Thursday 14 December 2017

20 winter sun escapes

Once Christmas is over, there’s little to distract you from the gloomy weather and overcrowded sales, so check out Pól Ó Conghaile’s top winter getaways.

Red Sea Riviera

Cairo and Luxor have come in for criticism of late, with visitors frustrated by the crowds, hawkers and badly-run nature of Egypt's historic jewels. The Red Sea Riviera marks quite a contrast, however, with luxurious hotels, golden beaches and dive centres in abundance. Sunny, slow-paced and teeming with coral, consider it a gentler introduction to North Africa.

Average Temp: 23-25°C.

Flight Time: Six+ hours.

Details: Budget Travel (01-631 1111; has four-star packages at Sharm El-Sheikh for January to April 2009 from €369pp. Snorkelling and diving packages are also available.

Dominican Dreams

Budget Travel is doing what it says on the tin with a €699pp offer to the Dominican Republic. Long- haul junkies will jump at the chance to visit this sun-kissed paradise on the Caribbean island of Hispaniola, with all of its white-sand beaches, spectacular natural resources and rainforest wildlife. The price includes local brand alcoholic and soft drinks, too.

Average Temp: 18-28°C.

Flight Time: 11+ hours.

Details: Budget Travel (01-631 1111; has packages, ex-Dublin, to the Dominican Republic from €699pp until April 2009.

Club Med Morocco

Book a family holiday at the point where the desert meets the sea, and you can be assured of two things: sun and sand. Club Med's Agadir resort also boasts a golf academy, children's clubs, a spa, horse riding and a smorgasbord of pools, restaurants, bars and beaches. Sunscreen, anyone?

Average Temp: 20°C.

Flight Time: Three-and-a-half+ hours.

Details: Sunway (01-231 1888; offers one week at the Club Med Agadir resort for €1,064 per adult and €665 per child.

Thailand Cruise & Stay

Begin with a five-star stay at the Amari Watergate Hotel in Bangkok. After dispensing with the jetlag, board the SuperStar Libra cruise ship on a full-board basis for seven nights, enjoying all of its bars, restaurants, pools, fitness centres and entertainment options. Finally, round off your Thai odyssey with three nights in Phuket's four-star Amari Coral Beach Resort. What's not to like?

Average Temperature: 29-31°C.

Flight time: 13+ hours.

Details: From December 31 to March 14, Joe Walsh Tours (01-241 0800; offers its Thai Cruise & Stay package from €2,069pp, including return flights.

Aloha, Hawaii

Hawaiians are hoping that their islands become to Barack Obama what Crawford was to President Bush (without the protestors, of course), and here's your chance to steal a march. From the bright lights of Honolulu (Oahu) to one of Lonely Planet's top 10 destinations for 2009 (Big Island), this trip includes Volcanoes National Park, golf, beaches and some of the world's best surf.

Average Temp: 26-30°C.

Flight time: 16+ hours.

Details: Travelling between January and March, Aloha Holidays (01-210 8391; has a 10-night twin-centre package, based on three-star accommodation, from €1995pp.

Classic Costa Rica

Idyllic beaches, dramatic volcanoes and tropical rainforests are the reasons Costa Rica appeals to travellers looking for a little adventure with their winter sun. UK-based Explore has a 16-day Rainforest Adventure Tour for the whole family, scheduling wildlife-spotting, canopy walks and swamp exploration, plus plenty of time to spare on Pacific coast beaches.

Average Temp: 25-28°C.

Flight time: 10+ hours.

Details: Booked through Maxwell Travel (01-679 5700), Explore's ( 16-day tour costs €2,524/€2,454pp, all inclusive.

Fun in Florida

From Disney World to Universal Studios, the Everglades to South Beach, Florida's attractions are the envy of the southern states. Throw in two uniquely American cities, Orlando and Miami, and you've got one of Ireland's most popular long-haul markets.

Average Temp: 19-25°C.

Flight Time: Eight+ hours.

Details: American Holidays (01-673 3840; www.americanholidays. ie) has a seven-night package at Tradewinds' Sandpiper Hotel & Suites on St Pete Beach from €719pp.

Sing like a Canary

The Canary Islands have long been a destination of choice for winter sun-worshippers, with four-hour flights delivering shivering souls to reliable, north-west African climes. Each island has its personality, but Gran Canaria is a good bet for beaches, bars, landscape and cosmopolitanism.

Average Temp: 21-22°C.

Flight Time: Four+ hours.

Details: Panorama Holidays (0818 200 300; has seven nights self-catering at the Cumana Apartments in the Puerto Rico resort from €289pp.

Bali Bliss

Bali is Indonesia's most tourist-friendly island. Its beaches are heavenly, with snorkelling and diving on tap. Adventure enthusiasts can raft and surf to their heart's content. Day trips (you can drive around the coast in a day) include verdant rice terraces, spas and an embarrassment of temples. And that's not even starting on the clubbing...

Average Temp: 27°C.

Flight Time: 16+ hours.

Details: Tropical Places (01-433 1029; has three nights in the three-star Metropark Hotel and seven nights in four-star Bali Hyatt from €1,489pp, for travel between January 4 and March 31.

Marvellous Mauritius

Conjure up an island idyll. Add white sands, palm trees and an easy pace of life. That image has a name: Mauritius. East of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean, Lonely Planet calls it "a world-in- one-island slice of paradise". Mauritian culture blends English, French, Chinese, Creole, Hindu and Muslim influences, meaning you can spice up beach days with food, shopping, nightlife and adventure.

Average Temp: 28°C.

Flight Time: 13+ hours.

