Me every year: I need some Winter sun
Bank account: *laughs hysterically*
Nonetheless it’s good to dream. And there’s something for everyone in this lot however strapped/social/knackered/intrepid you might be. Have a little browse. Maybe next year…
IF YOU’RE AFTER… A BIT OF AN ADVENTURE
Two weeks, four wheels, just you and the open road… sounds alright, we reckon, especially if there’s good wine and weird animals to be found along the way. Try a self-drive journey through Patagonia and the Carretera Austral with Wexas, starting in Santiago, where you can dance and buy art and look at all the beautiful people, before flying to Balmaceda and jumping in your 4WD. It’s a dirt-road circuit from here, through mountains, over plains, along lakes, then another short flight to the spectacular talk-about-until-you-die Torres del Paine National Park.
It’s a gentle adventure, this one, so don’t fret, and it’s to Abu Dhabi, which actually has a lot going for it right now, so don’t judge. The flight is easy (ish – 7 hours), the weather is warm (it’s a desert) and it’s not as bling as Dubai, especially with the new opening of the spectacular Louvre Abu Dhabi in November. So you can have a bit of culture, a bit of art, and then some beach time at the St Regis Saadiyat, before heading to the Qasr Al Sarab, an Arabian-Nights-style desert resort, where you can ride or mountain-bike out into the Empty Quarter, or just bask by the pool.
IF YOU’RE… FEELING LAZY
We’re partial to a bit of Sri Lanka – it’s sort of India Light (easier travel, nicer food, less staring) and there’s no better time to go than December to April. Opt for a villa where you barely need to think – so one with a pool, chef, cleaner, private driver, the works – like two-bedroom Sisindu C, near Galle Fort, with direct access to the beach.
Marrakech is always a good idea (well, not in August. Then it’s awful). But in the winter months there’s gentle sunshine, bright blue skies, brilliant shopping, and you feel like you’re in another world as soon as you arrive. It’s sort of miraculous. There are all sorts of lovely riads to choose from, but we love Vanessa Branson’s gaff, El Fenn. Candle-lit, leafy courtyards, breezy terraces, sexy rooms with leather floors (sounds weird, but works), and the best rooftop bar in the city.
Doubles from €270 (+212 524 44 1210) including breakfast and afternoon tea.
Or there’s LUX* South Ari Atoll in the Maldives, with villas set right on a lagoon (just steps from bed, to sea, to sun lounger) and funky design (are we still allowed to say funky?) – hanging pods for terrace snoozing, giant inflatable flamingoes for pool snoozes – plus seven restaurants and five bars. And you can snorkel with WHALE SHARKS. We know.
The Private Travel Company (0203 553 7543) offers seven nights from £1,999 per person (a saving of 35% and free upgrade to full board), including return flights.
IF YOU’RE BRINGING THE FAM
Bermuda is having a bit of a moment, post America’s Cup. It went a bit meh for a while, but is worth considering for its quick flight (shorter than the Caribbean at 7.5 hours) and balmy weather. It’s weirdly British too, and the policemen wear Bermuda shorts, which is obviously brilliant. Grotto Bay is a great family option with its own beach, big swimming pool, tennis courts, all sorts of watersports and some weird-ass 500,000-year-old caves nearby to explore.
The Maldives are the ultimate no-brainer for winter sun. JA Manafaru has decent villas (on the beach or overwater), all sorts of children’s activities, seven bars and restaurants, a spa… but none of that really matters because you’ve also got the insanely turquoise, bathwater-warm ocean at the end of your toes.
The Private Travel Company (0203 553 7543) offers seven nights at JA Manafaru from £3,589 per adult & £999 per child on a B&B basis, including return flights and private transfers.
You’ve had a baby. You’re exhausted. You’re battered, and a bit bruised. You think you might never sleep/have sex/see your toes again. Try a retreat with &Breathe, based in Morocco’s Essaouira, focussing on giving new parents some rest and then getting them moving their asses again.
Book at & Breathe (07739 413 835). Seven nights’ full board costs from £2,100 per family (two adults and one baby under 18 months) including fitness classes, a PT session for each adult, a 60-minute massage, 4 hours’ childcare and an evening’s babysitting, plus airport transfers from Essaouira.
IF YOU’RE… ALL ABOUT THAT BEACH
The little island resort of Velassaru in The Maldives has modern villas on the beach and over the water, with sunloungers covered in fabric that is the exact same shade as the sea, which is pleasing if you’re a bit OCD, like us.
