For Time-Warped Travels: Cuba
Cuba might be transforming, but its time-warp romanticism is still palpable. Don’t miss sultry Havana, where faded grandeur comes washed in myriad flaking colours. But there’s a whole island to see and, with temperatures dancing around the late twenties, winter is the time to explore. Ride horses through the prehistoric landscape of Viñales; sway to salsa beats in heady Santiago de Cuba; admire colour-splashed Trinidad; or head to the beach – the long, resort-dotted swerve of Varadero is ideal for families.
For Off-The-Radar Adventure: Oman
For a blast of warmth and a sense of adventure in wild open spaces that are just a short flight away, look no further than Oman. Muscat is the obvious first stop, with its heady blend of atmospheric souks and age-old mosques. Yet it’s away from the capital that the true adventure unfolds: beyond the protective arm of the Hajar mountains lie the quiet coves and turquoise waters of the Musandam Peninsula – a place treasured by diving enthusiasts – while in the rolling, epic dunes of the Wahiba Sands you can camp in a Bedouin tent.
For Bohemian Beachlife: Essaouira
The beach is long, the sands dotted with bohemian-style bars and the winter temperature a balmy 20ºC. But Essaouira in Morocco is not a beach resort. And it’s all the more alluring for it. It’s the blustering coastal wind that keeps Essaouira’s spirit intact, ruffling its sands and speckling its waves with windsurfers. The draw here isn’t the beach, it’s the city: an atmospheric tangle of lanes wriggling away from the sands, where sweetly perfumed shisha smoke blends with the scent of spices, and live music drifting down from rooftop bars merges with the cries of street hawkers. Essaouira is free-spirited, a city once loved by Jimi Hendrix and Cat Stevens, a place that’s rich in art galleries, boutique shops and stylishly decorated hotels.
For Crowd-Free Culture: Athens
History looms large in Athens and, in summer, so do the crowds. Come winter, the hordes are gone and the still-balmy temperatures are perfect for exploring the Acropolis, Parthenon and National Archeological Museum. Having paid your respects to the past, focus on the present – for all its historical plaudits, Athens is a vibrant, youthful city. Art galleries and lively bars have nestled into the cracks of once-neglected neighbourhoods; new street markets rub shoulders with age-old bazaars; while a lively café and nightlife scene keeps things buzzing until the early hours.
For Outdoor Exploring: Fuerteventura
Less than a hundred kilometres from the African coastline, sun-blasted Fuerteventura is one of the least developed of the Canary Islands. With year-round sunshine and temperatures that just dip below 20ºC in January, the climate is ideal for exploring in winter. Rugged scenery abounds: parched lands blanket Fuerteventura, rising up to volcanoes and fraying down to wide beaches at the island’s edge. Take in the stars from the Mirador Astronómico de Sicasumbre; tackle the world-class surf at El Cotillo; or hike through the protected Parque Rural de Betancuria.
For Everything On A Plate: Dubai
It’s easy to see why Dubai is a winter-sun favourite. Basking in 30ºC heat on a spotless beach is the perfect escape from the grey skies and driving rain of the British winter. Sun lounging aside, Dubai caters to all tastes: gawk at the sky-piercing confidence of the Burj Khalifa; while away hours in the glassy glitz of shopping malls; mix your winter sun with winter sport at an indoor ski slope; or get a taste of traditional Dubai in the atmospheric warrens of the Old Souk.
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