Best Places to Visit in Southern Europe During Winter

When it is a winter wonderland of snow flurries, and the cold wind blows until you’re chilled to the bone, you may daydream of sunny skies and mild temperatures elsewhere in the world. The good news is that ideal spring temperatures await you in winter in Southern Europe.

Winter in Italy: Puglia’s Hidden Gems

Here are a few of the best places to visit in Southern Europe during winter:

  • Canary Islands: These islands are off the coast of Morocco and have warm weather year-round.
  • Portugal: The average temperature is warm year-round.
  • Andalusia, Spain: If you’re looking to travel to Spain in winter, Andalusia is the warmest place. 
  • Malta: This tiny island in the Mediterranean is home to warm weather and centuries-old ruins.
  • Southern Turkey: Known for its warm Mediterranean beach towns.
  • Crete, Greece: Crete is reliably warm year-round.
  • Sicily and Puglia, Italy: Sicily stays warm in the winter and has a lively culture year-round. 

Winter in Southern Europe offers less-crowded streets and comfortable weather your whole family can enjoy. Road Scholar has curated tours for adventurers and learning seekers trying to escape their winter homeland. 

Leave your winter jacket behind hanging in the closet and join Road Scholar on one of our winter learning adventures to revel in the environment where local life is more relaxed and most tourists have gone home. 

Winter in Portugal

There are five to six hours of sunshine each day and an average temperature of 61 degrees in Portugal during wintertime. With more than 300 sunny days a year, Portugal is one of the warmest places to travel in winter in Europe. In Portugal, the weather seems more like spring and there are plenty of activities to keep you busy. In fact, one of Portugal’s islands, Madeira, is fondly nicknamed the “island of eternal springtime” during the quieter winter months. 

Faro is another perfect place to visit in Portugal in the winter. Faro is the southernmost city in Portugal, and this quaint town will charm you with plenty of sunny days for golfing, walking on beaches, bird watching and swimming.

Road Scholar offers an eight-day tour of Madeira in the wintertime, where you will admire exotic plants, black lava pools, lush subtropical forest and beautiful bird-of-paradise flowers awaiting you in this peaceful paradise.

Winter in Italy 

Puglia, in winter, remains a real hidden gem with its year-round sun, stunning countryside, elaborate Christmas decorations and mild temperatures. For the warmest winter weather in Puglia, November is a good time to visit, with temperatures reaching 62 degrees with slightly cooler temperatures in December through February. Even with lower temperatures, Puglia has regular sunshine, blue skies and little rainfall.

Discover the vibrant history and cuisine of Puglia on Road Scholar’s eight-day trip to Italy’s boot heel during winter months. Puglia boasts the longest stretch of coastline of any other mainland region in the country. Brush up on your Italian during a session with your group leader, and try creating local dishes during a hands-on cooking class. 

Discover the Baroque beauty of Lecce on an expert-led walking exploration of the Old City and learn the history of the Sassi de Matera, a troglodyte settlement and one of the oldest cities in the world. And do all of this sightseeing in the winter without fighting the crowds. 

Another one of the best places to visit in Europe during winter is Sorrento, Italy. Located on the Amalfi Coast, Sorrento is a charming destination with perfect year-round weather. With cooler winter temperatures, the Amalfi Coast draws in fewer crowds in the winter, making it the perfect time to enjoy the stunning coastal views. Explore Old Town by wandering the narrow, winding streets while visiting local shops and enjoying an authentic Italian atmosphere. Or, spend time at museums like Museo Correale di Terranova to learn about the history and culture of Sorrento.

Sorrento is also one of the best places to travel in Europe in December, thanks to cooler temperatures that make it a more intimate and enjoyable experience compared to the bustling summer months. The Sorrento area is home to natural hot springs, allowing you to end an exciting day of adventure in relaxing thermal spas. December in Sorrento also brings traditional winter festivities, including markets and specialty holiday dishes.

Road Scholar’s Sorrento & the Breathtaking Amalfi Coast small-group program allows participants to enjoy a one-of-a-kind experiential learning opportunity. In this 10-day adventure, learners can better understand the impact ancient Romans and Arabs had on this coastal town hovering above the turquoise waters of the Tyrrhenian Sea. Other program highlights include visits to Naples, Capri and Maiori. Perhaps one of the most exciting adventures is exploring the ancient ruins of Pompeii for an expert-led walking tour that explores the life of Romans frozen in time.

As one of the top winter getaway destinations, Italy has a lot to offer. From the stunning countryside of Puglia to the Baroque beauty of Lecce and the coastal waters of the Amalfi Coast, Italy is regarded as one of the best places in Europe in December. At Road Scholar, we have various educational travel experiences that can bring you and your family through one of Europe’s finest destinations.

Winter in Greece

Temperatures can reach as high as 64 degrees in November and December in the southern parts of Greece. If you check out Greece in the winter, you will get to sample their delicious seasonal food and drink, like lahanodolmades (cabbage rolls), horta (wild greens) or fasolada (bean soup).

