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Top 10 holiday destinations for 2014

By Essex Chronicle  |  Posted: December 23, 2013

  • 1) Grand Hotel Kronenhof, Pontresina

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A winter getaway is always a too good to turn down option but maybe the expense of Christmas has left you a little strapped for cash?

Well there are some fantastic deals available at your local travel agents and airports.

So why not save the cash you were going to spend during the January sales and instead dig out your summer wardrobe and jet off for a beach holiday. Or if your summer clothes are soon last season and you haven't yet got the most out of your winter wear in the UK, then why not opt for a winter getaway to somewhere hotter or colder? There are plenty of destinations to choose from, whether it's home or abroad.

1) If the closest your lips have been to ice is in a G&T, it's probably time you got off your bar stool... Ice climbing is fast growing in popularity - there's even an ice wall in London's Covent Garden! - and Grand Hotel Kronenhof, Pontresina (www.kronenhof.com) is making it easy for you to get started by offering an ice-climbing package for beginners and families this winter.

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Ice climbing dates to 1908 with the invention of crampons (toothed claws that fit onto the bottom of boots), which enabled climbers to gain traction on slippery ice, essential when rock climbers reached high altitudes and had to negotiate icy sections of the mountain peaks. Today, however, it's a sport in its own right, with adrenaline junkies spending hours (or days) with their faces flat against the side of a glacier or frozen waterfall, living with the constant fear of falling into a crevasse, getting frostbite or being hit by an avalanche...

But don't let that put you off: the ice climbing classes in Pontresina takes place on a frozen waterfall in the heart of the village, where there's no chance of any of the aforementioned dangers! Furthermore, a plethora of tools and protective gear mean that ice climbing can be safe and is accessible to almost everyone - though it helps to have a degree of cardiovascular fitness and a good strength-to-weight ratio.

Interested? Grand Hotel Kronenhof's ice climbing trial course package includes three nights' accommodation, sumptuous breakfast buffet and half-board menu daily in the Grand Restaurant, an ice-climbing course at the mountaineering school in Pontresina, a personal training session in the Kronenhof Spa, a 20-minute relaxing Alpine Wild Herb Bath and a 50-minute Kronenhof herbal stamp massage (to help you recover from the ice-climbing experience!), as well as unlimited access to the Kronenhof Spa and a Fit & Fun sports programme that changes daily. The hotel is offering this exclusive package on the following dates only: from 12 to 15 January 2014, from 26 to 29 January 2014 and from 16 to 19 March 2014; the cost starts from CHF1060 (approx £720) per person sharing a double room.

However, the ice-climbing course for families is being offered from 12 January to 6 February 2014 and from 5 March to 5 April 2014, for two adults and two children. The family ice-climbing package includes 3 nights' accommodation, sumptuous breakfast buffet and half-board menu daily in the Grand Restaurant, an ice-climbing course at the mountaineering school in Pontresina for the whole family, a 20-minute hydrojet massage bath for the parents, a 25-minute sports massage for the parents, a private horse-drawn coach ride to Val Roseg for the whole family, ice skating on the hotel's ice rink and unlimited access to the Kronenhof Spa as well as a Fit & Fun sports programme that changes daily. The family ice-climbing package, which is for four people sharing two rooms, costs from CHF3490 (approx £2370). For more details on both packages and to book, please visit the Grand Hotel Kronenhof website www.kronenhof.com.

2) Go behind the mask of contemporary Japan to discover the nation’s artistic, religious and cultural heritage in the company of an expert. Sample local cuisine, take part in a traditional tea ceremony, and spend a night in a typical ryokan in the ‘Japanese Alps’.

In a brand new tour for 2014, we begin in Tokyo and make our way to Kyoto, visiting Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples against a blaze of Japanese autumnal colour. In the isolated mountain village of Shirakawa-go we admire the unique architecture that has earned World Heritage site status, whilst in Kyoto the Nijo-jo Castle reveals the power and prestige of the Tokugawa shoguns.

