Traveller's guide: The world's best weather

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Fed up with Britain's freezing temperatures? The ideal conditions for the perfect holiday are out there somewhere, says Harriet O'Brien

Like beauty, perfect weather depends on the outlook of the beholder. The winter mountaineer, for example, demands sub-zero temperatures of the kind experienced recently in Britain, while for the yachtsman or windsurfer a strong but even breeze is the key. Tornado chasers are never happier than when pursuing a whirl of air across the prairie, while skiers adore snow that falls, considerately, only at night.

However, most of us would settle for a gentle, balmy breeze over warm waters beneath reliably sunny skies – conditions that make destinations as far apart as Perth in Western Australia, the islands of Thailand and the Californian cities of San Diego and Santa Cruz candidates for "most perfect weather".

There are other factors at work, says Philip Eden, author of Great British Weather Disasters (Continuum Books): "Daylight is a key consideration. At this time of year we get about seven hours of daylight per day in the UK. Heading towards the Med you'll get eight hours, approaching the Canaries and North Africa you'll get nine hours, while over in the Caribbean you'll get 10 or so hours."

Temperature is also a major component. Eden points out that 30C or more may be one person's idea of heaven, but another's notion of hell. "You will, of course, find increasingly hot but humid conditions the closer you get to the equator," he says.

"If you prefer warmth and clear skies go to places within the sub-tropical high-pressure belts." In layman's terms that means countries around 30 degrees north of the Equator, such as parts of Egypt, Israel, and the US (southern California, for example), or around 30 degrees south such as parts of Chile, South Africa and Australia (South Australia and New South Wales, for instance).

Precipitation (the falling of moisture, whether that's rain, snow or hail) is an additional consideration. Very dry, hot conditions will result in aridity and little if any vegetation; very wet, warm conditions will contribute to a lush landscape.

What about climate change: how much can we rely on existing weather data to guide us as to where to go? Eden is wary of associating extreme conditions with climate change. "Unusual weather has always happened from time to time," he says. "Bear in mind that climate change is almost imperceptibly slow."

Safari prospects

Traditonally, the best time for seeing animals in most parts of Africa is during the dry season – from about May to August – when vegetation is low and game congregates at water points, with attendant predators. But during the green season (which is at its height in December in many areas), the scenery is lush and spectacular, the animals have young – which not only look appealing but also attract predators – and the bird life is wonderful. It is low season, too, so prices are relatively low and crowds are thin.

Audley Travel (01993 838 500; audleytravel.com) recommends Botswana at this time of year. You are likely to get some rain, but this generally comes in short, dramatic downpours that clear the air leaving blue skies and sunshine, with temperatures around 30C. The company is offering a nine-day itinerary in the Okavango Delta where you can expect to see an impressive range of wildlife. The price, from £3,010 per person (based on two sharing, as are all prices given unless otherwise stated), includes flights from Heathrow to Johannesburg with onward light-aircraft transfers, all game-viewing activities, full-board accommodation and most drinks.

Expert Africa (020-8232 9777; expertafrica.com) suggests a five-night trip in Tanzania, taking in the Ngorongoro Crater and Conservation area, the grasslands of the Serengeti, and the floodplains of Lake Manyara National Park. Along the way you would be very unlucky not to see buffalo, giraffe, wildebeest and lion – and you could also catch sight of rhino and cheetah. The holiday costs from £2,530 per person, which covers flights from Heathrow to Dar es Salaam, all transfers in Africa, full-board accommodation and all game viewing.

Christmas on the beach

The Caribbean has become classic Christmas-break territory. Bear in mind, though, the inevitability of some rain here: that is an issue throughout the tropics. However, December and January are good months to visit, with highs around 28C. The heaviest downpours occur between May and November, while hurricanes are most frequent during August and September. In general the Leeward Islands – including Anguilla, Antigua and Montserrat – feel slightly hotter than the breezier Windward Islands, such as St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines.

