Laura French looks into the best-value breaks for clients in search of a winter escape.
Winter is fast approaching and the thermometer will soon be dropping, but it needn’t mean throwing in the beach towel just yet – the world is pretty generous when it comes to year-round sunny spots, and it doesn’t always have to cost the Earth to reach them.
From the Canaries to The Gambia, the Middle East to Mexico, there’s a plethora of places to choose from that offer sunny skies without a whopping price tag. Here are some of our favourites.
From turquoise coastlines to rolling sand dunes, crashing waterfalls to caldera views, the Canaries are beautifully diverse as well as happily affordable. For some of the best deals – and most dramatic terrain – look to Gran Canaria, where 147 miles of coastline meets sprawling, wildlife-filled pine forests that have earnt the island Unesco World Biosphere Reserve status. There are plenty of good bases, but for a properly peaceful spot suggest Puerto de Mogán, a quiet fishing village whose bridged waterways have given it the nickname the ‘Venice of the Canaries’.
Book it: Jet2holidays offers a week’s B&B at the five-star Radisson Blu Resort & Spa Gran Canaria, Puerto de Mogán, from £699 per person, including flights from Stansted on December 3.
With a dry season running from November to April, Thailand’s best months are perfectly aligned with the UK’s coldest, making its white-sand beaches, verdant jungles and hot-and-heaving cities a go-to for when the British nights draw in. Food and accommodation are budget-friendly with something to suit most palates, and sightseeing that ranges from the glittering temples of Chiang Mai to the pearl-like lakes of Khao Sok National Park. But for those in search of total seclusion, Travel 2 recommends Krabi. “It’s an unspoilt region of turquoise sea and tropical forests with the most idyllic beach resorts,” says Natalie Jones, assistant product manager for Asia.
Book it: Travel 2 offers a week’s B&B in a D’Light Room at DusitD2 Ao Nang Krabi from £999 per person, including flights from Gatwick in January.
Gold-sand beaches brushed by emerald-green palms are the order of the day in The Gambia, and it needn’t mean breaking the bank. “One of the smallest African countries, it’s ideal for winter sun and offers great value,” says Ricky Wason, head of product and purchasing at Olympic Holidays. “It’s rich in heritage with vibrant markets and extremely welcoming locals, and it has almost zero rainfall.” The real draw, of course, is the wildlife, with chimpanzees, colobus monkeys, crocodiles, manatees and hippos all stalking its varied landscapes, and nearly 600 species of birds flitting above them.
Book it: Olympic Holidays offers a week’s B&B at Palm Beach Hotel in The Gambia from £542 per person, including flights from Gatwick; clients can upgrade to half-board from £13 per day.
When it comes to guaranteed sun, the Middle East comes out trumps – but for a cheaper alternative to the UAE’s bigger emirates, look to Ajman, says Nikki Hain, product manager at Premier Holidays. “It offers great value for those after a five-star luxury stay,” she says. “You can potentially save hundreds compared to a similar break in Dubai.” For those wanting to go beyond the resort there’s wildlife at Al Zorah Natural Reserve, hiking in the Hajar Mountains and safaris in the nearby desert – plus Dubai is only a 45-minute drive away.
Book it: Premier Holidays offers five nights’ B&B at the Oberoi Beach Resort from £1,055 per person, including accommodation, flights and private transfers (May 24 -June 30, 2020).
For those after Caribbean climes without the price tag of the islands, suggest Mexico. The range of accommodation means there’s excellent value to be had here, and temperatures rest in the early 20s in the UK winter months.
Mayan ruins, exotic jungles, dramatic canyons and other intriguing phenomena are on hand across the country to keep itchy-feet types happy, while world-class diving, family-friendly theme parks and immaculate, fine-sand beaches add to the appeal.
Book it: Tui offers seven nights’ all-inclusive at the Holiday Inn Resort Los Cabos from £688 per person, based on two sharing with transfers and flights from Gatwick on November 21.
With a flight time of less than five hours, Egypt combines year-round warmth with ease of accessibility, and few spots can beat it on the value front. Excellent diving, bath-warm waters and gold-sand beaches make fly-and-flopping in its Red Sea resorts a sure-fire hit, while camel rides in the desert and the ever-iconic pyramids lure explorer types. For a beachfront base, suggest El Gouna, where Thomas Cook has just opened a new adult-only Cook’s Club with windsurfing, kitesurfing and other watersports on its lagoon, and a resident DJ by the pool.
Book it: A week’s B&B at Cook’s Club El Gouna starts at £533 per person, based on two sharing and departing from Birmingham on October 31.
320 days of sun a year make Cyprus a winner come winter, and you can get some decent bargains. It also holds widespread appeal; alongside the postcard-worthy beaches there are traditional villages, scenic hiking routes and idyllic vineyards, with the Troodos Mountains beckoning active types and ancient archaeological sites calling anyone who’s into history. Paphos makes an excellent base for the latter, but for a smaller resort try Coral Bay. There’s a lively, family-friendly beach with a string of bars and restaurants, and a plethora of villa accommodation makes it a good bet for clients on a budget.
Book it: James Villa Holidays offers a week at Villa Ellison from £259 per person based on six sharing, with flights from Stansted on November 17.
Sand the colour of snow, shelving water so perfectly jade it looks like it’s come out of a bottle – welcome to Mauritius. And while Indian Ocean getaways can come with a hefty price tag, this one doesn’t have to, thanks to a wide choice of accommodation that spans all budgets. The climate is at its best during our winter, and there’s something to suit all tastes, from natural phenomena such as the kaleidoscopic Seven Coloured Earth – a wavy ocean of reds, purples and oranges, formed from volcanic rock – to exotic tea plantations, vibrant, colourful markets and idyllic, castaway-style islands.
Book it: Gold Medal offers seven nights’ all-inclusive at the four-star Maritim Crystals Beach Hotel from £1,299 per person, based on two sharing a superior room in December, with Emirates flights from Gatwick.
Best of the rest
• Tenerife: Easy to reach, and boasting consistent blue skies and a host of family-friendly resorts, Tenerife is a winter winner and flights are cheap as chips; Jet2holidays offers a week’s B&B at Hard Rock Hotel Tenerife from £550 per person, flying from Stansted.
• Vietnam: Travellers after culture and adventure in equal measure will find plenty to occupy in Vietnam, from the emerald-green, serene slopes of Sapa to the frenetic pace of its cities, and it offers excellent value. For the best beaches Premier Holidays recommends Phu Quoc, a remote archipelago of picture-perfect islands where you can find some excellent savings.
• Sri Lanka: Confidence in Sri Lanka is returning, and now’s a good time to grab a bargain. Ozo Kandy has rooms from £49 per night for a Sleep King room (B&B), bringing the country’s Jungle Book-style scenes, epic wildlife and icing-sugar beaches within reach, regardless of budget.