15 Sep Winter sun holidays: the AA Roadwatch guide
The days are getting shorter and the weather is getting cooler… but if you don’t have school-age children, you don’t have to put away the Factor 50 just yet. While peak sun holiday season is drawing to a close, plenty of European destinations hold on to their sunny weather right through the autumn months. In fact, it might be the perfect time for that sun trip: prices are lower, crowds are smaller and you can bask in the knowledge that you’re avoiding cold weather at home!
If you’re dreaming of long days on the beach, there’s no better place than Tenerife, where the sea is at its warmest in the autumn months. As with the other Canary Islands, it boasts year-round warm weather. Daytime temperatures seldom dip below 20 degrees and rain is fairly rare. The island has no shortage of sandy beaches to laze on, with an unusual twist – many of them have black sand, due to the island’s volcanic origins, so you’ll be guaranteed plenty of variety for your holiday snaps.
Tenerife has been welcoming tourists for over half a century and its resorts stay open 365 days a year. In Playa de las Américas, the biggest resort, you’ll find hotel and apartments for all budgets. If it’s nightlife you’re after, look no further than the Veronicas Strip, full of bars that stay busy long into the night. For those travelling with toddlers though, Los Gigantes on the west coast is a slightly quieter option, with plenty of restaurants centred around a marina.
If you want to venture beyond the pool or beach, the island has plenty to offer. It’s home to two UNESCO heritage sites: Spain’s highest volcano in Teide Mountain Park (where you can take a cable car for unrivalled views) and the picturesque old town of San Cristobál de la Laguna. You can also take boat tours to see dolphins, or have a day out in Loro Parque zoo.
ESSENTIAL INFO: Package holidays start from €350 per person for a week, or if you’d prefer to book independently, flights are available from Dublin, Cork and Shannon (year-round) and Knock (until November) costing around €200 per person return.
Portugal’s Algarve region stays sunny well into autumn, with temperatures hovering at the 20 degree mark. Taking up most of the southern coast between the cities of Faro and Lagos, it’s home to over 150 sandy beaches, many of which are framed by spectacular orange cliffs. The Atlantic Ocean gives Portugal a great variety here – there are calm beaches ideal for paddling and catching rays, while others have the perfect conditions for surfers to catch waves, particularly near Lagos.
You’ll still have a large choice of hotels in autumn, with the added bonus of shorter queues for restaurants. Albufeira is the biggest resort town, with a famous strip of bars and clubs to dance until the small hours. Away from the strip, it also has the quieter Old Town, with bars and restaurants to while away the warm autumn nights.
You could easily spend a week relaxing by the pool and exploring the various beaches, but the city of Faro also is well worth a visit, especially its own historic Old Town. History buffs will also like the Castelo de Silves, an impressive Moorish hill-top fortress, while thrill-seekers can enjoy a kayak tour from Lagos. Lagos is also home to a zoo and a national park with playgrounds for those with young children.
ESSENTIAL INFO: Package holidays are available from €200 per person for a week, or flights go from Dublin (year-round) and Cork and Knock (until November), starting from €100 per person return.
Tucked away in the corner of the Mediterranean, Cyprus boasts sea temperatures of up to 26 degrees, so there’s no risk of dipping a toe in and running away shrieking. Or if you’d rather just soak up the sun, there’s an average of nine hours sunshine a day in October, so don’t forget the suncream.
There are resorts dotted around the island, with plenty of hotels to choose from. For nightlife, it can only be Ayia Napa for all-night parties. If that’s not your scene or you’re travelling with infants, try the quieter town of Coral Bay, just outside the resort area in Paphos.
Away from the beaches, Cyprus has plenty for history and culture fans to enjoy, including Aphrodite’s Rock, the 2000-year-old Tomb of the Kings and the huge archaeological sites at Kourion and Salamis. There’s also a wine festival in Limassol and a 10-day arts and culture festival in the capital, Nicosia. The waterparks stay open until late October, while most tourist attractions and zoos are open year-round.
ESSENTIAL INFO: Package holidays start from €450 per person per week. If you’re booking flights only, you’ll need to connect via London Stansted, with a total cost of around €260 per person return.
Like Cyprus, Malta’s location in the Mediterranean means that summer weather lasts until November, with the mercury lingering in the low twenties. Beach lovers have a choice of gold sand, red sand and flat rocks, while the seas are very warm for swimming and usually clear enough for snorkelling. The catch is that the island gets a little more rain than other destinations in October. However, the majority of days are dry and showers tend to last very short periods of time – so be sure to pack a light raincoat along with your suncream.
Bugibba, on St Paul’s Bay in the north, is the oldest and biggest resort. There’s a vast choice of hotels and apartments to suit all ages, and most of the tourist-aimed bars and restaurants stay open until at least late October. St Julian’s Bay, closer to the capital Valetta, is known for its nightlife and clubs.
Outside the resorts, Malta is full of historic sites worth visiting, especially the old city of Mdina, known as the ‘silent city’. The capital Valetta also has plenty of beautiful old buildings, while the picturesque island of Gozo makes a great day trip, with ferries every 45 minutes from the north of the country. A more unusual attraction is Popeye Village – the set from the 1980 Robin Williams film, which has been turned into a theme park.
ESSENTIAL INFO: Package holidays are available from about €300 per person for a week, while flights run from Dublin year-round, costing around €135 per person return.
If you’d like a sun holiday with a difference, why not combine it with a city break and head to Athens? If you stay in Glyfada – a beach resort filled with hotels, restaurants and shops to the south of the Greek capital– you can have the best of both worlds. Spend a few days relaxing on the pebbled beaches in Glyfada itself or the sandy beach at Varkiza, where the seas are even warmer than the air, and then take the tram into Athens for sun-soaked sightseeing.
No trip to Athens is complete without a visit to the world-famous Acropolis and Parthenon. The city’s ancient history is very much on display and there are plenty of organised tours. You can also take a cable car to the top of Mount Lycabettus or spend an afternoon wandering the tiny streets of the old town in Plaka.
Set in the shadow of the Acropolis, Plaka is famous for its nightlife, as is the nearby Syntagma area. If you want to dance the night away, the last tram returns to Glyfada at 2:30am at weekends. (For the real night owls, they start up again at 5:30am!)
ESSENTIAL INFO: Package trips to Athens are relatively rare, but are normally around €300 per person per week. You can also book flights year-round from €135 per person.
We hope that everything will run smoothly on your trip, but AA Travel Insurance will give you the peace of mind that you need before you jet off.
All images used under CC0 licence.