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European hotspots where the sun is still shining: From Greece to Azores

It’s daylight robbery. On Monday, the autumnal equinox, the north loses its summer advantage.

Up to this weekend, the further north you are, the longer the day. From 21 September, that flips, with chilly nights infiltrating northern latitudes such as London (51N), Leeds (54N) and Glasgow (56N). The antidote: head south. Thankfully, the next month, before the main October half-term holiday, delivers many good-value options for finding extra sunshine within easy reach. Our recommendations show per-person prices, based on two people travelling together.

Crete, Greece

The beautiful resort of Elounda is cosseted by a bay in north-east Crete. Despite its on-screen celebrity – it was the setting for the 1970s BBC TV series, Who Pays the Ferryman? – Elounda remains serene and friendly.

Hop aboard a launch from the harbour to explore the offshore island of Spinalonga, a former military outpost-turned-leper colony whose old stones hold a wealth of stories. You will fly to and from Heraklion, so at the start or end of your trip visit Knossos, the power base of the extraordinary Minoan civilisation – a convenient three miles from the airport.

Degrees north of the equator: 35

Flying time: 4h

Average October high: 23C

How: Thomas Cook has a week’s half-board at the four-star Elounda Residence Hotel for £587, departing on 26 September from Bristol. Many other airlines fly to Heraklion if you prefer to put something together yourself.

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Cycling near Innsbruck

Cycling near InnsbruckMarseille, France

You don’t need to fly to the sun. The Eurostar train from London St Pancras to the south of France operates year-round, taking you from the Thames to the Mediterranean in under seven hours. The city makes an excellent base for exploring Provence – and has itself been energetically rejuvenated over the past few years. Read our latest 48 Hours in Marseille, published in May this year, Beyond the city, the strange and evocative marshlands of the Camargue lie to the west, while to the east the Côte d’Azur is punctuated by pretty resorts such as Cassis, Hyeres and St-Tropez – all accessible by train.

Degrees north of the equator: 43

Train time: 6h30 (an hour longer on the northbound service)

Average October high: 20C

How: Eurostar operates on Fridays and Saturdays in September and October. Departing on Friday 9 October for a week, the fare is £139.

Sao Miguel, Azores

The cognoscenti have known about this Portuguese archipelago for years, and an excellent charter flight has operated for several summers. However, this year Ryanair moved in, offering no-frills flights from Stansted to the island of Sao Miguel –the hub for the archipelago, and home to its small, handsome capital, Ponta Delgada.

This remote city is a joy, with cobbled lanes, a profusion of pretty churches, and superb places to eat and drink at absurdly low prices. If autumn’s chill drifts in from the Atlantic, there are plenty of ways to warm up, thanks to the restlessness of the earth’s crust. At Caldeira Velha in the middle of this hyperactive island, steaming hot water charged with minerals has been harnessed in a sequence of pools and streams; €2 buys hours of superheated joy.

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Degrees north of the equator: 38

Flying time: 4h

Average October high: 22C

How: Ryanair flies each Saturday from Stansted to Ponta Delgada. Departing on 3 October for a week, the fare is £103 return. The Sao Miguel Park Hotel, on a hillside on the outskirts of the city, is a good-value place to stay (00 351 296 301 880;

Innsbruck, Austria

Take claims about micro-climates with a pinch of mercury, but early October is an excellent time of year in Austria’s most alluring city. The temperature at nearly 2,000ft high won’t make you break out in a sweat – unless you tackle a stretch of the spectacular Eagle’s Way across the roof of the Tyrol – but rainfall is at a minimum and many days offer bright, clear skies.

Hop on your bike, ride the Zaha Hadid-designed cable railway up into the mountains for some Nordic walking, or take a dip in Lanser See lake – the water is as warm as it ever gets right now.

Degrees north of the equator: 47

Flying time: 2h

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Average October high: 15C

How: Get there quick. The only direct link from the UK this summer is easyJet from Gatwick. For the rest of the month fares are very appealing, at around £50 outbound, with the final return flight on 3 October at £84.

Tenerife, Spain

Taking into account all the parameters – cost, sunshine, flying time, activities and culture – the Canaries are perennial favourites. Lanzarote has the most exotic landscapes, Las Palmas offers big-city life as well as beaches, but all-round winner is Tenerife, the largest and greatest of these Spanish islands. Most of the big resorts are in the south of Tenerife, But the original tourist hotspot, Puerto de la Cruz, on the north-west coast, has plenty of quiet charm. It is also well placed for exploring the best of the island, including the capital, Santa Cruz, and the historic town of La Laguna.

Degrees north of the equator: 28

Flying time: 4h

Average October high: 26C

How: Thomson is offering a week’s half board, staying at the Catalonia Las Vegas in Puerto de la Cruz for £347, departing from Manchester on 7 October.


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