Not neglecting Japan’s place in modern culture, we visit the brand new 21st century Museum of Modern Art and the Suzuki Daisetsu Museum in Kanazawa. We will also observe how ancient craft skills have survived and developed through the centuries, with visits to workshops including a Living National Treasure potter whose family has made the distinctive rustic Shigaraki ware for over 400 years.

Our visits will be enriched by the expert company of Dr Meri Arichi, Senior Teaching Fellow in the Department of Art and Archaeology at SOAS, who will share both her knowledge of Japan’s art and culture, and her passion for the country itself.

Japan In Autumn: Art, Temples & Gardens, October 31 – November 16, 2014, £4,390

For more information and a full itinerary please see our website: http://www.aceculturaltours.co.uk/tourdetails/4200

3) Jembisa Private Bush Home in South Africa has recently played host to the cast of Made in Chelsea whose safari adventures were broadcast on UK’s E4 channel. Chosen for its secluded setting in its own private game reserve Jembisa provides the ultimate house party hideaway.

Sleeping up to 14 people this little known hidden gem sits in the heart of the Waterberg region, whose exceptionally beautiful landscape has been declared a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve. From here guests enjoy an array of exciting wildlife activities that include getting close to Africa’s creatures on bush walks across the open savannah plain, traversing the full flowing river home to hippo and crocodile in a 4x4 and spotting rhino and leopard hiding in the Syringa Woodland.For the more adventurous, there are camp-outs too extending the thrills of the day long into the night whilst those looking for some relaxation can enjoy pampering massages and follow cast members Binky and Lucy’s example with a little sunbathing by the pool. Complementing the flexible menu of traditional and unique safari activities, elephant back safaris, helicopter flights and horse riding safaris can also be enjoyed nearby.

Staying in sheer privacy with no other people around for miles, guests have the liberty to enjoy a safari experience at a rhythm tailored to them. They can relish in Jembisa’s legendary lunches shaded by acacia trees and delight in romantic dinners under a canopy of stars, accompanied by Jembisa’s own African choir and drummers, along with some bush dancing for extra entertainment as enjoyed by Spencer and Jamie. Exceptional meals prepared by Zimbabwean born Head Chef David along with Portia’s world class pastries, breads and cakes are paired with delicious South African estate wines that are all included in guest’s stay.

The combination of quick and easy accessibility, minimal time difference and no malaria provides the essential ingredients that make Jembisa ideal for a traditional safari holiday and even for an impressive ‘big long weekend’ break for those short of time. With no jetlag to contend with guests can fly overnight to Johannesburg and an easy 3 hour drive later receive a big welcome from their Jembisa hosts.

Favoured by family and friends as well as small wedding parties seeking a stylish safari lodge experience that is high on adventure, Jembisa has a reputation for true exclusivity, outstanding service and flexibility. Its fun house-party atmosphere and high service levels delivered by a dedicated team of staff, led by the attentive featured Cliff from Malawi, coupled with exciting bush activities makes Jembisa a favourite for those in the know who return year after year.

Certainly some of the Made in Chelsea cast mentioned they hoped to return and Jembisa’s Visitors’ Book was full of praise.

Prices from £1930 for up to 8 guests per night on an exclusive use basis. Additional guests (max 14) are charged at £135 each per night. This rate is fully Inclusive of all meals, drinks, wildlife activities on the reserve and laundry. Contact +27 (0) 14 755 4415; reservations@jembisa.com or visit www.jembisa.com

