Sunny days are just the start of diverse winter-sun breaks, says Sarah Gordon
When it comes to summer holidays, you’re used to customers asking for more than simply a fly and flop break. Winter breaks are no different – you’ll have clients who want to pepper their time on the beach with a splash of culture or a sprinkle of wildlife.
With resorts offering all sorts of packages to introduce guests to local communities, not to mention great holiday hotspots close to vibrant cities or ensconced in peaceful natural surroundings, there’s plenty of variety.
WINTER SUN PLUS… CITY BREAK
Few Caribbean islands are as intriguing as Cuba, with its revolutionary rhetoric, gloriously faded capital and 1950s cars. Blessed with great arcs of white-sand beaches, Varadero has plenty of big resort hotels and is less than two hours’ drive from Havana – perfect for a day-trip. Thomson offers seven nights at the huge Riu Varadero on an all-inclusive basis, with flights from Manchester, from £828 in November.
The historic port city of Funchal, on the Portuguese island of Madeira, is where Winston Churchill visited to paint and enjoy the mild weather, and tourists today can follow in his footsteps and enjoy the cobbled streets, bougainvillea-covered buildings and pretty wine bars. Prestige Holidays offers a week’s B&B at Reid’s Palace from £1,181 per adult and £836 per child in November, including flights.
Rio de Janeiro, host city of the next Olympics, is famed for combining bustling beaches with Carnival spirit against a dramatic mountain backdrop. From Sugarloaf Mountain to the Christ the Redeemer statue overlooking the city and the world-famous Copacabana and Ipanema beaches, the city has plenty of sights. Hayes & Jarvis offers seven nights’ B&B at the four-star Atlantico Copacabana for £1,349, including flights from Heathrow, in November.
WINTER SUN PLUS… CULTURE
The Mayan Riviera in Mexico is known for the party town of Cancun and stylish Playa del Carmen as well as a string of spectacular resorts which line the Caribbean coastline. But the area is also steeped in Mayan history, with the famous ruins at Chichen Itza and Tulum, not to mention the underground cenotes – deep, water-filled sinkholes which were considered spiritual water sources by the Maya.
Hayes & Jarvis offers seven nights’ all-inclusive at the four-star-plus Dreams Tulum Resort & Spa on the Riviera Maya from £1,299, including flights from Gatwick.
Grenada is known as the Spice Island and those wanting to learn local culinary techniques can try their hand at Mount Cinnamon hotel. Seven nights booked direct with the hotel, which offers 10% commission, starts from £2,143 for a luxurious one-bedroom suite, two private cookery classes, an excursion to the Mount Edgecombe plantation (pictured), an island and garden tour and spice goodie bag with recipes.
The Red Sea Riviera is a favourite with holidaymakers looking for year-round sunshine. And while it is based around a promontory in the east of Egypt, many operators offer the chance to combine beach with ancient culture on a Nile cruise.
Red Sea Holidays offers seven nights’ half-board at the five-star Grand Resort in Hurghada, plus seven nights on the four-star Grand Star on a full-board basis (with 10 guided excursions included) from £899 in November.
WINTER SUN PLUS… NATURE
For clients who would rather spot more than just fellow sunbathers on the beach, there are plenty of options in Africa and the Middle East to combine nature and winter sun.
Winter has been dubbed ‘secret season’ for its affordability. Selous Game Reserve in Tanzania lowers prices from November 1, but the rains often set in towards the end of the month. Africa Odyssey offers a seven-night safari and beach holiday from £2,864, including flights from Heathrow, three nights at the boutique Selous Safari Camp with game drives and four nights at the beach retreat of Ras Kutani on the shores of the Indian Ocean.
Gambia is about more than just big resorts; it is perfect for sun-seeking twitchers. The Gambia Experience is running a birdwatching tour with BBC Springwatch presenter Chris Packham in February 2013. The tours break down into two three-day itineraries, available to book separately or together. The supplement for the tour starts at £425 on top of the price of the client’s chosen hotel (which start from £499 for seven nights).
Oman is quieter than its glitzy Gulf neighbour Dubai, and is a perfect spot to combine sunshine with a splash of nature. Carrier offers five nights for the price of four at Six Senses Zighy Bay in a pool villa on a B&B basis from £1,380. Six Senses offers dining experiences in the mountains, the option to paraglide into the resort on arrival and diving in the Gulf of Oman.
WINTER SUN PLUS… ACTIVITIES
From theme parks to trying new sports, there are plenty of opportunities for clients to embrace their inner child or get to grips with a new high-octane sport while on holiday.
Head to Orlando to combine a hefty dose of winter sun with all the fun of the theme parks. Virgin Holidays has a seven-night holiday, departing November 13, costing from £629 per adult and £505 per child. It includes flights from Gatwick and room only at the 3V-rated Ramada Maingate West, with car hire included.
For clients keen to embrace their own inner Andy Murray, there’s the perfect chance at the Pat Cash Tennis Academy at the five-star Buccament Bay Resort in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. If tennis isn’t for you, there’s also the Harlequin Sports Academy and Harlequin Performing Arts Academy on offer, as well as the chance to learn to dive. Kuoni offers seven nights in a garden villa on an all-inclusive basis, with flights from Gatwick, from £2,011.
The Cayman Islands is normally associated with scuba diving, but there is a new kitesurfing school that has just opened in Little Cayman, an island measuring 10 miles by one mile and home to just 150 residents. Turquoise Holidays offers a break with The Lost Boys kitesurfing and yoga retreat. A seven-night holiday, with accommodation at the retreat’s Sunset Cove, and four-day kite surfing instruction course, costs from £2,399.
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