If turquoise seas, striking landscape and seclusion are top priorities, make for Antigua. The south-east corner of the island offers Half Moon Bay, a national park five minutes' drive from Freetown. On the west side of the island is Galley Bay Resort and Spa, an adult-only resort set beside a stunning white-sand beach. The luxury travel company W&O Tropical Locations (0845 277 3310; wandotravel.com) is currently offering a one-week, all-inclusive Christmas holiday from £3,725 per person. The price includes British Airways flights from Gatwick.

Asian options include Goa in India where December and January are optimum times to visit, well before the sweltering May summer and the monsoon rains of June and July. In December, expect highs around 32C and lows at about 20C along with clear, sunny days interspersed by occasional periods of strong rain.

Goa might be the smallest state in India, but that still means a north-south extent of close on 100 miles, and an inward protrusion of 40 miles. This gives plenty of room for hyperactive market towns and strident scenery as well as laid-back beach life. First Choice (0871 200 7799; firstchoice.co.uk) has a range of packages to Goa with accommodation at resorts by the sea. A week's B&B at Zuri White Sands Resort at Varca Beach, for example, costs from £1,510 per person over Christmas including flights on Thomson Airways from Gatwick to Goa's Dabolim Airport.

T-shirt weather

With temperatures between 18 and 23C at this time of year, it's no wonder the Canary Islands are such a popular winter escape from Britain. Close to the north-west coast of Africa, the archipelago is affected by two weather systems – the trade winds from the high-pressure area of the Azores and warm airflow from the Sahara – which results in a particularly stable and sunny climate.

Head to Lanzarote, the northernmost island, for a stunning range of scenery, from volcanic landscapes of huge craters, black lava fields and crimson mountains to wide beaches of golden sand. White-washed villages and gently swaying palm trees complete the picture. The island offers a number of stylish small hotels such as the chic and rural Casona de Yaiza (00 34 928 836 262; casonadeyaiza.com; doubles from €90) and Caserío de Mazaga, a farmhouse-turned-hotel in the heart of the island (00 34 928 520 060; caseriodemozaga.com; doubles from €95).

Lanzarote's Arrecife airport is served by a number of airlines from across the UK including Thomson Airways (0871 231 4787; flights.thomson.co.uk); easyJet (0905 821 0905; easyjet.com); Ryanair (0871 246 0000; ryanair.com) and Monarch (08719 40 50 40; monarch.co.uk).

Ideal for snow sports

There have already been some exceptional snowfalls in Europe. However, the Ski Club of Great Britain (0845 458 0780; skiclub.co.uk) suggests that for a guarantee of snow cover this early in the winter it is best to head to high-altitude ski areas – the French purpose-built resorts, for instance. These may lack the charm of lower villages but offer great snow conditions in December and early January. The average December snow depth (measured over the last 13 years) at Tignes is about 45 inches on the upper slopes and 19 inches on the lower slopes, while Val Thorens has corresponding figures of 38 inches and 23 inches.

Go now for some of the best deals. Crystal Ski (0871 231 2256; crystalski.co.uk), for example, offers a week at Tignes for departures this Monday for £385 per person. The price includes flights from Gatwick or Manchester to Geneva with onward transfers and accommodation (including breakfast, evening meal, wine and soft drinks) at the three-star Chalet Glacier.

In the US, Colorado and Utah offer some of the world's best snow. You may get sunshine, too. Breckenridge in Colorado boasts "300 inches of snow and 300 days of blue skies a year". If you book by 15 December, Ski Safari (01273 224 060; skisafari.com) offers a week from £1,211 per person for departures in January, including flights from Heathrow to Denver and onward transfers, six-day lift pass, and a stay with breakfast at the Great Divide Lodge.

Guaranteed sunshine

For brilliantly sunny days with barely a cloud in the sky make for desert regions. Phoenix and Las Vegas, in the deserts of Arizona and Nevada respectively, vie for the title of "sunniest cities in the world". But guaranteed sun is closer to hand.