The Landings in St Lucia’s Rodney Bay is RIGHT on the beach – you can pretty much reach out of bed and give the sea a slap. White-on-white decor with a bit of pink thrown in, cane furniture (sweet), a decent spa, various restaurants, and smiley service. Simple.
Beachcomber Cannonier in Mauritius has recently revamped its rooms (lots of wafty white linen and natural rattan) and lagoon-style pool. It’s set on a headland with its own beach, and there’s a treehouse spa built around the branches of a 100-year-old banyan. You can play tennis, scuba dive, do all that jazz – or just flop by the sea with a pina colada. YES.
IF YOU FEEL LIKE A VILLA THRILLER…
Pack up eight pals and head to Mauritius, to stay in a villa by the sea. Temperatures are in the high-20s, the sea is balmy, the palm trees plentiful, and you’ll be on your own rocky promontory, surrounded by the waves. Decor is laid-back tropical, with lots of places to flop about in the heat, with a private beach a few steps away.
L’Ile Paradis is in the north-east and sleeps nine, costing from €550 per night including house staff service (laundry services, housekeeping and preparation of breakfast and light meals). Available through Passepartout Homes (0208 144 9120). Flights extra.
It’s not cheap, this one, but it’s goddamn awesome: a designer-mag villa set in a riotous jungly setting just outside a national park, and right by Tulum, Mexico. You can take the Tulum Treehouse as a three- or five-bedroom house, fully staffed, and the design is a minimalist’s dream: polished concrete, raw wood, rough rugs, and epic treetop views.
We love Cape Town for many reasons, but top of the list is the no time difference and a brilliant exchange rate (makes a bloody change), so you can hit the ground running and live like a queen. Opt for a groovy house right on Clifton 4th, Cape Town’s loveliest beach, with its bone-white sand and turquoise water (it’s COLD though – straight up from the Antarctic).
Clifton Beach Villa is super-stylish, with a big, open-plan living and kitchen area – very Scandi/beachside-chic – and cool white rooms, a pool with hammocks and giant beanbags, plus glorious sea views. Sleeps seven, from £667 per night, accommodation only, through i-escape (0117 946 7072).
IF YOU NEED HELP GETTING INTO THE CHRISTMAS SPIRIT
What about the Algarve? It won’t be BAKING hot, but it should be sunny and it’s super easy (quick flight, no time difference), with nice beaches, nice food… Clifftop hotel Vila Vita Parc has rooms or villas overlooking the ocean, a cracking nine restaurants and all sorts of unexpected Christmas-themed activities (meals, Santa, an in-house Christmas market, the works).
Rooms from €200 per night (+351 282 310 161).
Dubrovnik’s Hotel Excelsior has just had a refurb, with a rather sultry restaurant, Sensus, overlooking the sea. Expect blue skies, calm seas (but not swimmable seas; we’re not lunatics) and a quiet old town all cheerfully decorated for Christmas. Perfect for running around in and pretending you’re in Game of Thrones.
From £155 per night (+385 2030 0300).
IF YOU HAVE MORE DASH THAN CASH
Head over to Florida, where you can spend a week in Sarasota for less than a grand, all-in. Which is sort of remarkable. OK, the hotel is the 3-star Sandcastle Resort Lido Beach, which means the rooms are fine – comfortable in that American pelmets-and-carpets sort of way – but look, you’re not here for the room. You’re here for the sun and the beach, which is right there, with bone-white sand and sun loungers, and what more do you need? Sarasota has decent restaurants too.
Oh look, here’s another one: Bali this time, also under a grand (longer flight though), staying at the Melia Bali, with lovely garden villas with teak four-posters and wafty white linens, a huge pool and the Nusa Dua beach, right there. There’s a spa and free early morning yoga if you want to get into the spirit of things.
Now we are going to be brave and suggest Lanzarote. Wait! Don’t dismiss it. It’s moved on from its Lanzagrotty image, we promise, and is worth a look for its freaky moonscapes and delicious peace. Ignore the big beach resorts and try a rural escape, like Casa de la Caldera, a revamped finca with little cottages on the edge of the village of Las Casitas. There are volcanic peaks for brisk hikes, the lovely beaches of Papagayo and Poz aren’t far and there’s a shared pool to flop by.
*All images courtesy of the hotels and travel companies