With the COVID-19 vaccine rollout well underway supported by the recent government announcement offering everyone over the age of 18 immunity by autumn, here’s our pick of far flung destinations to book for winter 2021 and into 2022 with confidence.
From winter sun and globe-trotting tours to two-week road trips and ski adventures – it’s time to stop dreaming and start booking.
As Ryanair resumes flights to Marrakech and Agadir from London Stansted and Manchester airports, a splash of winter sun is close at hand. Home to the vast Sahara Desert and the soaring Atlas Mountains, Morocco is perfectly perched on both the Atlantic and Mediterranean coasts to provide a diverse range of landscapes. As well as trekking and hiking, Morocco offers a host of other adventure activities; from overnight camping in the desert, surfing and yoga retreats, cycling, rafting and kayaking, to kite surfing. Travellers can soak up the souks of Marrakech and enjoy a city break or those in search of an off the beaten path adventure can head further south of Agadir and into the desert town of Dakhla. In addition to Ryanair, Morocco is also currently served by Royal Air Maroc which operates from London Heathrow to Casablanca three times weekly, and Air Arabia which departs from London Gatwick to Tangier twice weekly.
First Choice offers 7nights bed and breakfast staying in a double room at the Riad Dar Sbihi in Marrakech from £636pp based on 2 adults. Direct flights with EasyJet from London to Marrakech. Book now with FirstChoice.co.uk
Experience a tropical island adventure in the South Pacific this winter and travel to the sun-kissed Islands of Tahiti, where the average annual temperature is 27 degrees. French Polynesia is the perfect destination for chasing the wintersun. The islands boast gilded beaches and aquamarine waters where guests can soak up the Tahitian culture, devour fresh sea-to-fork cuisine and embark on a number of activities from deep water shark diving to hiking around the mountainous landscape. There is an abundance of accommodation to stay in with Hotel Kia Ora Resort and Spa being a popular choice located on the northern stretch of Rangiroa near the Tiputa Pass, perfect for dive-lovers.
Turquoise Holidays: Get in touch with Turquoise Holidays for a tailor-made trip to Tahiti including a stay at Hotel Kia Ora Resort and Spa.
Okinawa is a sub-tropical island range which rarely drops below 20 degrees year round, making it the perfect destination to visit for winter sun. Okinawa offers gorgeous coral reefs, hosting 200 species of coral, crystal clear seas, white sand beaches and stunning natural scenery. Its waters are home to an abundance of marine wildlife including tropical fish, sea turtles, humpback whales, manta rays and sharks. The winter months are the perfect time to enjoy the spectacle of humpback whale migrations, stay in the newly opened luxury Halekulani Hotel on the north west coast of the prefecture.
Far Flung Destinations – A private house and Shaman session on the edge of Big Sur – Post Ranch Inn, California
High atop the cliffs of Big Sur, 1200 feet above the Pacific Ocean, sits Post Ranch Inn, a sanctuary for the soul. Recognised as one of the top luxury and wellness resorts in the U.S.,the 39 room resort offers the ultimate destination for romance, relaxation and rejuvenation. The Post House, one of the on-site private homes, has a stunning modern interior, as well as a 1300 square ft backyard and patio area that offers expansive coastal views, complete with an outdoor multi-person hot tub, ready to soak in the sun. Sierra Mar, the on-site award-winning restaurant, boasts one of the largest wine selections in North America, with over 14,000 bottles. Guests enjoy locally foraged ingredients often discovered along the lush coastline and nearby mountains, as well as in the bountiful Chef’s Garden located on-site. Among the wide range of nurturing treatments available at the spa, there is the very unique Shaman Journey session. In the sacred and safe space of the medicine wheel, a shaman engages the forces of nature and the ancient wisdom of the ancestors to help create lasting changes for physical, mental and emotional well being.
A stay at Post Ranch Inn’s Post House starts from £3,600 per night.
