Winter sun destinations are many and varied, not only for their range of activities but for their diverse culture and atmosphere. Soak up our five top spots for staging an event to get away from the UK’s coldest months.
A taste of North Africa with minimum safety issues. Culturally rich, offering pristine beaches in places such as Essaouira, adventures in the Atlas Mountains, colourful cities such as the ochre city of Marrakech, Fez, Rabat and Casablanca, fabulous cuisine and luxurious hotels. Mandarin Oriental, Four Seasons, Sofitel, Radisson Blu and Pullman are among the big-name players, plus an array of boutique hotels and characterful riads. Delegates can enjoy a varied itinerary exploring bustling souks, undulating desert dunes, relaxing in a hammam, marvelling at the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Fez’s medina, staying under the stars in tented camps, discovering Berber tribes living in the Sahara, surfing in Essaouira, viewing Roman and Greek ruins or wandering through the botanical gardens – Jardin Majorelle – owned by French couturier Yves Saint-Laurent.
Florida (Orlando & Miami)
The chilled Latin American vibe in Miami and the theme parks of Orlando make Florida, the south-eastern-most US state, a great winter sun destination with the bonus of hundreds of miles of beach. Upscale South Beach, the stunning Art Deco architecture, Little Havana, a lively arts scene and nightlife are the magnets that draw the crowds to Miami. Walt Disney World, Universal Studios and SeaWorld are just three of the dozen theme parks to be found in Orlando but there’s more to do than that on any Orlando itinerary, including golf, lake fishing, boating tours through swamps to see alligators and bald eagles and a visit to the Kennedy Space Centre to view rocket launches and the like.
Ancient ruins are one of the major magnets – such as the Teotihuacan pyramid and the famed Mayan city of Chichen Itza – but Mexico has so much more, namely more than 450 beaches including Acapulco, Cancun and Costa Esmeralda, mountains, deserts, colonial-era towns, jungles, Franciscan missions and the vibrant capital Mexico City for high-end retailers, great dining and museums such as Frida Kahlo’s. Mexico has ten cities designated as UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including Campeche, Guanajuato, Mexico City, Morelia, and the 16th century city of Oaxaca, so itineraries can be culturally rich. Quicken the pace with a zip line adventure crossing the incredible canyons at Chihuahua or an adventure through the Calakmul Jungle, chill at a spa in Ixtapan de la Sal, enjoy a culinary journey through Malinalco or attend Mexico’s famous festival, The Day of the Dead. The varied sights are matched by great hotels and resorts, including Amalys in Oaxaca, Hard Rock in Cancun and Las Alcobas in Mexico City.
Winter sunshine without a long flight and jetlag as the time difference is minimal. This Middle Eastern metropolis is big and brash, with many skyscrapers, shops and restaurants that are tallest/biggest/most expensive/ most famous as their USP. Dubai presents a westernised Islamic world, where you can drink alcohol (only in hotels and clubs), as long as you give a nod to cultural sensitivities. Delegates can languish in amazing hotels too, including the Four Seasons, Al Maha, One & Only, Bulgari Resort, Jumeirah, Ritz-Carlton, InterContinental, Waldorf Astoria, and Burj Al Arab. The list is endless. There is plenty to fill an itinerary. The 829-metre high Burj Khalifa is the tallest building in the world and gives a bird’s eye view of Dubai from its observation deck on the 148th storey. Delegates can get a glimpse of pre oil-discovery Dubai at the Dubai Museum, play golf, ride a camel, or watch them race, drive a Formula 1 car, go skiing, skydiving, dune bashing, quad biking, enjoy a desert safari, or just walk for miles shopping in air-conditioned malls.
Canary Islands (Gran Canaria & Tenerife)
Year-round climate with an average 22 degrees C in winter. We recommend two places. First, Tenerife, for its eight golf courses, a mountain to climb and the third highest volcano in the world to marvel at in Teide National Park, whale watching off the southwest coast and La Laguna old town for colonial architecture. Secondly, Gran Canaria for its 60km of beaches along 236km of coastline, including the Maspalomas dunes, a world biosphere reserve in the west with volcanic landscapes, Macaronesian flora and pine forests, a wide range of spa and wellness centres, a water park, museums and shops. Stargazing is another diversion anywhere in the Canaries as the islands boast clear skies. Melia and Iberostar are good choices for accommodation across both islands.
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