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A sun-seeker's guide to 2018

by Martha Hales

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Right now in the middle of a Northern European winter, the summer sun feels like a distant memory.Beach paradise in Costa Rica The idea that it could ever actually be warm enough outside to dress in short sleeves and sandals seems preposterous. With the fun of the winter festivities behind us, we are staring down the barrel of a couple of very cold, very dark months - but it doesn't have to be this way!

If you are getting to the stage of the winter where you start to physically crave warmth and sunshine, now is the time to get a winter sun break in the diary. There are plenty of destinations which can oblige with a welcome dose of balmy weather while us northern hemisphere dwellers are shivering under grey skies, so we have rounded up a few of our favourites, all of them perfect for a January or February trip. All you have to do is decide which one you fancy.

Costa Rica

Boy in the sea, Costa RicaFresh from the rainy season, Costa Rica is a green and pleasant land at the beginning of the year. February is quieter, as the local holidays continue until mid-January, and it is still high season, but the peak season ends after new year. The dry season is is in full swing by then, and wildlife is abundant and active after the rains ease off. Forests are at their lush and splendid best, and the sense of nature’s power is palpable as the thriving vegetation seems to grow in front of your eyes. Blazing the trail for eco-tourism destinations all over the world, Costa Rica offers a huge array of outdoor pursuits designed to enhance and ensure the privation of the environment. Canopy tours, volcano hikes and adrenaline sports can be found all over the country, and allow you to enjoy your surroundings to the full. Beach weather is the norm on the Pacific coast, so it is easy to combine action and relaxation with a few days on the seashore.

Laos

Slow Boats on the Mekong RiverThis is a country that invites you to slow down, breathe deeply and let the relaxed vibe overtake you. Laos is a corner of Indochina which has retained a low profile even while much of Southeast Asia has become really well known to visitors. It has a timeless feel and as you drift down the mighty Mekong on a slow boat, the sight of stilted villages and the simple communities going about their work on the riverbank transports you to a different era. Much of the nation is relatively remote and rural, so if you are hoping to get off the beaten track it's easy to do so. On the other hand, if you want to spend some time in more populous parts of the country, the important cultural centres of Luang Prabang and Vientiane can oblige with some low level urban bustle. Luang Prabang has a dreamlike quality, sitting on the banks of the Mekong surrounded by greenery and scattered with serene  temples and hosting a busy produce market. Spend the morning pottering around some of the splendid temples while orange clad monks cluster in the temple grounds. Vientiane might be the capital but it has a similarly laid back vibe, and is gaining ground in Southeast Asia as a good base for sightseeing and taking in the historic shophouses and the Mekong sunsets.

Oman

Wadi Bani Khalid in OmanThe beauty of the Middle East in winter is that while temperatures drop to a far more manageable level than the scorching summer, it doesn’t often drop below twenty degrees in the day time. Imagine the pleasant warmth of a UK summer with the added bonus of blue skies nearly every day - it's the perfect weather for sightseeing and exploring the varied landscapes of this beguiling country. Perhaps when the thermometer creeps towards the mid twenties, a beach day would not be out of the question. Against Oman’s blue skies the minarets and domes of countless mosques decorate the skyline, while the mountainous landscape of the interior beckons. Browse in labyrinthine souks throughout the land to pick up wonderful souvenirs and gifts, spend a night in the Empty Quarter desert, visit picturesque and historic towns and fortresses, experience the beauty of Oman’s wadis, or simply kick back by the shore.

South Africa

Plettenberg Bay South AfricaOnce the peak season rush of Christmas and New Year is over, South Africa relaxes into January with customary style. Cape Town and the Garden Route bask in lovely temperatures during January and February, and you can hike, swim and generally enjoy the outdoors in the southern regions at this time. Beaches are likely to be busy in the first part of January as the South African summer holidays will be in full swing, but when there are so many to go around it's easy to find a quieter stretch. Touring the winelands is another great activity for this time of year. Cape Town is buzzing in the summer months, and balmy evenings make the perfect backdrop to the fine dining and nightlife.

Sri Lanka

Traditional boat in Sri LankaThis little gem of a destination ticks a lot of holiday boxes all in a delightful island nation. The best of the weather coincides with Europe’s coldest months, and under the Sri Lankan sun there are all sorts of adventures waiting for you. As well as the blissful beaches which encircle the island, there are scattered cultural marvels from cave temples to ruined cities. Wildlife is one of the biggest draws, and in fact Yala National Park is the world’s number one for leopard sightings. Elephants, leopards, tigers, whales and the exotic birdlife are the most sought after but countless insects, reptiles and plants are also impressive. For some urban distractions, explore the historic towns of Galle, Kandy and Colombo before retreating to the hill country for some cool air and greenery.

Make it happen

Click on the links above to find out more about the adventures you could have in these sunny destinations. There are sample itineraries and destination guides to inspire you further, with loads of information about what these great places can offer. If you would like to speak to someone in the TravelLocal office please call +44 (0)117 325 7898

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