It has been the strangest of years as millions of holidays have been cancelled and millions more remain in the balance. The traditional resorts of the Mediterranean 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 of Europe, 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.
Here are destinations where you can find both good value and reliable sunshine late into the year.
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.
Check out flights from Emirates and Etihad with prices starting from around Dh2,865*.
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.
Check out flights from Emirates and Etihad with prices starting from around Dh3,400. Budget options from flydubai start from Dh2,300*.
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.
Emirates and Etihad fly to Tenerife with prices from around Dh4,300*.
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.
Emirates flies to Madeira with prices from Dh4,800*.
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.
Check out flights from Etihad with prices starting from around Dh3,400*.
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.
Emirates flies to Lanzarote with prices from around Dh4,400*.
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.
Check out flights from Emirates and Etihad with prices starting from around Dh3,500*.
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).
Emirates and Etihad fly to Tenerife with prices from around Dh3,300*.
*All prices as of going to press for flights from mid to late October. Please check your travel agent for updated prices. Always remember to check the latest travel regulations before you fly.