The holidays are officially over and that relaxed vacation feeling is all but a distant memory–so why not make January and February your time for traveling? With low-season rates and fewer crowds, the beginning of the year is the ideal time to sneak in that first great getaway–no matter if you like to get a healthy dose of Vitamin C on sun-kissed beaches or need some action like carving the slopes. Here are some of our favourite destinations to escape the winter blues.
When Thailand gets overcrowded these months, Langkawi on Malaysia’s west coast is a forested delight where luxury resorts nestle among thick foliage, rare birds call out from the branches–and the dry season holds court between December and April. Surrounded by turquoise sea, Langkawi is an archipelago made up of 99 islands and islets. Blonde beaches are the biggest draw, while the interior of the main island is a mixture of picturesque paddy fields and jungle-clad hills. The rich underwater world makes Langkawi also an excellent diving spot. (And the island is duty-free–bargain shopping fun guaranteed!)
The warm sands of Jumeirah Beach, the architectural ambition of hotels such as the Burj Al Arab, and the retail joys on offer in vast shopping temples such as the Mall of the Emirates are just a few reasons that the most glitzy of all United Arab Emirates has become such a haven from the European winter. But it’s not all glass and shopping malls: the Old Souk that flank Dubai Creek is the original heart of the city, where traders from all over the Middle East come to flog their warren of glittering jewelry, pots and treasures. And–for art lovers–two new creative districts, Dubai Design District and Al Quoz, have gained the attention of the international art scene and are worth a stroll. If this is all too humid for you, just bronze by the pool all day long, enjoy the top-notch service and Dubais exciting food scene.
Not only because of the best spots for snowy adventures like the best renowned ski schools, high-altitude destinations made for the serious skier, and some of the most demanding courses, the Alpes are worth a visit during the European winter time. Breathtaking nature and stunning vistas to the tallest peaks will welcome you, as well as enchanting and rustic villages like Zermatt in Switzerland, Bad Gastein in Austria or Courchevel in the French Alpes, that offer posh hotels, spa-town resorts, chic shopping, a lively après-ski scene and excellent food.
The Sunshine State basks in warmth in the 20s Celsius throughout the year. The southeasternmost US peninsula with the Atlantic on one side and the Gulf of Mexico on the other, boasts over 2.170 kilometres of coastline–a destination where life looks towards the beach. But there is much more than sandy shores and coconut palms: Floridas coral cay archipelago, the Keys, are a string of tropical islands stretching about 120 miles off the southern tip of Florida. They’re not only beautiful but a famous destination for fishing, boating, snorkeling and scuba diving. Florida’s Everglades on the other hand is a mecca for wildlife enthusiasts with its populations of flamingoes, panthers, and crocodiles. With its key cities there is even more to visit and do: Miami is known for its Latin-American cultural influences and notable arts scene, as well as its nightlife, especially in upscale South Beach. Orlando is famed for theme parks, including Disney World. So, the only question is: where to start?
New Zealand must be on every traveler’s bucket list! The diversity of its incredible wildlife and unique landscape, not to mention its setting for the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movie series, has encouraged tourism a lot and made the country one of the world’s most rewarding travel destinations. The uncrowded, green and peaceful country with its ancient rock formations and glacial fjords, its trout-filled lakes and scenic beaches is the ultimate winter escape. New Zealand offers outdoor adventure galore, spliced with vibrant cultural and culinary experiences, enhanced by a welcoming attitude to visitors.
With temperatures that occupy the upper 20s Celsius throughout the year, Barbados is a stalwart of Carribean tourism. The island offers more than 80 turquoise bays and pristine white-sand beaches–some of them are recognised as the most beautiful beaches in the world. For many, it revolves around the luxury resorts on the west coast, but between the beach and the ocean, Barbados offers lush botanic gardens, plenty of wildlife and unlimited ways to have fun like watersports including jet-skiing, surfing and kitesurfing. On the south and west coasts, small boats offer trips to swim with the turtles. Or you can spend a day aboard a luxury catamaran, cruising crystal-clear seas like a celebrity. And don‘t forget to visit the Unesco World Heritage–listed capital Bridgetown: In addition to heritage and excellent food, you’ll find smashing nightlife.
Seeking a truly white winter? Venture far north to Norway, where reindeer sleigh rides are run-of-the-mill and the Northern Lights are in their prime. Near the Arctic Circle in Lapland, this natural phenomenon with its unbelievable colors from green to pink moves across the sky and can be experienced up to 200 nights a year. Through the 20.000-island Finnish archipelago, and along the rocky beaches on the mainland’s southernmost tip, Finland’s 40 national parks, 12 wilderness areas, and six national hiking areas are sanctuaries for silence-seekers. Enjoy a digital detox on a rustic and remote reindeer farm, snuggle up by the fireplace and focus on the unspoiled Lapland tundra, forests, and fells.
Vietnam will be one of the most fascinating, beautiful and charming countries in Southeast Asia you will ever visit. Home to an extensive collection of historical and cultural attractions, nature enthusiasts can find plenty of sightseeing opportunities throughout their holiday, ranging from tropical forests to pristine beaches and untouched islets to towering mountains and hill-tribes through serene landscapes draped in terraced rice paddies. Little islands and dramatic bays such as the famous Halong Bay, boasting over 1.600 limestone islands and islets, can be explored, preferably by boat. And even though it’s easy-going and luxury can be found everywhere, it still feels like a well-kept secret of untouched beauty. Elsewhere, the country looks forward in the busy streets of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City with one of the world’s best food scenes.
With safari tours offering opportunities to see the Big Five, 480 kilometres of Indian Ocean coastline and cities like Nairobi and Mombasa with top restaurants and a buzzing nightlife, Kenya is a winter holiday destination that dreams are made of. Vast savannahs peppered with immense herds of wildlife, snow-capped equatorial mountains and traditional peoples who bring soul and colour to the earth make Kenya so diverse and lovely. Visitors are rewarded not only with a wealth of sights, sounds and experiences, but also a truly warm and accommodating welcome as hospitality is a way of life in this country.
The Maledives don‘t need much of an explanation and there is no bad time to go there anyway. But especially when winter is getting annoying in Europe or elsewhere in the Northern Hemisphere, a trip to one of these perfect tiny castaway islands can be working like a cure. Located just south of the Indian subcontinent, the Maldives are a gorgeous chain of islands in the Indian Ocean-Arabian Sea area consisting of 26 coral atolls. Unrivalled luxury, stunning white-sand beaches and an amazing underwater world welcome singles families and honeymooners equally.