2021/22 winter escapes and ski holidays
While not as famous as Nagano or Hokkaido, Gifu is well-stocked with ski resorts catering to all tastes and levels. Gifu hosts 35 resorts in total with 187 kilometers of slopes scattered primarily around the Gujo, Takayama and Hida areas. Takayama City and Gujo City, with their mountainous terrain, boast ski resorts with powdery snow. The Hirugano Highlands Ski Resort in Gujo City, in particular, offers many activities such as snow rafting and sledding, it is the perfect place for everyone from adults to kids. Additionally, Gujo has many ski resorts, including facilities that are fully prepared for handling foreign languages and foreign customers.
Explore-Share: 3 Days Backcountry Ski Tour in Shirakawa, Gifu – Get the chance to explore the mountains surrounding the UNESCO World Heritage site of Shirakawa. Ryuta-san, a local JMGA guide, will provide you with one of the best backcountry skiing and cultural experiences you can have in Japan. 3 day tours, prices from £285. Book now with explore-share.com.
Far Flung Destinations – Winter in the Japan Alps, Three Star Road Ticket Route Option
Enjoy a self-guided tour through the Japan Alps, with snowshoeing, numerous Onsen hot springs and a local culinary experience. Lying at the heart of central Japan, Shinshu and Hida – the traditional names for Nagano and northern Gifu Prefectures – have flourished since ancient times as a cultural crossroads between east and west Japan. The region is also home to the Northern Alps, a range of 3,000-metre high mountains often called “the roof of Japan”, and an area of great scenic beauty, offering superb views, unspoiled natural landscapes and some of Japan’s best Onsen hot springs. Additionally, with this self-guided tour travellers can use the Three Star Road Ticket Route Option to help themselves get around. Ticket options are offered by JR EAST, and work well for a one-way trip from any one of the following stops; Kanazawa, Shini-Takaoka and Toyama, through to Matsummoto and, vice versa. This ticket is a great add-on to buy for those who are already travelling to Kanazawa or Nagano by Hokuriku Shinkansen.
Oku Japan: Explore the feudal castle town of Matsumoto, then head into the Oku-Hida mountains to discover the biodiverse highlands and secluded Onsen hot springs. Continue onwards to Hida-Furukawa and Takayama. From £1,565 per person.
Far Flung Destinations – Rack up those missed powder days with a double header at Mammoth Lakes and Squaw Valley
With many missing out on their ski fix this year, winter 21/21 is all about hitting the mountains! Mammoth Lakes and Mountain has California’s highest chairlift-serviced peak and miles upon miles of cross-country and snowshoe terrain, as well as snowmobile adventures. Rated as one of the top 10 parks in North America, Mammoth Mountain is also where many Olympic skiers and riders call home, in part because of the big-mountain feel of the 3,500-acre resort, and partly because of the more than 100 acres of park terrain. For those wanting to go really big this year, why not twin-centre the trip with Squaw Valley in Lake Tahoe, where Ikon Pass holders can ski both mountains. Just a 3.5 hr drive up the magnificent Highway 395, Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows offers progressive terrain across 6,000 acres. Try out Squaw Valley’s greatest testing grounds: the infamous steeps of chairlift KT-22. This beloved chairlift, nicknamed “The Mothership”, has often been voted the best lift in North America and offers immediate access to 2,000 vertical feet of world-class steeps, chutes, and wide-open bowls.
Ski Safari has a 14 night package from £2197pp, based on 4 adults. Price includes accommodation, return flights, SUV car hire and Ikon Base Pass. www.skisafari.com
The legendary Aspen Ski Company, Aspen Snowmass turns 75 in winter 2021, and will be celebrating all season in true Aspen style. Visitors to the mountain can experience epic powder days on four world-class mountains, whether it’s Aspen Mountain’s famous challenging runs, tackling the USA’s biggest continuous vertical drop (1,343m) at Snowmass, or trying Buttermilk’s beginning trails. Off the mountain guests can enjoy a plethora of cultural, philanthropic and thought-provoking experiences from the likes of the Aspen Art Museum, the Aspen Institute and Aspen Music School. Additionally, not only is Aspen Snowmass one of the world’s best ski resorts, but it’s also one of the world’s leading sustainable travel companies, so visitors can rest assured that a stylish holiday to the mountains also gives back to the environment and local community through Protect Our Winters and Aspen Center for Environmental Studies.
