The summer season is coming to a close and winter in Europe is looming. Those hazy long days filled with the promise of sun-kissed skin, alfresco drinks late into the evening, and satisfying outdoor showers. Slowly but surely, as the days grow shorter and the wind begins to bite, we are reminded of how much simpler Buslife is when we have the sun beaming down on our shoulders — and our solar panels.
For some, the chill that autumn brings is a warning sign to pack up and drive to warmer grounds where we can hold onto the summer feeling for a little bit longer. For others, it means packing up the swimsuits and digging out the winter gear ready to embrace the snow that will inevitably come around the mountain. Whether you’re a sun-worshiper or a winter warrior, this article will direct you to the best places to settle for winter in Europe.
Where to go for a warm winter in Europe
When it comes to chasing the sun in Europe, there is really only one rule: head south. As far south as your VW Bus will take you. The closer to the equator you are, the warmer the climate. Many Buslifers head to the southern coast of Portugal, Spain, Italy, Greece, and Cyprus for the best chance of soaking up the winter sun. Others escape Europe altogether and venture into Morocco and Turkey. To help you decide which sun-drenched destination is right for you, here are the pros and cons of each:
Warm Buslife winter in Southern Italy and Sicily
Southern Italy and Sicily might not be scorching hot in December, but its mild temperatures and mostly dry forecasts make it a comfortable place to settle for winter in Europe. On good days, temperatures will peak at 20 degrees celsius, but with nippy nights, it averages at around 12. With that in mind, Messina’s microclimate usually makes it a few degrees warmer than Palermo and other parts of the island. However, as long as you pack layers, there’s no reason why you can’t live your Buslife dreams to the fullest wherever you go in Southern Italy. You can spend the winter season rambling through nature, seeing the region’s famous cultural sites, hanging out in its cities, and celebrating Christmas in a traditional Italian style.
Warm Buslife winter in Andalusia, Spain
Andalusia, encompassing the southern coast of Spain, is by far the country’s warmest region to rest up for winter in Europe. Daytime temperatures might only drop to a mild and manageable 15 degrees celsius during December and January, and it rarely dips below five degrees at night. As for rain? You’ll hardly know her. The best thing about staying in Andalusia during winter, however, is the diversity it offers. You can spend your days lazing around in trendy Marbella, hide out of sight in Parque Nacional Sierra Nevada’s dreamy mountainscape, or soak up its rich Moorish culture in the scintillating city of Seville.
Warm Buslife winter in the Algarve, Portugal
If the laid-back surfer vibe calls your name and you can’t imagine winter without your favorite watersports, then head to Portugal’s Algarve region for your European winter retreat. What’s more, its burnt-orange coastal cliff sides and honey-hued beaches make the perfect backdrop for your Buslife pictures. On good days, temperatures may soar to a sizzling 16 degrees, and it rarely dips below freezing at night, making it cool but comfortable overall. Of course, the sea’s temperatures are not so favorable, but don’t let that stop you from riding some waves. However, if you love Christmas as much as Santa himself, look elsewhere because Christmas around the Algarve is a quiet affair.
Warm Buslife winter in Morocco
No, Morocco is not technically in Europe, but as it’s just a one-hour ferry ride from Algeciras on the southern coast of Spain, it is an accessible and exciting alternative destination to see out the winter in. Since it’s a Muslim country, it may not be the best place for serious Christmas enthusiasts who have been impatiently awaiting the return of Christmas markets all year. But what it lacks in overstated Christmas decorations, it makes up for with a rich, immersive culture. From the bustling markets to the flavourful food, gorgeous landscapes, and warm-welcoming locals, you’re guaranteed to experience a whole new side of Buslife. Oh, and did we mention it boasts an average temperature of almost 20 degrees celsius?!
Warm Buslife winter in Peloponnese and Crete Island, Greece
Although the upper regions of Greece are cold and often snowy, head to the southern coast of the Peloponnese or islands like Crete and you will be welcomed by warm climates and plenty of sunshine. While these areas can enjoy temperatures of 15 degrees celsius on good days, the average is around 12. So while its winter climate may not exactly be optimal for the beach, it benefits from being much quieter than the packed summer months, and a fair bit cheaper than other warm winter destinations in Europe too. Perhaps the best thing about staying in southern Greece throughout the winter, however, is experiencing the myriad of age-old Christmas traditions that take place to this day.
