These European Islands Are A Great Spot For A Warm-Weather Winter Vacation

Winter blues getting you down? Why not make the most of those unused vacation days and jet off somewhere sunnier, warmer, and just all-around happier instead? With places in the southern hemisphere — including popular tourist destinations like Australia — heading into summer as the north turns cold and the travel-bucket-list-worthy Caribbean islands calling out with their white sands and turquoise waters, few things make more sense than shaking off your winter coat and slipping into a little something lighter instead.

One great destination to do just that is the Canary Islands. The Spanish archipelago is well known for its constant sunshine, balmy temperatures (which typically hover comfortably around 72 degrees Fahrenheit), and vibrant culture, all of which come together to make it the ideal destination for enjoying water sports and other outdoor activities.

Plus, with more than 500 beaches, over 900 miles of coastline, and four national parks to explore, you'll have endless opportunities for hiking, bird watching, and exploring the rich marine life. This coastal destination seems like a no-brainer if you're looking to soak up some rays — and dodge the dipping temperatures — while spending your time outdoors.

Choosing the right island in the Canary Islands

As you can probably tell by the name, the Canary Islands — plural — are actually made up of eight large islands and various smaller territories. That said, the main islands that most visitors flock to are Tenerife, Fuerteventura, Gran Canaria, Lanzarote, La Palma, La Gomera, El Hierro, and La Graciosa. In terms of what to do, each one of these destinations has its own unique attractions that cater to your needs and wants. It's the perfect escape from winter weather.

In Tenerife — the largest and most populated island — visitors can stop by two UNESCO World Heritage sites: Teide National Park and San Cristobal de La Laguna. While the former promises natural landscapes that are a must-visit for hiking enthusiasts and plenty of stargazing opportunities, the latter is brimming with history and culture. Then, there's Fuerteventura, which boasts more than 150 white sand beaches and is a haven for sun chasers. Meanwhile, Gran Canaria is a go-to for water sports enthusiasts — scuba diving, surfing, windsurfing, and beyond — who want to get their heart racing and enjoy some sun.

From there, hop over to Lanzarote and you'll be surrounded by coarse, volcanic landscapes courtesy of the 100+ volcanoes on the island. Meanwhile, La Palma, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, is home to ancient lush green forests and trails. Oh, and don't forget La Gomera, El Hierro, and La Graciosa if you prefer something on a smaller scale. These islands are a hub of peace and relaxation — and the ideal place to get away from the cold.

Planning your trip to the Canary Islands

If you're planning on jetting off from the United States to escape messy snowstorms and shoveling snow, there are plenty of flights into the Canary Islands. Flying into Tenerife from New York, for example, will set you back around $650 for a roundtrip, and will take roughly 11 to 12 hours with a layover in Madrid. Moreover, all of the main islands have their own airport, and there are also daily flights between the islands that will make exploring each one much easier. Alternatively, you can also hop on a boat, with trips ranging from a quick 35 minutes to ten hours.

As for getting around once you're actually on the island, your best bet is to hire a car and hit the road yourself. That way, you'll have a much easier time traveling around, beach hopping, and exploring everything each island has to offer without any of the hassle. To sweeten the deal, car hires on the island start from just $14 a day for an economy vehicle, which also makes it incredibly affordable.

Last but not least, don't forget to put together a budget — and keep in mind that you'll be spending in Euros, not USD. That said, the Canary Islands are still considerably cheaper than the United States in terms of food and accommodation prices, and you should estimate around $134 per day on food, transportation, and activities. As for accommodation, that will cost an average of roughly $132 a night depending on the degree of luxury you're after.