Whether you believe in the ‘new year, new you’ ethos or not, start the coming year as you mean to go on with some well-deserved R & R.
Why not yourself to some sunshine or mellow out on a restful yoga retreat? If a detox is what you had in mind, we’ve got everything from thermal baths to holistic mud treatments to soothe the body and soul. However you intend to ‘chillax’, these inspirational escapes will help take the stress out of planning that perfect getaway.
Snag a slice of warm sunshine in Florida, USA
Florida’s gaudy, glamorous bill-topping star Miami is the picture-perfect antidote to grey winter. Powder pink and neon blue are the colours of the Art Deco Weekend at South Beach in mid-January: head to Ocean Dr and get your jazz hands ready to party like it’s 1929, with music, shows, talks, tours, alfresco movies and vintage shopping. But beyond the beaches and bars, the Latin-accented nightlife and no-holds-barred glitz, there’s a rejuvenating calm to be absorbed. To the northwest, take a dip in Crystal River, where hundreds of manatees cluster around the warmer springs between November and March. Or grab a paddle and kayak through the tea-coloured waters of the Everglades, watching for alligators and profuse birdlife – and dealing with fewer biting bugs in the winter dry season.
- Trip plan: Base yourself at South Beach to be in the heart of the art deco action.
- Need to know: The Art Deco Weekend (artdecoweekend.com) runs for three days in mid-January.
- Other months: Oct-May – pleasantly warm; Jun-Sep – summer, hot, humid.
Find your inner glow on a winter sun and yoga break in Kerala, India
Over the past couple of decades the beaches of Varkala and Kovalam have morphed from the peaceful preserves of fishermen and Hindu devotees into backpacker hangouts and on into full-blown resorts studded with exclusive hotels. But with serene stretches of sand still to be found here and there, you can take your pick of the trance parties, hot hotels and restful homestays. After the overindulgence of Christmas, Kerala offers opportunities for taking stock and detoxing on a yoga retreat, and exploring the backwaters on a rice barge or heading into the Western Ghats for cool air and wildlife-watching among the forested slopes and tea plantations.
- Trip plan: Fly to Kochi via Delhi or Mumbai for the short transfer to Varkala, Kovalam or a homestay or retreat in the inland foothills. Alleppey is the starting point for most backwater cruises, while Munnar is a great hill-station centre for hiking and wildlife-watching in Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary.
- Need to know: Most visitors to India require a visa. Apply for an e-visa at least a week before travel.
- Other months: Dec-Mar – dry, not too hot; Apr-May – very hot; Jun-Jul – very wet; Aug-Nov – slightly less rainy, heating up.
Soak amid steam in Budapest, the city of thermal baths
Hungary’s elegant capital won’t leave you with cold feet. The land on which it’s built is peppered with more than 120 hot springs, many open to the public as thermal baths – from the Turkish-style Rudas Baths to the art nouveau gem at the Gellért and vast Széchenyi. The city itself is glorious at any time, the medieval marvels of Buda’s Castle Hill contrasting with the Secessionist glory of Pest. And with buzzing nightlife ranging from grunge-chic pubs to a performance at the magnificent neo-Renaissance State Opera House, there’s plenty to keep you entertained through the long, dark evenings.
- Trip plan: The main decision to make is whether to stay on the west bank of the Danube in Buda, dominated by the medieval sights of Castle Hill, or in art nouveau Pest on the opposite bank. Exploring is easy on the comprehensive metro, train and tram network.
- Need to know: Not all baths open every day, and a few are men- or women-only on some days – check in advance. You’re usually allowed to stay for two hours on weekdays, 90 minutes on weekends.
- Other months: Jan-Jun & Aug-Oct – most pleasant; Jul-Aug – hot, busy; Nov-Dec – cold, wet.
Enjoy a new year detox in the warm, dry Caribbean
The emerald-green island of St Lucia, cloaked in rainforest and plantations, welcomes the dry season in January, along with holidaymakers looking to leave behind winter’s chill and the vestiges of Christmas overindulgence. This volcanic island’s fine beaches have garnered a glowing reputation, and with good reason – but now the range of novel spa treatments and fitness programs are bolstering the roster of attractions. As well as the familiar Ayurvedic massages, hot-rock treatments and yoga, you could slap on mud from the island’s sulphurous hot springs, luxuriate in a cacao massage or embark on a holistic fitness program involving VO2 max testing, personal training and even a quadrathlon. Or you could just hit the beach…
- Trip plan: Choose between the beaches of the northwest and the resorts around Soufrière bay in the southwest, with views of the Pitons.
- Need to know: Most long-haul flights arrive at Hewanorra Airport, in the far south of the island; flights from other Caribbean islands tend to land at George FL Charles Airport near capital Castries and the northwest resorts.
- Other months: Dec-May – driest, warm (late-Dec-Mar: busiest); Jun-Nov – rainy season.
Looking for more inspiration? Check out our new book Where To Go When for 360 ultimate escapes from family-friendly adventures to animal encounters and relaxing retreats.