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Spend the Christmas break in the sun and escape the cold with these luxury winter holiday destinations

by Amy Poulton

Here in the Northern Hemisphere, when the days get shorter, the temperatures get cooler and the clocks turn back, we’re dreaming of a luxury winter sun holiday.

If you’re also wanting to get away from the cold and into the heat, then we have the perfect solution with these luxury winter destination recommendations.

Spend your Christmas holidays in the sun, ring in the New Year somewhere special and plan a luxury winter holiday to look forward to in the coming cold months.

Luxury Winter Sun Holidays in Cambodia

Winter is one of the best times to visit Cambodia, when temperatures are warm, but the humidity is low.

Average temperatures are in the mid-20s, though can drop below 20 degrees Celsius at night, which makes for a cool break from the sun.

This is the perfect season for heading down to the country’s laidback south coast beach destinations, such as Sihanoukville and Kep, as the dry conditions and warm ocean temperatures are ideal for diving and snorkelling.

You’ll find plenty of marine life in the waters around Koh Rong at this time of year.

Be aware that due to the winter sun benefits, December to February is also peak tourist season for Cambodia, as many visitors arrive around the Christmas, New Year and Chinese New Year periods.

Angkor Wat can be especially busy during this time. However, the Tonle Sap water levels are still high during December, so visiting the floating villages by boat is still possible during this month. 

Winter Sun Wisdom

Keen birders will love Cambodia as a luxury winter destination, as the season is the best time of year to observe the country’s diverse birdlife.

The best places for birdwatching are the northern plains of Cambodia at Kulen Promtep and Beng Per Wildlife Sanctuaries, as well as Prek Toal Wetlands on the western edge of Tonle Sap Lake, where you’ll spot cormorants, storks and pelicans.

Luxury Winter Sun Holidays in India

Winter in India is on average warm and dry.

The mountains of the north are cold with some snow and there are cooler temperatures in the north of the country (especially in the national parks), however clear blue skies with plenty of sunshine can be found in the southern states.

Read our when to go to India guide for more information on when to travel to the different regions.

One of the best areas to visit in India for a luxury winter sun holiday is Kerala; a tropical paradise of serene backwaters, palm-fringed beaches and verdant tea plantations.

Average temperatures hit 28 degrees Celsius and there can be up to nine hours of sunshine a day.

Winter is also peak season in Kerala, so make sure you book well in advance to ensure availability at your preferred hotel or a place on a houseboat for a backwater cruise.

Winter Sun Wisdom

Morning fog is commonplace in Agra in December and January, so if you visit during this time, make sure that you schedule your Taj Mahal visit for the afternoon.

Luxury Winter Sun Holidays in Laos

Laos may not be on your winter destinations radar, but Southeast Asia’s hidden gem is perfect as a luxury winter destination, offering a rich culture, delicious cuisine, adventure activities and excellent weather.

A luxury winter sun holiday in Laos delivers blue skies and temperatures averaging 20 to 25 degrees Celsius, as well as up to eight hours of sunshine a day.

These favourable conditions are ideal for trekking in Muang La and Phongsali, as well as outdoor excursions for caving, rock-climbing and more.

On average, it rains only once per month during the winter in Laos, so the 4,000 islands are the perfect place to head to for rest, relaxation and sun-worshipping.

Though January and February don’t tend to be as busy (other than Chinese New Year), December is the most popular time of year to visit Vientiane and Luang Prabang, especially for Christmas, so make sure you book well in advance to guarantee availability at your preferred accommodation.

Read our when to go to Laos guide to learn more.

Winter Sun Wisdom

Remember that higher altitudes mean cooler temperatures, so if you’re looking to explore the mountains in the north and east of Laos, or if you’re stopping in Pakbeng as part of a cruise along the Mekong, temperatures can drop to 15 degrees Celsius, especially at night.

Luxury Winter Sun Holidays in New Zealand

New Zealand’s summer months (that’s winter to the Northern Hemisphere, December to February) feature long, sunny days perfect for beaching and outdoor activities.

No wonder this luxury winter destination recently topped polls as the dream destination for one in four Brits.

Though it may feel a little strange to “northerners,” New Zealand is a great place for Christmas holidays in the sun, with temperatures in both North and South Island sticking in the mid-20s.

January is a very popular month to travel in New Zealand due to the excellent weather and the holiday season. The country lights up with New Year celebrations and outdoor events.

