For clients keen to go on an escorted tour this winter, there's plenty of choice for sun-seekers and frost-fans alike. Joanna Booth reports
As August draws to a close it’s time to start thinking about the winter. Grey, drizzly days are on the horizon – a repeat of the last few months, some might say – and clients’ thoughts will turn to getting away for a well-earned break.
Escorted touring specialists have itineraries running year-round, and offer a wealth of choices for holidays over the UK winter.
Some snowbirds will want to jet off to warmer climes, but others may want to make the most of the season in a winter wonderland. Take inspiration from our ideas below.
Sun-seekers don’t have to venture too far from UK shores, even in the depths of winter. North Africa stays balmy while we freeze, and short flights combine with classic touring sights to make Egypt, Morocco, Jordan and Tunisia simple, reasonably priced destinations.
Insight Vacations’ nine-day Best Of Morocco (from £1,325, excluding flights), remains one of the operator’s most popular winter tours, visiting Casablanca, Fes and Marrakech, and including stays in the desert and in traditional riads.
If clients want to see the ancient sights of Egypt, why not suggest they go to coincide with the King Ramses Sun Festival. On February 21 and October 21 the sunlight angles correctly to burst into the inner sanctum of the Abu Simbel temple and illuminates the seated statues of the gods.
On The Go’s 15-day King Ramses Sun Festival (from £599 excluding flights) coincides with the October date and also includes time in Cairo, a Nile cruise and a beach stay in Dahab.
Cosmos Tours & Cruises has itineraries in Tunisia and Jordan. The eight-day Tunisian Adventure starts from £845, and visits desert cave dwellings used in the Star Wars films, salt plains, Roman ruins and the capital Tunis.
The operator’s eight-day Ancient Wonders of Jordan tour starts from £1,539 and gives tourists the chance to visit the iconic ancient city of Petra in the 200th anniversary year of its discovery.
South Africa is a big hit in our winter months, with a jet lag-free flight and an array of activities from wine-tasting to whale-watching, as well as the big draw of safari.
Specialist operator Rainbow Tours has a classic seven-night Cape and Garden Route tour (from £2,750), visiting Cape Town, the Winelands, and driving the Garden Route to Port Elizabeth with the option to extend the trip with a safari in the Eastern Cape or Kruger.
The balmy winter weather that makes Goa such a successful winter-sun spot renders the rest of southern India great winter touring territory. Bales Worldwide’s 16-day Images of Southern India (from £2,675) is a really comprehensive tour with highlights including the temple at Madurai, the forested Nilgiri Hills and the backwaters of Kerala.
Another classic fly-and-flop choice that can double as a touring destination is Florida. Trafalgar Tours’ new 10-day Florida’s Sunshine Trail discovers both the east and west coasts, with highlights including lunching with an astronaut at the Kennedy Space Centre and coming face to face with manatees in Tampa and alligators in the Everglades.
The sunny Caribbean can be toured, too. Cuba is a firm favourite with Journeys Of Distinction’s clients. Its 11-day Colours of Cuba tour (from £1,595) combines culture and history in Havana and Cienfuegos, countryside in Vinales, and relaxing beach time in Trinidad.
For the very opposite of our weather, send your clients Down Under. Collette Worldwide offers a new 18-day Exploring Australia tour (from £4,499), taking in Sydney, Melbourne, the Barossa Valley, the Blue Mountains, Alice Springs, Uluru, Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef.
One of APT’s most popular tours is the 15-day New Zealand Getaway (from £2,120 excluding flights), which travels from Auckland to Christchurch and visits the Bay of Islands, Rotorua, the Fox Glacier, Queenstown, the fjords and Dunedin.
Much of Asia is perfect in the winter season, and Titan Travel has a new 14-day Vietnamese Discovery itinerary, from £2,395.
It’s a comprehensive tour taking in many of the highlights of this country, which is growing in popularity, including the Vietcong tunnels at Cu Chi, the Imperial Citadel at Hue and the beautiful scenery of Halong Bay.
It’s a good time to be in Latin America too, and there are options to suit most budgets, from Virgin Holidays’ 11-day Highlights of Costa Rica (from £1,995), to ITC Classics’ 15-day Peru in Luxury (from £8,495).
Chile is best visited when it’s chilly in the UK. Although much of the country can be seen year-round, Patagonia is at its best during our winter. Cox & Kings’ 15-day Splendours of Chile (from £3,502) traverses the country from the arid Atacama Desert of the north, through the lush Lake District, down to the glaciers of the Torres del Paine National Park.
