Six great winter escapes
Our winter itineraries offer great escapes to a fabulous range of destinations. We’ll start with some sunny adventures around the globe before highlighting our top suggestions for holidays closer to home.
Barbados, eastern Caribbean
With its tradition of afternoon tea and love of cricket, Barbados can feel a lot like home, albeit one where the sun almost always shines, the gospel choirs sing, the palm trees sway and the rum punch is on tap! It’s an island of many parts – discover the rugged, isolated beauty of the east coast, the celeb-strewn opulence of the sheltered west coast, the lively south coast with its surfers and nightlife, and a lush interior of botanic gardens and old-fashioned plantation houses. The bustling capital Bridgetown boasts the nearby Garrison area, a recently designated UNESCO World Heritage site with a number of historically significant military buildings dating back to the 1700s.
New Orleans, USA
There are feasts for the senses on every corner of New Orleans. Live music is part of the city soundscape and the cuisine is a joyous melting pot of Creole, African, French and Spanish influences, to name but a few. The Big Easy, as it’s known, is famous for its lively celebrations including Mardi Gras – when the city lets its hair down even more than usual in a riot of parades, dressing up and dancing – and the world-famous New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. Other delights include exploring the atmospheric French Quarter, alligator-spotting on the Bayou or experiencing a taste of the ‘Old South’ with a plantation tour.
Sailing in or out of Sydney Harbour will take your breath away. This once-in-a- lifetime moment also gives you a panoramic view of many of the key sights on shore. Shore experiences allow you to get up close and personal with some iconic structures: climb Sydney Harbour Bridge through steel catwalks to the summit, or enjoy a no-less exhilarating tour of the stunning Sydney Opera House. Do you dare join the bronzed bodies at Bondi Beach? Or perhaps a leisurely pub-crawl through the cobbled streets of the Rocks precinct is more your bag. You could even get out of town to discover the dramatic Blue Mountains beyond.
If you dream of seeing the Northern Lights then Alta should definitely be on your radar. It’s home to the world’s first Northern Lights observatory and also the dramatic Northern Lights Cathedral, consecrated in 2013. The tour guide has a 95 per cent success rate of catching the aurora borealis. However if you’re unlucky or have other interests, rest assured this is no one-trick town. Don’t miss out on husky-sledding, visiting an ice hotel and discovering the culture of the indigenous Sámi people.
Amsterdam, the Netherlands
Only have time for a short cruise holiday? No need to feel short-changed when you have a city as delightful as Amsterdam practically on your doorstep. It has everything you could want for a city stopover: shopping, gorgeous architecture, beautiful gardens and flower markets, a fabulous café culture – and, of course, canals. And did we mention the windmills, beer and cheese, and a wealth of truly wondrous art? Try to squeeze in a visit to at least one of the following: the Van Gogh Museum, the Stedelijk Museum (with works by Picasso, Cézanne, Matisse and Monet) or the Rijksmuseum (masterpieces by Rembrandt, Frans Hals and Vermeer).
Lively Valencia is a city having a moment. Famous for its fireworks, fiestas and feasts of paella (the traditional rice dish that originated here) and the ornate tile work that graces many of its buildings both inside and out, it is also gaining a reputation for cutting-edge modernity. Its stunning port was remodelled in 2007 to host the glamorous America’s Cup, and in recent decades the dry riverbed that ran through town has been transformed into a glorious park, complete with the dazzling, futuristic City of Arts and Sciences at its eastern end. Come for food, fun and a friendly welcome.