There’s nothing like a snow day to get you in the mood for some winter sun. As the need for some vitamin D reaches critical levels, Daisy Finer brings us five great destinations to get your fill of sun, sea and sand…
5 of the Best Destinations for Winter Sun
1. Six Senses Zil Pasyon, Seychelles
Oh, the glamour of arriving anywhere by helicopter – it might only be 15 minutes’ flying time between the Seychelles international airport to your destination island of Félicité, but what could be better than a first-look bird’s-eye view of this barefoot luxury jewel? Since it opened last year, the island resort of Six Senses Zil Pasyon (Passion Island) has been winning awards and making waves both as a holiday idyll and a beacon of conservation. The 30-villa resort, spa and residences have been sensitively integrated into a ten-year restoration of the island’s natural Seychelles habitat. The ecologists’ replanted vegetation will become food for endangered Seychelles birdlife, such as the Seychelles paradise flycatcher, magpie robin and white-eye.
The footprint covers around a third of Félicité, constructed by the British firm Studio RHE into the existing ancient rocks and giant boulders that give this speck in the Indian Ocean a unique natural architecture; the rest is wild nature, with rambles to secret glades and romantic picnic spots. The result? Even for the principled eco-luxe brand Six Senses this is a triumph – a relaxing, powder-sand private island with all the space and tranquility you could want, yet with everything to hand – two elegant restaurants, bar, kids’ club, landscaped infinity pool, lounge terrace, lawns, boutique, library, adventure centre, plus beaches with secret hammocks and oversized lanterns wafting droplets of light from ancient branches.
Rates for a Seychelles private island experience can run to thousands of pounds per night (think Will and Kate’s honeymoon on North Island), but Zil Payson delivers the best there is for much less, although food and drink are still ‘reassuringly expensive’. Much should be made of the spa, arguably the finest in the Indian Ocean. Each of the five highly individual treatment villas has been hand-built into some of the world’s oldest rocks to create a sensational and curious indoor-outdoor temple to peace, harmony and wellness.
Carrier offers seven nights from £7,235pp, including breakfast, return flights from London Heathrow with Emirates and helicopter transfers. carrier.co.uk
2. Shangri-La Le Touessrok, Mauritius
Mauritius is the remedy for winter blues – especially after Shangri-La’s $48m overhaul – the sun is shining and the beaches are classic brochure. Hop on that flight (yes, it’s 12 hours but it’s direct) and leave behind London’s grimy streets. There are beaches everywhere you look, plus two islands reached by the hotel boat – one is just for guests, and the other one has an 18-hole golf course. Staff go zipping along the sand on Segways delivering fruit platters and drinks to beached guests. There are two pools – one is blissfully child-free – and a bells-and-whistles kids’ club. At dinner you see how this island is a melting pot of Asia, India, Africa and Europe – the five restaurants include Japanese, Indian, a couple of beach-front grills and an international buffet. You can get out and explore colonial plantations and national parks, but this Indian Ocean gem is really made for spoiling relaxation in picture-postcard surrounds. Between eating, beaching, water sports and trying that Mauritian coconut massage in the spa, you may find time just slips through your fingers.
Susie Freeman Travel offers seven nights half board in from £1,500pp including return flights and transfers. susiefreemantravel.com
3. Kata Rocks, Phuket, Thailand
There can be no better place for a sundowner and a sunset view than this chic white gleaming resort, perched on the southern tip of Phuket in Kata on the rocks (the name’s a bit of a giveaway). Only three years old, its sophisticated vibe – there are 34 sky lodges with one to four bedrooms, all coming with snazzy kitchens, living areas, private pools, everything controlled by iPad and your own ‘rock star’ (a naff name but basically a personal butler) – is most apparent come evening when a smart crowd arrives to drink lemongrass-infused cocktails by the infinity pool to a cool soundtrack before feasting on sizzling chilli tiger prawns or a killer Thai beef salad. And there’s nowhere more comforting to retreat to after an afternoon’s shopping in Patong (ten-minute vaginal lifts, tattoo parlours and the Tiger Night Club are non-essentials) than the award-winning spa with its sumptuous Ila product-based treatments. The Thais can’t be faulted when it comes to massage – they’re just naturals and with all the superb stretching, strong hands and unctuous oils – you leave smelling like an oriental herb garden and feeling at least two inches taller.
Ocean Front Sky Villas from £560 B&B katarocks.com
4. Four Seasons Hualalai, Hawaii
Yes, this is a big resort on Big Island, but what clever design. You’d never know that 125 low-rise rooms and over 50 slick villas sand suites are hidden among the lush tropical gardens with that knockout Pacific Ocean backdrop. This was one of super-architect Bill Bensley’s first projects back in the day, and his landscaping has retained its magic. Each corner of the hotel is equally dramatic and, importantly, authentic, using relevant building materials and nodding generously to Hawaiian styling throughout. Water babies have seven swimming pools to choose from. The most extraordinary spot for a dip though is the free-form King’s Pond, carved from the lunar-like black lava that runs down to the sand. Teeming with fish – 98 different species, including an eagle ray – it’s brilliant for snorkelling. Look up and out from one of the sunbeds that line its craggy edges and at certain times of the year you can spot whales and dolphins just off shore too. The watery theme continues in the spa with whirlpools, plunge pools, lap pools and a Waiea water garden, plus a tinkling stream running through it.
Doubles from approx. £572, room only. fourseasons.com/hualalai
5. Palazzo Versace, Dubai
Like a mirage, the neo-classical, Italianate splendour of the Palazzo Versace shimmers amid the dust and palm trees on the banks of the Dubai Creek. Destined to be part of a new ‘culture village’ which will include the Jameel Arts Centre, for now there is nothing to distract a visitor from the boldly coloured world that is trademark Versace. Medusas stare from the polished marble floors, design sketches modelled by Kate Moss and Donatella Versace herself line the walls. From the ceiling hang chandeliers of Bohemian crystal, every piece of furniture and every fold of fabric has been created for the hotel by the House of Versace. Around 700,000 pebbles were imported from Italy; three million mosaics were painstakingly pieced together by designers Fantini. No expense has been spared. The 215 suites are elegantly muted with oversized bathrooms clad in Carrara marble. But the triumph here is the spa. A first for Versace, the spa envelops, with soothing white birch wood walls trimmed with mother of pearl and fragrant candles. Treatments draw on caviar, 23 karat gold leaf and white silk until you are honed and toned, buffed and polished to model-like perfection.
Doubles from £840 room only. palazzoversace.ae