Details: Escape2 (01-895 8000; has seven nights at the Legends Resort in Mauritius for the price of five, i.e. €1694pp, including taxes. Based on January 8 to April 10 departures

Oman's Land

The gentle sultanate of Oman has been opening up to the world at a great pace, unleashing the kind of mega-resorts and ultra-hotels previously confined to Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Where the latter are simply cities, however, Oman is a fascinating blend of desert and coastal landscape, Portuguese colonial influence and natural wonders. Start your explorations in the coastal capital of Muscat.

Average Temp: 25-28°C.

Flight Time: Eight+ hours.

Details: Ebookers (01-431 1311; has a package offering seven nights in the capital, Muscat, from €999pp, based on three-star accommodation, with travel dates between February 5 and 12.

Delights of Dubai

Sunway bills Dubai's five-star Jebel Ali as the only 'true' resort in the Middle East. Situated in 128 acres of landscaped gardens and boasting 800m of private beach, plus horse riding, various children's clubs, a spa, a golf academy, and 12 restaurants and bars -- just 40 minutes from the airport and city centre -- who are we to argue?

Average Temp: 24°C.

Flight time: Seven+ hours.

Details: Sunway (01-231 1888; is offering five nights at the Jebel Ali resort from €1,440pp.

India's Moghul Highlights

India is like a continent unto itself, with travellers returning again and again to find they have only scratched the surface of its diversity. Explore's Moghul highlights tour includes Delhi, Jaipur, the Taj Mahal, rural Rajasthan and Keoladeo Ghana National Park -- a fitting introduction.

Average Temp: 18-23°C.

Flight Time: Eight+ hours.

Details: Departing January 3 and booked through Maxwell Travel (01-679 5700), Explore's ( nine-day tour of northern India costs €1,441pp, including flights from London.

Mexican Magic

Cancun is the tried-and-tested first visit to Mexico, and its mix of beaches, package holiday infrastructure and Mayan touches shouldn't disappoint. Dreams Cancun Resort & Spa is the only resort in the area surrounded on three sides by the Caribbean Sea, meaning guaranteed ocean views. It also comes with its very own Dolphinarium.

Average Temp: 27°C.

Flight time: 11+ hours.

Details: Sunway (01-231 1888; has a seven-night, five-star package at Dreams Cancun Resort & Spa priced at €1,785pp, valid for travel and stays between January 4 and March 7.

Tenerife Top-Up

Tenerife is the largest Canary Island, and an Irish package stalwart. Its black and gold sands, the redoubtable Mount Teide and dozens of cascading golf courses have recently been complemented by Siam Park, Europe's largest water park. One ride here, the Tower of Power, drops thrill-seekers down a 28m slide into an enclosed pipe in a tank filled with alligators. Why wait?

Average Temp: 22°C.

Flight Time: Four+ hours.

Details: 1800hotels (1800 468357; offers seven nights in three-star accommodation from €211, and in four-star accommodation from €352. Aer Lingus ( flies to Tenerife.

Lazy Lanzarote

Lanzarote has developed a reputation as the thinking man's Canary of late -- its volcanic landscape, the architecture of César Manrique and a diverse line in wellness marking it out from its Atlantic colleagues. All of the Canary Islands share the major selling point, however -- guaranteed winter sun.

Average Temp: 18 degrees.

Flight Time: Four+ hours.

Details: Sun Holidays (0818 222 120; has four-star packages in the resorts of Puerto del Carmen (from €569pp), Playa Pocillos (€599pp) and Playa Blanca (€659pp).

Canaries Cruise

If you can't decide which Canary is best, why not see them all? The cruise market has blown wide open in recent years, with boats becoming less staid, more family-friendly and prices falling on foot of the ongoing recession. Sailing from Barcelona, 'Brilliance of the Seas' features a rock-climbing wall, golf simulator and day spa, as well as the usual casinos, restaurants, bars and shops.

Average Temp: 21-22°C.

Flight Time: Two+ hours.

Details: American Holidays (01-673 3800; has this 10-night Canary Islands and Morocco cruise from €969pp, based on the departure date of February 27.

Time out in Tunisia

Winter and sun don't generally appear in the same sentence in Ireland, but they sure as hell do in Tunisia. The North African oasis, best described as an easy mix of Mediterranean and Arabic lifestyles, is the perfect escape from soggy, soporific shades of grey. Tunisia boasts 1,300km of coastline, some of the best Roman ruins outside Italy, superb Star Wars locations and the mighty Sahara desert.

Average Temp: 16-19°C.

Flight Time: Three+ hours.

First Steps: Panorama Holidays (0818 200 300;, among other operators, offers Tunisia as a winter sun package. Prices start from €349pp.

Cape Crusader

Some holiday destinations are like bread, hardening as the tourist traffic picks up and losing their appeal over time. South Africa is like wine. The longer it's around, the better it gets. For all the diversity on offer in the Rainbow Nation, however, Cape Town remains a perennial favourite, with Table Mountain, Robben Island and the surrounding winelands making for one of the great African escapes.

Average Temp: 16-26°C.

Flight time: Nine+ hours.

Details: From January to April 2009, Joe Walsh Tours (01-241 0888; has seven nights, including flights, at the three-star Protea Hotel Fire & Ice from €1,449pp.

Royal Bahamas

There are 700 islands in the Bahamas, and together they've become a byword for paradise. Tropical seas, coral formations and sandy beaches are the basic holiday currency here, with the duty-free shopping in Nassau and plentiful golf, museums and restaurants all added draws. If you can make it to Inagua National Park, do -- the sight of nesting flamingos is one to savour.

Average Temp: 25°C.

Flight Time: 12+ hours.

Details: Caribbean Collection (021 463 5556; has seven nights in the Sandals Royal Bahamian Spa Resort and Offshore Island from €2,095pp, based on travel between January 14 and February 4.

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