4) New entry-level five-star resort Atmosphere Kanifushi Maldives offers a holiday haven for families, with spacious villas and a daily programme of entertainment and activities for all ages packaged up in its affordable and luxurious all-inclusive Platinum Plus plan.
Opening on 15 December 2013, the 90m wide resort's 2km stretch of uninterrupted, white sandy beaches, lush green vegetation and expansive turquoise lagoon provide a picturesque backdrop as well as a safe base for kids to explore. What's more, with the resort's Platinum Plus plan, food, beverages, excursions and activities are paid for before arrival, so parents can look forward to a fun and stress-free holiday without the worry of children incurring extra costs at the resort.
Each of the 150 detached sunset view villas are ideally suited for families, from the entry-level 100m2 Sunset Beach villas which easily accommodate two adults and one child, to the spacious 200m2 Sunset Family Villa which has plenty of space for six people. Stocked with handy amenities such as sun cream, insect repellent and minibars which are replenished twice daily, the villas' complimentary Wi-Fi access, DVD player, satellite TV and iPod docks can entertain the kids if they tire of the outdoors.
The first resort in the Maldives to focus completely on the entertainment and activity segment, Atmosphere Kanifushi Maldives' daily programme of activities caters to every member of the family, offering guided nature trails, fitness and dance classes, local arts and crafts making, talks about the history and culture of the Maldives, live musical performances, Dhivehi lessons, off island excursions and sunset fishing.
For children aged 4 to 11, the Kid's Club offers a range of exciting and diverse activities from 9am to 9pm, including mask making, fish feeding, water balloon fights, juggling lessons, face painting and quizzes. For young adults aged 12 to 16, the resort also offers a weekly variety of activities specially catered to the age group, including pool tournaments, beach soccer, special island excursions, sushi making classes, fitness classes, learning to spin with the in house DJ and special disco nights. In addition to daily activities, family friendly facilities also include the first full-sized 50m swimming pool in the Maldives, a sports complex and a selection of non-motorised water sports.
For a fabulous family getaway to Atmosphere Kanifushi Maldives, Destinology (www.destinology.co.uk / 0800 634 2866) is offering seven nights' accommodation from £7,299 for a family of four staying in a Sunset Junior Suite between 1 June and 31 August 2014. This price is based on two adults and two children under 12 sharing on an all-inclusive basis and includes return flights from London Gatwick with Emirates, plus return seaplane transfers, for bookings by 10 January 2014.
Atmosphere Kanifushi Maldives is located in the spectacular Lhaviyani Atoll, just a short 30-minute Seaplane flight from Malé International Airport. For more information, please visit www.atmosphere-kanifushi.com.

5) In June 2014, ACE Cultural Tours explores Amsterdam’s extraordinary network of canals during the annual ‘Open Gardens’ weekend, when many gardens usually inaccessible to the public open their doors. We are delighted to introduce two new Tour Directors who will lead this fascinating tour. Rose Dale and Laura Heybrook are sisters and professional garden designers who have recently designed the garden for the Canal House, a luxury hotel in Amsterdam’s canal district, which we look forward to visiting as part of our tour.

The glitteringly beautiful horseshoe network of canals in central Amsterdam was constructed during the Dutch Golden Age and is now an UNESCO World Heritage site and a treasured part of Dutch culture. Graceful houses overlooking the water enabled merchants to store their goods and enjoy refined living, and hidden behind the facades were new spaces designated for gardens.

We explore some of the best of these merchant house gardens, ranging from formal designs with clipped box laid out in geometric patterns, to more contemporary and rustic examples.

The historical backdrop will be brought to life by visits to several museums. A particular highlight will be the Museum Van Loon, originally a magnificent private residence that still evokes the splendour of the Golden Age with its large collections of paintings, fine furniture, porcelain and silver.

Amsterdam Canal Gardens, June 18–22, 2014, £1350

For more information and a full itinerary please see our website: http://www.aceculturaltours.co.uk/tourdetails/4185

6) Whether it is for a relaxing escape amidst lush gardens or a holiday that captures the glamour of Hollywood, Dorchester Collection’s The Beverly Hills Hotel and Hotel Bel-Air offer a variety of packages to provide the perfect escape this winter in order to indulge in the Los Angeles sun.

