Start planning your winter getaway now. Escape the cold with a sunny beach holiday or hit the slopes for a skiing adventure. From warm destinations like the Canary Islands and the Caribbean to the ski slopes of Italy and Austria, your winter getaway is waiting for you.
A vibrant food and wine scene meets breath-taking natural scenery and fascinating wildlife in this gorgeous port city on the south western coast of South Africa.
Top of any Cape Town must-do list has to be taking the cable car up to the famous flat top of Table Mountain. Once you reach the summit, take in the breath-taking views of the city and the harbour. Take a boat to Robben Island in Table Bay, the notorious prison where Nelson Mandela was incarcerated. Or visit Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, at the foot of Table Mountain, acclaimed as one of the finest botanical gardens in the world. In the summer evening concerts are often held there too so do check the listings for what’s on.
No trip to Cape Town would be complete without a trip to one of the many vineyards in the surrounding areas – you’ll find some of the prettiest in Franschhoek (please drink responsibly).
Spectacular architecture, breath-taking skylines, the world’s only seven-star hotel, gleaming shopping malls bursting with designer fashion: with such an abundance of brash Western entertainment, it’s easy to forget that Dubai is at heart a traditional Oriental city.
One sight not to miss is the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building ever since it was built in 2009: its many air-conditioned cafes and ice cream parlours provide a welcome escape from the Dubai summer’s blistering heat. Beyond that you’ll find an abundance of Michelin-rated restaurants, a sleek, futuristic metro system and state-of-the-art waterparks full of white-knuckle rides.
There are more thrills to be had on a safari out in the desert’s splendid playground, where you can speed across the dunes in a Jeep or try your hand at sand skiing and sleep wrapped up from the chill in blankets under the luminescent stars.
For a small island, Gran Canaria sure does have big ideas when it comes to terrain. Ranging from green and leafy in the north to dramatic mountains in the centre (including the volcanic rock, Roque Nublo, and the island’s highest peak, Pico de las Nieves), then desert in the south, with a rugged coast line and sandy beaches.
The beaches are hugely popular, but you can also have a holiday that’s about much more than lounging. If you fancy exploring, head for the Barranco de Guayadeque, a ravine that rises up into central Gran Canaria – it’s lush and green, but especially beautiful in spring when the almond trees are in blossom. Nearby, you’ll find Cuevas Bermejas, a small settlement of cave homes carved out of the mountainside, including a tiny chapel, where the pulpit, altar and confessional are all carved from rock. Astonishing, and like a land that time forgot.
A trip to Mexico can be whatever you want to make it – want to drop anchor at a five-star beach resort? There are more than enough high-end holiday spots to choose from in Tulum (to name just one option). Want to explore ancient ruins? The remains of the Mayan cities of Chichen Itza or Palenque are just two of the many archeological wonders.
From trekking through tropical jungles to getting swept up in the exhilarating buzz of high-octane Mexico City; from savouring true Mexican fare at food stalls to bartering over supposed magic herbal remedies at Mexico City’s Sonora Market (also known as witchcraft market).
Or why limit yourself to just one type of holiday? Mexico may be a huge country but it also has over 50 airports so getting around by air is easy (and far more preferable to days on a bus). One thing’s for sure: your Mexican adventure can be as diverse as the culture and history of the country itself.
No, it’s not just the place where Father Christmas kicks back for eleven months of the year. Putting aside its most famous resident for a moment, this region in north Finland is also a fascinating place known for its natural phenomena and huge areas of wilderness.
It’s a prime spot to see the Aurora Borealis (or ‘Northern Lights’), has many fells that offer great hiking and mountainous regions with top notch ski resorts. Visit in winter and you will discover a magical wonderland of snow-topped log cabins, reindeer and, of course, Santa Claus Village in Rovaniemi. Looking like a real-life snow globe, this park is a dedication to all things festive.
There’s no getting away from the fact that Christmas is Lapland’s primary appeal, but while it’s certainly not a cheap expedition, a face-to-face with the man in red himself is a childhood memory your little ones will treasure.
Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy
If you’re hitting the slopes with skiers and/or boarders of differing abilities and maybe even one or two non-skiers, Cortina d’Ampezzo (late November to late April) in the Italian Dolomites is a good bet. From the super-steep Staunies couloir for the experts to cruiser slopes through some of the most beautiful mountains on Earth to long, inviting nursery slopes, a week here will keep everyone happy.
Evenings can be spent wining and dining in the chic town centre among Italy’s beautiful people or hitting a nightclub or casino, and non-skiers can’t fail to enjoy wandering around Cortina’s attractive streets, shops and coffee houses, or they can even take a day trip to nearby Venice.
This is the kind of ski town you can visit any time as it will always look beautiful and there will always be a buzz on and off the slopes.
Ischgl in Austria is the place to party – and the best time to visit is late November to early May. The resort starts and ends the ski season with a massive free party – headline acts in recent years have included The Killers, Elton John and Kylie.
If you can’t be in town for either of these events don’t worry – Ischgl’s après-ski action is legendary, in fact it starts before the skiing has ended at mountain restaurants such as the Paznauner Thaya and continues almost until daybreak back down in the town, with dancing on the tables at the Hotel Elizabeth, crazy sing-alongs at the mad Niki’s Stadl and all-night clubbing at the likes of Pacha and Livingroom.