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inter is fresh snowfall, ‘pinch me’ views and dancing in ski boots. It’s grabbing your goggles and setting off to catch your first lift. Standing tall and feeling on top of the world. Snowploughs, smiles and shared ski stories. Getting the gang together to make new mountain memories. Snowball fights, knee-deep powder, falling down and getting back up again. Crunching out into the night to feel the snowflakes on your cheeks. Snow seekers, memory makers, dream chasers. Find the moments that matter with Crystal Ski Holidays. We can help you choose from over 120 resorts across Europe and North America to create a holiday that’s right for you, whether you’re first-timers or seasoned pros.

Val Cenis,  France

Leipzig, Germany

Abu Dhabi,  UAE

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My kĂĽnken essentials #mykanken

Kånken Kånken Toiletry Bag Kånken Card Wallet Kånken Tablet Case

every fjällräven kånken backpack has its own unique story, probably because a Kånken has room for just about everything – from grand future plans to an ordinary lunch box. Now, Fjällräven has created

Kånken Essentials for all the Kånken lovers in the world. Use them as only you can. And remember to share your Kånken story with us.








Mike Gibson, Jordan Kelly-Linden SUB EDITOR


Chris Beanland, Ed Blomfield, Michael Brabin, Mark Brigham, Sam Haddad, Tristan Kennedy




Matthew Hasteley DESIGNERS

Emily Black, Annie Brooks, Nicola Poulos JUNIOR DESIGNER



Ryan Van Kesteren, Danny McCormick STUDIO PHOTOGRAPHY


VisualCommunications/iStock: Venturing into glacial caves is not to be taken lightly... More ski inspiration on p36



Mike Berrett, Alex Watson PRINT ADVERTISING



Jess Gunning, Jenny Thomas, Caroline Walker

Chris Ayres, Charlotte Gibbs, Patrick Lindon, Jason Lyon, John Wells

Kate Rogan


Tim Slee


Tom Kelly OBE

AJ Cerqueti Matt Clayton, Dignified Sorinolu-Bimpe


O LONG, THEN, summer of ’18. You were hot, mostly; dry, more often than not; and I’m sorry I moaned about you occasionally because rain, as we’re all now reminded, is categorically worse than sun. I suppose we’ll find out in a few years whether Britain’s hot and heady summer of ’18 was the new summer of ’76, or the new summer of ’95 (exactly). Either way, I’m not going to be mourning it for too long, because autumn, and then winter (especially winter) are an absolute goldmine for travel at home or beyond. September and October – those most inbetween-y of shoulder months – are a fantastic time to catch southern Europe at its best, with the dial turned down on both heat and tourists, and prices easing off. It’s also the perfect time to see the British countryside in its autumnal finery. I’m from the New Forest, and take it from me when I say that it’s never more beautiful than when a carpet of browning bracken and granny smith-green moss, overlooked by golden beech and coppery oak, peeks out from a low-hanging mist. I could go on (and on), but honestly I’m too excited about winter, and the start of the snow season that comes with it. If you’re looking for inspiration, check out our guide to the resorts to look out for this winter (p38), and the gear and tech to take with you (p83), or follow Sam Haddad’s lead and head to a French resort where the queues are tiny, the people are friendly, and you can get fresh tracks every day (p48). See you there… ◆

Jon Hawkins, Editor







020 7819 9999

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DEPARTURES 15 ◆  In the Frame 20 ◆ Just Landed 25 ◆  On Location: Ozark 26 ◆  Short Stay ◆ Shepherd House, Faversham, Kent 28 ◆  Hot Shots ◆ Rome, Italy




EXCURSIONS 54 ◆ Sri Lanka ◆ Tea, sea and safari


38 ◆ The Escapism Ski and Snowboard guide

Our panel of experts on the resorts that matter for the 2018-19 season, plus the latest skis and boards to take along for the ride

Uncovering the teardrop isle, from luxe lodgings to amazing animals 60 ◆ Leipzig, Germany ◆ Saxony’s hipster haven

Searching for the new Berlin

50 ◆ Val Cenis, France Stripped-back skiing

Exploring an under-the-radar ski resort in the Maurienne Valley

65 ◆ Abu Dhabi, UAE City Guide

How to max a city break in the UAE

83 ◆ The Checklist ◆ Essential ski gear for 2018-19 93 ◆ The Intrepid Series ◆ Taragalte Festival, Morocco 108  The Selector ◆ Winter Sun special 114 Rear View

(pg 20) Anna Bruce; (pg 38) Kirsty Legg / Getty; (pg 60) Novarc Images / Alamy; (pg 93) Dan Medhurst


Meet Milaidhoo, a new chapter in luxury Welcome to Milaidhoo Maldives. Our boutique island retreat in the heart of a UNESCO world biosphere reserve where luxury and nature live side by side. Here you’ll step into your own small island story, discovering the true Maldives, natural beauty, harmonious luxury, adventure and complete relaxation. Book your Milaidhoo story at

T. +960 660 0484 @Milaidhoo


15 20 Mikkel Beiter


◆ ◆

In the Frame Just Landed


On Location

Short Stay

Shepherd House, Faversham, Kent


Hot Shots


Rome, Italy


BEACH BOUTIQUE Saint Lucia’s only true Watersedge Boutique Hotel. Intimate, stylish with one of the highest review ratings on the island. Calabash Cove is Saint Lucia’s best kept secret.

C A L L 1 7 5 8 4 5 6 3 5 0 0 O R V I S I T T H I S PA G E F O R O F F E R D E TA I L S W W W. C A L A B A S H C O V E . C O M / E S C A P I S M



This year’s Insight Astronomy Photographer of the Year shortlist is here, and it’s as jam-packed with amazing auroras as ever [




Mikkel Beiter

These rock pools in the Lofoten archipelago of Norway make the perfect foil to the Northern Lights glowing above them.


Firstname Surname

PEAK CHIC: How do you make the most iconic view in the Italian Dolomites more iconic? Snapping it as the Milky Way rises should help.

Carlos F Turienzo


This shot of stars shimmering outside a sea cave in Malibu, California was made with two exposures, one for the cave, another for the stars.


Firstname Surname Brandon Yoshizawa



JUST LANDED Hiking in the Caribbean, fresh skiing destinations, and direct flights that’ll make it easier to access places you may not have reached before – here’s what’s new in the travel world






THIS SUMMER SAW the Galapagos Islands start the slow march towards becoming single-use-plastic free, with plastic straws, single-use plastic bags, polythene takeout containers and non-returnable beverage containers being banned for all residents, tour operators and visitors. Elsewhere, it’s time to give your SPF an upgrade: in a bid to combat loss of the beautiful coral reefs surrounding its shores, the US state of Hawaii has announced it’ll be banning the sale of reefharming sunscreens (those containing the chemicals oxybenzone and octinoxate) from 2021.




