There is no point denying it: winter in the UK is dire, not least for sun-starved Antipodeans. While ‘keeping calm and carrying on’ would be the standard English advice, a cheeky travel break can really brighten your spirits now the clocks have gone back.
Here, we recommend five destinations to escape to during the dark and gloomy winter months.
1. Bask in winter sun in the Canaries
The Canary Islands are a classic summer destination for Brits — but why not treat yourself to their golden beaches and volcanic valleys in winter time?
A mere four hours’ flight away, this gem of a destination proves you don’t have to go all the way back to the southern hemisphere to experience a little bit of sunlight during the winter. Top up your vitamin D levels with a day at the beach, enjoy a bit of shopping in the islands’ boutiques (which, by the way, are all duty-free!) and indulge yourself in some of the affordable top-notch restaurants. We recommend the Michelin-starred Restaurante Los Roques (Calle La Marina, 1638618 Los Abrigos in Santa Cruz) especially for alfresco dining!
For added adventure, rent a car and explore the national park and Mount Teide.
Staying at the NH Hotel (Candelaria Esquina Doctor Allart, www.nh-hotels.com) places you at the heart of the city in Santa Cruz and is perfect for enjoying the Spanish colonial architecture of the Old Town.
2. Pound the powder (and the apres-ski) in the French Alps
Rope in a group of friends and go for the most wintery of winter-getaways, a skiing holiday in the French Alps.
Enjoy the clean, crisp air and stunning Alpine landscapes as you race down the black run or attempt the cross-country. And even if you’re not the sporty type, there is always the Apres-ski (ie nightlife after-skiing), which is a great way to relax after all that exercise.
So, why not rent a traditional chalet? Renting as a group is a great way to make the most of your holiday, and can be quite affordable, too. Whether you opt for one of the resorts in Les Portes du Soleil, many of which have good facilities for beginners, or place yourself right at the foot of Mont Blanc in Chamonix, you are guaranteed to have a good time.
The Zara at Chamonix is a classic wooden chalet in a peaceful hamlet only five minutes from the Brévent ski area by foot and can be rented without catering (Mont Blanc Retreats,www.montblancretreats.com). At the other end of the spectrum, the beautiful 17th century barn-turned-chalet of Ferme de Moudon offers stunning interiors, including textiles by the designer owner, Nicky Dobree. (www.fermedemoudon.com).
3. Cosy up in Copenhagen
Looking for a coping mechanism to deal with the depressingly dark evenings? Well, Scandinavians really are the experts, so why not learn from the best?
Go to Copenhagen for a weekend and master the Danish art of ‘hygge’. The word has no direct equivalent in English, but can be translated as ‘cosiness’ — exactly what you need to get through the dark and gloomy months ahead.
A proper hygge most definitely includes warm cups of mulled wine and generous servings of sugar-dusted waffles at the Christmas markets at Torvehallerne (Frederiksborggade 21).
Warm up with a glass of herb-infused Scandinavian sprit (snaps) after a session at one of the central ice skating rinks and go shopping for a couple of Nordic design items at the brightly lit main shopping street, Stroget.
For the foodies, a pilgrimage to Noma (Strandgade 93, www.noma.dk), the restaurant which frequently tops the San Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurants list, is definitely in order.
Go all in with the hygge by staying at the Admiral Hotel (Toldbodgade 24-28; 3374 1414; www.admiralhotel.dk). Rich in history and beautifully decorated, it is located right on the waterfront, so you can enjoy watching the boats from your warm, cosy room.
4. Master camel-back riding in Marrakech
Ditch your crowded, stressful commute for a leisurely ride on a camel!
Marrakech in Morocco has become such a popular destination (and not without reason) and virtually every major travel company operating there offers guided tours into the desert or the Atlas Mountains by camel or mule.
The city itself is famous for its historic buildings, beautiful gardens, and, above all else, a vibrant and colourful network of markets, or souks. The souks are divided into sections, each of which has a speciality, from carpets and textiles to spices and even cooked snails. A more tranquil alternative to the hustle and bustle of the souks are the foundouks, centuries-old courtyard workshops run by Berber artisans. Be sure to check out those in Rue dar el Bacha.
TOP IMAGE: File image – Grand Canaria, Canary Islands (Adam Kontor / Pixabay)
ADDITIONAL IMAGES: Pixabay