If you’re anything like us, you’re starting to get a serious case of itchy feet as you think of that huge chasm of rain and grey sky that exists between the fun of the festive season and the sun of your summer holidays. There’s only one thing for it, really – book a flight and get the hell out of here for a last minute winter holiday. Here are nine gorgeous suggestions for winter travel that’ll fire up your wanderlust…
All of them if, you can swing it. Here’s the first thing you need to know – constant sunshine and heat is not a guarantee here in winter. Sorry. But it’s better that we tell you this now. The Canaries are an archipelago in the Atlantic – there’s a chance you’ll get a bit of wind and even rain at times. But compared to home? Well there is no comparison. You can sit outside bars and sip gin and tonic. You will probably get to sunbathe. You can expect daily highs of around 17°C in January, and you will absolutely be able to make everyone back at home absolutely hate you when you post pictures of yourself wearing sunglasses and short sleeves and eating lovely seafood.
Actually, it’s often a lot better than an average summer’s day in Ireland, truth be told. The point is, you’ll see some sunshine and you’ll feel some heat (but you’ll never be too hot). It’s a lovely time of year to explore this gorgeous country – but bring a jumper for the evenings, when the temperature drops… and be prepared for wind along the coast in winter.
You shouldn’t expect wilting sunshine here in January and February either, but you can bank on mild, pleasant weather. Go and see all the incredible archaeological sites without feeling like you’re melting, take full advantage of all the outdoor activities without worrying about burning yourself to a crisp, and treat yourself to the much, much lower rates for accommodation that you get in the low season.
We’ve already written about the gorgeous Méribel, around an hour and a half’s drive from Grenoble, but honestly, get yourself to Grenoble and you can take your pick of a bunch of seriously good ski resorts. Chamonix, Valmorel, Les Deux Alpes, Courchevel… well, we could keep listing them but you get the idea. There are hundreds and hundreds of kilometres of awesome alpine pistes for you to hurtle down within an hour or two of the airport, so even a cheeky weekend break is absolutely do-able without wasting time on long transfers.
If you like your skiing with a side of strudel and the Sound of Music – and frankly who doesn’t? – then Austria is the snow destination for you. Kitzbuhel, Hochkönig and Zillertal are just some of the awesome resorts in this little Alpine treasure of a country, but flying to Salzburg is a particularly good option for anyone who wants a short ski break – there are plenty of excellent, reliably snowy resorts just an hour’s drive from the airport. Snow Space Flachau is a good one for short visits and day trippers who want to stay in the city but fancy a day or two’s carving while they’re there. The season starts in late November, and there’s even a free shuttle bus service to get you from the city to the slopes.
Two hours from Plovdiv is the ski and snowboarding resort of Bankso. It’s a relatively small spot compared to the big Alpine resorts, but what it lacks in kilometres it makes up for by being a very budget-friendly way to hit the slopes this winter. It’s an ideal place for intermediates with plenty of medium-difficult red slopes to conquer, and children and beginners have lots of nursery slopes and easy runs for learning on. It’s got a lively après-ski scene too, lots of traditional pubs with huge roaring fires, great wine and hearty Bulgarian food.
There’s something really magical about Venice in winter. Well, Venice is magical at any time of year, but in winter an eerie mist settles above the city’s fluid streets and the crowds have gone, giving the place a totally different feel to the one you get on warm summer days. Wrap up well and enjoy blissfully quiet gondola rides in the crisp winter sunshine, sip hot chocolate in canal-side cafés, and get to know the side of the Venetians that you can only see when they’re not inundated with the crowds of summer… Oh, but if you plan to visit for Carnival at the beginning of February, please disregard all of this. It’ll be insane. In a good way.
London is the ultimate city break destination at any time of year, but there are a few extra reasons to go there in winter. You might not be able to sprawl out in the park with strawberries and Pimms, but think about how much more of the city you’ll see when you’re not being lured into parks by the summer sun! That’s before we even mention the unbelievable post-Christmas sales on Oxford Street, walking in St James’ Park when it’s covered under a blanket of snow, and cosy evenings sipping mugs of mulled cider in bustling English pubs.
In winter, the streets are calmer and the temperature is perfect for days spent walking round the city. Gaudi’s incredible creations are every bit as impressive in January and February as they are in June and July, but you’ll have a lot more space around you to really appreciate them. The only thing you’ll really sacrifice is the ability to spend a day on the beach sunbathing, but we’ll see your ‘day on the beach’ and raise you ‘churros and hot chocolate on a cool winter’s evening’.
- Dee Murray