Escape the gloomy weather and warm up in one of our top winter sun destinations.
Whether you’d like to witness annual natural phenomena like the red crab migration on Christmas Island, have a wild rave on the palm-fringed beaches of Goa or see the giant floating tree and Coca-Cola truck in Brazil, we’ve got a wide selection of sunny destinations depending on how hot you’d like to get.
With 80 miles of coastline, it’s no wonder that Goans are so laid-back. In December, with palm trees dressed in tinsel and fairy lights, it exudes a different kind of energy; every beach bar is alive and thrumming with the sound of party-goers raving until dawn. Night-long techno parties at Christmas spill into spectacular firework displays at New Year’s, when the festivities reach climax. Stay at the heart of the action at Leela Goa by the renowned Mobor Beach.
Without the sweltering heat, Oman at this time of year can be enjoyed four-fold – as a city break, mountain hike, desert trek or beach retreat. You can spend a night under the stars in the Wahiba Sands desert in comfortable, mild temperatures and watch as many as 30,000 turtles lay eggs on the beach before returning to the water. It is also the perfect time visit the banana plantations in the subtropical Salalah region if you wish to avoid the khareef (or monsoon) season. Combine the Wahiba Sands with a trip to the Hajar Mountains, islands and the souks of Muscat or take in both Oman and Dubai on an epic Middle Eastern adventure.
Winter in the UK means Polo Season in Argentina, where you can watch some of the best polo games in the world. The Hurlingham tournament takes place in October and the world’s most prestigious Polo tournament – the Argentine Polo Open Championship – takes place late November through to December at the Campo Argentino de Polo. While you’re there, sample some quality wines during harvest season (December to March) in Mendoza, famed for Malbecs and other red wines.
Rio de Janeiro
Christmas in Rio is a magical experience. Not a lot says Christmas quite like the Coca-Cola truck advert and whether you love the ‘Holidays are coming’ theme song or can’t stand it, seeing the real thing cruise through Copacabana in Rio is quite an experience. What’s more, Rio is home to the world’s biggest floating Christmas tree – a mammoth structure of approximately 300 feet, inaugurated each year with firework displays. New Year’s (or Reveillon) is a grand, city-wide shindig, also featuring magnificent fireworks.
You’ve heard about the Day of the Dead (a celebration for the deceased) in Mexico, with elaborate costumes, face paintings and sugar skulls, but there is another lesser-known tradition that takes place in the winter months: a folk-art festival called Noche de los Rabanos (which translates as ‘Night of the Radishes’). Much like we carve pumpkins on Halloween, Mexicans sculpt giant radishes at Christmas, making small people, animals and nativity scenes, displayed in the town plaza in Oaxaca.
A surfer’s paradise, Nicaragua attracts all manner of athletes from around the world, from kite surfers to body boarders – but instead of cruising waves, one niche group of surfers take to the slopes of active volcanoes instead. Not for the faint-hearted, volcano-boarding involves riding down the gravelly exterior of a crater on a sand board – not sailing across hot lava, as you wouldn’t live to tell the tale afterwards. The slopes can be over 700 metres tall which makes whizzing down them a thrilling experience (the towns of Leon and Granada are becoming popular destinations for this daring sport). Traditional surfers can combine with the annual week-long surfing competition in November.
The ‘City of Eternal Spring’ – as Medellin is known for its year-round sunny climate – is never a bad place to retreat to if you’re in need of some winter sun. Nature lovers and archaeological buffs will love the Arvi Park, an ecological nature preserve on the slopes of the Aburra Valley which is home to Pre-Hispanic archaeological sites (where you can do zip-lining, birdwatching, plant trees or have a picnic out in nature). It is 30 km from the centre of Medellin which has a thriving nightlife, with clubs and bars where you can dance to techno or reggaeton music.
Without the scorching temperatures, wintertime is a good time to meander through the labyrinth of little alleyways and souks without breaking into a sweat. Alternatively, if you’re after some peace and quiet, the gorgeous little town of Chefchaouen in the Rif Mountains is Morocco’s answer to the frenzy of Marrakech. Painted entirely blue, arty Chefchaouen resembles a cobalt Santorini, where you can stroll down a tourist trail to waterfalls of an impressive, – you’ve guessed it – blue shade. Dip your toes in the natural rock pools and hot springs, taking time to reconnect with nature in this azure wonderland.
Christmas Island, Indian Ocean
Christmas Island is an exciting place to be in winter, most notably for the red crab exodus that takes place during the wet season (from October to December) when as many as 50 million red crabs flock en masse from the forests to the ocean to breed. The female crabs lay their eggs on the shore in conjunction with the lunar cycle and tides, when the conditions are ideal for their offspring to survive. This phenomenon is considered as one of the most remarkable natural wonders of the world, and you can combine it with one of our Australian itineraries.
Easter Island, Chile
Get into the Easter Island Spirit at the traditional Rapa Nui Festival which takes place in the first two weeks of February each year. Celebrating the indigenous culture of the island, highlights include singing and dancing competitions, traditional sporting events like canoeing, horse-racing and swimming and sliding down the island’s steepest slope on banana trunks. Don’t leave without snapping a shot with the mysterious Moai statues lined up by the coast. With flights now available directly from London, getting there has never been easier.