The Zapata Ranch in Colorado works to preserve the state’s ranching heritage and traditions while embracing new ways of thinking. It is owned by The Nature Conservancy and managed by Ranchlands in a partnership model that emphasises environmental conservation practices. Riding amongst two thousand bison or in Great Sand Dunes National Park, hiking the wild Sangre de Cristo Mountains and getting stuck in on the daily ranch work is the antithesis of a Covid-19 lockdown. Mental and physical health will both benefit from a ranching holiday; guests are encouraged to immerse themselves in cowboy culture, be that moving grass-fed cattle, monitoring bison-herd health, mending fences, irrigating farmland and learning about land conservation. It’s not all hard graft however, in the evening visitors can relax in the Lodge, have a massage, and enjoy a gourmet dinner or do a yoga session. All riding levels are welcome. Accommodations are in the ranch’s historic 17-bedroom Lodge, the original ranch homestead built in the 1800’s.
A 14-night stay is $5,250 (£3,995) per person. This includes all meals (beginning with dinner the night of arrival and extending through lunch the day of departure), lodging, taxes, and activities on the ranch.
2022 epic adventures. Wildlife treks and road trips
Measuring approximately the same size as Northern Ireland, this relatively undiscovered Balkan beauty offers visitors big experiences in a small and accessible environment. Home to five national parks including one of the last primeval forests in Europe, the diversity of nature is huge here largely due to its rich ecosystems.
Skadar Lake National Park, nestled between the sea and the mountains, is the largest lake in the Balkan Peninsula. It’s also a bird lover’s paradise; home to over 280 species and the only pelican habitat in the south of Europe – the rare Dalmatian Pelican and the world’s second largest colony of Pygmy Cormorant. Here you will also spot glossy ibis, squacco herons, bitterns, grebes, egrets, terns and more.
NatureTrek offers a 9 day tour exploring this rarely visited country in search of migrating and native birds, as well as other wildlife, including time spent at the scenic Lake Skadar and within the dramatic mountains of Durmitor National Park. Timed to coincide with the spring migration, this tour will focus primarily on birds, although there will also be plenty of plants, amphibians, reptiles and insects to be found. Prices start from £1,695 (incl flights, accommodation and all food)
Sitting on the edge of the great Sahara, with both an Atlantic and a Mediterranean seaboard, and the highest mountains in northern Africa, Morocco has a variety of scenery and climate unrivalled by other Mediterranean countries. Discover Western Sahara’s Desert Wildlife tour with Nature Trek and search for Western Sahara’s fascinating and unique wildlife, much of which is very difficult to see elsewhere. This tour enables visitors to explore the region’s fascinating nocturnal mammals, and as such those participating will spend long nights spotlighting, often not returning to camp until the early hours. Be rewarded for this unusual pattern of activity with sightings of some of the Western Palaearctic’s rarest and most unusual mammals. Our top targets include Fennec & Ruppell’s Foxes, Sand Cat, African Wildcat, Desert Hedgehog, African Golden Wolf and Saharan Striped Polecat, alongside a wide variety of smaller creatures such as jerboas.
NatureTrek: Enjoy an adventurous 8-day tour, with long nights of spotlighting in search of Western Sahara’s elusive nocturnal mammals. This 8 day tour starts from £2,995, price includes flights, accommodation and food.
