6 amazing winter escapes
If lounging out on a white-sand beach has you yawning, here are this winter's top getaways for adventurers and explorers
Published: Tuesday 8th November 2016
See the temples of Northern Thailand
A trip to Thailand doesn’t have to be limited to island hopping (although we’re all over that, of course). With Intrepid Travel, you can discover the country’s culture-packed north in a handy group tour that’ll save you both time and money.
Departing from Bangkok, you’ll start by heading to explore the World Heritage-listed city of Sukhothai, checking out its temples and eating the famous dish that’s named after the city (rice noodles cooked in a slightly sweet pork broth – underrated and absolutely delicious).
Then it’s on to a home stay in a small Thai village, where you’ll try local food and dancing before moving on to spend a few days in Chiang Mai. There, you can explore rural Northern Thailand by bike, try a cooking class, or explore the temples of Doi Suthep.
The trip is eight nights long, and a great way to experience warm weather and the sun on your face, before heading south to the islands if you fancy it.
How: Intrepid Travel offers an eight-night trip from £595pp including some meals. intrepidtravel.com
Explore the desert in Arizona, US
We get it – sunbathing isn’t for everyone. In Scottsdale, Arizona (which has warming mid-20ºC temperatures in the winter), you’re never more than 20 minutes from a hiking trail – pretty cool stuff seeing as you’re staying in a bar- and restaurant-packed city. But it’s not just about discovering the city’s sun-scorched desert on foot – you can get your adventure fix in other ways, too.
Try rock climbing, launch a quad bike along the dusty off-road trails of the Bradshaw Mountains, or see the landscape while kayaking the Salt River. If you’d prefer just to look at mountains instead of tour them, check out the city’s newest and coolest hotel. The Andaz is a colourful hotel with 201 bungalow-style rooms, plus strong connections to the art community and pretty sweet views of Camelback Mountain from its pool and sundeck. Because you have to leave at least a little bit of time to catch those rays, right?
How: Andaz Scottsdale Resort & Spa offers nightly rates from £288; book adventures via aoa-adventures.com; BA offers return flights from London from £600. ba.com; see experiencescottsdale.com to find out more.
Get active in Fort Lauderdale, US
Sailing, swimming, kite surfing, windsurfing, water skiing, deep-sea fishing, parasailing, paddleboarding, kayaking… Nope, we’re not just reeling off all the sports we’re rubbish at, we’re telling you about all the activities you can try out on the jade blue shores of Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Located just 30 minutes’ drive from Miami, the so-called ‘Venice of the USA’ (thanks to the number of waterways) is the perfect place to kick back on Florida’s beaches, without the showy bikini bods further down the coast. Our pick is the neighbourhood of Hallandale Beach, where you’ll find a beautiful swimming beach and the Hyde Beach Kitchen – a cool oceanside restaurant.
If the lure of Miami is too much to handle, head along the coast instead and check out the arty scene of Wynwood, or the slightly gritty scene – and great gay clubs – of Washington Avenue. Finish your night on a stool at Cheeseburger Baby, then hop in a cab (everyone uses Uber) back home.
How: Try an Airbnb for a home-away-from-home vibe. airbnb.com; Norwegian offers return flights from £300. norwegian.com
Walk it out in North Cyprus
Walking is great, until the thermometer hits 40ºC, that is. Visit North Cyprus during our winter, though, and you’ll have some of the most spectacular hiking trails in the world virtually to yourself. Explore the Besparmak Mountains, flanking the Kyrenia Coast, or the 143-mile Kyrenia Mountain Trail, which divides the country’s coast from its interior.
History dots the route – from the 10th-century Kantara Castle and tiny old villages, to monasteries and rugged beaches. When you’re not marvelling at the sites you can be snapping pics of the island’s wild orchids and lapping up the panoramas of the distant Turkish coast.
How: The Hideaway Club is what the name suggests – a hotel set in a remote part of hillside, nightly rates from £65. hideawayclub.com; Pegasus offers return flights from £150. flypgs.com/en
Hang with the cool crowd in Fremantle and Perth, Australia
If you want sun that comes with oven-hot temps pick Perth, a laid-back cosmopolitan city in Western Australia, with a bar and restaurant scene as epic as its ocean beaches. Don’t come all this way and neglect the city’s exploding food scene – try Toastface Grillah for oozy, cheesy toasties, Fortune Five for towering bamboo baskets of dim sum, and the newly opened Sweetwater Rooftop Bar in Fremantle for alfresco Asian cuisine.
Although Fremantle is officially considered a separate city to Perth, it’s kind of like a suburb – an arty laid-back one, with original architecture, lively markets and craft breweries.
When you’re not beaching and eating (try Cottesloe – the Bondi of Perth – and chilled out Leighton beach in Freemantle), take a Convicts and Colonials tour with Urban Adventures: you’ll see the Freemantle Prison and learn about the shady criminals and jail breaks of the past.
How: Seashells Freemantle is a great option for short-stay holiday apartments in East Freemantle, from £130 per studio per night. seashells.com.au; Qantas offers return flights from £600. qantas.com, book tours with urbanadventures.com
Devour Marrakech, Morocco
Sometimes you just need a tagine, a new leather handbag and a few pretty tiles. OK, that’s not all there is to Marrakech, but they’re some of our top picks.
This is the place for great food with a side dish of winter sun. Check out the Souk Kafe for the best Moroccan salads, beef tagine and preserved lemon tagine in town – or, for a quick, cheap dish on the go, it has to be the super-soft, slow-roasted lamb from the stalls in Mechoui Alley. Grab a tea or orange juice from the stalls in the crazy and colourful Djemaa el-Fna, then chill with a refreshing cucumber martini on the roof terrace at Nomad in the Spice Square.
How: EasyJet offers return flights from £70. easyjet.com; Royal Palm offers rates from £349. beachcomber-hotels.com