Banish those winter blues! Come, feast your eyes on these four wonderful winter sun getaways, a hedonistic pick-me-up of cerulean skies, balmy shores and sand tickling your toes.
The glorious Maldives comprise a remote archipelago of 1200 islands scattered across the Indian Ocean. The isles have long lured honeymooners and well-heeled holidaymakers seeking a sleek, tropical retreat, and over 100 of the islands are home to a single luxurious private resort. In recent years, the Maldives have opened up to more budget-minded travellers, thanks to improved transport links and an increase in guesthouses and mid-range accommodation.
Time slows once you arrive in this beautiful paradise. Unwind in a spa, and dine on stunningly fresh seafood. Visit the Maldives National Museum and the atmospheric fish market in the tiny capital city of Malé. Take a sunset boat trip to spot dolphins jumping the waves. Dive and snorkel in wonderfully clear, warm waters, where you’ll spot tropical fish, whale sharks and sea turtles amongst the coral reefs. Snorkel with giant manta rays in Hanifaru Bay, and if you’re an experienced diver, get up close to hammerhead sharks at Rasdhoo Atoll.
The second biggest emirate in the UAE, Dubai’s glitzy skyscrapers tower over the Persian Gulf. Along with high end shopping and nightlife, the city is renowned for its show stopping architecture. Here you’ll find the world’s tallest building, Burj Khalifa. Piercing the clouds at a whopping 2,716 feet high, its 148th floor observation deck gives giddying views across the city (book advance tickets online for reduced rates). It’s home to the planet’s most visited shopping mall as well as a spectacular ‘dancing’ water fountain.
Visit attractive Madinat Jumeirah, a modern dining, shopping and hotel centre modelled on a classic Arabian city. Explore the ornate souk and board a traditional abra (wooden motor boat) for a trip along 2.5 miles of scenic, tree lined canals. Enjoy amazing Middle Eastern and international cuisine at the complex’s numerous bars and restaurants. Check out Dubai’s miles of fine white sand beaches, lapped by the warm azure waters of the Persian Gulf. JBR Open Beach and Al Mamzar are two lovely stretches of the sand open to the public, whilst most of the beaches on the manmade Palm Jumeirah cater to luxury hotels.
East of Kenya and just south of the equator, the sun drenched Seychelles archipelago comprises 115 tropical islands in the Indian Oceans cerulean waters. Mahe, La Digue and Praslin are the main tourism isles, boasting luxury spa resorts and powder white sands fringed by jungle and dotted with striking granite boulders. Visit Mahe’s pocket-sized capital Victoria, a hub of colourful colonial buildings and lively markets. Explore the Seychelles’ National Botanical Gardens. This 100 year old estate spanning 15 verdant acres is home to the rare Coco de Mer palm, indigenous to the Seychelles. Wander leafy avenues flanked by hibiscus, orchids, and fruit and spice trees. Hike amidst jungle and mangroves in mountainous Morne Seychellois National Park.
Swim, scuba and snorkel off immaculate beaches such as Mahe’s Beau Vallon and Anse Lamouche, or Praslin’s Anse Lazio. Rent a glass-bottomed kayak on La Digue’s stunning Anse Source D’Argent – this glorious beach is one of the most photographed on the planet. Anse Volbert is another Praslin idyll, a mile long arc of white sand caressed by gentle waves. Just offshore lies the tiny islet of Chauve Souris, perfect for snorkelling.
This compact gem in the Indian Ocean is a great winter sun destination. Summer spans November to April, coaxing travellers with bath-warm seas, long sunny days, and temperatures in the high 20s. Mauritius colourfully blends Indian, French, African and Chinese cultural influences. You’ll find Hindu temples alongside mosques, colonial houses, tea plantations and puri food stalls.
Coral reefs encircle Mauritius, and provide excellent diving and snorkelling conditions. The islands roads are well maintained, so why not rent a car to explore? Grand Baie in the north and the east coast attract the majority of tourism, whilst the island’s south is verdant, rugged and less developed.
Shoppers should head to the bustling capital, Port Louis, where the Caudan Waterfront offers fashion boutiques and craft stalls. Sample authentic Mauritian cuisine at the food hall in the old town’s central market. Visit a rum distillery and sample Mauritius’ famous export.
Nature lovers, sashay over to tranquil Pampelmousse Botanical Gardens. Peruse over 650 exotic plants and flowers, including the distinctive giant waterlilies which grace the central pond. The volcanic Chamarel Mountains, cloaked in rainforest are a must for hikers, along with Black River Gorges National Park, where well-marked trails pass plunging waterfalls, and dramatic peaks. Beach bums can snorkel amongst colourful tropical fish on the coral reefs at Ile Plat (Flat Island), and bask and swim on stunning Ile aux Cerfs.
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