Winter Car Hire in Europe: Where Is the Sun?
If summer feels like it happened in another lifetime, and winter already feels like it’s here forever, you probably need a reminder of what that shiny golden thing in the sky looks like. If you’re hiring a car in Europe, however, you can grab your dose of winter rays quite easily. Here’s a guide to winter sunshine in Gran Canaria, Malta, Madeira, and Cyprus.
The Spanish island of Gran Canaria is a pleasant escape from wintry showers, with an average seven hours of sunshine per day even in November. Daytime temperatures hover around 21C, and the sea is like a comfy bath. Take time out from relaxing and use your Gran Canaria car hire to experience enchanting mountain hamlets and the cosmopolitan delights of Las Palmas.
Car rental is a must to sample the great diversity of this continent in miniature in a few days. Leave the excitement of Las Palmas behind and head north for the laid-back vibe of Arucas or Teror, with its idyllic homes and farmers’ markets. Then you can drive by the sea for rugged coastlines studded with perfect beaches. You can surf at La Cicer and Boquines, or go hiking and horse riding. And culture vultures will love the range of museums, monuments, and churches.
Malta is a rock in the middle of the ocean, but the Mediterranean sun is so strong that you can sit at an outdoor cafe (without freezing!) even in November. The Mediterranean in miniature, Malta is small enough to take in within a few days, yet the combination of North Africa, Arabian, and Sicilian influences means there is something of interest around each sun-baked corner.
The tiny historic capital of Valletta is unspoiled by tourism. Go to the Upper Barrakka Gardens for a phenomenal view over the Grand Harbour, where Malta’s courage in World War II sea battles earned the whole island a George Cross for bravery. St. John’s Co-Cathedral is a feast of excess, with ornate ornamentation, marble tombstones, and soaring arches a legacy of the unrelenting campaign by the Knights of St. John’s to outdo the Medicis.
Don’t miss the Hypogeum of Paola is the world’s only prehistoric underground temple, which extends across 500 square metres of corridors, burial chambers, and passages hewn from rock. Visitor numbers are restricted, so book your tickets as far in advance as possible.
Cyprus may be a small island, but the legacies of Western Europe, Asia, and Africa mean it punches far above its weight. From the hamlets of the Akamas Peninsula and the ethereal golden beaches of the Karpas (Kırpaşa) Peninsula to the stunning Troödos and Kyrenia mountains and the magnificent medieval castles, Cyprus never fails to please. And with winter temperatures hovering around the low-to-mid 20s, you can feel the heat without the crowds.
Whether you associate the island with debauched parties in Ayia Napa or the romance of Aphrodite, Cyprus can be whatever you want it to be. Greek Cypriots view North Cyprus as being illegally occupied territory, but border controls have relaxed, and you can explore Famagusta, ancient Salamis and Lefkos in a car hired in the Republic of Cyprus. Nicosia is the world’s only partitioned capital, an exciting walled city also in the north. For ancient ruins and glowing mosaics, head west to Paphos, the legendary birthplace of Aphrodite, the goddess of love and beauty, for historic ruins and jewel-like mosaics.
Madeira is not the blue-rinse brigade capital you think it is. An exceptionally gorgeous refuge for the sun-loving trend set, this autonomous region of Portugal offers year-round subtropical heat. It’s the perfect location for outdoor pursuits, and its 1,000-mile network levadas (small canals) form ideal walkways for hiking through Madeira’s spectacular volcanic landscapes, tiny villages, and flourishing vineyards.
Madeira has become into a hot European holiday destination in all senses of the word. Black volcanic sand means its beaches flout the usual concept of a white sandy paradise, but bathers revel in the warm, glittering water, while non-swimmers can enjoy windsurfing and big-game fishing in subtropical surroundings.
If you are renting a car in Madeira in November, however, remember that the month has two different “seasons”: The first fortnight is usually warmer than the second, with the so-called Summer of São Martinho representing the arrival of cooler weather, notably in the mountains and at night.