Nearly two years after the start of the pandemic, a week or two in the sunshine is, at long last, firmly within the reach of most travellers once again.
Pent-up demand is expected to continue to drive passenger numbers back up, with Manchester Airport currently serving around 50% of pre-pandemic traffic levels. The airport has an abundance of options for travellers hoping to catch some rays this winter, so passengers will be spoilt for choice as the travel industry continues its road to recovery.
Canary Islands, Spain
Situated just off the coast of North Africa and boasting January temperatures that regularly hit the mid-twenties, the Canary Islands are perhaps the most accessible destination from Manchester for some guaranteed winter sunshine.
The Northern hub offers direct routes to Gran Canaria, Tenerife, Lanzarote and Fuerteventura with a variety of airlines including easyJet, Jet2.com, Ryanair and TUI.
The Atlantic island of Madeira, birthplace of football superstar Cristiano Ronaldo, not only enjoys temperatures in the low twenties throughout the winter but also provides dramatic mountain scenery and jaw-dropping black sand beaches.
Madeira’s capital, Funchal, is just a four-hour flight from Manchester, with the route served by both TUI and Jet2.com.
Much of the Med is comparatively cool over the winter, but Cyprus is an exception, and its vibrant nightlife makes it a winter sun favourite with younger crowds.
Those looking for a more relaxed time won’t be disappointed, either – the island offers fine food and drink alongside a plethora of historical sights to explore at your own pace, including ancient Paphos and the 2,500-year-old Tombs of the Kings, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
easyJet, Jet2.com and Ryanair are all offering services from Manchester to Paphos this winter.
Another spot for some guaranteed Mediterranean sun this winter is Tunisia. Not only does the North African country offer enviable beaches and archaeological treasures, it is also a go-to destination for outdoor activities including quad biking, camel rides and water sports.
Tunisian airline Nouvelair will offer a direct route to the capital Tunis from March 2022, whilst easyJet and TUI offer services to Enfidha, gateway to the coastal cities of Hammamet and Sousse.
If you’ve saved some extra pennies during lockdown and fancy something a little more exotic, mid-December to mid-April is peak season in Barbados, with tourists flocking to the island for its white sand beaches, world-class resorts and laid-back atmosphere.
Travellers can fly direct from Manchester with Aer Lingus, which launched its first UK transatlantic base in Manchester in October. The other carriers offering this route are Virgin Atlanticand TUI.
Feeling adventurous? Cuba offers a truly unique experience, with remarkably preserved colonial-era towns and a 60-year US trade embargo creating the sense of a time warp. In spite of those challenges, Cubans are famed for their warm hospitality and easy-going outlook.
TUI flies direct to the resort of Varadero which lies on a sandy peninsula on Cuba’s north coast and offers fantastic beaches, luxurious hotels, a golf course and an ecological reserve. The capital Havana is within easy reach for a day trip.
Orlando is a family favourite and thrill-seeker’s dream, with several of the world’s biggest and best theme parks all in one place. It’s also a leading ecotourism destination, with kayaking and airboat rides available in the Wetlands.
Virgin Atlantic’s direct route to Orlando returned with much fanfare in November and will be followed up by Aer Lingus, who will also start flying there from Saturday 11th December.
It developed as a playground for American teens on Spring Break, but today’s Cancun offers so much more than its renowned party scene. It is the gateway to the Riviera Maya, an unspoilt 80-mile stretch of sandy coastline dotted with resort towns offering world-class snorkelling and scuba diving.
Chichen Itza, one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, can be reached in a day trip, as can the famous Ik Kil cenote, a limestone sinkhole leading to an 150ft-deep underground lake which is open to the public for swimming.
TUI offers a year-round direct link between Manchester and Cancun.
Visitors to this sun-kissed city on the Red Sea have easy access to golden sandy beaches, the lunar-like landscapes of Wadi Rum and the ancient architectural jewel of Petra, another of the New Seven Wonders. Aqaba’s historical significance as a port makes it a melting pot of influences from across the Middle East and Eastern Africa, creating one of the region’s best foodie scenes.
easyJet will launch a brand-new, direct route from Manchester to Aqaba on 6th December.
Abu Dhabi, UAE
Another excellent Middle-Eastern option for a Winter Sun getaway is Abu Dhabi. Often overlooked in favour of its larger, glitzier neighbour Dubai (which can also be reached directly from Manchester with Emirates), the UAE’s capital city nevertheless offers a plethora of incredible activities, shopping and cultural experiences. Temperatures in the emirate are usually in the comfortable mid-to-high twenties in January and February, making winter the perfect time to visit.
Etihad runs a daily, year-round direct service from Manchester to Abu Dhabi.