Here, we recommend five destinations to escape to during the dark and gloomy winter months.
1. Bask in winter sun in the Canaries
The Canary Islands are a classic summer destination for Brits – but why not treat yourself to their golden beaches and volcanic valleys in winter time?
A mere four hours’ flight away, this gem of a destination proves that you don’t have to go all the way back to the southern hemisphere to experience a little bit of sunlight during the winter. Top up your vitamin D levels with a day at the beach, enjoy a bit of shopping in the islands’ boutiques (which, by the way, are all duty-free) and indulge yourself in some of the affordable top-notch restaurants. We recommend the Michelin-starred Restaurante Los Roques in Tenerife (Calle La Marina, 1638618 Los Abrigos in Santa Cruz) especially for alfresco dining.
For added adventure, rent a car (which costs around £40 a day) and explore the national park and Mount Teide. Staying at the NH Hotel (Candelaria Esquina Doctor Allart, nh-hotels.com – doubles from £70) places you at the heart of the city in Santa Cruz and is perfect for enjoying the Spanish colonial architecture of the Old Town.
2. Relax with Après Ski in France
Rope in a group of friends and go for the most wintery of winter-getaways, a skiing holiday in the French Alps. Enjoy the clean, crisp air and stunning Alpine landscapes as you race down the black run or attempt the cross-country. And even if you’re not the sporty type, there is always the Après-ski, which is a great way to relax after all that exercise. So, why not rent a traditional chalet? Renting as a group is a great way to make the most of your holiday, and can be quite affordable, too.
Whether you opt for one of the resorts in Les Portes du Soleil, many of which have good facilities for beginners, or place yourself right at the foot of Mont Blanc in Chamonix, you are guaranteed to have a good time. The Zara at Chamonix is a classic wooden chalet in a peaceful hamlet only five minutes from the Brévent ski area by foot and can be rented without catering (montblancretreats.com).If you really want to save money, arrange to book directly with the chalet owner and pay in advance, using an online foreign exchange service such as tranzfers.com – you’ll get better exchange rates and low fees compared to going through your bank. In most cases, online brokers are 3 to 4 percent cheaper than bank transfers and you can usually complete a transfer within a day.
3. Cosy up in Copenhagen
Looking for a coping mechanism to deal with the depressingly dark evenings? Well, Scandinavians really are the experts, and why not learn from the best? Go to Copenhagen for a weekend and master the Danish art of ‘hygge’. The word has no direct equivalent in English, but can be translated as ‘cosiness’ – exactly what you need to get through the dark and gloomy months ahead.
A proper hygge most definitely includes warm cups of mulled wine (gløgg in Danish), and generous servings of sugar-dusted waffles at the Christmas markets at Torvehallerne ( Frederiksborggade 21). Warm up with a glass of herb-infused Scandinavian spirit (snaps) after a session at one of the central ice skating rinks, and go shopping for a couple of Nordic design items at the brightly lit main shopping street, Strøget. For the foodies, a pilgrimage to Noma (Strandgade 93, noma.dk), the restaurant which frequently tops the San Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurants list, is definitely in order.
Go all in with the hygge by staying at the Admiral Hotel (admiralhotel.dk; doubles from £116). Rich in history and beautifully decorated, it is located right on the waterfront, so you can enjoy watching the boats from your warm, cosy room. When looking at the best time to catch a good exchange rate in Denmark, be aware that the Danish krone is currently following the same trend as the euro. It is advisable to wait until £1 is equivalent to 9 krone to get the most for your money during your stay.
4. Master camel-back riding in Marrakech
Why not ditch your crowded, stressful commute for a leisurely ride on a camel? Marrakech has become such a popular destination that virtually every major travel company now offers guided tours into the desert or the Atlas Mountains by camel or mule.The city itself is famous for its historic buildings, beautiful gardens, and, above all else, a vibrant and colourful network of markets, or souks. The souks are divided into sections, each of which has a speciality, from carpets and textiles to spices and even cooked snails.
A more tranquil alternative to the hustle and bustle of the souks are the foundouks, centuries-old courtyard workshops run by Berber artisans. Be sure to check out those in Rue dar el Bacha.For a calm and serene place to stay, consider the Dar Ayniwen (Rue Hassan Ben M’Barek, Palmeraie), a family-run boutique hotel located in the palm groves of Marrakech. It offers an irresistible mix of luxury and intimacy.
5. Cruise Europe on a canal boat
Tired of the regular stuff – airports, cabs and hotels? We suggest cruising the waterways of Europe on a canal boat, a quirkier way to explore the continent. Bring your friends along – the more, the merrier (and, more importantly, warmer).The Netherlands is a great country to get to know by boat. The heart of Holland is a triangle of waterways connecting three picturesque cities, Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Utrecht. You don’t have to worry about getting lost, as the trip is usually in a confined waterway and your boat hire company should be able to give detailed information for navigation, mooring, shopping, restaurants and sightseeing on the way.
Alternatively, you can rent a house boat and stay put in the famously beautiful canals of old Amsterdam. Take a look at Danfluvial (danfluvial.com), which offers a wide range of boats for all seasons. For more information on currencies and exchange rates, as well as forex tools and help transferring money, visit tranzfers.com/tnt
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