Stateside explorers of London, get ready. If you’re looking for an alternative city break in the US for 2019, you’re in luck, because British Airways will be launching year-round direct flights to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania starting next April. The city’s burgeoning food scene and epic tours make it the perfect place to pair with Washington DC. It’s not all about America, though – BA will also launch new flights to Durban, South Africa in October, which means it’ll be easier than ever to hit the game reserves of Natal province. Get us to the departures lounge, stat. For more information, see:;;


[right] Hike Caribbean offers a new way to see this idyllic part of the world while having a bit of an adventure and keeping fit, too

(Pitsburgh) Dave DiCello; (Hawaii) Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA)/Tor Johnson


[above] While you’re in Pittsburgh, take a ride on the Duquesne Incline – the view over the city from the century-old cable car is pretty impressive

THE CARIBBEAN: KNOWN for its white-sand beaches, bright turquoise waters and days spent lounging, bronzing and taking a dip. Not anymore, though, because everything’s about to change this month with the launch of Hike Caribbean, a bespoke tour operator for walking and yoga breaks that offers active escapes to everywhere from Antigua to Guadeloupe, taking in wilderness, waterfalls and more on the way. If you really want to earn your beach day, we recommend the Five Peaks Challenge, a three-week epic that sees you bag the highest peak on five Caribbean islands. Beats a rainy walk up Hampstead Heath, if you ask us.




[left] Hit the slopes at new destinations with Peak Retreats; [below] celebrate the spirit of Mexico, literally, at London Mezcal Week

YOU’VE EATEN TACOS; you’ve slurped a mezcal margarita (or three). Now take a deeper dive into the magical Mexican spirit and the culture of the Mexican state of Oaxaca by joining the festivities at London Mezcal Week from 10-16 September this year. There’ll be plenty of mezcal, for starters, and a one-off dinner with Santiago Lastra, a chef coming over from Mexico specially for the occasion, along with exhibitions and talks. Our highlight? A celebration of Oaxacan art and culture and its relationship with mezcal that’s taking place on the Wednesday night at Juju’s Bar & Stage in Shoreditch. And, if that doesn’t have you convinced, the week-long event is also working with charity Rebuild Oaxaca, which focuses on improving quality of life for some of Mexico’s poorest families.

REACH NEW HIGHS AWARD-WINNING SPECIALIST SKI tour operator Peak Retreats continues its mission to help holiday goers discover the unspoilt traditions of the French Alps by adding to its itineraries for the season ahead. Get off the beaten track with a trip to the mountain village resort of Arêches-Beaufort in the heart of the Savoie, with 50km of pistes, a top resort height of 2,320m and the stunning backdrop of Mont Blanc; or head to sunny, snowy La Rosière in the international Espace San Bernardo ski area, which is undergoing a €15 million expansion complete with five new redgraded pistes and two new six-seater lifts.

Here at escapism, we love a good national park, and we love them even more when they aren’t jammed to bursting with selfiesnapping tourists. Enter Picos de Europa, an off-

the-beaten-path national park in northern Spain’s Asturias region, where you can hit the trail with tour operator Pura Aventura. As part of a special tour celebrating the park’s centenary, you can amble through the mountains, sleeping in inns along the

way – all accompanied by the grandson of the region’s original mountain guide, Cirilo Sánchez. Sounds like the perfect retreat from London life if you ask us… Eight-night tours start from £1,450pp.

(Mexico) Anna Bruce; (French Alps) Roger Moss


Advent in Zagreb is breathtaking Croatia’s capital city centre becomes a glittering, magical place for locals and visitors to enjoy traditions, music, festive foods together with storytelling, special tours and some wonderful Christmas shopping.

Summer is over: Time to start thinking about a very special winter escape. Think twinkling candlelight, lanterns, horse-drawn carriages, colourful displays, traditional food and drink, choirs and plenty of events. Take a look: Ban Josip Jelacic Square – the main square sparkles, presenting music and concerts on a huge open air stage. There’s a towering Christmas tree and the fountain is transformed with giant candles. On weekdays, live music daily and more at weekends. European Square – the place where young people gather among coloured archways and festive stalls to take in a concert or two, drink mulled wine and browse for festive wooden souvenirs.

Fly from London Heathrow to Zagreb with Croatia Airlines and British Airways in just two hours – to the very special Winter Wonderland in the Croatian capital.

Zrinjevac Park – one of the loveliest spots in Zagreb. Lanterns light up the avenues of trees and the old music pavilion looks like a little fairytale palace. Artists’ stalls and a great selection of traditional gifts, Christmas food and drink specialities from decorated tiny wooden huts. Experience Zagreb winter specialities including baked strukli, a warm baked pastry dish. Live music here daily. Ice Park on King Tomislav Square – not just any ice rink, this is a superb, expansive, open air ice experience with thrilling ice corridors and bends, music, food and wine stalls. Fly from London Heathrow to Zagreb with Croatia Airlines and British Airways in just two hours – to the very special Winter Wonderland in the Croatian capital.

ZAGREB FOR ADVENT: 1 December 2018 – 6 January 2019 For more information about Zagreb, visit:

2017 Take us away with you




Its central storyline might be pretty nail biting, but Netflix hit Ozark’s breathtaking backdrop of Missouri’s majestic lakes and mountains is where the series’ drama really lies





From boots to backpacks, here’s all the outdoor gear you need for epic adventures this winter


KEEN TERRADORA EVO MID, £114.99 Go lighter and faster with this superbreathable boot.

F Jessica Miglio/Netflix

ORGET THE MONEY laundering, forget the Mexican drug cartel, forget the ever-so slightly blasphemous selling of class-A drugs from yachts in a floating church congregation… If you’re asking us, there’s never been a better advert for holidays to the Ozark lakes of Missouri, USA than the TV show that goes by the same name. And not least because most British punters had never heard of it until Marty ‘Michael from Arrested Development’ and Wendy ‘Sarah from Love Actually’ Byrde and their family landed in town, fresh from Chicago. What results is – in spite of the neo-noir Breaking Bad vibe of the Netflix series – a cracking showreel of soaring scenery,

FINISTERRE VIRGA, £160 This reversible down jacket and shell is one of Finisterre’s most sustainable garments yet.

dramatic lakes and beautiful birdlife, albeit served with a dollop of gaudy American holidaymaking and ugly, small-town underbelly. But since we love the idea of a summertime swim in those lakes, we think we’ll just let that last bit go. ◆ Season two of Ozark is on Netflix now


“What do you mean you forgot your swimming stuff?” Jason Bateman and Laura Linney in one of Ozark’s trademark tense moments


LEFRIK ROLL BACKPACK, £55 A rugged, goodlooking bag made out of recycled plastic bottles.



Three-room B&B Shepherd House more than pulls its weight when it comes to looks, vibe and a cracking breakfast, which makes it the absolutely perfect base for exploring the Kentish towns of Faversham and Whitstable, says Hannah Summers







From £145pn for the large double room ADDRESS: 56

Preston Street, Faversham, Kent , ME13 8PG NEAREST TOWN:

Faversham, Kent GETTING THERE: Trains


Shepherd House is the work of Clare and Simon Weston, who bought and restored the old vicarage in the Kentish town of Faversham, throwing together their interior tastes to create a swanky three-bedroom B&B. We stayed in the ‘very, very large double’, which has huge windows looking out over the High Street, an open-plan blush-pink bathroom, complete with roll-top bath, and a clothes rail spray-painted fluorescent green. If that’s not free then don’t worry, all of the rooms are beautifully designed – and we’ve done enough fabric fondling in our time to know that this is one of the best-looking B&Bs in the UK. Beyond the hotel, Faversham is the oldest market town in the country and lies just above the Kent Downs Area of Natural Beauty, so it’s got more character and rolling countryside than you can shake a stick at.