Sharm El Sheikh on Egypt's Sinai Peninsula has been in the headlines recently as a result of a series of shark attacks on swimmers. However, as far as the weather is concerned December is one of the most pleasant times to take a break at this ritzy resort town – as Tony and Cherie Blair would attest. Temperatures range between 20C and 26C, with the sea a steady 24C. You'll get at least eight hours of sunshine every day, too. What's more, unless you're looking to travel over the Christmas period, you should get a reasonable deal from one of the host of airlines flying here from across the UK, easyJet (0905 821 0905; easyjet.com), British Airways (0844 493 0787; ba.com) and Jet2 (0871 226 1737; jet2.com) among them. Plenty of packages are also available.

Further south and east, you'll find fewer crowds and a more exotic ambience in Oman. There are slightly greater fluctuations of temperature here – the forecast now is for highs around 27C and lows about 18C. Close to both mountains and sea, Muscat, the capital, makes an appealing base. This is effectively three towns in one: old, walled Muscat, the ancient port where the Sultan's palace is set; the bustling, dhow-filled harbour of Muttrah, and the commercial district of Ruwi. Kirker Holidays (020-7593 1899; kirkerholidays.com) offers a five-night break here from £1,369 per person. The cost includes flights from Heathrow, transfers, and accommodation at the sleek InterContinental Hotel.

Best of British

Officially, the sunniest place in Britain is Jersey, which has an average of five hours 15 minutes of sunshine every day. The Channel Island is served by Condor Ferries (0845 609 1024; condorferries.co.uk) year-round from Weymouth and Portsmouth (and from Poole from spring to autumn) and by a number of airlines across the UK including Flybe (0871 700 2000; flybe.com); Jet2 (0906 302 0660; jet2.com); bmibaby (0905 828 2828; bmibaby.com); easyJet (0905 821 0905; easyjet.com); and Aurigny (01481 822 886; aurigny.com).

Along with running its own administration Jersey also has its own Met Office, stationed at Jersey airport – its forecasts are on www.jerseymet.gov.je.

The benign climate makes this an island full of flowers – and even on a sunny day, the moon can help to create a remarkable experience. Thanks to lunar gravity, the difference between lowest and highest tides is 40 feet, or roughly three double-decker buses (the traditional measure of such things) stacked on top of each other. When the Channel is at its lowest, you can – with an expert guide such as Jersey Walk Adventures (01534 853138; jerseywalkadventures.co.uk) – walk for a mile or more across the exposed sea bed.

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

Suggested Topics
News
Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Sport
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
football
Sport
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
News
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
film
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
News
people
News
BBC broadcaster and presenter Evan Davis, who will be taking over from Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight
peopleForget Paxman - what will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Life and Style
fashionCustomer complained about the visibly protruding ribs
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
News
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
life
News
Tovey says of homeless charity the Pillion Trust : 'If it weren't for them and the park attendant I wouldn't be here today.'
people
Sport
Rhys Williams
commonwealth games
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    C++ Software Engineer - Hounslow, West London - C++ - to £60K +

    £40000 - £60000 per annum + Pension, Healthcare : Deerfoot IT Resources Limite...

    VB.NET and C# developer (VB.NET,C#,ASP.NET)

    £30000 - £45000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: VB.NET a...

    Visitor Experience volunteer

    Unpaid voluntary role: Old Royal Naval College: To assist the Visitor Experien...

    Telesales Manager. Paddington, London

    £45-£55k OTE £75k : Charter Selection: Major London International Fashion and ...

    Day In a Page

    Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

    The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

    What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
    Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

    Finding the names for America’s shame

    The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
    Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

    Inside a church for Born Again Christians

    As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
    Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

    Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

    Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
    Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

    Incredible survival story of David Tovey

    Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
    Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

    Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

    The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

    Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

    Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
    German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

    Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

    Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
    BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

    BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

    The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
    Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

    Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

    Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
    How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

    Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

    Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
    Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

    Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

    Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
    10 best reed diffusers

    Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

    Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

    Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

    There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
    Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

    Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

    It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little