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A Bit of Winter Sun

Let’s be honest, here: January sucks.

If you’re anything like me, you know that there’s no month quite as sad and sorry as January (well, February isn’t much better but, hey, at least it’s shorter!).

The presents are all open, we’ve de-decked the halls with bounds of holly and the New Years’ hangover is still (yes, still!) lingering slightly – we’re a bit fragile in the Anytour office, ok!

Imagine if New Year was less about ‘new you!’ and more about ‘new trips!’

There are so many reasons to abandon the office and the dreariness of January and treat yourself to a bit of winter sun. It’s practical; it’s cheap; it’s post-Christmas and pre-school holidays so it’s the ideal time to go and top up your tan.

Dodge the freeze-fest, without spending a fortune, with Anytour’s top picks for a “new year, new trip!”

Lanzarote, Canary Islands

Epics sunsets…

Lanza-grotty? Not a chance! The Canary Islands host some of the hottest spots for winter sun in the entire of Europe – probably because they aren’t really in Europe at all! Well, they are, but the Canaries also happen to be 64 nautical miles away from the Saharan coast of Africa. Owing its sunny winter weather to its African neighbour more than mainland Spain, if that doesn’t scream “The Islands of Eternal Spring,” (the nickname for the Canaries) I don’t know what does!

Typical winter weather in Lanzarote is plenty of sunshine with daytime temperatures of around 22 to 25 degrees Celsius. At night, it drops down to around 15. Beats the single digits here in the UK, that’s for sure! Add that to the fact that the ocean temperature varies much less than anywhere else in Europe, Lanzarote is an all-year round destination for sunbathing and swimming. Once you touch down on the island, you’ll find that there’s plenty to do: from exploring the volcanic landscape of the Timanfaya National Park to surfing at the island’s most northerly beaches, you’ll be kept busy as you keep active under the warm winter sun. If you’d rather be found snoozing than surfing, opt to head for one of the many secluded beaches you can find along the coastline, where you can kick back with a book or sip cocktails by the sea. Pure, island bliss if you ask me!

If there’s one thing that Lanzarote is known for, it’s its epic sunsets. The sky is clear and beautifully blue during the day – these islands aren’t known for having “the best climate in the world” for nothing. After all, the climate contributes to the stunning sunsets that seem almost unbelievable; the colours are mesmerising as the sun sinks into the horizon. Be sure to have your camera close to hand. You won’t want to miss out on snapping some of these views.

Consider spending some time under the setting sun on one of the Canary’s finest islands. Lanzarote isn’t one to be looked over.

Phuket, Thailand

Bucket list, baby!

Did you even go travelling if you didn’t “find yourself” in Thailand? Tattoos, dreads and scooters aside, Thailand is probably one of the most popular spots for adventurers and travellers of all ages, nationalities and walks of life – simply because of this country’s astounding beauty. There is nowhere in the world quite like Thailand – and Phuket is probably your best starting point if you are wanting to discover it.

Picture your idea of paradise – you’re likely thinking of soft, sandy beaches and crystal-clear waters, right? If this is your idea of bliss, then consider taking a trip to Phuket, allowing yourself to be immersed in the stretches of coastline. Soak up the generous year-round sunshine as you sleep on the sand or crash through the waves.

Looking for something beyond the beach? Not really into the sand and sea? No worries – Phuket offers everything culture, cuisine and nightlife. You won’t be short on entertainment! Everything from the unique Sino-Portuguese architecture to the dazzling vibrancy of Patong Beach is available for whatever your flavour of fun might be. Jungle-clad hills twist across the island in mounds of green; these are perfect for hikes and wanderlust adventurers, looking for a natural thrill. Not forgetting all those little towns and larger temples too. They offer thrills of their own kind! If you’re something of a culture vulture, then be sure to pay a visit to some of these monumental features.

Whether you’re more into the trinity of sand, salt and sea or whether you prefer to keep active under the blissful warmth of the Thai winter sun, you’ll find what you’re looking for in Phuket.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

The calm before the (carnival) storm…

Take a chance on Copacabana Beach, caipirinhas and the calm of January before the storms of carnival season in Brazil – or, specifically, Rio de Janeiro – this winter.