Start your day with Shepherd House’s locally sourced breakfast (which you’ll eat in the bright-yellow living room), and then head out to one of the foodie hotspots in the area. Twenty minutes down the road is Whitstable, which wins our award for most twee seaside town in Britain. Still, it’s lovely. Stop for coffee, cake and lunch at independent restaurant Farm & Harper: it’s a relatively new addition to the High Street and the owners source as much of their produce as possible from their farm, which is just down the road. The steak baguette with beer-cooked onions is sublime – get it with a side salad of charred gem lettuce, feta and pomegranates. You could eat breakfast, lunch and dinner here quite happily, but to see more, head over the road to Samphire, which is a great shout for an evening meal. In its shabby-chic

from London to Faversham take from 1hr 15min, or it’s about a 1h 30min drive TO BOOK:

Book online at

IN THE PINK: It’s fair to say that the interiors at Shepherd House have flair, as the blush-coloured bathroom in the ‘very, very large double’ shows


interiors you’ll take on huge portions of hearty dishes such as duck cassoulet, plus one of the best rice puddings we’ve ever tasted. Then, if you’re feeling flush, make sure you get yourself into The Sportsman, Stephen Harris’s Michelin-starred pub – it’s top of many a every foodlovers’ must-eat list, and has a three-month waiting list.


Vibrant colours and sumptuous fabrics create a space that’s simultaneously luxurious and relaxing at super-stylish Shepherd House

LOCAL HEROES While you’re in the area, here are three more places to put on your Kentish to-do list


Faversham is rammed with antique shops, and there’s an antiques market on the first Sunday of every month. Try M&G Antiques for a carefully curated and organised batch of pictures, ornaments and furniture, or for more of a dig check out Upstairs Downstairs, a ten-minute walk away. Here you’ll find everything from gimmicky egg cups and vinyl to dressing tables and vintage dresses, including full-length sequin gowns for around £40. There’s a tea shop downstairs, too, if you need a rest from your rummaging. If that’s not your cup of tea, head out for a stroll through Oare Marshes, a wetland on the Swale Site of Special Scientific Interest, where you’ll find loads of migratory and breeding birds. ◆

VISIT THE SHEPHERD NEAME BREWERY Faversham is home to Britain’s oldest brewer, Shepherd Neame, which means it’s also the place for some brilliant drinking spots. Warm up with a tour of the historic brewery, then roll out to the Corner Tap, Furlong’s Ale House and Whistable’s Twelve Taps.

ALL OF THE ROOMS AT SHEPHERD HOUSE ARE BEAUTIFULLY DESIGNED – THIS IS ONE OF THE BEST-LOOKING B&BS IN THE UK CYCLE THE CRAB AND WINKLE WAY If all the delicious local food is getting a bit much, hire a bike and get yourself on the Crab and Winkle Way. It’ll take you through seven miles of Kent countryside from Whitstable to Canterbury, with woodlands, historic buildings and picnic spots… Just in case you get hungry again.

EXPLORE WHITSTABLE A 20-minute drive from Faversham lies Whitstable, where you’ll find quaint British beaches, the Whitstable Museum and Gallery, a ruined chapel and plenty of oysters – best consumed at local favourite Wheelers Oyster Bar, or on the hoof at Whitstable Harbour Market.




The rich history and unflinching beauty of Rome is the ultimate place for epic Insta shots, and no one captures them quite as well as travel photographer Jiayi Wang, who spent 12 years getting to know the Eternal City during her childhood – follow her @thediaryofanomad for more far-flung photos




Climbing up the dome of St Peter’s Basilica is an experience not to miss in Rome. You can either take a lift for most of the climb or walk up 550 steps. My partner and I walked. Although the passageway was steep and narrow, the view we were greeted with up top made it completely worth it. I highly recommend doing the climb close to sunset – not just for the pink and orange skies, but also to avoid the heat.


THE SPANISH STEPS I loved visiting Piazza di Spagna – one of my favourite spots in Rome – before the city was awake. It was my first time seeing it so devoid of tourists and it was quite surreal. Walking up the empty steps, I was reminded of the time I spent here growing up. It was the perfect spot to have a gelato while chatting to friendly strangers who live close by, and who relax on these steps everyday because it’s their “back porch”.

When I was six, my family moved to Rome and lived there for 12 years. Though I left Italy after that, I often come back to visit the city that made me who I am. I got used to seeing tourists everywhere in the city centre, but during my most recent visit, I decided to wake up at the crack of dawn to see my hometown in a different light – peaceful and serene; yet as eternally beautiful as it’s ever been.

Jiayi Wang (@thediaryofanomad)



Spend two nights relaxing in Tahiti, before cruising for 11 days aboard a luxurious sail catamaran and discovering the paradise Islands of Tahiti. This intimate cruise will take you to Moorea, Huahine, Bora Bora and Tahaa, before finishing in Raiatea. Snorkel in coral gardens, explore more on a kayaking tour, or opt for a BBQ lunch on a private motu in Bora Bora, before spending your final days on the idyllic Vahine Island.

Call our Travel Designers on 0808 223 8937† or visit

Price based on 2 adults sharing, departing London Heathrow. Offer correct at time of going to print, subject to availability and change, not combinable with any other promotion and may be withdrawn at any time. Normal booking terms & conditions apply, see for full details. ✝Calls are free, mobile and other providers’ charges may apply. Check with your network provider. ATOL protected 3355. WSR-8085




In association with

Austravel are the leading Australia, New Zealand and South Pacific specialists, creating tailor-made holidays to these destinations for more than 40 years. Each of their Travel Designers spends at least a month each year exploring these countries and scoping out the best things for travellers to see and do, so you know you’ll be in the safest hands. Get inspired at



get there with Etihad When you’re travelling that far, who you choose to fly with really matters. Etihad has partnered with Virgin Australia to help create multi-centre itineraries and offers a variety of services to help you get the most out of your holiday. Etihad offers three daily flights from London Heathrow and a twice-daily service from Manchester to Abu Dhabi with fast onward connections to Australia. On its stateof-the-art aircraft you’ll enjoy hundreds of hours of entertainment including live news and sports channels with destination-inspired on-board dining. For greater levels or comfort, upgrade to Business Class and enjoy spacious full flat beds, all with aisle access and a Dine Anytime menu presented by a Food & Beverage Manager to enjoy at your preferred time – a real benefit as you change time zones. Elsewhere, First Class offers a truly luxurious experience with spacious apartments on the A380 aircraft and an Inflight Chef. With flights to key Australian getaways and working in partnership with Austravel, Etihad is the perfect choice for your big adventure down under.



