stuffy reputation as a holiday destination. But this lush, mountainous island in the Atlantic still retains the primeval grandeur that must have set the hearts of Portuguese sailors racing when they first set eyes on it five centuries ago, said Chris Leadbeater in The Daily Telegraph. And Madeira is now attracting a new generation of visitors, who come to immerse themselves in its wild places.

Winter is a good time to visit, with temperatures typically hovering a little below 20°C – not quite sunbathing weather, but perfect for outdoorsy activities, including hiking and birdwatching, and cultural exploration.

The pretty capital, Funchal, has several “intriguing” sights (the 16th century cathedral, the colonnaded market, the beautiful gardens of the 19th century Quinta da Boa Vista). There are marvels elsewhere too, such as the “dramatic” Mudas Contemporary Art Museum. And the island is now home to several fine restaurants.

For outdoorsy trips, try or

3. A thrilling family holiday in Oman

The dunes at Wahiba, Oman

The dunes at Wahiba are ‘transfixing’
(Image credit: Panso/Getty Images)

If you want to enjoy ice cream, swimming pools and sunshine with minimal jet lag in the winter half term, you could scarcely do better than book a trip to Oman. But this mountainous Arabian country offers so much more than the “fly and flop” basics, said Liz Edwards in The Sunday Times.

On a boat trip from the capital, Muscat, you could find yourself sailing alongside racer dolphins, and snorkelling with green turtles. In the oasis city of Nizwa, the souks sell 40 varieties of dates along with traditional daggers and “less-traditional” rifles (“only for dancing”, the tourist guides explain), and there’s a ninth century castle where you can see the murder holes through which boiling date juice could be poured on unwanted visitors.

The dunes at Wahiba are “transfixing”. Here is a flawlessly smooth landscape of shifting colours (“russet, biscuit, ochre”) where the night sky is dazzling and the daytime activities (sandboarding, camel riding, 4x4 rides) are fantastic fun. But perhaps most dreamlike of all is the wild swimming in wadis hidden high in the Al Hajar Mountains, where dragonflies and butterflies drift past picnicking families, and there are waterfalls in caves, and rocks from which you can leap into deep green pools hidden amid mango trees and oleanders.

4. Luxury in the Caribbean

Sugar Beach hotel in St Lucia

Sugar Beach hotel in St Lucia
(Image credit: Sugar Beach)

“Framed by St Lucia’s twin peaks and flaunting a skirt of perfect white sand, Sugar Beach occupies one of the most dreamily seductive spots in the Caribbean”, said Tatler.

At its heart is a pretty 18th century plantation house, where breakfast is served on a terrace overlooking a lily pond and lush lawns. Guests stay in bungalows by the beach, and in “white-wood” cottages on a hillside, each with its own terrace and fine views. Everyone gets a butler “to look after any whim”, from planning rainforest hikes to arranging cocktails on the hotel’s smaller beach.

There are four restaurants, including one offering Asian food and another “fine dining”, and a spectacular spa with treetop cabins and walkways “straight out of Swiss Family Robinson”.

From about £7,600 for three nights;

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