Winter Sun on a Budget: Insider Tips from the People that Know

by Julie on December 17, 2014

When temperatures dive, we bet most of you start thinking of the next great escape—somewhere warm, sunny, and exciting. But it can be hard to justify an extravagant holiday just because your toes are numb, right? Not this year—we asked one of the travel pros at Holiday Hypermarket for advice on where to go, even when budgets are tight. Here, Julie McCubbin offers ideas for affordable destinations that you can flee to when the winter becomes too much to bear.

Goa

This western Indian state is a haven for sun-seekers, and though it may seem daunting to go all the way to Asia, Julie assures us that, once there, Goa is very easy on the pocketbook. “Partiers will always find something going on in bigger Goan towns like Panaji,” she advises, “but it’s the quieter villages that really give the region its character.” She recommends renting a scooter to get around, and making very few plans—after all, the beaches are the main draw.

Enjoy crystal-clear waters, and live like royalty, by lounging on one of many beach chairs. Usually, the system is straightforward—the regular purchase of an economical snack or beverage from the nearest restaurant will keep you in comfort all day. Plus, you’re sure to find inexpensive Ayurvedic massage offered all along the waterfront, so you can truly indulge.

Dominican Republic

Any traveller seeking sunshine has probably daydreamed about the Caribbean, and for good reason. The Dominican Republic is the epitome of relaxation, with beaches seemingly made for screensavers. But as Julie says, “The DR is so much more than sun and sand—even though it has those in spades! You can also find mountains, colonial cities, and desert landscapes as well.”

Julie’s advice for anyone looking to visit the DR on a budget is to keep an eye out for the seafood shacks and casual bars that locals relax at. “Don’t be afraid to linger, to strike up conversation.” The real charm of the Dominican Republic isn’t its warm sun, but warm and welcoming people.

Cape Verde

“It’s a shame that these islands are so often overlooked,” laments Julie, “because they’re rich with culture, absolutely stunning, and surprisingly accessible to Europe!” An Atlantic archipelago comprised of ten scenic islands, it’s home to pristine beaches, rugged hiking trails, and a vibrant culture heavily influenced by its African and Portuguese heritage.

The sublime visibility of the water here makes for world-class snorkelling and scuba diving, though less active visitors will find plenty to explore in the local cuisine. Taste the flavours of West African cooking, as well as American ingredients planted long ago by the Portuguese, such as corn and mangoes. Cape Verde is the perfect island retreat for anyone eager to shed his or her winter coat.

 

Cyprus

Known for its resorts and beaches, this Mediterranean island also has coniferous forests and mountains in the interior, and vineyards made for strolling and sipping local vintages. “Cyprus has stayed one of the more affordable spots in Europe, especially in the off-season. However, you’ll get even more value when you leave the beaten track.” Julie recommends taking some time to explore the Turkish north, where tourism has remained on the lighter side, and saving some money by staying at hotels in less-populous towns between the mountains and the coast.

If you’re interested in journeying through the Greek south, you’ll find boat tours, diving, kayaking, and more ways to enjoy the azure sea. You’ll also find affordable things to eat, like orektika, a starter that allows you to taste multiple dips at a low cost. Or, imbibe a brandy sour, the unofficial cocktail of Cyprus. “Just walking around is an activity for the curious traveller who wants to learn about history—and that doesn’t cost a thing!”

Tunisia

North Africa has a wealth of fabulous destinations to explore, and Tunisia is at the top of the list. In the winter, nights will still be chilly in the desert, but in the daytime you’ll be treated to balmy temperatures and plenty of sunshine. Plus, enjoy a mix of Ottoman, Arabic, Mediterranean, and African influences—just a short hop away.

Where else could you find flamingos, olive groves, and the call of imams buzzing from minarets, calling the faithful to prayer? “Tunisia has a romance to it that I’ve never found anywhere else,” says Julie. This is especially true in the souks, or markets, where you’ll find colourful spices, leather footstools, lanterns, incense, and much more to feed your senses. Tunisians love visitors, making the country easy to visit, and hard to leave.

So, where will you find yourself this winter? Relaxing on an Indian beach, toasting new friendships at a Dominican bar, navigating a Cape Verdean hiking trail—or perhaps noshing on Cypriot snacks, or exploring the Tunisian desert? Wherever you end up, we wish you happy trails, and a full wallet!

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