Los Angeles will be abuzz with excitement in the New Year as the official anniversary of Beverly Hills is being celebrated on 28 January 2014. Paying tribute to the city’s glamorous past, present and future, an array of activities are taking place including the ‘Happy Birthday Beverly Hills Concert’ at the Historic Saban Theatre to commemorate the occasion. The Beverly Hills Days’ Photography Exhibit will showcase a selection of unique photos of the city via a mosaic-style art piece and a Beverly Hills documentary will show the first 100 years of Beverly Hills.

In addition to the Beverly Hills centenary celebrations, The Beverly Hills Hotel and Hotel Bel-Air offer an array of packages for sun seeking guests to enjoy this winter. These include:

California Cruisin’

Califonia Cruisin’ allows guests to travel in style throughout LA with a choice of the following luxury cars to use during their stay:

- Loaded, C-Class Mercedes

- Fully Loaded, E350 Mercedes Sedan

- Out-of-Range, Range Rover

The package is priced from $880 (£550) per night at The Beverly Hills Hotel and $680(£420) per night at Hotel Bel-Air and includes car rental and nightly valet parking. Reservations must be booked three days in advance and no minimum stay is required.

One-Night Rejuvenation Package

Priced from $795 (£495), this package allows guests a chance to revitalise, enjoying both the comforts of Dorchester Collection’s LA properties and the serenity of La Prairie spa:

One-night stay in a choice of luxury accommodation

Daily breakfast credit for two to the value of $95 (£59) per person at The Beverly Hills Hotel and $115 (£72) per person at Hotel Bel-Air

•A ‘recharge overnight La Prairie Facial’

  • A La Prairie spa gift

• Dining credit to the value of $200 (£124)

Suite Experience

The Suite Experience is priced from $1,030 (£641) per night at The Beverly Hills Hotel and $860 (£535) per night at Hotel Bel-Air with a three night minimum stay required including:

• Suite accommodation of choice

• Daily breakfast credit for two to the value of $95 (£59) per person at The Beverly Hills Hotel and $115 (£72) per person at Hotel Bel-Air

• Dining credit to the value of $200 (£124)

• La Prairie Spa credit to the value of $100 (£62)

To make a reservation at The Beverly Hills Hotel please call 001 800-283-8885 or visitwww.dorchestercollection.com/en/beverly-hills/the-beverly-hills-hotel. For reservations at Hotel Bel-Air, please call 001 800-648-4097 or visit www.dorchestercollection.com/en/los-angeles/hotel-bel-air

7) Seven Night Room-Only Package at Four Star EPIC in Miami and Vero Beach in Florida from £1,338 per person. North America Travel Services are offering three nights at EPIC, Miami and four nights at Vero Beach Hotel and Spa from £1,338 per person. Package includes flights from London Heathrow seven nights' accommodation and seven day car hire. Price is based on two people sharing a City View Room and a Premier King Room and travelling from January 2014. To book call 0845 122 8899 or visit www.northamericatravelservice.co.uk

8) Seven Night Bed and Breakfast Package at Four Star Hotel Palomar San Diego from £1,195 per person. Bon Voyage is offering a seven night package at the Hotel Palomar in San Diego from £1,195 per person. Package includes return flights from London Heathrow with British Airways and seven nights'accommodation with breakfast. Price is based on two people sharing and travelling from December 2013 to February 2014. To book, call 0800 316 0194 or visit www.bon-voyage.co.uk

9) The biggest ski resorts in Finland are on the fells of Lapland, the northern part of the country, but it wouldn’t be far-fetched to say there’s a ski hill outside every town. Even from central Helsinki, you can bus your way to a ski resort in less than an hour!

Finnish ski resorts are stress-free with no massive lift queues. The relaxed atmosphere and easy slopes are ideal for beginners and intermediates, but there are challenges for experts too in the form of steeper runs, snow parks and backcountry spots.

