The travel specialists at Red Savannah, the Cheltenham based luxury travel company, share some of their recommendations for escaping winter chills – from tranquil beach retreats and family resorts to cultural gems where fine weather is just part of the attraction…
While the summer months and school holidays traditionally see the British heading en masse to the beaches of the Mediterranean and beyond, the winter presents more interesting opportunities. And when better to inject a little warmth than January and February, before returning to the promise of the longer, brighter days of spring.
The Indian Ocean is an obvious destination for winter sun, but despite the ubiquitous fine sand, emerald palms and turquoise sea, not all beautiful islands are created equal. Indeed, each island has its own unique identity and it pays to research this before booking so that you don’t end up in a resort that’s full of happy families when all you wanted was a romantic retreat.
Naladhu is one of the archipelago’s most tranquil resorts, with just 19 Ocean and Beach Houses. There is plenty to do – dhoni cruises, gym and spa, tennis and watersports – but this really is a retreat for chilling out under the glorious sunshine in splendid isolation.
For couples looking for something a little livelier, the weather is perfect in Brazil during our winter months. Rio’s Ipanema, Leblon and Copacabana beaches bustle with life and the fun of the cariocas infects visitors with a warmth which goes beyond the temperature. In 2017, the famous carnival takes place from 24 February to 1 March, but the hedonism of Rio shines throughout the year.
After a few days enjoying Rio’s nightlife, head to Bahia state for a little R&R. The oceanfront village of Trancoso began life as a Portuguese Jesuit settlement in the 16th century and found favour several centuries later with hippies seeking peace. Its latest reincarnation sees it transformed from hippy hangout to chilled out, super cool retreat where going ‘local’ is de rigeur. Stay at Uxua Casa Hotel and Spa, which comprises 11 pretty houses in the central Quadrado, just a short walk from the most beautiful beach with a bar ingeniously crafted from an old fisherman’s boat.
Wise European birds migrate to the Canary Islands during the winter months, attracted by the warm Gulf Stream currents which embrace this volcanic archipelago. Conveniently close to the UK, Tenerife is the largest of the islands and possesses a number of family friendly resorts, with the Ritz-Carlton Abama, located on the peaceful southwestern shores, undoubtedly the best.
The excellent Ritz Kids provides entertainment for children aged between four and 12 years, with an agenda that includes face painting, movies, Zumba and pizza workshops. Off-resort, there are catamaran trips to find dolphins and whales, Jeep tours and cable car rides as well pretty villages to explore. Childcare, including evening baby-sitting, is also reasonably priced, ensuring parents get a bit of time to enjoy dinner without the little darlings. The resort has two of the island’s Michelin starred restaurants, including the smart M.B. and Japanese Kabuki.
Further afield, Oman has over 1,000 miles of coastline punctuated with beautiful beaches and coves. Fine beach resorts promise warm respite from with winter cold, though visitors should not overlook the country’s fascinating interior, with its intriguing forts and adventure activities ranging from mountain biking to camel rides across the desert. Muscat should be your starting point: excellent resorts, such as Shangri-La’s Barr Al Jissah, offer great dining and a range of activities to occupy even the most demanding children. Boat trips depart from the marina for the Daminyat Islands, where pods of dolphins can be seen jumping and playing in the clear waters.
After a few days on the coast, head inland to the imposing fortress of Nizwa and a night or two in the Al Hajar Mountains, staying in an innovative, aptly named hotel, The View, on the edge of a deep valley. Off-road routes are perfect for mountain biking between rural villages and castles, through verdant date plantations, fragrant rose and pomegranate groves and dry wadi beds. Further south, the rolling dunes of the Wahiba Sands are home to Bedouin herdsmen and prize camel breeders. A night camping under the stars is a family experience to remember and uniquely answers the “so what did you do in the school holidays?” question.
FOR ADVENTURE SEEKERS
The UK’s cold weather and short days coincide with the best time to visit some of the world’s most fascinating regions. Southeast Asia, for example, enjoys its finest weather between late October and March, before increasing humidity and heat gives way to intense bouts of summer rain. Once closed to visitors and shunned for its secretive, autocratic regime, Burma is a cultural revelation and little visited jewel in Indochina’s crown. Crumbling British colonial buildings in Yangon and Mandalay juxtapose with ancient, equally crumbling temples and stupas. The country’s lifeblood, the Irrawaddy, meanders through swathes of jungle in the foothills of the Himalayas, villages untouched by western life and plains punctuated by domes of ancient temples. Most evident of all is the charm of Burma’s people, whose smiles are truly infectious and whose genuine welcome is especially heart-warming.
India has a complex climate, heavily influenced by monsoons. The best ‘window’ is the cool, dry season between November and March, when the monsoons have abated and much of the country experiences comfortable temperatures and bright sunshine, though expect intense heat in the south. Rajasthan is particularly lovely during the dry season. Take two weeks to explore the vibrant, cultural kaleidoscope of proud cities such as pastel hued Jaipur with its dysfunctional traffic and sandstone palaces, the indigo city of Jodhpur where tangled ancient streets wind their way around the foot of the invincible Mehranghar Fort, and romantic Udaipur where majestic palaces seemingly float over Lake Pichola.
A must, of course, is Shah Jahan’s testament to love, the Taj Mahal, which defies description at sunrise when the soft pink mist of dawn envelopes the iconic dome. Head out of the cities into the deserts and National Parks to experience India’s unique wildlife which includes leopard, sloth bear, jackal and tiger. In our opinion, Sujan’s Jawai Leopard Camp is one of the best.
Red Savannah: 01242 787800 / redsavannah.com