Those travelling alone could try Solos’ 12-day trip to Guatemala (from £2,579), which visits colonial Antigua, cloud forests and the beautiful Lake Atitlan, or ITC Classics’ eight-day Mexico Solo Travel Tour (from £3,945), which focuses on the great Mayan sites.
The rather drab UK winter doesn’t often do justice to our daydreams of cold, clear days and crisp snowfall. For travellers who want a more picture-perfect season, there are escorted tour options that put the brrrr in brilliant.
Iceland tops a lot of lists, a visit bringing with it not only shortish flights and the opportunity for fun in the snow, but also the chance to spot those elusive northern lights.
Iceland is a new destination for ITC Classics’ group tours, with a four-night itinerary (from £4,995) split between a hotel in the heart of Reykjavik and Hotel Ranga in southern Iceland, a luxury choice in a good position for spotting the lights. There’s a visit to the Blue Lagoon and tours around the Golden Circle or of Reykjavik.
Both Cox & Kings and Regent Holidays have new Iceland tours this season. The former’s Iceland: In Search of the Northern Lights itinerary (from £955) is another four-nighter, based in Reykjavik and mixing in iconic sights.
Regent’s six-night option The Northern Lights Explorer Tour (from £1,245) is one for those desperate to catch sight of the aurora – there are six light-hunting expeditions in some of the country’s most remote locations, and lectures from experts.
Christmas is the highlight of winter for many, and what better way to get in the mood than a festive markets tour? Shearings Holidays has a range of Christmas markets breaks, with a five-day trip to French and Belgian markets from only £339, staying in Bruges.
Insight Vacations’ nine-day Winter Wonderland with Christmas Markets (from £1,225 excluding flights) combines Swiss and German markets with the highlights of the destinations, including a cable-car ride to the summit of a Swiss mountain and a scenic drive through the Black Forest.
Closer to home, over-55s specialist Grand UK Holidays has a range of new Festive House Parties at nine UK hotels in December, starting from £189 for five days’ half-board with three excursions.
For younger travellers keen to get active in the snow, suggest Contiki’s Austria Ski Week, travelling from London by coach to Hopfgarten for a week’s skiing in the Tyrolean Alps. From £429, the trip includes two free mountain tours by a ski guide, a day trip to Salzburg and a ski race.
For ice and snow farther afield, look across the pond. Trafalgar Tours’ new eight-day Yellowstone Winter Adventure (from £2,450) give travellers the chance to see bison, elk, wolves and bighorn sheep wandering across the snow-covered landscape, with activities such as sleigh-riding, cross-country skiing and snow-shoeing included.
For those looking for something more general, Great Rail Journeys’ new 20-day USA Coast to Coast in Winter (from £2,958) glides across snow-covered states, from New York through the American Rockies to Colorado, on to Monument Valley, the Grand Canyon, and then to LA and San Francisco.
Farther north, the pristine snow of the Canadian Rockies is enough to tempt many. Travelsphere’s nine-day Winter Rockies Spectacular (from £1,199) will take clients to all the popular stop-offs in the mountains, including Banff, Jasper and Lake Louise, and includes a drive along the Icefields Parkway.
There are departures in October and November. For fall colours rather than winter snow, APT’s 10-day Autumn Foliage Eastern Canada tour (from £4,095), with September departures, takes in the changing leaves in Toronto, Ottawa, Québec City and Montréal.
Titan Travel’s 13-day Winter Rail Spectacular (from £2,395) combines the best of both coasts, with frosty days in Toronto and Niagara Falls and then a journey across Canada’s snow-draped landscape in The Canadian train before hitting the Rockies.
For the world’s most impressive icy scenery, clients will need to head for the southern hemisphere. It may be summer in the Antarctic, but it’s still freezing – conditions are too extreme for tourists in the polar winter.
Try Collette Worldwide’s 16-day Antarctica tour (from £7,949), which starts in Buenos Aires and includes a nine-night cruise on the Fram, visiting Tierra del Fuego and crossing the Drake Passage and sailing on to the Antarctic Peninsula.
Heading to a destination out of season can mean fewer crowds, and Wendy Wu Tours is promoting its Chinese itineraries during the winter months, when clients can see the Great Wall and the Forbidden City with hardly anyone to disturb the view.
An extended 11-day In Pursuit of Pandas tour (from £2,290) leaves the UK on December 23, promising an unforgettable way to spend Christmas and see in the New Year.
For something a bit different, Wendy Wu Tours offers a three-day add-on tour (from £940), visiting the Harbin Ice and Snow Festival. Located close to the Siberian border, blocks of snow and ice are carved into huge sculptures and lit with coloured lights.
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