Let’s face it, January and February aren’t the best of months. Cold weather, short days and dry drinks cabinets hardly make for the most excitement. So we’ve found the perfect way to beat the winter blues: start planning your summer travels immediately. And a new year marks a new hotlist of international holiday destinations; from quirky cities to the coolest beach spots, we’ve found the best breaks you need to book right now. You can thank us later…
The Culture Hub: Haifa
Forget Tel Aviv, Haifa is Israel’s latest go-to; with an impressive port and long stretch of beach, it’s a city teeming with activity. Thanks to excellent sea conditions, sailing and sporting competitions are rife throughout the year.
There are plenty of art and history museums too, while city walks take you through old ruins and monasteries and nature routes descend the mountain down to rivers Ezov, Akhuza, Lotem and Si’akh. Walk along the Louis Promenade for a truly spectacular view of the city and the sea.
STAY: Templers Boutique Hotel. Set in beautiful gardens, it’s a 12-minute walk from the Shrine of the Báb and 2 km from the Israel National Museum of Science.
The Party Town: Lisbon
Recently renovated cafes, hip bars and pastel-toned buildings dotting the long Atlantic beaches, suddenly Lisbon is among the most city break destinations right now. Portugal’s premier coastal city is super-friendly and refreshingly affordable, too.
Thanks to a thriving arts scene and influx of young creatives, it’s being regarded as ‘The new Berlin’. The Rua Nova do Carvalho, a stretch of bars and cafes right by the beach, has been painted pink and is the best place to party along to local Fado music and delicious tapas.
STAY: The Porto Bay Liberdade is a brand new 5* hotel is situated in the heart of the buzzing city and has a rooftop pool and bar, so you can dance the night away.
The Countryside Retreat: County Kerry
Ireland was the fastest-growing economy in 2015 and has plenty of nature and culture to offer way beyond Dublin’s fair city. For a stunning country escape, head to County Kerry in the peninsular southwest.
Killarney National Park is a must-do: Luscious green terrain, wild deer and Ireland’s highest mountain range surround rugged paths and lakes. The rocky Skellig Michael provided stunning locations for Star Wars: The Force Awakens and The Lobster!
STAY: The Parknasilla Resort & Spa is located between on the Ring of Kerry. Regarded as one of Ireland’s best luxury hotels it enjoys a rich heritage dating back to 1692 and has a golf course among 500 acres of gardens.
The Hottest City Break: Tehran
Conde Nast Traveller recently described Iran as the ‘hottest travel destination of the moment.’ Its capital city, Tehran, may not be the obvious choice for those seeking a city break, but the re-opening of the UK Embassy there last August signalled a mutual trust between the two nations, drawing attention to what it has to offer.
Home to over 10 million Iranians, the largely concrete skyline is set against the breath-taking backdrop of the Alborz mountains. The Milad Tower, the sixth tallest tower in the world, stands at 435 meters and offers spectacular skyline views, while The Grand Bazaar boasts ten kilometres of labyrinthine alleyways filled with covered shops, stalls and tourists haggling on everything from jewellery to carpets.
STAY: The Parisian Azadi Hotel has no less than three restaurants, a state-of-the-art gym, spa and a shopping centre. Pure opulence.
The Historical Hotspot: Antalya
You might not have heard of it, but this huge Turkish city is fast-becoming a leading holiday spot. Situated on the western Mediterranean coast Antalya boasts beaches, sightseeing and activity in both classically beautiful and stylishly modern surroundings. Kaleiçi is the charming old town, with winding streets, lovely Roman-era stone buildings and picturesque houses – the area wraps around a splendid harbour too.
Hike through mountains or forest on the Lycian Way, widely regarded as one of the best long-distance walks in the world. The route leads through pine and cedar forests in the shadow of mountains rising almost 3000m, past villages, stunning coastal views and the spectacular ruins of ancient Lycian cities.
STAY: La Boutique Antalya is an upscale, adults-only resort with a private beach and a spa. Complete and total bliss.