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Global Winter Sun Index: These are the 50 best destinations for a sunshine escape this winter

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The winter months are setting in, and it has everyone dreaming of where to escape the cold and enjoy some winter sunshine.

Now, our newly released Global Winter Sun Index has ranked the best destinations around the world for enjoying a sunshine holiday this winter, based on a thorough analysis of factors including weather, seasonality, coastline, hotel quality and more.

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We’ve gathered our team’s knowledge, research and travel insights to bring you the best tips for visiting spectacular destinations around the world.

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Coming out in the top spot is Thailand, which our research found to be the best winter sun destination in the world, due to its expansive coastline, clean waters, pleasant temperature and wide choice of luxury hotels. Other well-known winter sun destinations also featured in our top 50 – with Jamaica ranking 8th, Maldives ranking in 16th place and the Seychelles at 28. Our research also threw up some more alternative choices, such as Ghana which makes an excellent winter sun destination choice thanks to its high temperatures, low precipitation and its beautiful scenery which makes it a totally Instagrammable choice too.

Read on below for the full results of our Global Winter Sun Index.

Results – 50 Best Destinations for Winter Sun

Our Global Winter Sun Index analysed the following elements:

Temperature

One of the first elements to consider when looking for a winter sun destination is the temperature – after all, the main purpose of a winter sun holiday is to escape the cold. To aid in finding the winter sun destinations with the best temperature we analysed the  average weather in every country over the December to January period, selecting only countries with a minimum average of 70°F to feature in our report.  Our research found the warmest country in winter to be the Maldives with a toasty average of 81.35°F – one of the many reasons this beautiful country is a traditionally popular winter sun choice. Kiribati came a close second at 81.2°F, with Micronesia and American Samoa tied for third place with an average temperature of 81.05°F. 

Precipitation

When examining the top winter sun destinations it’s important to look at the temperature, but precipitation is also a factor to consider. We did this by examining the level of rainfall in every country over the months of December to January. If you’re looking for an (almost) guaranteed rain free holiday, the destination which experiences the least amount of rainfall in the winter month is Senegal, with Guinea and Cape Verde also being safe choices.

Humidity

We extended our weather investigations by looking into the humidity levels of each destination. While sunshine is lovely, too much humidity can be uncomfortable. When it came to looking at humidity, we understandably identified a similar trend as we saw with precipitation – with many of the hottest countries which were prone to rain, also experiencing high levels of humidity. The countries with the lowest percentage of humidity included Thailand and Australia.

Seasonality

For many countries around the world, winter is of course the off-season. While there can be advantages to travelling out of season, it’s also good to know that restaurants, attractions and other leisure options will be open when you visit. Therefore, we analysed which destinations would be in season during the winter period. A high percentage of the destinations which made our top 50 winter sun destinations are all in season during December and January, with only very few of those featured being classed as being in their shoulder or off-season. All of the top 20 destinations, bar Indonesia, are in their peak season in winter as are many of the countries in the latter end of the ranking including Martinique, St Lucia, and Antigua & Barbuda. Some of the few featured destinations not classed as being ‘in-season’ during this period include Indonesia, Fiji and Seychelles, largely due to increased chance of rain – however these are still hugely popular winter sun options with plenty of sunshine and leisure activities to enjoy.

Instagrammability

The natural beauty of a place can be hard to measure, but by using the social media site Instagram, we calculated the most Instagrammed countries in the world – giving an indication that these are some of the most beautiful and photogenic places around the globe. We did this by analysing how often each country had been hashtagged on the photo sharing platform. The most Instagrammed of our winter sun destinations is Indonesia with a whopping 95,866,645 mentions on the platform. This is no surprise as the country is a hot spot for tourists, with mountainous jungles and gorgeous sandy coastlines. 

Coastline

Spending time by the coast is a top choice for many on a winter sun getaway. We examined the length of the coastline for every country, to find which destinations were best suited for winter travellers seeking a coastal paradise. Indonesia came out on top with the longest coastline, miles past any of the other countries with over 50,000km of coastline. This is of little surprise as Indonesia is surrounded by ocean and consists of lots of small tropical islands. Next up is the Philippines with 36,289km of coastline followed by Australia with 25,760km of coastline.

Ocean Health

Eco travel is an increasingly important concern for travellers, and when travelling to a country where we might be taking a dip in the sea we want to know that firstly the water is clean and that secondly the water is being protected and we won’t be causing a negative impact. We used the Ocean Health Index to look at the ocean health of each country which took into account clean waters, biodiversity and coastal protection. The country with the best ocean health in our ranking was Australia. This may come as a surprise with the difficulty the country has had with maintaining its coral reefs but thanks to its high biodiversity and incredibly clean waters it ranks in the top spot. 

Sea Temperature

Alongside ocean health, sea temperature is also a concern for travellers dreaming of spending their winter sun escape swimming in the sea. We looked at the average sea temperature for each country through December and January, and surprisingly, the temperature of a country does not necessarily correlate with the temperature of the sea. Coming out on top with the warmest seas is the beautiful Seychelles , followed by Marshall Islands, Micronesia and Papua New Guinea.

Hotels

On a winter sun holiday travellers are typically looking for that extra touch of paradise, which means staying in a first class hotel. We analysed the quality and selection of hotels across each destination by looking at how many 4* and 5* options were available to travellers on the hotel finder site Booking.com. Coming out on top for choice of hotels is Australia, which as a large and well established tourist destination provides a massive selection of luxury hotels for travellers to choose from.

Methodology

To create our Global Winter Sun Travel Index, we analysed the following categories:

  • Temperature
  • Precipitation
  • Humidity
  • Seasonality
  • Instagrammability
  • Coastline
  • Ocean Health
  • Sea Temperature
  • Hotels

Using the third party sources as outlined in the source list below, we scored each country in the above categories on a scale of 1 (lowest) – 5 (highest).  The hotel and coastline categories are double weighted as these two are incredibly important factors contributing to the overall holiday experience when choosing a winter sun destination. Precipitation was half weighted as inches of rain per month could be  due to sudden downpours or days of light rain, which don’t affect the destination continuously.

We then totalled every country’s score across all of the categories to get a final Global Winter Sun Index Score, with a highest total of 57.5 available.

We ranked each country using this final total score. Where there was a draw in the total score, we used the average temperature as the ranking factor.

Full dataset is available upon request.

Sources:

  • The hotel quality category is based on the selection of 4* and 5* hotels as available on Booking.com, a popular booking platform for customers. Some hotels in some countries may not be listed on Booking.com
  • Data was not available for some countries
  • Countries with a Government safety warning against travel were not included

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