MELBOURNE (Sydney) Hamilton Lund


from mountains to sea Whether you visit the beaches and bustle of the city, the foodie haven of Hunter Valley or the epic heights of the Blue Mountains, there’s something for every kind of traveller in and around Sydney The opera house, the botanic gardens, the stunning natural harbour and the iconic bridge that spans it: there are plenty of things that set Sydney apart as one of the world’s most famous cities for tourists. But whether you’re into food and drink, culture and history or the great outdoors there’s so much more to see beyond the centre of New South Wales’s glorious state capital. Immediately outside the city to the west you’ll find the Blue Mountains. Named for the blue mist that rises from the eucalyptus forests at dawn, the craggy peaks are home to verdant woods and cavernous gorges, making them a mecca for photographers, nature lovers and active adventurers alike. And as if the views alone weren’t already enough, the Blue Mountains are also home to some of Australia’s most treasured aboriginal landmarks, including the Three Sisters, a three-peaked rock formation over 900m high that’s said to represent the three sisters who lived as members of the Katoomba tribe, and were turned to stone

after a tribal dispute. Slightly further afield, a trip out to Hunter Valley is the perfect escape for travellers who love food and drink. In the oldest and most famous wine region in New South Wales, you’re sure to taste some classic tipples, from shiraz to chardonnay, and with more than 150 wineries and 15 cellar doors serving wine to choose from, you’ll be absolutely spoilt for choice. What’s more, Hunter Valley is just two hours north-west of central Sydney, so it’s easily accessible for both day trips and longer, more exhaustive tasting trips across the entire region. There are plenty of reasons to stay, too: it’s not

just wine that makes Hunter Valley worth travelling for. The area teems with great local produce, from cheese to hand-crafted chocolate and artisanal olive oil, and these great ingredients crop up on menus in Newcastle, the beautiful seaside heart of Hunter Valley, with tons of restaurants serving delights to please your tastebuds. Then, when you’re done with the trendy neighbourhoods of Sydney and its amazing surroundings, you can travel across to Perth, Western Australia for something new, and there’s no better way than traversing the outback on the Indian Pacific railway, which is a whole different adventure in itself. ◆

you’re sure to taste some classic tipples in hunter valley, from shiraz to chardonnay




NATURAL BORN THRILLERS With a vibrant food scene, awe-inspiring attractions and the natural world at your fingertips, you’ll find something for you in Brisbane, Queensland’s culinary paradise and gateway to the Nature Coast

(Sydney Harbour) Hamilton Lund; (train) Steve Strike; (whale) Darren Jew

The jumping-off point for the wildlife-filled Nature Coast and the world-famous beaches of the Gold Coast in Southern Queensland, Brisbane is a city that’s undergone huge changes in the last couple of decades. Not only has it leapt onto the food scene with everything from food trucks to top-end restaurants, but its attractions have hit new heights, too. Between the Brisbane Wheel and the Story Bridge Adventure Climb, you’ve got enough adrenaline-filled fun and epic cityscapes to keep even the most avid adventurer happy, while Australia Zoo and the verdant City

Botanic Gardens will bring you back down to earth with their bright colours, amazing animals and floral aromas. Outside the city limits, there’s even more to experience, too. To the south of Brisbane you’ll find the Gold Coast, home to the aptly named Surfers Paradise beach. Located on the edge of Lamington National Park, it’s a real haven for adventurers, because you can spend your morning hanging ten and your afternoon checking out the local wildlife. North of the city, meanwhile, is the Sunshine Coast, where you’ll find enough rainforests, beaches and sand dunes to

Keep your eyes peeled, because Australia’s Nature Coast is home to more than 150 rare species.

decompress, chill out and feel the full force of relaxation take hold in an instant. Once you’re done deciding whether you’d rather be kicking back in the Gold Coast or the Sunshine Coast – a truly tough decision with names so tempting – there’s the Nature Coast to explore, too. Here, surrounded by the volcanic peaks of the Glasshouse Mountains and the turquoise waters around Moreton Island, there’s plenty to do, from kayaking the mangroves to taking a dip in the water or heading out on a paddleboard. Keep your eyes peeled, too, because Australia’s Nature Coast is home to more than 150 rare or endangered species. When you’re done in the water, you should definitely make some time to explore the outlying islands along the Queensland coast, whether it’s an adventure to the pristine beaches of Fraser Island, a stay or a day trip to Lady Elliot Island or a longer tour of Hamilton Island and the Whitsundays, wild Australia really doesn’t get any better. ◆


Melbourne, to be wild Melbourne and the gorgeous natural landscapes of the state of Victoria are among Australia’s highlights. Here’s a taster to whet your appetite, from brilliant food to incredible swathes of untouched wilderness Sitting at Australia’s south-eastern tip, the state of Victoria is as diverse as it is beautiful, home to world-class wineries, natural springs, coastal villages, peninsulas and stunning alpine towns. It can be hard to know where to start when an area has so much to offer, but Melbourne, Victoria’s capital city, makes for a brilliant jumping-off point. It’s famously one of Australia’s most vibrant cities, home to a buzzing food scene, cool shops and a diverse array of culture from music to theatre. Soak up local culture with a trip to one of Melbourne’s 100 art galleries, follow an art trail, or get to grips with Australia’s history at The Melbourne Museum. Elsewhere, the city is known for being a foodie centre, so you can take a break from exploring to refuel with expertly brewed coffee and forward-thinking food. Once you’ve explored the city, it’s time to head out of the metropolis and into

Victoria’s natural landscapes. 140km north of Melbourne lies Phillip Island, where you’ll find both land- and sea-based activities, stunning flora and fauna, and accomodation to suit every traveller. One of the main draws is the Phillip Island Parade, when the ‘fairy’ penguins march up the beach to their burrows after a day at sea. Then there’s the colony of 16,000 Australian fur seals, and, of course, the Koala Conservation Centre. The best way to explore all this natural beauty is to take a car and drive the Great Ocean Road, an iconic 240-kilometre stretch

along the southern coastline. En route, you’ll pass fabled surf breaks, breathtaking vistas, clifftops and beautiful beaches. And while you’re here, we suggest combining it with a trip to Tasmania, Australia’s only island state, home to swathes of incredible natural wilderness and colonial legacy. The island’s national parks have everything from white-sand beaches to granite peaks and sparkling glacial lakes, as well as being home to unique native species like Tasmanian devils. Whatever you’re after, one thing’s for sure: you’ll find it in Victoria. ◆

victoria is home to worldclass wineries, natural springs, peninsulas and alpine towns


a road well travelled Has all this inspired you to get yourself to Australia? Austravel’s expert Travel Designers will help you plan your ideal itinerary down to the last detail, so you can get your holiday off to the best possible start You’ve read about everything that Australia has to offer; now it’s time to get out there and experience it for yourself. And the best way to do that? With an itinerary planned by one of Austravel’s expert Travel Designers. Here are just a few examples of what they could plan for you. Australian Signature Highlights – 20 Days A classic Sydney, Uluru and Great Barrier Reef itinerary with a difference. Discover iconic Australia in depth, with plenty of time to explore and a selection of signature Austravel day tours included for a fuller experience. Stay in beautiful accommodation, selected for both its location and individuality, with extra time in Australia’s most breathtaking highlights for a more laid-back pace. ◆◆ Enjoy a stay in the heart of Sydney and a BridgeClimb experience ◆◆ Stay in a beautiful vineyard estate in the

lush Hunter Valley ◆◆ Soak up the culture and experience a helicopter flight over Uluru ◆◆ Embark on an exclusive four-night Great Barrier Reef cruise From £6,399 pp, including flights with Etihad Queensland Classic – 15 Days Queensland is home to some of the world’s most remarkable islands, beaches, reefs and other ocean splendours. Most visitors come to snorkel or dive the Great Barrier Reef, sail around the Whitsundays, find an island paradise, and explore world heritage rainforest. This 15-day itinerary gives you the opportunity to do all of these things, and at your own pace as you take a roadtrip between Brisbane and Cairns. ◆◆ Spend the day exploring Fraser Island, traversing sand dunes on a 4WD ◆◆ Explore some of the 74 tropical islands making up the idyllic Whitsundays

