Chasing the winter sun
Gemma Antrobus, owner and managing director of independent, luxury travel agency Haslemere Travel give us her top tips on where to go in 2018.
As the frosts and fog descend, the prospect of some winter sun is ever more tempting. But for those who find endless days on the beach a tad boring, yet still seek the warmth, the good news is that there are plenty of new attractions worldwide where the sun is now shining.
The long-awaited opening of the multi-million pound, water-lapped Louvre Museum on Saadiyat Island is the first of many grand projects aiming to make Abu Dhabi a tourist destination to rival Dubai (which also has a relatively new opera house to tempt music lovers). Its unique link with its Parisian parent museum and others ensures there will be a vast array of art treasures on display, including Van Goghs, Manets and a Leonardo da Vinci.
Many new hotels are springing up here – there is plenty of room as the coastline boasts more than 200 islands – offering everything from Arabic grandeur, two storey villas with views of the Gulf, isolated desert resorts, or those focussing on soothing spas and challenging golf courses. For the petrol-heads, there is the F1 circuit on man-made Yas Island; or you can indulge a love of speed on the world’s fastest rollercoaster at Ferrari World. Or just enjoy some epic window-shopping in the Emirates’ largest mall.
News of the opening of the Grand Egyptian Museum between Cairo and Giza (home to the Pyramids) ensures that the many glittering artefacts associated with Tutankhamen will have a stylish new home from Spring 2018. Why not combine a trip to see the celebrated golden mask, the Pyramids and magnificent temples with a luxury Nile river cruise? There are some wonderful ships to choose from, some of which boast cabins with baths and balconies. Nothing revives the spirits more after a day’s sightseeing, than stepping out on a sun-drenched deck, with a glass of something cool in your hand; while surveying the busy dhow fishermen, playing children and swaying palms on the banks of this ancient river as you sail smoothly past.
Sri Lanka may only be the size of Ireland, but it has a huge range of activities for those with itchy feet and winter is an ideal time to go, as it is their dry season. Wildlife watchers will be tempted by the option to see blue whales, elephants roaming in the wild and the chance to see an elusive leopard. New safari lodges and luxury tents in Yala National Park offer every creature comfort with the opportunity to immerse yourself in the animal world.
Climbing UNESCO World Heritage Site Sigiriya rock is not for the faint hearted or unfit, but a challenge worth undertaking, as the views from this 200m monolith are amazing and the ancient ruins at the summit are fascinating. Best experienced in the early morning when the climb is in the shade, the good news is that new hotels are springing up nearby and my team has tried several of them this year.
Nowhere is too far away on this enchanting spice island, so you can be on a beach such as Tangalle or Mirissa within just a few hours of landing in Colombo; or take a scenic, slow train ride into the cooler mountains in the Central Province and admire the verdant tea plantations and spectacular views above the clouds. Spiritual needs are catered for too, with a proliferation of beautiful and ancient temples – a ceremony at the sacred Temple of the Tooth in Kandy, with devoted pilgrims making flower offerings with drums beating and conch shells being blown, is a memory which will last forever.