TRAVEL
01/14/2013 08:01 am ET | Updated Feb 15, 2013

The Sunniest Destinations On Earth (PHOTOS)

Travelers have been chasing the sun ever since Europe's monarchs started constructing gaudy summer palaces. It is hard, after all, to relax while shivering.

It is also hard to shiver for months and remain optimistic about life in general. Seasonal Affective Disorder is both very real and entirely indicative of mankind's deeply felt need for sunshine. Doctors now prescribe flights south and with good reason: Warm temperatures courtesy of global warming have made winter a bleak, grey affair in the Northeast, where a little sun and snow used to temper the January blues.

Unfortunately, our need for sun is so universally agreed upon that the number of sun seeking travelers has -- facilitated by the cheap flights that turned Caribbean playgrounds of the rich and famous into destinations for the barely solvent -- exploded. Fortunately for savvy travelers, the diversity of popular warm weather destinations has remained lackluster. It can be hard to tan in Cancun thanks the the dark shadow of the bikinied crowd, but the beaches near Tangiers are wide open.

In fact, few of the statistically sunniest spots in the world have been enveloped by parasols and zinc oxide, meaning that if you are looking to get a really deep tan -- a bone deep tan -- you just might find yourself alone on a desert dune or atop the world's most famous megalith. These destinations may not bring in the Spring Break crowds, but they bring in solar arrays and climate scientists, the very folks who would tell you that these are the places to go if you need a break from the cold.

What makes these destinations special isn't necessarily that they're hot -- most of them are -- but that they are rarely shadowed by cloud cover. Whether in the desert or the Pacific, these are places that weather tends to pass by on its way to rain on other peoples' parades. They are also, and this is by no means an insignificant fact, places a traveler might want to go. Much of Antarctica and the Gobi desert are very sunny; also, extremely unpleasant. The key is to find a place where the sun is always present without being oppressive.

Bring a parasol, just in case.

  • Redding, California
    Visitors will like coming here for Lassen Volcanic National Park and Mt. Shasta. They'll also like coming here because the sun shines 88% of the time.
  • Swakopmund, Namibia
    The teutonic colonial port city of Namibia sits on the Skeleton Coast and under a sky that drops less than an inch of rain a year. Though the city is not exactly convenient for most travelers, it has become something of a destinations among thrill seekers who take to the updrafts on microlights, ride the dunes on snowboards and swim in the surprisingly chilly south Atlantic.
  • Alice Springs, Australia
    Outback culture is on display here as the key pillars of this community, which sits in the shadow of Uluru, are beer and barbecue, both of which are well-suited to a climate offering just short of 10 hours of sunshine a day. The casinos here are popular with rough-edged locals but the town also boasts access to a number of great eco resorts like Longitude 131, where visitors can bask in the desert warmth.
  • Kiribati
    AP
    One of the sunniest islands in the world is located near the patch of the ocean that absorbs more rays than any other piece of water on Earth. Visitors here can simply lie on the white sand beaches, sure, but there is also excellent fishing and numerous WWII ruins worth exploring.
  • Las Vegas
    WikiMedia:
    Sin City has, on average, 3,825 hours of sunshine a year. That's not bad at all. What is bad: being there with everyone else.
  • Agadez, Niger
    Alamy
    According to climate scientists, the desert outside of Agadez is one of the most solar-soaked places on Earth. Unfortunately this corner of Niger, while beautiful, is also incredibly dangerous. An ongoing Tuareg revolution has made this something of a war zone. That said, the warriors are very tan.
  • Yuma, Arizona
    The Guinness Book of World Records reports that , with 11 hours a day of sunlight, Yuma is the sunniest city on Earth. Whether this honor goes to this community or the barren hellscape of Devil's Valley, there is plenty on offer in this arid corner of The Grand Canyon State. Also extremely sunny: nearby Phoenix and Tucson.
  • Zanzibar, Tanzania
    This Islamic island off Dar Es Salaam has long been popular with Italian tourists, who come to get extremely tan in extraordinarily small bathing suits. The small city of Stone Town is a marvel of ancient architecture and boasts a peerless seafood market. The sun out 63 percent of the time, a remarkable amount for the tropics, which is why the locals are so darn happy all the time. Europeans fly here directly, but safari-goers in the know make the hop from Mount Kilimanjaro and Masai Mara.
  • Fresno, California
    AP
    Ok, so it's not exactly a tourism hotbed, but it is a hotbed for sunshine: 3,564 average annual hours worth. (AP Photo/Gosia Wozniacka)
  • Madagascar
    WikiMedia:
    Madagascar is a pristinely beautiful island off the coast of Africa. Tourism is the big draw here but so is the sunshine, of which there are 3,597 hours on average a year.
  • Andalusia, Spain
    This autonomous region in Spain (and home to Seville) has some 300 days of sunshine a year (Seville sees 7-8 days of rain a year).
Subscribe to the Lifestyle email.
Life hacks and juicy stories to get you through the week.

CONVERSATIONS