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tropical North Queensland From £2,299 pp, including flights with Etihad Australian Escape – 22 Days Escape to Australia and enjoy an exciting three-week self-drive itinerary between Australia’s favourite rival cities, Melbourne and Sydney. Cover a selection of the country’s key highlights and a diverse range of landscapes as you travel along the coast experiencing the real Australia. ◆◆ Explore the cosmopolitan cities of Sydney and Melbourne in style ◆◆ Drive the iconic Great Ocean Road and visit the Grampians ◆◆ Get close to nature on Phillip Island and at Wilson’s Promontory ◆◆ Stop at quaint towns and coastal retreats From £3,729 pp, including flights with Etihad ◆

book your trip (Diving) Darren Jew; (Uluru) Chris Kapa

Get more inspiration at, or call Austravel’s Travel Designers on 0808 278 6434 to tailor-make your Australasian experience.





38 Moritz Wolf / Getty


Ski & Snowboard Special


Maurienne Valley, France


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A wild winter

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Abu Dhabi, UAE

City guide




FRIENDS IN HIGH PLACES The ski and snowboard season’s upon us once again, and maybe this is the year when you break your resort habit and find a new place to shred. Let our experts guide you through the resorts and gear you need to know about this winter


Of runs in Tignes and Val d’Isère



Obstacles in Flachauwinkl’s Absolut Park

T’S SNOW SEASON, you’ve got a crew together and you’re itching to get out on the slopes. There’s only one problem: there are so many different resorts to choose from that you’d swear the whole planet was covered with snow and mountains. Which it isn’t – yet. That’s where we come in. Or, more accurately, we and our panel of experts, from gear gurus to snowboarding journalists and travel specialists. Between us, we’ve come up with a foolproof list of resorts to put at the top of your wishlist, whether your priority’s parks or pints (or both, or neither), from Europe to North America and beyond…


Snow per year in Steamboat, Colorado

Words by ESCAPISM STAFF Sam Mellish / In Pictures via Getty Images

HANDS DOWN WINNER: A snowboarder in La Plagne, in France’s Tarentaise Valley. You can take the Eurostar (almost) straight there


OUR PANEL OF EXPERTS MARK BRIGHAM ELLIS BRIGHAM Mark Brigham is marketing director at Ellis Brigham Mountain Sports, the nationwide chain of outdoor and snowsport shops which was founded 85 years ago by his grandfather. Mark learned to ski aged three and is a level 1 BASIqualified ski instructor. MICHAEL BRABIN CRYSTAL SKI HOLIDAYS Michael Brabin is a senior purchasing manager for Crystal Ski Holidays, having worked in the ski industry for 15 years. He’s Crystal’s resident expert on skiing in Asia, South America, North America, the Nordics and the Balkans. ED BLOMFIELD WHITELINES As the editor-in-chief of snowboarder’s bible Whitelines, Ed Blomfield has been exploring the world’s best mountains for more than a decade. Not bad for a former dish pig. JORDAN KELLY-LINDEN ESCAPISM Jordan’s first experience of skiing ended with a slowmotion crash into a tree. Twenty years on she’s marginally better at avoiding them and now spends most of her snow-time gunning down the slopes trying to break her personal speed record – and hopefully no bones in the process.


the anticipation of getting back on snow can feel unbearable, so around November we always boost over to Tignes for a few days to enjoy the first laps of the season. If the early snow is any good you can ride 1,300m of vertical from the Grande Motte down to the village at Val Claret – more than most other resorts in January.” WE SAY: Tignes shares a massive expanse of rideable land with neighbouring Val d’Isère, and some of it – namely the Grande Motte glacier – is open year round. Once autumn comes around they gradually start opening runs, and the super-early and super-keen can get the freshest of first tracks and make the most of (relatively) competitive prices. Tignes’ collection of brutally ugly apartment blocks means it isn’t the prettiest of resorts, but you’re unlikely to be worrying about that once you’re out on the mountain. INFO: The Dragon Lodge offers simple accommodation with a warm welcome, from £30 B&B per night in October and early November.; easyJet flies to Geneva from £37. From there it’s around a 2h50 transfer.


MARK BRIGHAM SAYS: “Many head to

St Anton for the legendary après at MooserWirt and Krazy Kanguruh, but the pretty village is the gateway to the Arlberg ski region’s 300km plus of terrain. I’ve taken the 8am Gatwick to Innsbruck flight and been on the slopes by 2pm, making it a great short break destination. One of the main draws is ‘the loop’, which is now easily reached with the Flexenbahn cableway, meaning that the areas of St Anton and St Christoph, Stuben, Zürs, Lech, Oberlech as well as Schröcken and Warth are all easily accessible on skis.” WE SAY: As a gateway to the Arlberg ski region, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better place to put down your roots than St Anton. As well as easy access to the rest of the region, you’ll find 1,500 vertical metres

of skiing across the Kapall, Schindler and Valluga peaks just outside of town. Experts can explore more than 120 miles of deepsnow runs and off-piste routes with the help of a guide, too. INFO: Ski Independence offers packages from £774 per person (based on two sharing) for four nights’ B&B at the four-star Hotel Banyan including return flights to Innsbruck and shared transfers.


Italy have the largest linked ski areas with tons of mixed pistes, so as an intermediate skier you can take your pick of Europe’s best and best-known. France is home to purpose-built, high-altitude super resorts that rank high on convenience. Les Arcs and La Plagne are linked by the doubledecker Vanoise Express cable car, so you’ll have one of the world’s largest ski areas at your ski-tips, with its tree-lined skiing, glaciers, long and cruisey runs, and good off-piste. Not so keen on flying? Take the Eurostar snow train directly from London to the French Alps.” WE SAY: With 73 blues under its belt, La Plagne is full of wide-open, easy-on-theknees skiing – making it perfect for both returners just settling back into their boots as well as the seasoned pros looking to practice their downhill carving, although there are a decent number of reds and blacks on offer, too. You’ll often find yourself stumbling across a piste-side, er, seat at one of the many world and European training camps and events held throughout the season. INFO: Crystal Ski Holidays offers packages from £671 per person (based on two sharing) for a week’s half board at the three-star Hotel Terra Nova in La Plagne including Eurostar snow train from London St Pancras to Bourg St Maurice and transfers (this price is for departure on 5 January 2019).


MICHAEL BRABIN SAYS: “Originally a goldminers’ village, Rauris has now


LAKE TO THE PARTY: Tignes is part of the massive Espace Killy ski area, and there’s plenty of skiing even outside of winter thanks to its glacier

Kirsty Legg / Getty

been transformed into a picturesque resort and families are well catered for in Rauris: 32km of uncrowded pistes and runs with all levels of difficulty for the skiers and boarders; for the youngest members of the family, the ski school runs the Adventure Kids Club offering childcare for children from two years and can be booked locally for single hours, half days or full days.” WE SAY: With gentle slopes and easy transfers, the Austrian resort of Rauris makes a great choice for first-time skiers – but it’s also ideal for families and those looking to simply avoid the crowds. We like it because it’s an Eco Aware resort, which means it’s doing its bit for the environment with energy-saving, recycling and fuel- and traffic-reduction initiatives.

