Who Else Would Like to Feel the Heat this Winter?
No matter how much you try to deny it, the summer is well and truly over for most of us in the northern hemisphere – but that does not mean you have to shiver in the dark until next spring. Book car hire in any of our favourite winter locations and you can get ready to bask in the sun again!
The Spanish island of Gran Canaria is an ideal escape for early winter: The crowds have thinned, the sun is still beaming down, and the sea is like an inviting bath. With daytime temperatures seldom falling below 21C, this is the perfect time of year for discovering enchanting mountain villages, strolling through cosmopolitan Las Palmas, and dining in exceptional restaurants.
The Canary Islands have shed their image as a tacky package holiday destination, with stylish hotels and villas, remarkable contemporary architecture, and perennially beautiful landscapes.
Gran Canaria really is a continent in miniature, so car rental is the best way to get a taste of the island’s incredible diversity in a short time. Take a break from the lively capital, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, and make for the laid-back atmosphere, pretty houses, and bustling farmers’ markets of Arucas or Teror in the north. Drive back to the shore for magnificent coastlines dotted with white sandy beaches and purpose-built holiday resorts.
Cancun is not exactly low-key. Planned in the 1970s as a glitzy new resort to rival Acapulco, this party city on the Yucatan Peninsula is unashamedly brash, but if you’re in search of winter heat with all the extras, and you’re not averse to a bit (make that a lot) of kitsch, Cancun is for you.
Because it is purpose-built, Cancun has concentrated most of its hotels in the same 15-mile strip between sea and lagoon – helpfully called the Zona Hotelera. Many of the hotels are all-inclusive, with every possible need catered for. If you can tear yourself away from the indulgence of the resort and its great beach, rent a car and take a day trip to Chichen Itza, the ancient capital of the Mayan Empire and a modern wonder of the world.
The setting and architecture of Chichen Itza are exceptional, with enormous temples, a macabre Platform of Skulls, an observatory, and a huge ball court. The most puzzling feature is the massive Pyramid of Kukulcán, constructed so meticulously that shadows form in the shape of a snake slithering down its northern flank at the spring and autumn equinoxes.
You will find more Mayan ruins in the jungles of Cobá, a fascinating place that radiates adventure. Stay the night at Tulum’s coastal Maya site. The proximity of the Maya Reef (which ranks second only to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef in terms of the world’s biggest reefs) makes Cancun a paradise for snorkelers and divers. Limpid water, plentiful coral, and some of the prettiest sea life in existence will take you to new extremes of diving heaven.
Rent a car in Dubai to combine all the comforts of home with exotic sunshine. This United Arab Emirates resort is entirely safe for Western visitors and synonymous with glamour and luxury. As it develops, Dubai is also offering more affordable alternatives for visitors.
Dubai is pamper city. Overstretch your credit cards at designer shops, relax on glittering beaches, enjoy fine dining, and dance until late to international DJs. To cater for us without a prince’s income, Dubai now has two Holiday Inn Expresses, four Ibis hotels, and a Premier Inn with a rooftop pool.
Malls in this city are wildly over the top and crammed with outlandish attractions to entice shoppers. The Souk Madinat, in the Madinat Jumeirah Hotel, features a waterway to transport customers from its shops, bars, and restaurants to other hotels nearby. Even more bizarre, the sprawling Mall of the Emirates has an indoor ski slope with actual snow!
Use your rental car to explore the wonderful mountain scenery of Hatta or take a trip to the souqs of Sharjah. You can ride a camel beneath the stars on Abu Dhabi’s desert sands or dive the coral reefs of the Gulf. Remember to dress conservatively, particularly outside Dubai, as revealing clothing is offensive to Muslims.
Even the name sounds exotic: . Zanzibar is a world away from mainland Tanzania, a magical island with a unique tropical rhythm.
The chief island in the Zanzibar Archipelago, Zanzibar has its capital in Zanzibar Town, an enchanting tangle of winding streets, whitewashed houses, exotic bazaars and mosques, and magical shops. UNESCO has named the old Stone Town a World Heritage site, honouring an authentic Swahili settlement that blends African and Arab influences to suggest the medinas of Morocco. Enjoy the waft of spices and see locals in traditional dress play the boardgame bao. If you want an idea of how laid back the pace of life on Zanzibar is, ponder this: There are only two traffic lights on the entire island.
Zanzibar’s beaches are consistently stunning – each one blanketed with the softest of sand and bordered by turquoise waters and swaying palms. To see what’s under all that wonderful azure water, try diving or snorkelling. Spot neon-coloured tropical fish, whale sharks, and grotesque-looking puffer fish while pods of dolphins frolic overhead. Diving off Mnemba Island is especially rewarding because the island is a breeding ground for turtles, which frequently float past among enormous shoals of fish.