With hotels and operators pushing ‘peak’ season into October, here are 10 favourites where you can bask in the sunshine
It has been the strangest of years. We are nearly in August and the summer holiday season has barely started. Millions of holidays have been cancelled; millions more remain in the balance. The traditional resorts of the Med have been all but deserted.
But now at last we are finally able to travel, hotels have reopened and flight schedules are slowly gearing up. So, if you still hanker after a week or two in the warm south, perhaps it’s worth considering a rather later break than you might usually consider. Pick the right destination and October – and even November – can be lovely, with plenty of heat in the sun, warm seas and pleasantly cool nights.
There are other bonuses too – especially for foodies who enjoy the ripe figs, pears, grapes, delicious mushrooms and fresh walnuts that flood the markets and restaurants in autumn. And visiting sights can be much more pleasant when the sun is a little lower in the sky. Hopefully by October we will have adapted more fully to the new normal of masks and sanitisers and the world won’t seem such a strange place any more.
Some operators are confident enough in the potential of an extension to the season that they are extending their booking dates, so that you can rent villas well into November, for example. But you do need to be careful where you choose to go. While most of the Mediterranean enjoys reliably warm and sunny days right through until mid-October, the summer weather breaks then or soon after with a few days of rain and wind.
Sure, after that there may well be plenty of benign, blue-sky days, but the risks of poor weather increase sharply and you don’t want to choose a wet and blustery week instead of a holiday in the sun. The secret is to reduce that risk sharply by heading further south.
I’ve picked out 10 destinations where you can find both good value and reliable sunshine late into the year. Most are in the Mediterranean, but I have also included Madeira, the Canaries and Marrakech and I have included examples of prices for departures in the last two weeks of October this year. So if you have children at school, you can also tie it in with half term.
Given the current uncertainties and the risks of recurring lockdowns, do check the cancellation policy of the airlines and operators you book with to make sure you are happy with how flexible they are about any forced last-minute changes.
Nowhere in the Med does the summer warmth cling on longer and more reliably than in Cyprus, which still gets nine hours of sunshine a day, temperatures peaking at 77F (25C) in October and 70F (21C) in November and the sea, after a long hot summer, is like a warm bath. It’s true to say that much of the coastal development is not subtly done, but the far west of the island, and especially the Akamas peninsula and the inland villages, are still largely unspoilt. Paphos is the most attractive of the large Cypriot resorts, Limassol the liveliest.
First Choice (firstchoice.co.uk) has a choice of family-focused hotels in Limassol. Autumn departures to the mid-range Atlantica Oasis Hotel with kids’ club, spa and four restaurants, cost from £671 per person including transfers and flights from Birmingham, based on half term (Oct 18) departures.
Sicily is supreme among Mediterranean islands whether you are looking for a beach, villa or cultural holiday, or a combination of all three. It has some of the greatest archaeological sights anywhere, outstanding museums and cathedrals, and a spectacular landscape and coastline. It is also so far south that it enjoys a reliably warm autumn: either for staying by the pool or for exploring the Greek and Roman ruins of the east and south, and the great Norman sights of Palermo and Cefalu.
The Thinking Traveller (thethinkingtraveller.com) has more than 90 villas sleeping from two to 24 people throughout the island. New for 2020 is TerraMia, sleeping six, near the beaches of the Vendicari Nature Reserve on the south-east coast and 10 miles from the baroque town of Noto. Seven nights from €4,900 (£4,500) rental-only in late October.
The heel of Italy can’t quite, in my view, compete with the cultural attractions of Sicily. But it does have some wonderful places to stay – especially the old masserias (fortified manor houses) which have been converted into five-star hotels and a growing selection of villas, and the food and wine isn’t bad either. October’s averages peak at about 70F (21C), but it does cool a little in November (63F/17C), so don’t leave your break until too late in the year.
Oliver’s Travels (oliverstravels.com) has a wide selection of self-catering properties, ranging from traditional stone-built trulli with cone-shaped roofs to some of those large masseria farmhouses. Rental only from £2,085, for a seven-night October stay at Trullo Le Fate, near the white Unesco-listed town of Ostuni. It sleeps six, with a private pool among the olive groves.
Greece’s biggest island also has the longest summer and the mildest climate. The south coast is the warmest, but if you are interested in days out, the key Minoan ruins, including Knossos and most points of cultural interest are on the north coast, where you can expect daily highs of 72F (22C) in October and 66F (19C) in November.