INFO: Crystal Ski Holidays is offering a limited number of free child places (flights and accommodation) to those who book early. From £1,718 for a family of four including lift passes for all, skis, boots and helmets, flights from Birmingham to Salzburg, transfers, a week’s stay at the three-star Rauris Apartments in Rauris, (based on departure on 5 January 2019).


perfect mountain village with possibly some of the most expensive mountain

restaurants you will ever eat at. I spent the week before Christmas here with my family staying in an Inghams chalet. Highlights include the Aquamotion pool, sledding and ice skating; a great ski school for the under fives, while over fives can enrol with the fantastic New Generation Ski School; endless amounts of terrain; celeb spotting; and some great post-skiing drinking establishments (Le Bubble Bar is a personal favourite)”. WE SAY: A stay in Courchevel gives you access to more than 150km worth of piste, but take into account the excellent links to neighbouring resorts Meribel, Val Thorens, Les Menuires and St Martin, and that >



> distance jumps up to 600km – more snow than you can cover in a season, never mind in a half-term break. But with speedy lifts and fast-moving queues, you can give your lift pass a run for its money and still be back in time to pick the kids up from ski school. INFO: Inghams offers packages from £1,098 per person (based on two sharing) for seven nights half-board at the four-star Fahrenheit Seven Courchevel, including flights from Gatwick to Geneva and transfers.


favourite of mine; I worked a season there in 1998 and have visited regularly since. From wide pistes and tree runs to challenging backcountry terrain, there’s something for everyone across the 165 trails and 3,668 vertical feet. Downtown Steamboat Springs is an western town so you can find yourself rubbing shoulders with cowboys, too. Highlights include the tree run down Morningside, the annual

SHOULDER THE BURDEN: Arêches-Beaufort is home to the Pierra-Menta ski-climbing race climb, not to mention some of Europe’s best off-the-radar powder

Cowboy Downhill, and the Double ZZ barbecue restaurant in town.” WE SAY: A short flight over the Rockies from Colorado’s state capital of Denver, Steamboat is a winter playground that’s full of classic American hospitality and a little bit of Western charm. It’s also one of ten destinations you can visit in the Rockies with an Ikon Pass, making it great for multiresort trips to the likes of Aspen and Copper Mountain in Colorado, and Jackson Hole over the state line in Wyoming. INFO: Ski Independence offers packages from £1,294 per person (based on two sharing) for seven nights B&B at the four-and-a-half-star Steamboat Grand Resort, including flights from Gatwick to Denver with Norwegian and shared transfers.


worse than whiny children splayed on the slope, refusing to shuffle the last 10 metres down the piste. Thankfully, you (hopefully) won’t have any of that at Trysil in Norway. With wide runs and effortless blues, it’s packed full of dedicated kids’ slopes and children under the age of seven even get to take the lifts for free. But if the kids do sack it off, most accommodation options go big on ski-in ski-out – which means you can just slide the kids through

the door and into the hands of all the great child-care on offer throughout the resort.” WE SAY: Scandi resorts may not get quite the same buzz as the Alps, but if you’re looking for an extra-long season, with snow guaranteed deep into spring, they should be your go-to. Trysil is Norway’s largest ski resort, with 68 slopes, 30 lifts and a snow park open November to late April. INFO: Departing in February half term, >

SKIS Look no further than these pairs of high-tech skis this winter

ATOMIC VANTAGE 90 TI (WOMEN’S), £500 Atomic’s Prolight tech keeps the ski solid underfoot, but takes unwanted weightiness away from the tip and tail, giving you better control, and an easier pivot in the turn. The perfect all-mountain ski for breaks in European conditions. BLACK DIAMOND ROUTE 95, £525 If you’re looking for a solid, durable pair of skis that’ll last you season after season in the backcountry, look no further. These give you everything you need on deep days, while holding onto the stiffness you need for powerful turns in technical terrain.

Jean-Pierre Clatot / Getty

ROSSIGNOL HERO MT CA, £575 More high-end than their price-point would suggest, the Rossignol Hero MT rocks brandnew Line Control Technology to keep your turns nice and smooth. It has everything the advanced on-piste skier needs, and is great for intermediates looking to dial in their technique and progress to the toughest blacks, too. Exclusive to Snow + Rock.

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> Ski Safari offers seven nights at the four-star Radisson Blu Mountain Resort & Residences, starting from £1,395 per person for a family of four (children under 12 years old) in a two bedroom apartment, B&B, including flights to Oslo and transfers. Includes lift passes, rentals and ski lessons for everyone.


and they might just claim that Austria has the best après in the world, but if you’re a mixed group or are just cutting your teeth out on the slopes, there’s one resort that’s just as much fun off the snow as it is on. Pas de la Casa in Andorra may be small, but it’s got one of the best ski schools in Europe and a large and varied ski area, and it packs a big après punch. It’s a proper little party town with a huge selection of bars and restaurants, duty-free shopping and a well-earned reputation for brilliant nightlife.” WE SAY: If you want to go wild this winter, then Pas de la Casa is the place to ski. Pas de la Casa forms part of the Grandvalira area, a stretch of the French border which carries from here all the way over to Encamp, Grau Roig, Soldeu, El Tarter, and Canillo, with 67 lifts and 123 runs. INFO: Crystal Ski Holidays offers packages from £505 per person (two sharing) for a week’s half board including flights from Gatwick to Toulouse and transfers at the three-star Hotel Katmandu (price is for departure on 24 March 2019).


in Verbier… Well, you probably know how

this one goes. But Verbier isn’t just about making memories – and videos – of your hungover mates. With beautiful snowcovered chalets, 410 kilometres of runs, plus huge swathes of off-piste, and 93 lifts to its name, it’s also a skiers’ paradise, which means you can hit the slopes – or the shots – as hard as you like. WE SAY: Yes, Verbier is known for its parties and prices, but it has plenty of other strings to its bow, with snowsure terrain, a scenic setting and it’s easy access from the UK – not to mention 80 lifts serving more than 400km of runs. The top of the ski area at Mont Fort reaches a dizzying 3,330m, giving splendid views over the Matterhorn and Mont Blanc, and it’s a pretty safe bet for snow both early and late in the season. INFO: Stay at Le Farinet to be at the centre of the action: a seven-night room-only stay is priced from £2,220 for a standard room with en suite, sleeping two. Return direct flights from London to Geneva are priced from £49 with easyJet.; Return train transfers from the airport or border railway station directly to destination are available with the Swiss Transfer Ticket which is priced at 141 CHF.


sensational skiing with blistering culinary prowess in Europe’s most famously foodie nation? Make a beeline for South Tyrol, Italy’s northernmost region encompassing ski resorts Kronplatz, Selva Val Gardena, Ortisei, Corvara and Colfosco. South Tyrol has 26 stars and a population of just 500,000 – that’s an absolute ton of gourmet food per capita. Several starred chefs take up residencies in the region’s mountain huts, creating a circuit of slopes and magnificent menus to rival the Sella Ronda circuit itself: a mouth-watering string of ski-in, ski-out lunch stops to keep you sated all week.”


