What's the attraction?
The flip-flops and sunscreen may be on the brink of relegation to the back of the wardrobe, and the sunlight definitely has a glint of autumn about it, but don't despair. Out-of-season sun is still within relatively easy reach, although it may not involve lying on a beach all day. There are dozens of island adventures that will get you active in the autumn sun, toning your body and refreshing your mind before winter really sets in.
Hiking in Madeira
Madeira's rugged volcanic interior and warm Gulf Stream climate make it the perfect destination for winter-sun hiking. Sherpa Expeditions (020 8577 2717; sherpa-walking-holidays.co.uk) has an eight-day self-guided trip that circumnavigates the island via the levadas, a network of centuries-old irrigation canals. Walk village to village, through terraced farmlands and forests of pine, cypress and laurel, stopping at the Carro de Cesto along the way, which is a wicker toboggan ride down vertiginous streets. Then climb inland to summit the formidable 1,862m Pico Ruivo for a view across the island. The price of £710pp includes accommodation, most meals, transfers and route notes, with departures throughout the year. Flights are extra.
Surfing off Lanzarote
When Britain's streets are cold and wet, the waters surrounding Lanzarote are warm, and between October and April offer some of the best surfing in Europe. Zoco Boardriding Co (0871 218 0360; surflanzarote.com) offers an eight-day surf camp, staying in a shared house on the north coast with a roof terrace overlooking the Atlantic and the small fishing village of Famara. Guests will experience an authentic Canarian way of life as they learn to carve waves, including time off to explore the wild and desolate El Jable desert reserve nearby. Prices start at €290 per person for a five-day surf course and all equipment. Flights not included.
Canyoning in the Azores
The tiny Portuguese archipelago of the Azores may be in the middle of the Atlantic, but temperatures rarely drop below those typical of British springtime. A new eight-day canyoning trip from Archipelago Choice (01768 775 672; azoreschoice.com) challenges guests to abseil waterfalls, leap into crystal clear pools and slide down natural water chutes while exploring the lush wilderness of the islands of Sao Miguel and Flores. Time off can be spent discovering the islands' unique history and culture, and soaking aching muscles in hot springs. Prices start at £1,033 per person, including B&B, three guided canyoning trips, flights from Gatwick and transfers; departures throughout the year.
Diving off Gozo
Malta's little sibling offers a relaxed atmosphere, balmy winter climate (average November temperatures are around 17C) and some of the best scuba diving in the Mediterranean. Original Diving (020 7978 0505; originaldiving.com) has an eight-day self-guided trip that focuses on the island's underwater highlights, including spectacular reefs and Second World War wrecks. Back on land, guests have the opportunity to explore Gozo's historic sites such as the Neolithic Ggantija Temples and the spectacular Citadel of Victoria. The price of £955pp includes B&B, six dives, car hire and international flights. Departures throughout the year.
Kite surfing in Cape Verde
The Cape Verde islands, 500km off the coast of Senegal, are a safe bet for winter sun and a magnet for kite surfers. Learn the ropes at a lively beach resort on Sal island, before flying to Boa Vista for more advanced conditions and some of the best, undiscovered beaches in the region. Time out of the ocean can be spent discovering the archipelago's West African and Portuguese influenced culture, including an option to visit the buzzing arts and music scene of Sao Vincente. Planet Kite Surf (01273 921 001; planetkitesurf.com) offers a 15-day Cape Verde island-hop; prices start at £2,395pp including flights from Gatwick, transfers, B&B, equipment and daily lessons.
Cycling in Tenerife
Tenerife's high-altitude interior and year-round sunshine, make it a favourite winter training ground for numerous top athletes, including new Tour de France champion Chris Froome. Tenerife Bike Training (00 34 653 395 775; tenerifebiketraining.com) offers an eight-day trip that follows in his tracks, spending two nights in Team Sky's winter training hotel, the Parador de Cañadas del Teide, and tackling some of its epic cycle routes, including the volcanic landscape of Mount Teide National Park and the lush Monte de las Mercedes forest. The price of €1,000pp includes B&B, most dinners, transfers, guides and van support, but not flights. Set departures of varying difficulty levels available throughout the year.
Hotel Il Querceto (00 39 0784 96509; ilquerceto.com), in the heart of the Gennargentu National Park in Sardinia, is a family-run hotel with panoramic views and a host of adventure activities on its doorstep, including mountain biking, rock climbing, trekking and more. Doubles start at €59 per night, including breakfast.
The Healthy Holiday Company (020 8968 0501; thehealthyholidaycompany.co.uk) offers an eight-day fitness and wellbeing retreat at the new yoga-focused Zening resort on the north-west coast of Cyprus. The all- inclusive price of £850 per person comes with meditation, yoga and outdoor activities in the nearby Akamas National Park. Flights not included.
"Cheaper flights offer a good incentive to catch a few rays before the chill of winter sets in. With fewer tourists you're also more likely to enjoy an off-the-beaten-track experience. Most active trips are graded so make sure you choose one that matches your level of fitness, and do your homework: study the trip notes for specifics about your chosen adventure, and try to fit in some aerobic exercise before you leave."Helen Roberts, World Expeditions (020 8545 9030; worldexpeditions.co.uk)