As Christmas winds up, the winter ahead can seem depressingly dull and drawn out. What better time to book a holiday and escape those winter blues with a trip to somewhere more exotic? Here are our picks for where to travel this winter, and what to do when you get there.
See in the New Year in Sydney
It’s midsummer in Sydney in December and the city's New Year celebrations make news headlines around the globe. Sydney’s one of the first major cities to see in the new year and as it uses the Sydney Harbor Bridge as a backdrop for its fireworks display, also one of the most spectacular. Hang around a while to visit nearby famous beaches and tour the opera house before heading out of town to hike the dramatic Blue Mountains.
Ski the French Alps
Many of the major French resorts have seen a cash injection this year. In Alpe d’Huez a new ten-person gondola replaces the aging Eclose and Bergers chairlifts, with a capacity of 2400 people per hour. In Tignes, a new cable car opens this winter. An additional four kilometers of piste has been created at Val Thorens, including a 3.8km blue run and a new black run. Add to this a €42 million investment in infrastructure planned for Méribel and Courchevel in preparation for the 2023 World Championships and this is an area that’s only going to get better.
Take a tour of wintry Prague
Prague heaves with tour groups and stag parties throughout the summer, but the temperatures plummet in winter and the crowds thin. Wrap up warm and enjoy the cobbled streets of this beautiful East European capital city without being jostled. The astronomical clock reopened in September and the city is packed with attractions, including the higgledy-piggledy gravestones of the Jewish cemetery, the statues lining Charles Bridge and the Petrin Tower, which bears a resemblance to Paris’ Eiffel Tower.
Haggle in the souks of Marrakesh
Marrakesh’s southern location makes it a mild and often sunny winter destination. Its souks sprawl across an already captivating old town. Each profession has its own dedicated area; tourists will delight in the sounds of the metalworkers’ souk and punish their noses as they watch skins being dyed at the tanneries. When haggling for slippers, colorful textiles and ornate lanterns, remember maintaining a cheerful disposition usually results in a better price.
Sun yourself in Barbados
The Caribbean is at its glorious best in winter. A cruise is one option, but to really get under the skin of a place you need to make it your base for a while. A combination of hot temperatures and dry skies makes the broad sandy beaches of Barbados an attractive proposition. Take a tour inland to its former sugar plantations, book a guide to show you the characterful Garrison Historic Area in the capital, Bridgetown, and don’t miss the famous Friday night fish fry in Oistins if you’re a committed foodie.
Hike to see East Africa’s gorillas
Rwanda, Uganda and DR Congo are home to some of the world’s last surviving mountain gorillas. Uganda’s permits cost less than those in neighboring Rwanda, and the country’s other national parks are also a draw. The tree-climbing lions of Ishasha and chimp habituation experiences in Kibale make this an excellent choice for wildlife aficionados. The source of the Nile at Jinja is great for adrenaline activities such as white water rafting and Murchison Falls are dramatic and photogenic.
Visit vibrant Hong Kong
The humidity of Hong Kong in summer time can be uncomfortable for those not used to it. In the winter, however, temperatures hover around the 15 to 20 degree mark – pleasantly warm and perfect for sightseeing. Highlights include the glittering skyscrapers of Central, best seen after dark from the Peak, and the many markets scattered across Hong Kong Island and Kowloon. Time your visit for Chinese New Year, with colorful decorations territory-wide and a parade which features acrobats, dragons, firecrackers and lion dancers. There’s an atmospheric lantern festival to wrap things up.