Take advantage of the gorgeous summer weather with some outdoor adventures in New Zealand’s epic countryside. Choose from hiking, kayaking, sailing, hobbit-spotting, mountain biking, boating, rafting, canyoning, wildlife watching and much, much more.

Read when to go to New Zealand to learn more.

Be mindful that these are also the popular months for tourism in New Zealand, as school breaks for the long summer holidays and Kiwis are on their vacations, plus there are lots of exciting celebratory events and festivals taking place.

Winter Sun Wisdom

New Zealand is quite special over the New Year period, as Gisborne (a surfing, wine and cultural destination on North Island) is the first city to greet the first sunrise of the New Year.

Luxury Winter Sun Holidays in South Africa

With year-round sunshine and low rainfall, South Africa is a great choice for a luxury winter sun holiday destination.

However, the climate varies from region to region, so the best month to visit depends on where you’d like to go and what activities you’re looking to do.

South Africa’s Southern Hemisphere summer (December to February) is hot and sunny, with temperatures in the mid-20s in most regions.

There can be dramatic thunderstorms in the afternoons, however this shouldn’t affect morning and evening game drives.

If you’re planning on a safari in one of the country’s national parks, read when to go to South Africa for more information about conditions.

Parks and lodges can get booked up quickly over the festive holidays in December, so if you’re heading out on safari we recommend that you visit one of Kruger National Park’s private concessions or one of the smaller, lesser-known parks to avoid the crowds.

Winter Sun Wisdom

Cape Town has a more Mediterranean climate and a self-drive holiday from the city to the Cape Winelands, the Garden Route and the Eastern Cape reserves is perfect in February.

Luxury Winter Sun Holidays in Thailand

With the Andaman Sea on one side and the Gulf of Thailand on the other, there’s always a good time to visit Thailand.

For a winter sun beach holiday, choose Andaman coast destinations, which have an opposite monsoon season to the east. Phuket, Krabi (which is one of Forbes' top 19 destinations to visit in 2019) and Khao Lak are usually rain-free during this period, and diving and snorkelling visibility is at its best.

Average daily temperatures are 28 degrees Celsius.

In the north of the country, the days are warm and the evenings are cool, the cloudless skies are blue and the mountains are a lush green. These conditions are ideal for trekking adventures and hill tribe visits.

Winter Sun Wisdom

However, be mindful that December is also high season in Thailand, especially over the Christmas and New Year period, so make sure you book ahead for accommodation and tours. Read when to go to Thailand to find out more.

Luxury Winter Sun Holidays in Uganda

Uganda has a spring-like climate year-round with blue skies and warm day time temperatures ranging from 21 to 25 degrees Celsius.

Although Uganda can be visited all year, we believe that the best time to visit is during its two dry seasons from December to February and June to September, when temperatures are pleasant and there is little chance of rain.

Conditions are favourable for gorilla and chimpanzee treks during these months, whilst game viewing is particularly good towards the end of the dry seasons, when the shortage of water forces wildlife to congregate by the rivers and waterholes.

Read when to go to Uganda for more travel advice.

Winter Sun Wisdom

Winter is a great time to track chimpanzees in Kibale and mountain gorillas in Bwindi, as the dry weather means that the forests are less muddy and the tracks less slippery, making the trekking more manageable.

Make sure you book in advance to secure gorilla and chimpanzee tracking permits, especially over the festive periods.

Luxury Winter Sun Holidays in Vietnam

The best time to visit southern Vietnam is between December and March. December has perfect conditions for city exploring; in Hanoi temperatures average 21 degrees Celsius and a Halong Bay cruise is ideal.

In Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), you can expect blue skies, sunshine and little rain. From the city, journey to the Con Dao Island and Mui Ne Beach for a luxury winter sun holiday by the sea.

Winter Sun Wisdom

At over 1,000 kilometres in length, the north and south of Vietnam have opposite monsoon seasons and weather can vary from one region to another.

On the one hand, this means this means you can travel to Vietnam at any time of year, however be mindful that some regions are better to visit during other seasons. Read our when to go to Vietnam guide for more.

We hope you’ve found some winter sun inspiration in this list of the best winter holidays to escape the chill. To learn more about luxury winter destinations and to start planning your luxury winter sun holiday, chat to our friendly team of Luxury Travel Specialists on 0203 143 4293, or fill out our enquiry form for a no-obligation quote.

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