Warm Buslife winter in Cyprus
Yes, it’s true; the sunny island of Cyprus is no less sunny in winter than it is in summer. Floating in the far-eastern side of the Mediterranean Sea between Turkey and Egypt, it’s no surprise the island’s average temperatures are still a generous 23 degrees celsius in November and 18 degrees in December and January. While the island’s small size may suggest Buslife here is limiting, with so much to see and do, you’ll forget you’re on an island altogether. Even during the winter months you can explore its ancient ruins, hike along its striking coastline, hang out in its charming beach towns, and go back to nature in its national parks.
Warm Buslife winter in Antalya, Turkey
While northern Turkey’s mountainous landscape is cold and often snowy, its Mediterranean Coast offers a welcoming warmth. Antalya, said to be the warmest place in Turkey during winter, is often a pleasant 16 degrees celsius, and rain only appears on the odd occasion. Like Morocco, Christmas celebrations aren’t part of Turkish culture, so it’s more suited to those that aren’t crazy about Christmas markets or Jingle Bell Rock being played on repeat. Instead, Turkey will wow you with its stunning landscapes, unique and delicious cuisine, Middle Eastern architecture, and not forgetting its famous Turkish hospitality.
Where to go for a proper winter in Europe
With most of Europe being snowed under when winter comes, it’s really easy to find somewhere to welcome the change of season. Whether you want to settle in one place or see what different European countries have to offer over the festive period, you first have to narrow down what you’re looking for. Is it winter sports, Christmas fever, or simply stunning winter landscapes? Because Europe certainly has it all. To help you decide which cold winter destination is right for you, here are the pros and cons of our top picks:
Buslife winter in The Alps
Spanning France, Italy, Switzerland, Austria, and Slovenia, the Alps is a Buslifers’ winter wonderland. The dreamy mountainous region is blanketed by snow for around 6 months of the year, making it ideal for winter sports enthusiasts. The biggest benefit of doing the Alps in your VW Bus is being able to hop around its ski resorts as and when you wish. Spend December swooshing around the slopes of Val D’Isere before making your way to the Matterhorn to see in the New Year, and ending the winter in Innsbruck. Of course, wherever you go in the Alps, Christmas cheer will be sure to follow with street decorations, market stalls, and festive music to get you in that good old Christmas spirit.
Buslife winter in Scandinavia
While winter in Scandinavia is only for the brave — and the well-prepared — those who do brave it will be rewarded with the world’s most magical winter scenery. Think snow-capped fjords, quintessential log cabins, and wild-roaming reindeer. Many Buslifers are put off visiting Norway, Sweden, and Finland because the temperatures are often below freezing, and while it’s certainly challenging, Scandinavians have been living in these climates for thousands of years and so can you. The rewards like dog-sledding, Christmas villages, and seeing the Northern Lights will be worth it.
Buslife winter in Germany
As the founder of the Christmas market, Germany is perhaps the best place to get into the Christmas spirit during your winter in Europe. From the big cities like Berlin and Hamberg to the tiny towns like Erfurt and Leipzig, the streets will be stuffed with stalls selling handmade Christmas gifts, bratwurst, and of course, traditional German beer. So why not get in the festive spirit and spend your winter in Europe finding the best German markets in this Christmas-crazed country? Winter is also the best time to visit Germany’s fabulous fairytale castles. Not only are there fewer crowds, but the castles’ magical beauty is enhanced ten-fold when blanketed in snow.
Buslife winter in the UK
This option is for those that want to do Buslife in a winter climate, but don’t want to deal with below-freezing temperatures, 10 feet of snow, and steep icy roads. With milder temperatures and less chance of snow than the rest of Europe, it is certainly a safe bet. And on those days you do fancy living in a winter wonderland, you can always drive to the scenic Scottish Highlands. The best thing about winter in the UK though is the diversity it offers. Between England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, you can explore exciting capital cities, cute country villages, breathtaking national parks, quaint coastlines, and rich cultures. Plus, the British Isles are actually home to some of the world’s best German Markets which will give you all the Christmas feels.
