As the temperatures drop and the days grow shorter in Canada, many people begin to dream of escape—of spending the winter months in a warm, sunny place. It's no secret that Canadians love to travel south to warmer climates.
But if you're looking for a more significant change in scenery than the U.S., here are five European destinations where you can spend winter in the sun.
Gran Canaria (Spain): A Winter Wonderland for Canadian Snowbirds
Gran Canaria is a snowbird's paradise with its year-round sunny weather, sandy beaches, and lush vegetation. The island, part of Spain's Canary Islands archipelago, lies just off the northwest coast of Africa and enjoys a subtropical climate. The island's landscape is more akin to that of Hawaii, with its volcanic mountains, black-sand beaches, and lush vegetation.
Some of Europe's top beaches can be found on Gran Canaria. Playa de las Canteras, located in the island's capital city of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, is a 3-kilometer-long beach that features black volcanic sand and is popular with surfers. For those looking for a more traditional sandy beach experience, Playa de Maspalomas is Gran Canaria's most popular resort area. It features several kilometer-long stretches of white sand beaches backed by dunes.
While it may be known primarily as a beach destination, Gran Canaria also offers plenty in the way of nightlife and attractions. Las Palmas de Gran Canaria offers several historic sites and museums, including the Museo Elder de la Ciencia y la Tecnologia (Elder Science & Technology Museum) and the MuseonCanario (Canary Islands Museum) for those looking for something a little more low-key.
The island of Gran Canaria is blessed with consistent sunshine throughout the year. Canadian snowbirds looking to escape the coldest months of winter will be happy to know that temperatures rarely dip below 15 degrees Celsius, even in January and February.
Gran Canaria should be at the top of your list if you're hoping to get away from the cold this winter. With its year-round sunny weather, sandy beaches, and lively nightlife scene, Gran Canaria has something for everyone.
Sicily (Italy): A Perfect Mediterranean Escape for Canadian Snowbirds
Whether you're looking for a sunny beach escape or an opportunity to explore some fascinating historical sites, Sicily is the perfect destination for Canadian snowbirds seeking an alternative to the cold winters back home. This beautiful Italian island boasts numerous sandy beaches, fascinating historical sites, and delicious Mediterranean cuisine. And thanks to its proximity to North Africa, Sicily enjoys warm weather even in the middle of winter.
Sicily is home to many lovely beaches, but three stand out as particularly inviting during the winter months. Mondello Beach, just a short drive from Palermo, is well-known for its clear turquoise waters. For a more low-key beach experience, head to Isola Bella near Taormina—this secluded spot can only be reached by boat. Lastly, no trip to Sicily would be complete without spending some time on the world-famous black sands of La Playa Nero near Agrigento.
In addition to basking in the sun on one of Sicily's beautiful beaches, there are plenty of other activities to keep you entertained during your stay. Taormina's Greek theater is a must-see for any history buff—this well-preserved 2nd-century BCE structure offers stunning views of Mount Etna. Don't miss the Valley of the Temples near Agrigento, an archaeological site that contains the remains of seven Doric temples dating back to the 5th century BCE.
With its mild climate and soil rich in minerals, Sicily is home to some excellent vineyards producing everything from Nero d'Avola red wine to Marsala dessert wine. Many vineyards offer tours and tastings—the perfect activity for a cold winter day.
Whether you're looking for sandy beaches, ancient ruins, or world-class wines, you'll find it all in Sicily during winter. With its clear turquoise waters, black sand beaches, and well-preserved Greek theater, Siciliy has something for everyone. And don't forget to try some of the delicious Sicilian cuisine while you're there, with dishes like arancini and pasta alla Norma being particular favorites.
Corsica (France): A Natural Paradise for Canadian Snowbirds
Canadian snowbirds looking to spend their winters in a warmer climate will find that Corsica fits the bill perfectly—and at a fraction of the cost of more well-known destinations like Costa Rica or California. With an average winter temperature of 20 degrees Celsius, snowbirds can enjoy all Corsica has to offer without worrying about the cold.
Corsica is a French island in the Mediterranean Sea located west of Italy and southeast of the French mainland. The island is mountainous and is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the Mediterranean, as well as countless hiking trails and picturesque villages. There's also no shortage of things to do—from exploring Roman ruins to visiting museums and castles.
One activity that should not be missed while in Corsica is taking a day trip to Îles Sanguinaires. Just off the coast of Ajaccio, this group of seven islands is best known for its red cliffs—hence its name, which means "bloody islands." The islands are also home to various bird species, making them a haven for birdwatchers.
