From mystical Egypt to sun-bound cruises, Naomi Mackay has all sorts of destination suggestions for your group to find warm sunshine over the winter months

Marquee poolTHE FLORIDA KEYS There’s plenty to see and do in the southernmost tip of Florida. For the only living coral reef off mainland US, head to Key Largo and the first undersea park in the US, John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park – explore with snorkels, scuba gear or a glass-bottomed boat if you don’t fancy getting your feet wet. www.pennekamppark.com There is always a lot going on in Key West. Don’t miss a visit to Duval Street, where you’ll find all sorts of characters and lots of bars to hang out in – and of course this is the home of the Sloppy Joe, so make sure you try one! www.keywest.com Add a bit of culture by visiting Ernest Hemingway’s home – even if you’re not interested in his writing, you must see the 40 cats that live there – each of them sporting six toes on each foot! Key West is also home to the most southernmost piece of land in the US – head to the striped marker to get your photo taken here. You can also take a day trip to the Dry Tortugas National Park, where you can visit the beaches, snorkel, and explore a 19th century fort. www.drytortugas.com Finally, wherever you go in the Keys, be sure to enjoy the sunset – head to a beach or a restaurant or bar with outdoor seating for a memorable experience. www.fla-keys.co.uk

EGYPT A winter break in Egypt combining ancient history, diving and sunworshipping, should please everyone in your group. Who could resist heading to the Valleys of the Kings and Queens and marvelling at the temple at Karnak, and then taking a Nile cruise down to Abu Simbel and Aswan? Stay in Luxor while you do your sightseeing and then perhaps have a few days on the beach at a Red Sea resort such as Hurghada or Sharm El Sheikh – and maybe do a spot of diving or snorkelling too. www.egypt.travel www.discoveregypt.co.uk www.titantravel.co.uk

THE CANARY ISLANDS There’s plenty of sun to be had in the Canary Islands, which have a distinctly Spanish flavour, evident in the food, drink and hotels, and yet because of their location, which is close to Africa, they benefit from a good deal of winter sun. Lanzarote is a popular destination, as is Puerto del Carmen, which sits by a harbour. From here you can take a day trip to Fuerteventura. The beaches of Playa Blanca and Costa Teguise should also be considered and have more choices for accommodation. Away from the beaches, Tenerife’s Siam Park is a great water park, and wildlife watchers can take a trip out to look for whales and dolphins. Teide National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage site that surrounds Mount Teide, one of Spain’s tallest volcanoes, and is the location for a number of organised activities, such as star gazing, jeep safaris, crater hikes and a cable trip to the summit. www.hellocanaryislands.com www.siampark.net www.volcanoteide.com

SORRENTO AND PORTOFINO Italy’s Sorrento is still enjoying mild weather while we in the UK are wrapping up and putting on the central heating. In October they can still be enjoying temperatures as high as 22°C and even in December, it’s still pleasant there, with top temperatures of 13°C. Perched atop a plateau enjoying spectacular views over the Bay of Naples, the town is very popular with British visitors, and yet retains its Italian charm. Whatever you fancy doing on holiday, Sorrento probably caters to your needs. Take beautiful walks through olive and lemon groves or enjoy a number of excursions. Top of many people’s list is a trip to Pompeii, the city buried and preserved by the eruption of Vesuvius, but Naples and Herculaneum are easy to get to as well. Hop on a ferry to Capri for the day, or take a boat to Amalfi or Positano. You can potter around Sorrento’s little lanes, browsing in boutiques, stopping for refreshments along the way. For a stunning sunset looking out towards Naples and Vesuvius, head to Villa Communale Park. www.sorrentotourism.com Another Italian option is Portofino. A pretty village on the Italian Riviera, it has long been a favourite of film stars. It represents la dolce vita for many a film star; it has been linked to celebrities such as Liz Taylor and Clark Gable and in more recent times Madonna and George Clooney. For a fabulous view of its multi-coloured houses and bay, take a walk up through the terraced gardens to Castello Brown, which is not of great interest to visitors but the view from its gardens is a must and you can reward yourself with a drink from the bar at the top. Snorkelling and paddle boarding are also popular activities. www.italia.it/en/travel-ideas/the-sea/ portofino

CAPE VERDE The islands that make up Cape Verde enjoy sun pretty much all year round, with temperatures of 21°C to 29°C. The water is warm too, which makes the area very popular with surfers The most famous festival in Cape Verde is Carnival which is normally held on most of the islands in February. Expect the streets to be full of revellers in fancy dress. Enjoy the music and watch the float procession, with everyone in the most flamboyant costumes. The biggest event is Mindelo Carnival, which takes place on the island of Sao Vicente, with tens of thousands of people taking part. Wildlife lovers will appreciate the large number of bird species, many unique to these islands, including the Cape Verde kite which is threatened with extinction. The sea offers a particularly interesting habitat as the cool current meets the warm current here, allowing warm and coldwater fish to be seen in the same place. Dolphins, sharks, killer whales, sperm whales and humpback whales can be spotted off the steep coast of Fago. Getting there: Schedule flights from Gatwick to Sal, plus charter flights to Sal and Boa Vista, other islands can be reached by catching connections in Lisbon. www.capeverde.com www.capeverde.co.uk/festivals-and-music

Thomson cruiseON YOUR BOAT Fancy visiting several destinations but don’t fancy hopping on and off planes? Then a cruise is the solution. Let the ship take the strain as you relax between destinations, enjoying fine food, drinks, entertainment and more. For something a little different, how about Thomson’s Red Sea Cruise which takes in Dubai, Abu Dhabi (and the largest indoor theme park in the world – Ferrari World), Oman and the walled city of Muscat – with the chance to go diving and see whale sharks, barracudas and turtles – and the ancient city of Petra, where you can hike into the mountains and try Bedouin-style cuisine. www.thomson.co.uk Cruises from the Canary islands will take you around the islands of Madeira – a great stop-off in the run-up to Christmas, when the festive lights appear in the capital of Funchal – or you can enjoy the fireworks on New Year’s Eve. Fred Olsen Cruises runs a Canaries Christmas and Funchal Fireworks cruise, which sees you in the Moroccan city of Casablanca on Christmas Eve, on the beaches in Lanzarote on Boxing Day, with Funchal’s fireworks to look forward to as you welcome in 2017. Other highlights include dolphin watching, Casa de Colón – where Christopher Columbus stayed during his epic voyage, and climbing Spain’s highest mountain at Teide National Park in Tenerife. www.fredolsencruises.com If you have a big budget, plenty of time off and hate flying, P&O offers no-fly cruises from Southampton, which take in the US and Caribbean. Visit New Orleans, South Carolina, St Lucia, St Kitts, Key West, Port Everglades, Mexico and much more. www.pocruises.com