SNOWBOARDS Looking for a new board this winter? Riders, choose your weapon…

JONES MIND EXPANDER (WOMEN’S), £480 New for 2018, the women’s version of the much-loved Mind Expander is a playful allmountain board that’s built to slash absolutely every terrain feature that’s thrown at it. NIDECKER ELLE (WOMEN’S), £229 With Nidecker’s famous high-quality construction and a versatile CamRock profile, this board is a class-leader at the low end of the price range, making it ideal for beginners. YES GREATS UNINC, £480 Lighweight and snappy, this is great on jumps. A carbon-loaded heel side creates asymmetric flex, while the tighter side cut balances out the body’s natural asymmetrical tendencies. And, yeah, everyone will gawp.

WE SAY: There’s plenty for hardcore snow fiends here to go alongside the stellar food: the Dolomites are home to 12,000km of piste across 12 resorts that are all linked by bus, effectively making them the world’s largest ski area. Kronplatz has brilliant skiing for all levels, from gentle blues to blacks used by the Italian ski team for training, while Selva Val Gardena gives you access to the World Cup Saslong. INFO: Crystal Ski Holidays offers packages from £619 per person (two sharing) for a week’s bed & breakfast at the two-star Hotel Garni Romantica in Selva Val Gardena, including flights from Gatwick to Verona and transfers (this price is for departure on 12 January 2019). >


PEAK PERFECTION: [clockwise from left] Selva Val Gardena in South Tyrol, Italy; the (in)famous Swiss resort of Verbier; Sunshine Village in Canada

of Canadian skiing. But it’s about way more than just that: this is the heartland of Banff National Park, one of the most beautiful pockets of the great outdoors in North America. So when you’re not shredding it in all that snow, you’ll just be coming to terms with the fact that the place is actually real. INFO: Iglu Ski offers packages from £1,538 per person (based on two sharing) for seven nights room-only at the four-star Sunshine Mountain Lodge, including flights from Heathrow to Calgary, plus transfers to and from the airport in Canada.




some of the best skiing in the world and


consistently beat the French when it comes to building (and crucially maintaining) terrain parks. Flachauwinkl is a sundrenched corner of the mountains near Salzburg, whose ‘Absolut Park’ is becoming famous among skiers and snowboarders who like to get airborne. Jumps and rails for every ability can be found along a series of routes that wind down its forested slopes for more than 1.5km – all serviced from an express chairlift and >

(top) Harald WENZEL-ORF / Getty; (bottom, left) Dan Evans; (bottom, right) cdbrphotography / Getty

St Foy was the secret stash spoken of in hushed tones among in-the-knows; today, Arêches-Beaufort takes that crown, thanks to its non-existent queues and thickly forested steeps that offer the chance of epic powder laps even in a storm. Sure, the list system is ancient and you’ll struggle to order a pint of Guinness from a seasonaire on their gap year, but that’s all part of the charm.” WE SAY: Arêches-Beaufort might sit just offradar, but it won’t stay that way for long. The whole place is set against the backdrop of Mont Blanc, which also conveniently means the area gets exceptional snow. Yes, there are few restaurants and shops and not much in the way of après, but you get easy access to three separate ski areas (Arêches-Beaufort, Les Contamines and Les Saisies), plus it’s where Beaufort cheese is from. Enough said. INFO: Peak Retreats offers seven nights selfcatered at La Cle des Cimes from £782 per apartment. Includes Eurotunnel crossing from Folkestone to Calais.

for those who like to take things off-piste, Sunshine Village in the Banff National Park is the place to be. You have to be kitted out with full avalanche kit and have a partner on hand to be allowed anywhere near them, but it’s worth it to access the Wild Wild area (pocketed with powder-filled bowls and rocky chutes) and Delirium Dive (hello, 50-degree slopes and dizzying drops).” WE SAY: Home to 120 runs, 13.6km2 of skiable area, two terrain parks and an absolute ton of annual snow (914.4cm, if you’re asking) Sunshine Village is the crème de la crème

Gljufrabui Waterfall, Iceland

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wake up to sweden with crystal ski holidays

> carefully groomed. When you’re done shredding, there’s an indoor skate ramp at the bottom with valley views. You won’t find a better freestyle set-up in Europe.” WE SAY: With two snow parks and accommodation for every kind of budget, Flachauwinkl is a freestyler’s dream. Check out the huge, wood-carved Burton the Stash park for minimalist (and often slightly comedic) backcountry shredding, or hit up the timed piste or speed course if you’re looking to pick up the pace. INFO: There’s a great selection of chalets and apartments to rent in the Flachau area on Airbnb.; Ryanair flies from Stansted to Salzburg from £34 return, from there it’s a 50-minute transfer.


skiing options are pretty restricted in

BLUE SKY THINKING: Mount Tomamu is in Hokkaidō’s Hidaka Mountains, home to Club Med Tomamu Hokkaido – and a hell of a lot of powder

Tomamu, but fear not, because this resort on the island-prefecture of Hokkaido tends to get 8-10m of snow a year and you’ll find plenty of spots to get knees deep in it. Aim for the countryside slopes on the north side of the mountain to properly luck out, and when you’re done for the day, don’t forget to check out the indoor wave pool in the nearby Hoshino Resort – a great way to loosen up those muscles after a day of carving (or tumbling) through the powder. WE SAY: This dramatic resort in the centre of Japan’s northernmost island is about way more than just the skiing. The snow shoeing here is great, and it’s also the ideal place to chow down on fresh seafood and the country’s fabled wagyu beef while sipping on award-winning spirits brewed and distilled in the prefecture. Our best bet for a week enjoying that pristine Japanese powder is an all-inclusive stay at Club Med Tomamu Hokkaido, where the price includes your ski pass. INFO: Seven nights at Club Med Tomamu Hokkaido costs from £2,997 per person (based on two sharing) including flights. ◆

If you’re looking for something new on – and off – the slopes this winter, look to Sweden, where snowsports have been ingrained in the culture for generations. The mountains’ proximity to the Arctic Circle means they’re covered with snow from December to May, and runs range from green to black, so they’re suitable for all abilities. To get the best out of your ski trip, stay at one of Crystal’s two Swedish resorts, Åre and Vemdalen. Queues for ski lifts are rare, and there are a huge range of off-slope activities. For buzzy après, take a week’s stay at Åre, home to loads of bars and clubs. It’s also the resort with the largest ski area, and is home to the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships. Vemdalen, however, is better suited to families. Here, most of the runs are green or blue, and all three ski areas have a dedicated beginner’s zone. There’s a quieter atmosphere, with plenty of children’s areas and the chance to meet the resort’s much-loved mascot, Valle the snowman. There’s loads of accomodation to choose from across the two resorts, too, all with brilliant facilities. Then, of course, you’ve got heartwarming Scandinavian culture on your doorstep, and access to brilliant local restaurants, many of which source their ingredients from nearby farms. Whatever you're after, you'll find the moments that matter with Crystal. ◆ Meet your new match in Sweden this winter and head to