Unsurprisingly, December to March is peak season in Rio, what with Carnival taking place in February. It also happens to be mid-summer, meaning that warmer weather is a guarantee. The seductive Brazilian samba beat and incredible panoramic views of the area last all year-round, so pack your bathers and get ready to hit the beach!

If you want a true flavour of Brazilian fun, time your visit for February. Immerse yourself in the heat of the crowds and flock to Carnival. This four to five day festival draws in nearly two million visitors every year. It is celebrated in the lead up to Fat Tuesday, which marks the start of Lent and brings people to the streets for parades, parties and balls. This Rio-tinged affair has floats, drag queens and some of the best music in the world. Prepare to dance in the streets amongst the crowds (if there’s room, that is!)

Keep an eye out for the peculiar tradition of The Burial of the Sardine. This event marks the end of Carnival and is celebrated on Ash Wednesday. The tradition dictates the symbolical burial of the past and allows society to be somewhat reborn, transformed with new vigour post-Carnival. The men of the island dress up as women and mourn, processing the streets before setting fire to a giant papier mache sardine. No idea why…it seems kind of funny to think about! However, burning something indicates a purging of vices; it seems to be a celebration of liberation. A pretty cool tradition to be invited to be a part of, if you ask me. Don’t risk missing out on it!

Barbados, Caribbean Islands

For the foodies…

We’ve all dreamt it at some point – basking under the hot sunshine, waves lapping at your feet, lounging on the sands of Barbados. It’s a classic! You know exactly what you’re getting when you sign up to it, and, sometimes, there’s nothing wrong with sticking to that!

Post-hurricane season – i.e. from November onwards – Barbados dazzles under the warm sun for at least 10 hours a day. You won’t find skies and oceans of the like anywhere else in the world; and, hey, if it’s good enough for Rihanna, I’m sure Barbados is absolutely fine for the rest of us mortal beings…

When it comes to Barbados, the stalwart of Caribbean tourism, there’s something for absolutely everyone. Of course, you can opt to stick to the west coast of the island. This is where all your five-star, catalogue-esque photos can be captured. The west coast of Barbados is famous for its luxurious appeal.

However, if you want to immerse yourself a little further into local life, travel south and come across a slightly skewed, yet equally fun, scene. Think open air parties, freshly caught fish and the sounds of booming reggae which fill the night. For both the young and the young-at-heart, be sure to pay a quick stop at St. Lawrence Gap. Music pulsates across the night sky, filled with all sorts of clubs and bars which stay open until the early morning. The good-time vibes Barbados offers are sure to blow your mind.

The quieter east coast is for the boho adventurers amongst you. The Atlantic tide laps up onto the powdery white beaches, calling out to the thrill-seeking surfers and snorkellers to dive in, tempting them to take their next adventure out in the blue water.

Drenched in sunshine, Barbados is a must-see for anyone after a sojourn full of lush, tropic serenity. Think warm air, powdery beaches and rejuvenating sunshine. However, the sleepy ambience of the day changes as the sky darkens with the evening; it soon starts to buzz with energy, music and laughter.

Barbados has something for everyone. You don’t want to miss it!

Nicaragua, Central America

Youthful wanderlust…

Unspoiled by major tourism, this colourful Central American republic is dry and sunny from December until April. But beware – a youthful wanderlust will hit you the very second you touch down in Nicaragua; this country has it all! From tropical rainforests to powdery beaches, Nicaragua has the best of everything…especially when it comes to the weather! January is the month this country is known for having the most sunshine and the least rainfall. I know…I can hear you zipping up your suitcase from here!

Famous for its lakes and hike-worthy volcanoes, a trip to Nicaragua is perfect for the adventurous thrill-seekers amongst you. Known as the cheaper alternative to Costa Rica for surfers, this is the perfect January getaway when the purse strings are being held just that little bit tighter!

Distant, cloud-capped mountains have never looked so inviting; palm-fringed trails have never looked so tempting. If you want to stay active in January and do so in a sun-drenched capacity, I can’t think of a more perfect location than Nicaragua. Not to mention, it’s also perfect for the caffeine addicts out there. Don’t worry, you won’t have to go short of coffee here: Nicaragua is home to some massive plantations! You’ll struggle to not find your fix!