A handy table of pros and cons
|Winter Buslife Destination||Pros||Cons|
|Southern Italy/ Sicily||Experience an Italian-style Christmas |
|Colder nights |
Can be hard to reach in larger VW Buses
Hard to wild camp
|Andalusia, Spain||Variety of things to do |
Plenty of cultures
Easy to wild camp
|Lower temperatures than other warm winter spots |
Can be expensive even in winter
|Algarve, Portugal||Much less crowded than summer months |
Possibility for watersports
Great coastal views
More affordable than summer
Many volunteering opportunities
|There’s a lot less open in winter |
Quiet Christmas celebrations
Not a lot of variety
|Morocco||Warmest place to stay during winter |
Easily accessible from Spain
Rich cultural experience
Christmas is not celebrated
|The Peloponnese and Crete Island, Greece||Enjoy island life all winter |
Low chances of rain
Unique Christmas traditions
|Can become cold when driving inland |
Is often further to reach than other warm winter destinations
|Cyprus||Enjoy island life all winter |
Less cold days than other warm winter destinations
Variety of things to do
|Not easy to reach |
Not much ground to cover
|Antalya, Turkey||Rich cultural experiences |
|Christmas is not celebrated |
Can become cold when driving inland
|The Alps||Excellent winter sports |
Lots of countries to cover
Wonderful winter experience
|Steep and winding roads |
Can be expensive
Campervan parking is restricted in some places
|Scandinavia||Unique winter experiences |
Dreamy winter landscapes
Right To Roam (Free Camping)
|Below-zero temperatures |
|Germany||Wonderful winter castles |
Lots of German markets
Plenty of Christmas spirit
|Can be busier than usual|
|UK||Mild winter temperatures |
Variety of things to do
Amazing German markets
|Low chances of seeing snow|
Finding work exchange opportunities
To enrich and extend your trip throughout the winter in your chosen warm or cold destinations, why not consider a work exchange? Not only do you get to put your skills to good use or learn new skills, you often get free parking, cooked meals, and best of all, a memorable cultural exchange. Ok who are we kidding, the best thing is usually the ability to take hot indoor showers, use a real plumbed toilet, and fill your tanks with an unlimited supply of water. But also the culture thing.
From partaking in permaculture on a commune in Spain to housesitting in a cabin in the Swiss Alps, the work exchange opportunities are endless. The best places to find work exchange opportunities are on specialized websites and apps. Nomador is full of house and pet-sitting opportunities while Workaway lists a full range of opportunities including hostel work and farming. There’s also an option of staying with off-grid eco-communities as they are often grateful for some extra helping hands. Usually, you can contact them via their online websites or social media channels.
Other seasonal work options
If the exchange of services isn’t enough and you are craving that cold hard cash in your hands, perhaps look into seasonal work instead.
During winter, many Buslifers take advantage of the ski season. As soon as the snow starts to fall, ski resorts spring back to life and seasonal work opportunities come in hot. While the seasoned skier may be able to bag an instructor job, most settle for blue-collar work like cleaning and bartending. The jobs themselves may not be exciting but the opportunity to live in an Alpine wonderland and hit the slopes whenever you please sure is. And don’t forget the friends you’ll make while you’re there! Be quick though, they are in high demand and often get snapped up in the blink of an eye.
During the summer, hit up the tourist hotspots in Europe’s sunniest regions. Resorts all along the Mediterranean Coast will be taking on extra hands to deal with the doubling demands that the sunshine brings to the hospitality sector. Lifeguarding, cooking, cleaning, and reception work are just some of the jobs you can find. Night owls might prefer to bartend in some of Europe’s biggest summer party destinations like Ibiza, Marbella, and Ayia Napa. Although, if you don’t have a strong stomach and high stamina, this may not be for you.
Whether you want to escape the winter chill in your VW bus take shade from the summer’s sun, or simply want a more spacious place to relax, work, and sleep, there’s always the option to try housesitting. With websites like trustedhousesitters.com, you can browse through a catalog of homes worldwide that need watching while its owner is away. Often, all that you need to do is water their plans, feed and walk their pets, and generally keep the digs tidy. In exchange, you get to live like a local in a destination of your choice. Pretty good deal right?