independent

Sunday 20 April 2014

10 Best: Winter warmers

Barbados

Pol O Conghaile picks his top hotspots to escape the chill.

Loll about in Lanzarote

Want to winter on the beach? Well, for a week at least? Aer Lingus has extra flights to here and Tenerife this winter, but if packages are your thing, Abbey Travel is offering the three-star Rosamar Apartments in Puerto del Carmen from €370pp (departing December 2).

Lastminute.com has seven nights in the four-star Sands Beach Resort, departing Dublin on January 5, from €547pp. The Costa Teguise resort has pools and a beach-front area and the package includes 20kg luggage allowance.

Details: Tel: 01-804 7100; abbeytravel.ie or lastminute.com.

Sail away to the Caribbean

As the evenings get darker, the prospect of a Caribbean cruise is tempting.

Trailfinders has a seven-night Eastern Caribbean cruise departing Miami weekly from January 4 onboard Celebrity Reflection.

American Holidays has a seven-night Western Caribbean cruise departing Orlando with Royal Caribbean on January 19. Both packages include flights and a one- night stay in the city of departure.

Trailfinders' cruises costs from €1,279pp, with American Holidays leading in from €1,115pp.

Details: Tel: 01-881 4948; trailfinders.ie, or 01-673 3840; americanholidays.com.

Surf into 2013 in the Algarve

How about ringing in the New Year in 18°C temperatures in Lagos, Portugal? That's the offer from surfholidays.com, which has seven nights half-board, with two surf lessons a day, from €427pp.

The price doesn't include flights or transfers (Aer Lingus and Ryanair fly to Faro, where you can hire a car), but the New Year's Eve party makes up for that.

The Surf Experience Surf House is Portugal's longest-established surf base, and it's best suited to groups and solo travellers aged 28-35. Departures can be booked for anytime after December 26, but hurry – the house only sleeps 18.

Details: Tel: 01-482 2828; surfholidays.com.

On yer bike in the USA

Like motorbikes? Then you'll love eight days of riding on some of the most famous roads in California, Arizona and Nevada.

Celtic Horizon Tours and EagleRider have a West Coast tour from €1,996pp. It includes shopping excursions to Outlet Malls along the way, and EagleRider even provides an extra cargo van to carry your purchases!

Tours depart January 19 and February 9, 2013, and the price includes motorcycle rental, fuel and accommodation, but not flights.

Details: Tel: 01-629 2000; celtichorizontours.com.

Make the most of Morocco

Boasting similar temperatures to the Canary Islands, Morocco is a winter-sun choice with added North African spice.

Joe Walsh Tours has seven nights in Agadir from €322pp, departing Dublin on December 1, based on self-catering accommodation at the three-star Intouriste Aparthotel.

Sunway, meanwhile, has seven nights at the four-star Beach Club in Agadir from €489pp for departures on December 1, 8 and 12.

Agadir has a long, sandy beach and fixed-price shops, so you can mix and match the resort vibe with a bit of regular shopping before venturing into the Medina.

Details: Tel: 01-241 0800; joewalshtours.ie, or 01-288 6828; sunway.ie.

Rays of sunshine in Sharm El Sheikh

The Egyptian resort of Sharm El Sheikh may be a five-hour flight away, but tropical seas and temperatures in the 20s offer plenty to ease the jetlag.

Departing December 20, Cassidy Travel has seven nights at the Tropicana Tivoli from €849pp. A week later, seven nights all-inclusive at the Tropicana Jasmine is priced at €1,159pp.

Thomas Cook Ireland, meanwhile, has a two-in-one option combining a week in Sharm with a seven-night cruise taking in stops such as Petra in Jordan and the sulphur springs at Sokhna, from where you can visit the Sphinx and pyramids.

The 14-night adventure starts at €1,119pps, from Dublin.

Details: Tel: 0818 332500; cassidytravel.ie, or 01-514 0316; thomascook.ie.

Catch some rays in the Canaries

The Canary Islands may lie off the northwest coast of Africa, but they're a Spanish sun destination through and through.

Great beaches, volcanic landscapes, reasonably priced resorts and temperatures hovering in the high teens and low 20s see to that.

ClickandGo.com has seven nights half-board at the four-star Elba Carlota Beach resort in Fuerteventura from €499pp on selected dates through December and January.

Self-catering is cheaper still, starting from €329pp based on three-star accommodation.

Meanwhile, seven nights in Gran Canaria start from €499 half-board, and €399 self-catering, both three-star.

Details: Tel: 01-637 1699; clickandgo.com.

Winter sun in Sin City and beyond

GoHop.ie is running a winter sale at the moment, with flights plus four nights at the three-star Excalibur Hotel in Las Vegas from €729pp, and the MGM Grand from €799pp. Rates are valid until March 31, and my advice is definitely to go for the MGM Grand – for an extra €70, it'll bump you up from a gaudy medieval theme park to a slick mega-resort.

Another offer in the winter sale prices seven nights at the three-star Butterfly Beach Hotel in Barbados on an all-inclusive basis from €1,099pp. It's valid until December 10.

Details: Tel: 01-241 2389; gohop.ie.

Catch a carnival in Malta & Gozo

Malta's Carnival dates back hundreds of years, to a time when 'Carne vale' literally meant 'meat is allowed' just before Lent.

Kicking off on February 8, expect colourful parades, masked balls and late-night parties to burst into life all over Valletta and Floriana, and Nadur on Gozo island.

Concorde Travel has a range of flexible packages to get you there, with seven-night trips ranging from €434pp in a three-star studio apartment to €749pp at the five-star Hotel Phoenicia.

Details: Tel: 01-775 9300; concordetravel.ie.

NB All prices correct going to press, but subject to availability and change. Packages include flights, taxes and accommodation except where stated otherwise

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