Thursday, May 30, 2024

Destinations for winter

Because to travel is to live, here we are, thinking about it again and again.

Considering all the important, irreplaceable things last year has taken away from us, it seems pretty petty to complain about our holidays. From jobs to families to our own homes, the pandemic has snatched or stolen things of much greater significance. And yet, we’re still moping and moaning about losing out on long-planned getaways, and being forced to stay home this summer. Why?

Probably because being made to sit still is a constant reminder of the new rules. What we’d give to be lounging on some far-flung beach, sipping a cocktail out of a coconut and cracking the spine on a pulpy paperback. What we’d give for a sun-soaked, five-star, all-inclusive distraction from the state of the world.

Thankfully, with the government’s official ‘Travel Corridor’ list being constantly updated, there are enough places still safe to travel to offer such an escape. You may still be booking at your own risk — and these destinations could still slide onto restricted travel lists before the end of the year — but, as the delicate situation stands, these are the best destinations for some safe winter sun.

Let’s kick things off with paradise. As the drizzle returns to Britain, the white sand and lush green rainforests of Barbados seem like a world away. And you’re not wrong. At 4,160 miles across the Atlantic Ocean, it’s difficult to imagine that Barbados is part of the British Commonwealth. And, if you’ve seen the news this week, you’ll know that the island nation is currently looking to remove the Queen as its head of state.

It’s to be a new start for the Caribbean country — not that it needed it. With dazzling turquoise bays, sugary white sand and a capital, Bridgetown, featuring on the UNESCO World Heritage list, Barbados has been a staple winter sun destination for decades. Our advice for prospective visitors? Pack your wetsuits. Along the wild, rural east coast of the island, you’ll find some of the best surf in the Caribbean.

If you thought Barbados looked blissful, just wait until you get an eyeful of The Seychelles. Spinning sunnily out into the Indian Ocean, this small nation is an archipelago of 115 islands — each more breathtaking and beautiful than the last.

Okay, so there might not be much to do outside of swimming in the sea and sunbathing on the sand — but, when the beaches look like this, what more do you want? Mahé is the largest island, and the easiest to travel to, but we’d suggest venturing a little further out to the Aldabra Atoll. Another UNESCO World Heritage Site, these large coral islands offer some of the best diving in the world — complete with incredible reef, fauna and flora.

If we were to look for the pandemic’s silver lining, this list of ‘Travel Corridors’ would be a good place to start. Why? Because those of us still wanting to travel are being forced out of our comfort zones — and pushed in the direction of new nations, continents and experiences. What better time to explore somewhere you’d never even considered before? What better time, in other words, to visit Cuba?

It’s almost like a fairytale, this northern Caribbean nation. You know about it, have heard about it, but in your mind it’s probably all moustachioed men smoking fat cigars, vintage cars and rum distilleries. The good news is that’s exactly what you’ll find in Cuba. It’s not only a journey across the world — but also a journey back in time, transporting you back to a simpler, sunnier way of life. It may not be the escape you had in mind for 2020, but it’s the one you need right now.

Until 1906, The Seychelles was officially part of Mauritius. But a lot changes over the course of a century, and the two nations have grown separately so significantly that they’re now each worthy of an individual visit. Of course, the pristine white beaches, clear blue waves and verdant green palms look like they were copy-and-pasted from the neighbouring Seychelles — but you’re not likely to complain about that.

It’s inland where the changes are more apparent. There’s no island in the Indian Ocean better for hiking and climbing than Mauritius — with the Black River Gorges National Park being one of the most spectacular waterfall-full forests in the world. If you really want to ‘get away from it all’, forget your beach towel — and pack your hiking boots instead.

Last month, when airports and resorts started to slowly reopen, we took a look at the best places to travel in September. From Croatia to Denmark, most were reasonably close to home. Fiji, the postcard-perfect South Pacific island, was not. But, despite this looking like the best, safest option for some winter sun, there’s a catch. A pricey one.

The Fijian prime minister, Frank Bainimarama, did open the borders of his country — but only for billionaires. “Say you’re a billionaire looking to fly your own jet, rent your own island, and invest millions of dollars in Fiji in the process,” the prime minister tweeted, “if you’ve taken all the necessary health precautions and borne all associated costs, you may have a new home to escape the pandemic in paradise.”

Of every country on this list, it’s most likely that Cyprus will be the one you’ve visited before. It’s just a four-hour flight from Heathrow to Paphos — but December temperatures can still nudge 20°C. And it’s also got something else none of the other sun-soaked countries on this list have — over 12 millennia of history.

That’s right, Cyprus is the perfect middle ground between winter sun and culture hunting. From the myths and legends of the Greeks and Romans to the history left by the Assyrian, Egyptian and Persian empires, you’ll spend as much time in the museums as on the beach in Cyprus this winter. They make a mean kebab, too.

We know what you’re thinking of when we mention the Cayman Islands. It’s what we think of, too. Money. Lots and lots of money — with most of it funnelled into offshore accounts by the wealthiest of the wealthy. But there’s more to the financial haven than tax evasion.

The local tourism industry may have been monopolised by the cruise ship industry — with 2.5 million tourists bobbing across the Caribbean to the Cayman Islands every year. But, with all of those vast ships at anchor indefinitely, you’ll get the chance to explore the offshore reefs, mangrove fringes and tropical forests without tripping over the day-trippers.

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Harvey Black
Harvey Black
Yes, I'm old school. I have good manners. I open the door for a lady. I'm romantic & gentle at times. I respect all women and genuinely provide compliments. For some it might seem like a weakness, but my chivalry leaves women breathless. It's no right or wrong way, it's just the gentleman way.

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