Far Flung Destinations – California Gold Country Road-trip
Given the size and diversity of California, plus the 400,000 miles of roadways and 840 miles of coastline, the Golden State is the perfect place for visitors to immerse themselves in nature and take that epic holiday they missed out on in 2020. Travel back to the Gold Rush era along Highway 49, where charming mining towns dot the route, surrounded by the panoramic vistas and bubbling streams of the western Sierra Nevada foothills, before finishing up in California’s state capital, Sacramento on this epic California road-trip.
The 300-plus mile road—also known as the Gold Rush Trail and Gold Chain Highway—begins in Oakhurst before heading north to a string of historic towns that have maintained their 1850s charm. Stop by the California State Mining and Mineral Museum in Mariposa for a quick Gold Rush history lesson, and check out the 1854 courthouse, which is still in use today! Here you can either continue north or stop by Yosemite National Park for a day or two to see one of the most iconic spots on earth. Back on Highway 49 and it’s time to check out the Hotel Jeffrey, a historic spot in Coulterville that claims John Muir and Theodore Roosevelt as past visitors.
Continue north to dive deeper into Gold Rush history in Jamestown in Yosemite’s Tuolumne County, either on board an antique steam locomotive at Jamestown’s Railtown 1897 State Historic Park or as you pan for gold. Continue on to Sonora, a classic Mother Lode town before heading to nearby Columbia State Historic Park, where costumed docents lead historic tours.
Finish up in Sacramento where visitors can find remnants of the Gold Rush at the Old Sacramento Waterfront, California State Railroad Museum, Sacramento History Museum and Sutter’s Fort. Sacramento has been crowned America’s farm to fork capital and visitors will be spoilt for choice for incredible creations from top chefs using fresh produce from nearby farms, plus regional wines and craft beer tasting.
Bon Voyage has a package from £1,095 pp to include – BA flights ex LHR to SFO, car hire, and 7-nights 4* accommodation in San Francisco, Toulumne, Mariposa and Sacramento
CTA 0800 316 0194 www.bon-voyage.co.uk Valid Jan-Mar 2022
Situated on 30 miles of pristine, soft white, sandy beaches – not to mention award-winning, the gentle waters of the Gulf Of Mexico and wild adventures in the Everglades make Florida’s Paradise Coast the ultimate holiday. Combining both the relaxing beach holiday vibe with blue skies, blue waters and bottle nosed dolphins, with the added option to include luxurious spa and dining, Florida’s Paradise Coast also provides adventurous outdoorsy types with miles of wetlands to explore in the Everglades and Ten Thousand Islands. This chain of islands and mangrove islets located just off the coast of Marco Island spans over 230 sq miles and visitors are encouraged to explore these scenic beaches via the many guided tours of offer or simply hire a boat and moor up on your very own private island and watch the world go by.
Travel Planners offer 7nights all inclusive at the Naples Bay Resort from £659 pp based on 2 adults and 2 children travelling between 21 May – 2 July 2021. Direct flights with Virgin from London to Miami. Book now with Naples Bay Resort – TravelPlanners: All Inclusive Package Holiday Planners UK
Pittsburgh prides itself as being a walkable city with a multitude of cultural attractions spanning galleries, museums and gardens, 165 green spaces and parks, and a diverse culinary scene all within close proximity to each other. For the next 10 years however, Pittsburgh is turning its attention to its cycling enthusiasts and implementing 120 miles of planned improvements, including bike lanes, trails and low-traffic streets called “neighbourways”. Dedicated to improving the lives of those who enjoy outside space and exercise, the Pittsburgh Bike(+) pledge aims to create a more affordable transport network and reduce transportation related emission by 50% by 2030.
Supported by its unique positioning – at the unique confluence of three rivers unlike any other in the world, these clean and accessible waters have become an icon of Pittsburgh’s environmental transformation where visitors can enjoy the 24 miles of riverfront trails navigating the city and its attractions at a leisurely pace.
America As You Like It offers a four night stay ‘Discover Pittsburgh’ package, including flights, accommodation and car hire from £1,150 pp with the opportunity to extend the stay by a further two nights to add some architecture and countryside.