As fun as surfing and hiking may be for some, I understand it’s not for some people. And that’s what is so perfect about Nicaragua; it appeals to absolutely anyone. You might go snorkelling one day, then settle on going for a tour around one of the country’s famous, historical cities another! For all the culture vultures out there, the country's best-preserved colonial cities include Granada and Léon. Be sure to have a look round.

Porto, Portugal

A luxurious spin on medieval streets…

Slightly greyer for those who don’t want to stray too far from home, Porto in Portugal is a city that almost seems like it was made for winter. Warm without being too warm, and ancient and brimming with stories, tales and history, Porto is a trip for the culture-nerds in need of an escape from the dreary mundaneness of January life.

Take a trip down to the downtown Riberia district; it has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its cultural importance. It doesn’t stop there, though! Several different landmarks also make this spot the one for a culture vulture. Explore the churches, viewpoints and architectural treasures without the crowds of mass summer tourism getting in your way. Keep your camera close to hand; there are some fabulous sights you won’t want to miss out on capturing.

Kind of greyer for those who don’t want to stray too far from home, there is no doubt that Portugal is booming – it especially booms during the quieter, milder winters when the prices are lower! More recently, though, Porto – essentially Lisbon’s little sister – has undergone its own creative renewal. From the kerbside cafes to the glasses of locally produced wine from the terraced intown vineyard, there is an air of fizz that clouds the air. The previously decaying streets of the medieval period are now the height of shabby luxury. They buzz with crowds who float in and out of wine bars, restaurants and boutiques.

Porto is the perfect location for a quick, relaxing getaway this winter. You wouldn’t want to miss it.


For the ‘gram…

A bit of unspoiled nature is perfect for your next snap for the ‘gram – all that greenery and palm-fringed pathway is bound to slot into your feed nicely enough. If that sounds like something you’re interested in, then consider booking a flight to the unspoiled, unsullied Panama right now!

The country with two long coasts is often overlooked by its rowdier neighbours – Colombia and Costa Rica – during the warmer months. However, the more rustic island of Panama seems to gain popularity from December – March. This is down to the fact that this is the only point the country is not considered to be in a period of ‘rainy season.’

This little gem of a country can be as chilled out or as thrilling as you make of it. With its endless summer vibes, Panama sits poised to deliver the best of beach life. A whole other world opens up on the water’s edge: seize it by snorkelling the rainbow reefs, sailing across indigenous territories or surfing across some of the best tides the planet can offer.

If you’re the type who is after adventure without sand getting in your hair, don’t worry. Panama offers all sorts of thrilling discoveries in the very fabric of its nature. Explore the ruins of forts and territories via dugout canoe, catching sight of various wildlife on your way. Howler monkeys clamber above your cabin and whales float alongside your boat ride. Zip through your very own forest-fringed playground: talk about where the wild things are!

At the meeting of two continents and two oceans, Panama is a little country full of history, wildlife, culture and tropical weather: everything you could want in a getaway. As you make plans to take a tropical vacation, don’t overlook this Latin America gem.

Cape Verde

Escape the alarm…

Can’t be dealing with the sounds of morning alarms? Why not separate yourself from it with miles of uninterrupted ivory coastlines, crystal-clear ocean and a landscape unlike any other?

Drop yourself in the middle of the Atlantic to an island that averages out at around 25 degrees Celsius in the not-so-gloomy month of January. The charmingly craggy beauty of the lunar-like landscape emphasises the peacefulness of this paradise. Think lantern-lit restaurant, sunset walks and red deserts. A bit different from the office, right?

An interesting fact for you – the anthropological history of this place is unlike any other. Cape Verde was actually uninhabited, unlike most other colonised countries, until Portuguese and Genoese sailors stumbled upon them in 1462.

Cape Verde isn’t all history and facts though; it’s pretty important on a cultural standpoint too, due to its thriving music scene. Morna is a rhythmic form of music which came about during the 18th century. Its spiritual leader is Cesaria Evora, a singer nicknamed the "Barefoot Diva" who hailed from Sao Vicente - and was so loved that, since her death in 2011, its airport has been named after her. Her powerful voice and grasp of melody lingers in her birthplace, the island capital Mindelo. Here, Morna plays out of windows and doorways, filling the air with beautiful song.

