Read on if you need some inspiration for winter sun destinations; somewhere a bit different from the usual winter sun hot spots so who better to meet with than the gorgeous luxury travel expert Gemma Rees for the best winter sun holiday locations? This is a woman who has travelled to some of the most exquisite places in the world and our go-to for travel tips.
The Middle East is the first place that crosses many people's mind when thinking of a winter getaway. A glittering desert metropolis, Dubai is the number one spot for winter sun & under a 7 hour flight from the UK.
Marvel at the glimmer of skyscrapers, splash around in one of its water parks or do a spot of shopping in a world class mall. Gold is a popular purchase in Dubai. FYI
Years of culture is preserved in the older Dubai Creek area, where you can haggle for spices or gold in the souks.
For the thrill seeker, head out to the desert for a bit of dune bashing! The experience is epic and popular amongst the many visitors of Dubai. I mean, have you even been to Dubai without the obligatory sand dune Instagram post beside a dune buggy? Afterwards enjoy a local feast (which may include camel) whilst watching a belly dancer at a Bedouin camp.
Partake in a spot of brunch, with many of the hotels competing to offer the best, so do your research for the best value-for-experience offer. There are plenty of beach clubs you can spend the day soaking up the rays, with most headlining world class DJ’s. After dark hotels, bars & nightclubs have ladies night, where ladies get to drink for free!
Dubai has some of the best hotels in the world; stay at the Jumeirah Dar al Masyaf for a true experience of an Arabian Summer House. Offering over 70 restaurants. My favourite is Zheng He’s; a beautiful Chinese overlooking the Burj al Arab. You really are spoilt for choice at the number one hotel group in this 6 star city. And to top off the whole Dubai experience, they have one of the best airports in the world!
Malaysia, one of the most beautiful countries in Asia and sometimes forgotten amongst the better known countries such as Thailand or Indonesia.
The capital city of Kuala Lumpur (an 11 hour flight from London) is home to top restaurants, designer shopping & the iconic Petronas Towers. Experience colourful night markets, and revel in gastronomical delights.
Stay at the Mandarin Oriental, renowned for its exceptional service and indulgent opulence in the heart of the city. The SkyBar at Traders Hotel is a must for cocktails, music & views right across to the Petronas Towers.
Head across to Penang, which boasts the UNESCO World Heritage site of George Town, showcasing the diverse Chinese, Malay and British cultures, home to some of Malaysia’s finest preserved colonial buildings.
Penang offers some amazing historic hotels but the finest in my view is the Eastern & Oriental, offering world class service. Built in 1885 & the first British trading post in the east, this beautifully restored hotel is the perfect place to reside while in this fascinating city.
This laid back & captivating island in the Eastern Caribbean, Antigua is perfect for winter sun relaxation & less than an 8 hour flight from the UK.
Surrounded by a nearly unbroken offshore reef protecting miles of sugar-white sands and hidden coves, it offers some of the most idyllic beaches in the world to unwind on or snorkel to catch a glimpse of tropical fish or maybe even a turtle!
This independent nation was once a British colony and English influences can be seen all around, from the crumbling sugar plantations and delightfully quaint English Harbour.
Take a trip to Shirley heights for local food, rum punch & the best sunset on the whole island (if not in the Caribbean!). A full stomach, rum punch with a beautiful sunset is quite possibly the best situation to find yourself in.
Stay at the stunning Hermitage Bay, this 5* hotel is tucked away between hills and a tranquil bay offering an intimate retreat. Relax further with a Yoga or Meditation class to really unwind. With some of the best food on the island, you won’t even need to leave the hotel!
Cape Town sits at the foothills of one of the most spectacular mountains in the world, Table Mountain. This city is a melting pot of cultures which in turn brings an array of different cuisine from around the World.
Bo-Kaap district is traditionally a multicultural area, known for its brightly coloured homes and cobble stoned streets. Formally known as the Malay Quarter, it was once a township that housed this minority group during Apartheid.
For further Apartheid history, visit the District 6 museum or catch a boat across to Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela spent 18 of his 27 years in prison.
Head out to Cape Point Peninsula, said to be the furthest land mass south before you hit the Antarctic. Here you can get active with some great hiking trails whilst admiring the stunning scenery.
On the way, stop off at Boulder beach to see the famous penguins.
You can cage dive with great white sharks & take the cable car (or hike!) up Table Mountain, showcasing unique flora and fauna.
Down at the historic harbour is the pretty Victoria & Alfred Waterfront complex with great shops and restaurants.
Stay at The Silo, an industrial design hotel combines modern luxury and amazing Cape Town views. Housed in the top six floors of this former 1920s grain silo, this landmark building makes a statement with its reworked industrial exterior.
This captivating tropical island, located in the azure waters of the Indian Ocean is bursting with diverse and often unexpected treasures.
Sri Lanka has rock temples and fortresses, ruins of ancient and sacred cities and relics of a colonial age. And if that’s not quite enough to tempt you into a winter sun getaway, it also has a naturally spectacular interior that’s home to rolling tea plantations and wildlife-rich parks and reserves where elephants, leopards, crocodiles and sloth bears roam free.
I recommend you book a private car & driver, starting in Habarana, gateway to the cultural triangle of this stunning island. Here you can take a trip to Sigiriya Rock, one of the country’s most famous sights and the Golden Temple of Dambulla, a series of caves with a large collection of Buddhist paintings and statues. A little further afield are the ruined cities of Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa which were Sri Lanka’s first and second capital cities.
Stay at the Cinnamon Lodge Habarana, nestled in 37 acres of forest & the perfect base to explore.
Next is Kandy, home to one of the world’s most sacred Buddhist sites – the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic. Here you can stay at the Earls Regency, a serene retreat on the outskirts of Kandy.
The rolling countryside that surrounds Kandy is covered by tea plantations & the town on Nuwara Eliya, where you can stay at the beautifully restored old tea factory, the Heritance & partake in some teas picking with the locals.