Q. We would like to travel to Lanzarote in mid-January. Is it a good time of the year to go there? Philipp Mandel, London
A. Good plan: Lanzarote, like the other half-dozen Canary Islands, is warm year-round, as well and welcoming and intriguing. The Canaries provide a blissful escape route for British travellers. They are emphatically Spanish, which spells great food, drink and hotels, well-preserved culture, and good organisation for everything from roads to medical care.
Yet the geographic location is African rather than European, which brings blessings for anyone seeking winter sun. Lanzarote is on the same latitude as Orlando in Florida and Eilat at the southern tip of Israel. But it is much easier to reach, just a four-hour flight from many UK airports including Stansted, Luton and Gatwick.
Right now the sea is still reasonably warm. By January the Atlantic will have cooled significantly, and the first few weeks of the year are also when the average daily high air temperature briefly sinks below 20C. But Lanzarote will still be highly appealing. Puerto del Carmen, with its sublime harbourside location, is an excellent place to stay; it also offers the chance of a day-trip across to Fuerteventura. But the beaches of Playa Blanca and Costa Teguise also appeal, and have more accommodation options.
There are plenty of activities if the beaches prove too breezy. Inland, there is much to explore in the dramatic volcanic landscape, intricately decorated by the island's favourite artist, César Manrique.
For the best value on a week's holiday, consider a package with a tour operator such as Thomas Cook, Thomson, Monarch or easyJet Holidays (though when comparing prices be aware that transfers and baggage allowance are not included with the latter). You can pay £300 per person or less for a basic week in two-star self-catering accommodation, including flights and transfers.
Incidentally, pretty much all of this applies equally to Madeira (substituting "Portuguese" for "Spanish"), about 100 miles north – which is slightly cooler and damper, but even more fascinating in terms of its human history.