Another must-see while in Corsica is Bonifacio Citadelle. This medieval fortress sits atop white cliffs overlooking Bonifacio harbor and dates back to the late 12th century. Today, visitors can explore the citadel's ramparts and gardens or take a walk through its atmospheric streets. Be sure to stop by Place de la Republique square, considered one of the most beautiful squares in France, while you're there!
Although often overshadowed by its more famous neighbors (such as France and Italy), make no mistake, Corsica is a wonderful destination in its own right. This idyllic Mediterranean island boasts stunning scenery, charming villages, and a laid-back pace of life that is sure to appeal to Canadian snowbirds escaping the cold. Regardless of how you spend your time in Corsica this winter, one thing is for sure: you won't be disappointed!
Madeira (Portugal): A vibrant winter getaway for Canadian snowbirds
If you're looking for a sunny winter getaway to escape the winter blues, look no further than Madeira, Portugal. With its beautiful beaches, world-class food, and plenty of activities to keep you busy, Madeira is the perfect place to spend the winter months. And there's plenty to do on the island, from hiking and biking to exploring the local villages.
Madeira is a small island in the Atlantic Ocean with some of the most beautiful beaches in Europe. Whether you want to relax on the sand or take a dip in the ocean, you'll find exactly what you're looking for on Madeira. It has a subtropical climate, which means that even in the middle of winter, temperatures rarely dip below 20 degrees Celsius. Madeira is also famous for its stunning natural beauty. The island is covered in lush vegetation, and its coastline is dotted with picturesque beaches.
Madeiran food is some of the best in the world, and you definitely won't leave hungry. The island is known for its seafood, so be sure to try dishes like grilled octopus and swordfish steak. And, of course, no meal is complete without a glass of Madeira's famous wine—it's delicious!
There's plenty to keep you busy in Madeira, from hiking and biking to exploring the local villages. If you're feeling adventurous, you can even go paragliding, whale watching, or head up into the mountains for breathtaking views of the island. For something more low-key, spend a day wandering around Funchal, Madeira's capital city, visiting one of the many art galleries or museums. No matter what you choose to do, you're sure to have a great time.
If you're looking for a winter getaway to help you escape the cold weather and enjoy much-needed rest and relaxation, Madeira is the perfect destination! With its subtropical climate, stunning natural scenery, and wealth of activities, Madeira has everything you need for an unforgettable winter vacation.
Gibraltar (UK): A sunny escape for Canadian snowbirds
Gibraltar is a British territory located on the southern tip of Spain. It enjoys a warm climate all year round, making it an ideal destination for winter sun seekers. The territory is also home to some stunning scenery, including the iconic Rock of Gibraltar.
Even in the middle of winter, temperatures rarely dip below 15 degrees Celsius, making it one of the warmest places to spend winter in Europe. And there's no shortage of sunny days—Gibraltar gets an average of 300 days of sunshine per year! You're guaranteed to get your fill of vitamin D while you're here.
Gibraltar is steeped in history and culture, with plenty of museums and heritage sites to explore.
If you're looking for things to do, then Gibraltar won't disappoint. From visiting the world-famous Rock itself, which offers stunning views of the city and the Mediterranean Sea, to checking out one of the many museums or art galleries, there's something for everyone. And if you want to take things easy, there are plenty of lovely cafes and restaurants where you can relax and watch the world go by. Gibraltar is also one of the best places in Europe for whale watching. Between December and April, you can spot humpback whales, sperm whales, and orcas off Gibraltar's shores.
Finally, one of the great things about Gibraltar is that it's very easy to get around. Whether you're taking public transport or walking, everything is within easy reach. And if you want to explore further afield, plenty of tour operators offer day trips to nearby Moroccan cities like Tangier and Ceuta.
From exploring caves and tunnels to visiting museums and art galleries, there's something for everyone in this tiny but mighty British territory. So if you're looking to get away from the cold Canadian winter, pack your bags and head south to Gibraltar.
Cheers to a European winter in the sun!
There are few things more enjoyable than escaping the Canadian winter and spending a few months in the sun. These are a few great options for snowbirds looking for the perfect European destination to stay warm during the winter.
Wherever you decide to stay, make sure you purchase travel insurance before you leave, so you can travel with peace of mind. Contact a soNomad agent to find the best protection plan for your medical care during your next European adventure.