The season runs from late October until early May, and reaches its peak in the springtime sun between February and April. Here are a few tips on where to head for a laid-back ski holiday in Finland:

Levi, Kittilä

The most popular of Finnish ski destinations is a versatile resort with lots of gentle slopes, a world cup slalom run, two snow parks, and plenty of forests for some off-piste adventures. For more information, visit www.levi.fi/en/

Ylläs, Kolari

Ylläs has long skiing traditions, where twin resorts on two sides of the Ylläs fell make up Finland’s largest ski area with a selection of runs for all skill levels as well as two snow parks. The six surrounding fells will please backcountry enthusiasts. For more information, visit www.yllas.fi/en

Pyhä, Pelkosenniemi

The “Holy Hill” is a bit quieter a resort than the two above and well known for its backcountry opportunities. There’s a score of easy slopes and kids’ runs making the resort ideal for first-time skiers and families. Pyhä lies on the edge of a national park and close-by sister resort Luosto extends the skiing options, offering over 150km of cross country trails between them. For more information, visit ski.pyha.fi/eng/ / www.luosto.fi/winter_eng/

Serena, Espoo

Located in Espoo next to Helsinki, this small hill with a snow park provides a great outing on a city break and can be reached by bus from central Helsinki. For more information, visit www.serena.fi/en/ski-2/

For a full list of ski resorts in Finland, visit www.ski.fi/en/ski-resorts/ski-resorts-on-the-map/

10) Adventure travel Company, Aurora Expeditions, have released their first ever dedicated trekking brochure featuring two new spectacular destinations – Tibet and Nepal’s Annapurna region. Both trips offer easy-paced walks and sightseeing as well as the chance to immerse in local culture while moving through landscapes both grand and sublime.

Travelling with three time Everest Summiteer, Tashi Tenzing, passengers on the ‘Tibet – Roof of the World’ tour will explore the birth country of Tenzing’s grandfather and the first man to reach the Everest summit, Tenzing Norgay. This is truly a unique journey focusing on the history of this ancient land and Tenzing’s Sherpa ancestors. Other highlights include short day-walks to holy sites and monasteries as well as a visit to base camp to view the north face of Mt Everest.

In the Annapurna region, trekkers will be surrounded by the panoramic views of the satellite peaks and lush green rice terraces on a short 5-day, easy-paced trek through the Himalaya foothills. For added adventure, this trek is teamed with a gentle rafting trip along the Seti River and a stay in a luxury river camp, before searching for rhino, tigers and 600 different bird species in the Chitwan National Park.

The brochure also includes the 2014 and 2015 departure dates for the company’s other Himalaya adventures including Nepal’s Classic Everest Trek, and the Bhutan Druk Path Trek & Cultural Tour, offering experiences deep into the heart of each region’s natural and cultural attractions.

In South America, the company has added extra departures of their Patagonia Adventure Trek in 2014/15, to allow more travellers to experience the ‘ultimate land and sea expedition’ by combining a trek through the spectacular world-renowned parks of Patagonia with a small ship cruise to Antarctica. As an added bonus travellers will save 20% off the price of both expeditions when they book an adjoining trek and cruise departures.

Apart from four nights in comfortable, tented campsites in Bhutan, all trek and tours feature evenings in gorgeous mountain lodges, hotels or resorts, with hot showers and comfortable beds for the ultimate rest stop. Accommodation also includes delicious home-cooked meals and freshly brewed tea or coffee served in bed each morning.

Group sizes range from 12 to 16, fitting perfectly with the company’s ethos of small group, educational experiences. Each trek is also led by specially trained mountain safety guides, with luggage transferred by either private vehicle or porter services.

A simple grading system provides trekkers with a simple way to access their suitability for each trek. Ranging from gentle, moderate and vigorous, it provides a general indication of what to expect on each trek.

Prices start from US$4,025 per person, twin share, for a 10-day trek. No single supplement for passengers willing to share.

For more information on Aurora Expeditions' 2014/15 trekking program or to download the brochure visit www.auroraexpeditions.com.au or call 02 9252 1033 or 1800 637 688.

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