Pure Crete (purecrete.com) has an interesting choice of renovated village houses in quiet, rural locations. Rental only from £1,100 for seven nights at Villa Maza, sleeping six, a five-minute drive from the small town of Vrisses and close to the sandy beaches of Georgioupolis with a private pool and mountain views, departing Oct 17.
Not in the Mediterranean of course, but this is the pick of the bigger Canary Islands. The south coast around Playa Blanca has the best beaches and, with temperatures around 77F (25C) in October and 72F (22C) in November, it’s still warm enough to enjoy them.
Cachet Travel (cachet-travel.co.uk) offers family-run guesthouses and hotels in small inland villages including La Casona de Yaiza, a manor house with a pool in the pretty village of Yaiza, near Playa Blanca. Seven nights from £1,049 per person sharing a standard room, including breakfast, car hire and Gatwick flights departing Oct 16.
This port city in the south-west of Turkey stays hot through October (daily highs of 75F/24C) and the skies remain virtually cloudless with eight hours of sunshine a day. It’s a bit milder in November (66F/19C with six hours of sun), but still balmy enough to make it one of the warmest destinations in the Med.
Healing Holidays (healingholidays.com) can arrange a week at the Mandarin Oriental, Bodrum, which offers luxurious rooms and spa treatments until Nov 1 when it closes its doors for the winter. A seven-night stay costs from £1,999 per person, B&B in October, based on a garden view room, with transfers. Excludes flights.
I’m slightly cheating by including Marrakech in a list of resort destinations – it is, after all, one of the great cities of North Africa. But it has such an idyllic late-autumn climate and so many excellent riads and oasis hotels that it also makes for an excellent holiday in the sun. It stays seriously hot (81F/27C) through October, so you might even want to leave your trip until November, when the temperature peaks are rather lower at 72F (22C).
CV Villas (cvvillas.com) has serviced villas within easy reach of Marrakech including Dar Tamazerte, sleeping eight, on a private estate with views of the Atlas Mountains. Facilities include a private pool, fitness room and access to a shared tennis court. Daily chef service is included. Seven nights’ rental in October starts from £3,226 with breakfast.
The biggest and most popular Canary Island is a safe bet both in terms of the huge choice and high standards of hotels and the weather. It’s a year-round destination, but arguably autumn is the best time to visit, with highs of 75F (24C) in October and 70F (21C) in November. The only thing you might baulk at is the four-and-a-half-hour flight to get there.
Tui (tui.co.uk) has autumn availability at the four-star Holiday Village Tenerife, situated in the west coast resort of Playa de la Arena, with three outdoor pools, a spa and a family activity programme. Seven nights cost from £818 per person, all inclusive, based on two adults and two children sharing a room (includes one free child place), with flights from Gatwick airport and transfers, departing Oct 19.
There is a reason that Madeira is such a green and pleasant island – it does get a certain amount of rain blowing in from the Atlantic. But it is also a long way south and stays warm throughout the year with daily highs about 72F (22C) and five hours of sunshine a day on the south-east coast in November. It’s not a beach destination, of course (go to the neighbouring Portuguese island of Porto Santo for those) and there are few villas. But take your pick from some excellent hotels and reacquaint yourself with the feeling of luxuriating lazily by the pool.
Kuoni (kuoni.co.uk) offers up to one per cent savings on autumn departures to five-star Hotel The Vine, overlooking the harbour in the island’s capital, Funchal, with two pools (one on the rooftop), cocktail bar and spa. Seven nights from £1,299 per person, based on a superior room, including transfers and Gatwick flights departing Oct 19.
The south of Spain is the mildest part of mainland Europe and summer weather can cling on here well into November. If you prefer the coast, then the Costa del Sol still manages daytime peaks of 72F (22C) in October, though November is noticeably cooler at 64F (18C). As well as the coastline, it also has the advantage of the sights of Ronda, Malaga and Granada within an hour or two’s drive. If you prefer the idea of a sunny city break, then Seville is significantly hotter (79F/26C in October and 68F/20C in November).
Vintage Travel (vintagetravel.co.uk) has a selection of Andalucian properties available, including La Torre de Fuente del Gallo, a characterful stone watchtower (sleeping six). It has sea views over the sandy beach of Fuente del Gallo, enclosed grounds and a private pool. Rental only from £798 for seven nights. Departures on Oct 17 or 24.