Welcome to January. The fun of Christmas and New Year is over and reality has set in. It’s cold, it’s wet, the train companies are on strike (again) and there’s nothing on the horizon to look forward to. Wouldn’t it be great to disappear off to the sunshine, even for a few days? Of course it would be. Here are my top destination suggestions to lose those January blues…
Are you dreaming of lazy beaches, warm sunshine and views you’ll struggle to stop taking photos of? Then look no further than Thailand. Escape the chaos of Bangkok and head to the Andaman Coast for some of the most spectacular beach views you will ever see. If you’ve seen The Beach or The Hangover 2, you’ll know exactly what I mean.
Id suggest avoiding Phuket if you can as there are a number of great options nearby, from the secluded luxury hotels of Khao Lak (the JW Marriott Khao Lak is a real treat) to the more lively, but still bearable, town of Ao Nang, in the Krabi district. A wonderful little retreat with easy access to the town is the Ao Nang Phu Petra Resort.
From here it’s an easy long-tail boat around the corner to the world famous Railey Beach (above) or to get one of the many tour boats to Koh Phi Phi and the many other nearby islands. Whether you decide to relax in the tranquility of your poolside lounger or scale the rugged rock formations that define this part of Thailand, you really can’t go wrong.
Not always on everyone’s radar due to bad press, this part of the world has fast become one of my favourites. Yes, there can be problems with crime but with a few sensible precautions you can have as great a holiday, if not better, than any other part of the world. There are a number of great areas to stay, each offering their own little perks.
The centre of town provides a great base to check out some of the truly fantastic restaurants this city has to offer. One of my favourite restaurants though has to be Kloof Street House. Situated just a short walk from the vibrant bars of Long Street, this Victorian house is now home to secluded armchairs by log fires and leafy garden tables where the cleverly created menus will keep you busy late into the night.
If you want views of the stunning coastline and easy access to the beach, head round to Camps Bay. About 20 minutes from the centre of the city centre, Camps Bay sits on the other side of Table Mountain with its houses and hotels built into the rapidly rising terrain giving pretty much every building a breathtaking ocean view. The beachfront itself is always busy with a great selection of bars and restaurants, all overlooking the golden sands of the beach – perfect for when the sun dips below the horizon creating another glorious sunset.
If you’ve always dreamed of heading to the Caribbean, St. Lucia would be my top pick. Not as ‘Americanised’ as Aruba and more picturesque than Antigua, the island maintains its own sense of identity amongst the 5* resorts, something which I feel can be lacking in some holiday hotspots. Most of the island’s hotels are in the north, making for a fairly long and windy journey through the mountainous jungle from the airport.
If you want to arrive in style, I’d recommend taking the helicopter shuttle from the airport to near your hotel. Taking just 10 minutes, the flight provides a stunning view of your new home from above, giving you a real appreciation of just how green and thick with vegetation the island is. Landing before you know it, it’s then just a short taxi ride to your hotel.
If you want to push the boat out with a place to stay, the hotels of Marigot Bay are hard to beat when it comes to location. The inland portion of the bay forms a ‘hurricane hole’, a place where historically ships would seek refuge from the seasonal storms and bide their time till the weather improved. Nowadays it’s not only home to one of the most prestigious marinas in the world, it also harbours several luxury hotels to match the finery of the marina.
If you want somewhere warm but can’t bear sitting on a beach, head down to Chile. With so much to offer, I imagine that a year wouldn’t be enough time to explore a country which will have you surprised and amazed at every corner. Take the flight to Santiago (yes, it’s a long one) and head down to the coastal town of Valparaiso for a night or two and have your socks knocked of by the incredible street art everywhere you look. When you’ve had your fill of seafood and Pisco Sours, take the short flight up north and wonder at nature’s marvel that is the Atacama Desert.
The driest non-polar desert in the world, some parts haven’t seen rainfall for 400 years and that makes for some truly stunning landscapes. Base yourself in the town of San Pedro de Atacama and from there make day trips out to some of nature’s greatest shows, from the14,500ft elevation El Tatio Geysers to the barren incomprehensible colours at Pedras Rojas. If you’re into your star gazing, this is the place for you as some of the world’s most important observatories are based here, taking advantage of clear skies and minimal light pollution.
Rio de Janerio
Finally, if it’s golden beaches, beautiful people and all night partying that you’re after, Rio is your answer. With a mix of the most famous beaches in the world, one of the 7 Wonders of the Modern World and rugged scenery your Instagram account won’t be able to get enough of, Rio has it all. Staying downtown around Botofogo and Copacabana, you are in easy reach of the beaches and the absolute must do, Sugar Loaf Mountain. From here, feast your eyes on all that Rio has to offer from Christ the Redeemer overlooking the city in the distance to the way the water and hills roll and interlock themselves all around you.
Making a visit to Christ the Redeemer is an obvious must, but I’d suggest going early in the day as the crowds can be massive during peak season and if the weather deteriorates during the day, the statue can often be obscured by cloud. If you’re looking for somewhere to spend next New Year however, this has to be one the greatest venues on earth to spend it. The beaches fill with people, the biggest party being on Copacabana where 2 million people dressed in white mass to see in the new year. A truly memorable spectacle!