A skimboarder in Cape Verde

Wondering where to go on holiday this winter? Then make sure these destinations are on your radar; they’re sunny, sandy and you won’t arrive with jetlag.

Old favourite: Tenerife

We know what you’re thinking; Club 18-30 holidays, lager-swilling expats and tacky resorts. These preconceptions are not entirely unfounded – Tenerife was a pioneer of the “pile them high, sell them cheap” approach to package holidays – but the island has strived to shake off this reputation and attract a more salubrious clientele. 

Posh new resorts, a burgeoning restaurant scene and spiritual retreats are helping Tenerife recast itself as a destination for the discerning holidaymaker, while its sandy beaches, volcanic landscapes and warm weather sell themselves. Flight time from Britain? Four hours.

Shortcut to summer - TenerifeTenerife is shaking off its image of old
Kevin Eaves / Thinkstock

Red Sea retreat: Egypt

Hurghada’s golden beaches, scorching temperatures and world-class scuba diving are certainly no secret, but with the ongoing political unrest in Egypt there has probably never been a better time to visit the Red Sea resort where there are bargains aplenty and crowds are scarce.

Whether you want to scuba dive on coral reefs, trek through the desert or pander to pleasure in one of the five-star resorts, Hurghada has a gamut of options for the sun-seeking holidaymaker. And with direct flights from London to Hurghada, this Red Sea retreat is just five hours away.

Shortcut to summer - HurghadaImmerse yourself in the Red Sea at Hurghada
Igor Borisov / Thinkstock

The smiling coast: Gambia

Dubbed the “smiling coast of West Africa”, Gambia has long been Europe’s shortcut to the tropics. This former British colony might be the smallest nation in mainland Africa, but it punches well above its weight as a holiday destination… and it’s just five hours from London.

Most come to imbibe sunshine on sandy beaches, others to marvel at the world-renowned birdlife (Chris Packham is a regular). The more adventurous traveller can don hiking boots and trek through the jungle or cruise up the Gambia River in search of pygmy hippos and crocs.

Shortcut to summer - Gambia Soccer at sundown on a Gambian beach
Rafa Ocon / Thinkstock

Cape crusader: Cape Verde

Tourism is on the rise in Cape Verde, but you won’t be jostling for space on the beaches just yet. That will change, however, as holidaymakers arrive at this African archipelago in increasing numbers. Floating off the coast of Senegal, this former Portuguese colony boasts a surprising diversity of landscapes for such a small nation; sweeping sandy beaches, luscious mountain ranges and frozen lava fields are just part of the picture.

The golden beaches and limpid waters are the main draws, but the archipelago also offers excellent trekking, world-class windsurfing and a rich fusion of Portuguese and Cape Verdean culture – all within five hours of Britain.

Shortcut to summer - Cape VerdeCape Verde's beaches are just five hours from Britain
Nisangha / Thinkstock

Arabian allure: Oman

The jewel of Arabia, Oman is seven hours from London and this sunny sultanate is perfect for a midwinter getaway. With 1,700km (1,056 miles) of coastline, the country has no shortage of sandy beaches, which are glorious gateways to some of the best dive sites in the Middle East.

But sea, sun and sand are just part of the story; head inland and you can hike through verdant rainforests, camp with Bedouins and share epic vistas with mountain-dwelling shepherds. And spare a day for Muscat, the historic capital, where ancient palaces, grandiose mosques and bustling souks abound.

Shortcut to summer - OmanA Bedouin camp in the Omani desert
Charles Masters / Thinkstock

Visa and passport information is updated regularly and is correct at the time of publishing. You should verify critical travel information independently with the relevant embassy before you travel.