As the days get shorter and colder in southern Australia, the thoughts of many turn to getaways in the sun.
Here’s our pick of the best places to head for, whether you want to enjoy the good life or get off the beaten track.
Krabi is in southern Thailand, and it’s famous for many things. They include dramatic limestone formations that shoot out of the sea like giant chess pieces and make for some of the world’s best rock climbing and abseiling.
There’s a 7000-square-metre lagoon pool – Thailand’s largest – at the Sofitel Krabi Pohkeethra resort. There’s also Ko Phi Phi, where cult movie The Beach was filmed.
Krabi can get a bit hectic in high season. That’s why those in the know prefer low season, from May to October, when the crowds thin out and beachfront bungalows go for as little as $10 a night.
Getting there is also super cheap with Scoot, Singapore Airlines’ low-cost subsidiary. Flights from Perth start from $179, or $229 from Sydney.
It’s hot in Bali all year around. But the best time to visit is the dry season from April to October, when Australia’s southern states are in the grip of winter.
“Nothing beats leaving the shorter days of the Aussie winter and landing in Bali, shedding the layers, swapping your boots for thongs and heading to the beach for cocktails and a stunning Bali sunset,” said Sally Bateman of Finns Beach Club.
It’s a family-friendly venue in the surf mecca of Canggu, with a swim-up pool bar.
Komodo National Park, Indonesia
An hour’s flight from Bali, Komodo National Park, is a world-heritage site of 100-odd volcanic islands inhabited by komodo dragons – the world’s largest lizard.
You can see these venomous creatures – which can be up to three metres long – and the technicolor coral reefs surrounding the islands amid eco-friendly luxury aboard Mantra, a solar-powered wooden yacht that ploughs Komodo’s cobalt-blue waters from May to October.
“Komodo is actually one of the best sailing destinations in the world because there are so many highlights both on land and underwater in a relatively small geographic area,” says captain Raul Boscarino, an Italian boat builder who constructed Mantra with his own hands.
Its name is synonymous with winter sports. But Whistler actually began as a summer resort in 1911, when an American family opened a fishing lodge on the shores of Alta Lake.
Today things have come full circle, and Whistler gets more visitors in summer than in winter.
The turnaround is credited to the construction of the Whistler Mountain Bike Park and Peak 2 Peak Gondola, the world’s longest and highest chairlift. It gives hikers easy access to neighbouring Mount Blackcomb.
From zip-lining, to horse riding, to whitewater rafting, to golf, to dirt biking and kite-sailing, Whistler offers a lot more than snow.
With average temperatures of 40 degrees Celsius, Arizona, aka the Grand Canyon state, is avoided by most holidaymakers in the northern summer.
But Australian chef Robert Marchetti (ex-Icebergs Dining Room and Bar), who now runs the boutique Scottsdale Inn in the historic Arizona city of the same name, said summer was the best time to go.
“Arizona has an amazing water culture in the summertime – boating on desert lakes and pool parties on the weekends – plus high country, where temperatures are much cooler, with lazy summery days and blood-red sunsets that’ll blow your mind,” he said.
“Because it’s the low-season, there are plenty of bargains to be found. Restaurants and hotels dole out the VIP treatment in appreciation of your business.”
At its height in the 16th century, the Persian capital of Isfahan was bigger than London, more cosmopolitan than Paris and grander than Istanbul.
“Isfahan is half the world,” says an ancient Persian proverb of the city’s resplendent palaces, colossal quadrangles, botanic gardens, ornamental bridges and glittering blue mosques.
Isfahan is also home to one of the world’s oldest hotels. When it opened 300 years ago, the Abbasi Hotel was a “caravanserai” – a courtyard-style inn encircled by bedchambers.
In the 1950s it was converted into a five-star resort that blends the grace and grandeur of Isfahan’s golden age with modern conveniences such as airconditioning – a must in a city with average summer temperatures of 31 degrees Celsius.
Mount Hagen, Papua New Guinea
In 1933, gold prospectors from Queensland discovered a city in the fabled highlands of Papua New Guinea that was previously unknown to the outside world.
Later named after a nearby 3791-metre volcano, Mount Hagen still has a wild-west frontier-town feel, with kooky characters to match. But thanks to a new international airport, the city is opening up to tourism.
Locally based Trans Niugini Tours offers travellers a window into PNG highland cultures that have remained unchanged for centuries – as well as luxury accommodation at Rondon Ridge, a hydro-powered eco-resort overlooking the city.
“Mount Hagen is a wonderful place,” Aussie expat Bob Bates, of Trans Niugini Tours, said. “There are wonderful fresh vegetables and fruits, it’s spring all year round and the people are generous. Go for a walk in town. You’ll see what I mean.”
@ericlafforgue for #ajeinpictures ••• “The Mount Hagen Festival takes place every year in August. It’s the largest tribal gathering in the world. It was created by the Australians who were ruling the country in the 50’s to make peaceful meetings between the tribes. It’s the best time to see the traditional make up, opposum headwears and shells necklaces the people still wear for such occasions.” #MountHagen #PapuaNewGuinea
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When it comes to tropical islands, the Maldives, west of Sri Lanka, take the cake, with no winter to speak of, nor any of the mountains or hills that can attract heavy rainfall in the tropics.
There are more than 100 resorts offering the Maldives’ signature overwater bungalows, where guests can dangle their feet in gin-clear water while tanning on private balconies.
The newest, Fairmont Maldives’ Sirru Fen Fushi, which opened on April 1, also has luxury villa-style tents and the Maldives’ first underwater sculpture museum, by British artist Jason deCaires Taylor.
“The rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain,” is not just a proverb – it’s a weather report.
Andalusia, on Spain’s Mediterranean coast, gets 300 days of sunshine a year, while the Sierra Nevada mountains overlooking the coast have about 100 bluebird days (blue skies after overnight snowfall) annually.
Even warmer than the weather are the Andalusian people.
“We don’t have lots of money in Spain,” says José, a local who befriended me at a tapas bar in the beachside town of San Jose.
“But we have good food, great wine and really know how to live.”
The Top End, Australia
The average daily temperature in Melbourne in winter is 11 degrees Celsius. In Darwin, it’s a balmy 25. That makes the Top End the perfect place to escape the Aussie winter without the hassle of actually going overseas.
With an average of only two rainy days between June and September, the Top End is a top spot to explore on two wheels during the Australian winter.
The Northern Territory government is building the Red Centre Adventure Ride – a 200-kilometre outback mountain bike track that will link Alice Springs Desert Park to West MacDonnell National Park, with new purpose-built campgrounds where riders can sleep under the stars.
It is expected to be ready for its first cyclists in June. Check with the Alice Springs Tourist Information Centre on (08) 8952 5800, or on the NT tourism website.