Escape the cold and dreary winter season with one of these exciting destinations, which are budget friendly and boast exciting seasonal events, cultural festivals and winter sports.
Vibrant Budapest (pictured top) has just been revealed as the cheapest European city – making it the perfect location for a winter getaway. Oozing old world charm, Budapest boasts centuries old culture centered around its classical music and culinary scene. Take a romantic boat journey along the Danube River and admire the snow-tipped roofs of the old town. Wander the ancient Budapest Castle District which is a World Heritage Site. And start your sale shopping in style along the city’s Andrássy Avenue which is lined with top-notch boutiques, and is said to rival the majesty of Paris’ Champs-Élysées.
Budapest really celebrates New Year in style and Hungary celebrates its 1848 Revolution Memorial Day on 15 March each year.
Hoi An, Vietnam
Dating back to the early 1500s the pretty port town of Hoi An is brimming with cultural and historical sights. The center is pleasantly devoid of the ubiquitous mopeds and motorbikes which are ever-present across the rest of Vietnam. The quaint streets and ancient shop houses have helped the town attain UNESCO World Heritage status. Oh and it’s just been revealed as one of the cheapest long haul destinations! Don’t delay; discover the delights of the picturesque Japanese Covered Bridge (Cau Nhat Ban), Museum of History and Culture and the Old Merchants House of Phun Hung today!
And if you time your visit to coincide with Vietnamese New Year, aka Tet, you’re in for a real treat. The festivities last around ten days with the actual day falling on Friday 31 January 2014.
Dominican Republic, Caribbean
All-inclusive resorts make great sense, especially if you’re on a tight budget and although wintertime is considered the high season in the Caribbean (June to October is the low season), there are still some great bargains to be had in the Dominican Republic. The resorts of Puerto Plata, Punta Cana, La Romana and Samana all offer superb value, great activities, brilliant watersports facilities and a whole host of cultural sights to explore too. Puerto Plata is located on the northern coast and the Atlantic coast offers great surfing opportunities; Punta Cana on the eastern tip has great beaches; La Romana in the south is more traditional and Samana is serene and laidback. Play a round at the Punta Espada Golf Course, admire the vast waterfalls of Damajaqua Cascades, go whale watching from Samana Bay and while away a few hours at the Isla Saona National Park.
The Dominican Republic also has a packed winter events calendar; catch the celebrations around the Three Wise men Day, aka Epiphany on 6 January; Our Lady of Altagracia on 21 January honours the country’s protectorate and Independence Day each 27 February sees lively street parties, carnivals and fireworks.
New York City, USA
OK so we all know that New York City is pretty pricey, especially around Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year and Super Bowl Week. But venture over to this cosmopolitan city after the first few days in January and you’ll secure the best priced flights and accommodation when compared to the rest of the year. The list of iconic sights in New York is almost endless, but if you have to pick just five (tough call) don’t miss a stroll in Central Park, gawp at the mighty Empire State Building, browse the superb Metropolitan museum of Art, pay your respects at the 9/11 Memorial at World Trade Center and take a ride on the iconic Staten Island Ferry. And make sure your jig your schedule to allow a little bit of sale shopping too – after all prices are at their cheapest right now!
The North African country of Tunisia is brimming with history and supreme natural beauty. It’s also pretty diverse; fly and flop onto one of the luscious palm-tree fringed Mediterranean beaches, explore the Ottoman, colonial and Arab culture or get seriously active and try a spot of dune bashing in the enchanting Sahara. Opt for a laidback stay on Mediterranean-infused Djerba Island, take in the ancient roman ruins in the capital city of Tunis or shop til you drop in Hammamet’s authentic medina. Tunisia is also the home of UNESCO listed Carthage – a must for all history fans.
And Tunisia doesn’t scrimp on cultural events either; catch the lively Festival of the Sahara from 23 to 27 December which embraces the local nomadic culture. More than 50,000 nomads from across North Africa attend where events include camel races, traditional dance, Arabian horse displays, poetry recitals and authentic Tunisian cuisine.
Tenerife, Canary Islands
Looking for a budget-friendly destination that’s just a few hours flight away and pleasantly warm all year round? Then look no further than gorgeous Tenerife, which is the granddaddy of the Spanish Canary Islands. This is one of the cheapest destinations for winter, which also happens to be the perfect time to explore the myriad of walking trails that meander through Tenerife’s vast national parks. Climbing atop the World heritage listed Mount Teide is a must too; set amongst the Parque Nacional del Teide, the 3,718m is a rewarding challenge. And don’t miss the chance for a spot of stargazing amidst the mysterious night sky, after all the Tide National Park has just been named a Starlight Reserve by UNESCO, which is akin to the Dark Sky Reserves.
Just as you imagined, the royal Indian state of Rajasthan is absolutely breathtaking where the rolling hills are dotted with colourful palaces, majestic forts and regal cities. Centuries of historical influence come to the fore in a series of rich tapestries and winter is the perfect time to discover this region. The season sits nicely between the rainy monsoon season and blistering heat of the summers. Don’t miss the majestic Amber Fort in Jaipur, admire the majestic City Palace complex of Udaipur and hire a bike to explore the Mount Abu Hill Station which is punctuated with temples, lakes and forts.
And wintertime is packed with cultural festivals too; catch the auspicious Hindu celebration of Makar Sankranti on 14 January. And immerse yourself in the Vasant Panchami festival on 4 February which celebrates the onset of spring.