Once in a lifetime holidays to take this winter
From volcanoes in Costa Rica to sleigh rides in Lapland - take a trip you'll never forget
Nature lovers will revel in the hiking trails in Shimla, India. Photograph: iStock
Recent events shouldn’t deter holidaymakers from choosing this teardrop-shaped island. From the impressive heights of Lipton’s Seat, in the central tea-growing region, to the surfing beaches in the south, there are natural and cultural attractions in spades, best visited in the sunny months of December to March. And the food is out of this world.
Where to stay Calamansi Cove is a relaxing beachside retreat, with the authentic village of Balapitya within walking distance. Doubles from €196.
Get there Swiss has return flights from Dublin to Colombo via Zurich from €551. SG
Central America’s most popular destination offers cloud rainforests, vibrant cities, magnificent volcanoes and biodiversity to rival the Galapagos Islands’, plus bohemian beaches on the Pacific coast and wild waves on the Atlantic coast. It’s easy to live la pura vida in this broad-ranging country.
Where to stay Latitude 10 is a luxury boutique hideaway on the beach in Santa Teresa, surrounded by exotic foliage. Doubles from €453.
Get there Air France has returns flights from Dublin to San José via Paris from €666. SG
Vietnam has long attracted culture vultures, sun seekers and foodies in equal measure, and Hoi An is a top choice from January, when the weather is dry and sunny. Its Unesco-protected old town, lined with golden-yellow merchants’ houses, sheds light on its past as a 15th-century port, alongside Japanese, Chinese and Portuguese influences. The palm-tree beaches of Cam An are nearby too.
Where to stay Allegro Hoi An is a contemporary, clean hotel with a pool and spa, just outside the old town. Doubles from €107.
Get there Qatar Airways has return flights from Dublin to Da Nang via Doha from €708. SG
The whole family will love the festive experience at this remote ski village, where elves host a three-day adventure in search of Santa. Husky-drawn sleigh rides and snowmobiles through ancient snow-covered forests, letters to the man in red, snow games and a festive dinner culminate in meeting Santa on the final evening.
Where to stay Three nights, including all activities at Pyhä Resort plus flights, costs from €1,650 per adult and €1,525 per child, departing on December 4th or 10th, through santaholidays.ie.
Get there Finnair flies Dublin to Rovaniemi via Helsinki from €259 return. JL
Animal lovers will go wild for Kenya in winter. The heat is comfortable enough to stay outdoors, and it’s a fine season for safaris thanks to a breadth of newborn animals and flocks of migrating birds returning to the Serengeti. Wait until the second half of December, when rains subside and the landscapes look lusher.
Where to stay Governors’ Mugie House, in Laikipia, is a private conservation reserve home to giraffes, elephants, zebra and hartebeests. From €480 per person per night, including meals and game drives.
Get there KLM has return flights from Dublin to Nairobi via Amsterdam from €604. SG
In recovery from political turmoil, Chad is a relatively new tourist destination, but one unlike any other when it comes to an authentic African adventure. Safaris here include following camel-caravan routes carved out of the desert by nomadic tribes, exploring the lakes of Ounianga, a Unesco World Heritage site, the Ennedi Mountains and the Sahara’s highest mountain, Emi Koussi.
Where to stay Camp Nomade is in the heart of Zakouma National Park, a prime location for wildlife viewing. Eight luxury tents make for a unique stay. Price on request.
Get there Return flights from Dublin to Chad via London with British Airways start at €1,330 return. JL
Surrounded by Deodar forest in the foothills of the Himalayas, Shimla is a place of unparalleled natural beauty. Nature lovers will revel in the hiking trails, sublime Hatu Peak and Kotgarh Orchards and strawberry farms, while the town bustles with handicraft shops and the famous Lakkar Bazaar.
Where to stay Taj Theog Resort & Spa offers a luxury escape after a long day exploring. Doubles from €281.
Get there Fly from Dublin to New Dehli with Finnair from €521 return, then onwards from New Dehli to Shimla from €391 return with Alliance Air. JL
Experience the last days of Cuba’s lost-in-time magic. Explore the colonial city of Havana, the cobbled streets of Trinidad, a Unesco World Heritage site, or visit the port city of Cienfuegos and the famous tobacco route, all while soaking up this country’s electric music and dance culture.
Where to stay A Casa Particular is a far cooler alternative to a B&B. Stay with a local family and let them show you the Cuba they know and love. A private four-day Havana tour, including activities, accommodation, food and transfers, starts at €700 for two through locallysourcedcuba.com.
Get there Fly from Dublin with Air France from €653 return. JL