Ok, so it isn’t the quickest flight time, but those lava-fried volcanic origins aren’t to be found anywhere remotely close to home. You won’t find the Pico do Fogo next to Mount Snowden! This peak rises to a towering altitude of close to 10,000 feet; if you’re a keen photographer, you won’t want to miss out on the chance of snapping it up, that’s for sure!

Marrakech, Morocco

Magical madness…

As nice as a bit of Winter warmth might be, we Brits who find ourselves on the paler side of the spectrum always have to be mindful that the sun isn’t as kind to us as it may be for others. As tempting as it may be to bask outside under that great big ball of fire in the sky, in between slapping on layer after layer of Factor 50, of course, it has to be said that some destinations are best visited during the cooler season.

Marrakech is definitely one of these places. Burning flesh, dehydration and the warm temperatures would most certainly ruin a trip here during the summer. Reaching highs of around 20 degrees Celsius during this side of the winter season, Marrakech in January is a whole lot more doable – warm enough to provide that tropic holiday feel without compromising on skin safety.

A further incentive: lower temperatures means less midges buzzing around. Bonus! And by midges, I mean both the insect and annoying tourists! Seriously! Opt to visit Marrakech in January and never fear for your life at the hands of a selfie stick for the duration of your trip. Win win, if you ask me!

Marrakech’s magic madness is the perfect remedy for those winter blues. Prepare yourself for a dazzling sensory experience – smells, sights and sounds bounce off palace walls, crowd the corners of rooftop cafes and rip through some of the busiest streets and squares in Africa.

For a head-spinning, senses-bashing experience, be sure to stop off at Djemma el Fna Square. Navigate your way through the snake charmers and fruit sellers – not to mention the horse-drawn carriages cantering through crowds. If you want busy, if you want brash and if you want bold, this is the perfect way to spend an afternoon. By sunset, the crowds can reach the thousands. Their shouts and chatter can barely be heard under the sounds of loud Arabian music and the bewitching spells of magicians and charmers.

So, what are you waiting for? Don your Moroccan slippers and catch that flight!

Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico

A technicolour Mexican Oz…

Remember the bit in The Wizard of Oz post-tornado, when the film turns from black and white into a jarring, yet undeniably beautiful, technicolour world of sparkling vibrancy and imagination? I guess the same thing can be said when it comes to the Mexican Yucatan Peninsula. You walk off that plane and are embraced in a hug of warm Winter heat, saluting the brightest golden sun that you’ll ever see that dazzles against the turquoise cenotes and green plantation that hikes up the walls of the ancient Mayan ruins.

Sounding almost too good to be true? Like the wonderful world of Oz, it kind of is! If you’re in need of a getaway with the perfect blend of ancient and buzzy-modern-day cultures, a trip to the Yucatan Peninsula is a must-see.

If hammock-swinging, swimming and general lounging doesn’t relax you enough, I don’t know what will! If there is a time and a place to laze about, then it is on one of these Mexican beaches.

If, however, you get the itch to explore or move about, why not opt to check out the Isla Mujeres Turtle Farm. This turtle farm is just a half hour away from Cancun and is massively popular – for obvious reasons. I mean, who doesn’t want to see over 60,000 newly hatched turtles be released into the sea?! Alternatively, if you feel like an underwater museum that features sculptures you can only see via diving trips is more your cup of tea (I know, niche right!?), then be sure to check out Musa. I can see your eyebrows raising from here – yep, an underwater museum actually exists and, yep, it’s pretty fabulous. Hundreds of life-sized sculptures by British artist Jason de Caires Taylor lie in the shallow waters of the Isla Mujeres and Cancun, waiting to be discovered.

White sands, uncrowded temple ruins – what better antidote to dark skies and cold temperatures than the warmth of Mexico? Whether you go for the hikes, the bikes or the beach, let yourself fall in love with the beautiful sights of the Yucatan Peninsula.

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