Four fantastic destinations for winter sun
Written by Ayesha Khan
When temperatures drop and gloomy days drag on, here are four cheery, sunny spots to retreat to.
The Cape, South AfricaWhen to Go: February–April (to avoid the gusty southeasterly wind, which often clears beaches and envelopes Table Mountain in fog).
Perhaps some of the best scenery on the planet, a vibrant city life, and plenty of history and culture are what visitors to this region of South Africa can look forward to. Cape Town offers the ideal base – the vibrant Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, bustling with harbourside cafés and nightlife, and some of the city’s most upmarket hotels (The One&Only, Cape Grace) make this part of town the most desirable, while ’hoods like Bo-Kaap (for a look into the town’s cultural diversity) and De Waterkant (a more upscale suburb) are equally interesting. Travellers can then make their way to the Western Cape, where luxe lodges set amongst nature reserves like Bushman’s Kloof await. The Cape of Good Hope, set between the open water of the Atlantic and False Bay, is littered with stunning beaches and picturesque walking trails. Cape Point, the southwesternmost point of the continent, offers the once-in-a-lifetime feeling of standing at the very edge of the Earth. A humbling look into the country’s history awaits at Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela resided for 18 years. Of equal poignancy is the District Six Museum.
Cape Town, South Africa
Distance: 7,427 km
Flight Time: 11 hours, 25 minutes
Frequency: 4 flights a week via Johannesburg
When to Go: November–January (to avoid tourist crowds and sticky heat)
Those who are lucky enough to visit the capital, Buenos Aires, in the spring will be enchanted by this vibrant city’s blossoming jacaranda trees and will delight in a walk through the Paseo del Rosedal, a rose garden with over 1,000 different varieties of the fragrant flower. Then there are chic neighbourhoods (Recoletta and Palermo Soho are among the most sought after) which are lined with French belle époque facades, lively cafés, and of course tango clubs (Café Tortoni and Tango Porteño are the most iconic). But no trip to this unforgettable South American nation is complete without side jaunts to Iguazú Falls, Tierra del Fuego, and the UNESCO-listed Reserva Faunística Península Valdés (where Argentina’s famed Magellanic penguins and southern right whales reside). For art lovers, Córdoba, a city teeming with artisans, art galleries, and a burgeoning alternative film scene, is a must-visit.
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Distance: 13,319 km
Flight Time: 18 hours, 50 minutes
Frequency: Daily via São Paulo
When to Go: November–March; early December is especially exciting
In recent years, this US hub has flourished into quite the globally important city, with the development of world-class arts venues, buildings by the world’s most famed starchitects, and a dining scene on a par with London and New York. The beach outlook, which was always concentrated on iconic South Beach, has now sprawled north with the launch of hotels such as The Miami Beach Edition and the newly opened Nautilus. But what truly makes the city interesting, particularly in the early days of December, is the art scene, anchored by Art Basel Miami Beach. More than just an art show, this momentous event is the single most talked-about happening on the Miami calendar, with art exhibits, parties, and special events continuing well into the chilly December nights. Even when the festival has left town, its indelible mark on Miami art hubs like the Design District and Wynwood remains long into the winter months.
Distance: 12,342 km
Flight Time: 15 hour, 40 minutes
Frequency: Daily Flights
Sri LankaWhen to Go: December–March (to avoid the height of the northeast monsoon season; however, the weather changes throughout the island)
From its vibrant capital Colombo to its chilled-out beach havens and terraced tea plantations, the island of Sri Lanka has something for everyone. Starting in Colombo, a visit to the vibrant Galle Face Green is a must, as is Barefoot, a boutique/art gallery/restaurant selling everything from hand-loomed textiles to art books. A plethora of dining options, such as the chic Ministry of Crab, run by two famous local cricketers and set in the lauded Old Dutch Hospital, are littered throughout the city. Visitors can ride a rickety yet romantic train down the coast to Galle, exploring the UNESCO-listed Galle Fort and the charming colonial streets around it. Heading back towards Colombo, the temperate, hilly town of Kandy, home to the most sacred Buddhist site in the country, is the perfect base to explore scenic terraced tea plantations and a nearby elephant orphanage. Kandy House, a converted plantation mansion that now houses a charming boutique hotel, is the ideal place to stay.
Colombo, Sri Lanka
Distance: 3,631 km
Flight Time: 4 hours, 45 minutes
Frequency: 3 flights a day
Acquiring a new skill whilst on holiday is at the top of many a bucket list. Here are two essential brag-worthy skills to learn:
The stunning islands and reefs of Thailand
With the largest concentration of dive centres per square mile and reasonable pricing on certifications (half of what it would cost elsewhere), Thai islands like Koh Tao are ideal for learning how to manoeuvre in the depths of the ocean. Once divers complete their open water certification, they’re immediately able to attempt more advanced courses. In fact, many a diving instructor has been trained in these very waters.
South Africa’s famed golf course trilogy – Fancourt, Montagu, and Outeniqua
One of the most picturesque and challenging places to learn golf, guided by a PGA-trained instructor, with practice greens, chipping greens, bunkers, four-hole practice course, and a driving range with open-air as well as undercover practice bays. These courses are designed by South African golf legend Gary Player and have played host to the likes of Ernie Els and Tiger Woods.