Experience the ancient island of Crete as the locals see it — without crowds in the mild winter months — on this nine-day exploration of the largest of the Greek islands. Crete has served as a melting pot of cultures since ancient times. Explore coastal villages and ancient sites, and unravel the history of the Minoans, Romans, Ottomans and others who have left their mark on Cretan culture. Even try your hand at creating Cretan cuisine during a hands-on cooking class.

Winter in Spain

Hundreds of thousands of people flock to Andalucia during the summer, making it difficult to see some famous historical sights like Granada‘s Alhambra and the Seville Cathedral. During the winter, the crowds in Andalucia are gone, making the seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites more accessible. 

Mallorca, a cluster of islands off the east coast of Spain, is another beautiful winter travel destination considered less crowded than Ibiza. There is warm water and sunshine year-round

Bordered by mountains and the Mediterranean Sea, southern Spain’s culture displays elaborate Moorish architecture, lush olive tree groves, fiery Flamenco and savory Spanish cuisine. Situated on the subtropical Costa del Sol, Andalusia boasts stunning scenery and one of the mildest winters in Europe. The Road Scholar eight-day trip to Spain will lead you down the sunny path to palaces, mountains and small towns. 

One of the top European destinations in December is Estepona. Located on the Costa del Sol on the southern coast of Spain, this seaside destination enjoys a relatively mild climate during the winter months, making it a perfect place to visit and explore. The cobblestone streets of Old Town are lined with quaint village homes donning colorful flower pots, with Plaza de las Flores at the heart, home to cafes and shops perfect for holiday souvenir shopping. 

Spanish cuisine is renowned worldwide, and Estepona is an excellent place to enjoy authentic tapas, seafood and traditional Andalusian dishes. Selwo Aventura, a wildlife park, is also open year-round, making it a great place to visit during winter to explore the zoo, safari and various animal shows. Another reason Estepona is one of the best places to visit in Europe for seniors and families during the winter is the town’s Christmas celebrations. Each December, Estepona, like many Spanish towns, hosts various Christmas markets and events, and experiencing this festive atmosphere and participating in local traditions is sure to make lasting memories.

Road Scholar’s Winter in Spain: Culture & History Along the Southern Coast travel program makes it easy to understand why Estepona is regarded as one of the best European trips for seniors in the winter. This program allows participants to immerse themselves in southern Spanish culture by learning about Moorish architecture, exploring the Rock of Gibraltar and enjoying local cuisine. Program highlights of this eight-day trip include an on-site presentation of local fishing traditions to learn why Spain is one of the largest consumers of fish, partaking in a seafood paella-making workshop, driving through the Sierra de Ronda and viewing the Toro Bravo or Toro de Lidia (Spanish Fighting Bull).

There are many reasons why Spain is one of the best places to visit in Europe during winter. Whether you’re interested in places to travel during winter with a mild climate like Estepona or want to relax on the islands of Mallorca, Spain has something for everyone.

Winter in France

France is known as one of the best places to travel in Europe in December for many reasons. The French Alps bring skiing and snowboarding opportunities, with destinations like Chamonix, Courchevel and Val d’Isère offering world-renowned ski resorts and some of the best skiing and snowboarding conditions. Cities like Colmar, Paris and Strasbourg are hard to beat for those interested in exploring Christmas markets. France is famous for its Christmas markets, and these areas bring festive atmospheres, mouth-watering food and unique artisanal goods.

If you’re looking to explore Europe in a week this winter, having any area of France on your list is a must. Learning adventures in the Loire Valley can bring you to towns like Tours and Amboise to explore historic castles. Château de Chambord, the largest castle in the region, is known for its intricate towers, turrets and well-kept grounds, while Château de Chenonceau, cresting the River Cher, dons immaculate arches and gardens, making it one of the most visited castles in the country.

At Road Scholar, you can also enjoy the comfortable temperatures of the Mediterranean through our Winter in France: Culture & Charm on the French Riviera program. Attendees of this eight-day excursion can enjoy wandering the streets of Nice, where they can walk the cobblestone streets of Old Nice and enjoy baked goods from local boulangeries and learn about the strong influence the Riviera had on world-famous artists like Picasso and Matisse. Other program highlights include a motorcoach to Antibes, where participants can explore the Picasso Museum located in the medieval Château Grimaldi. Toward the end of the trip, visiting St. Paul de Vence offers the opportunity to explore the Maeght Foundation, a private museum housing paintings, ceramics and sculptures from 20th-century artists.

Learn what makes France one of the best places to travel in Europe in December and the winter through Road Scholar. Our memorable learning adventures allow you to explore some of the world’s most iconic destinations during the winter with fewer crowds and more intimate, local experiences.

Road Scholar Winter Trips to Southern Europe

Road Scholar aims to provide immersive, educational and memorial adventure travel for those seeking a warmer climate in the cold winter months.

We have curated tours for those who want warm places to travel in winter in Europe and around the world. Enroll in a warm winter adventure today with Road Scholar!