Penny Kendal / Getty



PURE AS SNOW Uncrowded pistes, uninterrupted views and a distinctly sleepy après-ski scene… Head to Val Cenis in the French Alps for a stripped-back winter sports trip with added tranquility, old-school charm and some spectacular powder

75 miles

Reach of Val Cenis ski area


Total number of runs

THE ONLY WAY IS UP: Val Cenis is a piste-perfect mix of t0p-quality snow, quiet slopes and charming, laid-back atmosphere – a relaxing alternative to busier resorts



Highest point of the resort


ÉSOLÉ, MAIS IL y a du monde aujourd’hui…” says the lady behind the glass, throwing up her hands and smiling in disbelief at how busy it is here today. I look around and count five other people, two of whom are almost out the door. There might as well be wisps of tumbleweed on the grey stone floor. I’m in Val Cenis in the picturesque Haute Maurienne valley having a ski-lift -pass-buying experience quite unlike any I’ve previously encountered. And not just because the ticket lady is friendly, letting me practise my bad French without replying in brusque English, but also because in spite of her apology, I really haven’t waited long, four minutes at most. In some ski resorts it’s not uncommon to stand in line for 40 minutes, >

REACH FOR THE STARS: [left] Come nightfall, Val Cenis isn’t a place go wild with après ski, but you’ll find traditional Savoyard food a-plenty [below]

On one side of the valley is the Vanoise National Park, where building is banned, and there’s a long uninterrupted view of jagged peaks running into steep fields of snow. The backdrop on the other side of Val Cenis, across the Italian border, is also breathtaking, with spiked snowy summits as far as the eye can see. I hear the odd English voice on the slopes, but the most frequent visitors appear to be French and Belgian. I get chatting to a French couple on a chairlift and I ask them what they like about it here “It’s not factory skiing, it’s wild and soulful,” one of them says, while the other nods with a wistful look. It might sound cheesy, but I know exactly what they mean. Terrain-wise, Val Cenis is great for beginner and improver skiers and snowboarders. It has lots of gentle runs at higher than 3,000m where you get to enjoy the beautiful scenery above the treeline, whereas in most places the higher altitude runs tend to be solely suited to experts. There aren’t tons of challenging pistes for more advanced skiers and snowboarders, but the backcountry options are excellent, as are the ski and splitboard touring opportunities. I saw lots of tourers around the mountain, including some who’d brought their dogs along. There is also lots of good sidecountry –


(aerial view) Alban Pernet; (food) Sabine Bijasson

> especially when the snow is fresh and the sky is as blue as it is today. But then Val Cenis, a ski area set above three mountain villages, Termignon, Lanslebourg and Lanslevillard, is not your typical alpine resort, i.e. the kind that boasts a vast network of pistes, and a hyper-modern lift system to transport as many people around the mountain as possible. There’s a lot to like about such efficiency, of course, Val Cenis is a great bet for those looking but sometimes when to hone their skills I see a mountain – there are 12 green face stripped of slopes for when trees and covered you’re finding your feet, and 20 blues for in criss-crossing when you’re feeling pistes, with skiers and more confident. snowboarders dotted everywhere like ants, I can’t help feeling that I haven’t so much escaped my busy city life as switched the location of where I experience it. It’s not that the lifts are bad in Val Cenis, or that the mountain is empty, though it certainly isn’t crowded, it’s just that nature is front and centre. The mountain is carpeted in pine and larch forest, which smells amazing, with the occasional piste running through it, rather than the other way around. There are animal footprints everywhere; birds of prey soar above us.

off-piste terrain that you can ski next to the piste – which is perfect for mixed-ability groups as some of you can take on the steeper stuff right next to your friends who are progressing on piste. My favourite spot was at the top of the Termignon side of the resort, in the shadow of the Grand Coin peak, where all was white and peaceful. Almost lunar-esque, it was the perfect picnic spot and one day I watched two skiers and a snowboarder pop out from high on the Italian side and proceed to ride down the crazily steep face in front of me. It was like watching a live extreme sports movie. Last season saw record-breaking snowfall across the Alps, especially in the Haute Maurienne valley, which thanks to a special microclimate boasts some of the most snowsure resorts in France, even in a normal year. During my visit, even after it hadn’t snowed for a few days, there were still fresh tracks everywhere – so rarely the case when I snowboard in bigger, more popular resorts. Val Cenis and its pretty, stone-built mountain villages feel like they’ve been dropped in from another era. There are no noisy après bars or swanky restaurants or signposts flagging great selfie spots. Instead you get retro skiing one-pieces worn without irony, charming farming co-ops selling tasty local cheeses including beaufort and bleu de termignon, and lots of great pizza places, perhaps no surprise, given the proximity to the Italian border (albeit via a mountain pass that gets closed in winter). I found some lovely local Savoyard restaurants, including La Tata’tine in


Lanslevillard, complete with chintzy decorations, that served tomato as well as cheese fondue, and perhaps most excitingly of all, fondue for one. The desserts, as in most Val Cenis restaurants, were traditional but impeccable. I also dined at some old-school restaurants whose dishes wouldn’t look out of place on the ‘70s Dinner Party’ Twitter feed, for good reasons as well as bad. Stepping back in time as a vegetarian was just about fine, but I fear vegans might struggle here. Aux 2 Mousses in Lanslebourg was a rare exception amid the super-traditional eateries. A coffee shop by day and craft beer and cocktail spot at night, it had a hip stripped-pine design, mid-century modern chairs and a tasty on-trend burger menu, including veggie options, potato thins and original desserts such as Nutella tiramisu and chocolate mousse with Oreo cookies. On the mountain, my favourite restaurant was L’Arole on the Termignon side as it was set in deep forest and glass fronted

on two sides, so you could enjoy views of the beautiful Dent Parachée peak amid the snowy trees. The food was quite simple: pasta, omelette, burger-type fare, but they also had an indoor picnic section for cold snowy days, which you so rarely see at big resorts, as they are mostly pique-nique interdit! Elsewhere, La Vielle Poste down in Lanslebourg was great for atmospheric après-ski. I took a day trip to nearby Bonneval-surArc, a ridiculously pretty, sleepy farming village at the end of the valley, which is under the same Haute Maurienne Vanoise ski pass as Val Cenis. It has steeper slopes to challenge expert skiers and snowboarders alongside amazing off-piste and touring terrain. It’s one mountain ridge away from Val d’Isere and there are often rumours the megaresort would like to buy Bonneval-sur-Arc and link the two, which would be a great shame. While there will always be people who crave the convenience and bustle of a big, modern ski resort, there’s also a not-

NEED TO KNOW Erna Low offers seven nights’ accommodation at the Chalet de Flambeau in Val Cenis from £694 per apartment; You can reach Val Cenis via Turin, Chambéry, Grenoble, Lyon or Geneva airports. For more information on visiting Val Cenis, Bonneval-sur-Arc and Haute Maurienne Vanoise, see and

insignificant number of us who come to the mountains to enjoy skiing and snowboarding while also unwinding and recharging among the wild nature and quiet. If we get to step back in time in the Haute Maurienne valley while achieving that, so much the better. ◆

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WALK ON THE WILD SIDE There aren’t many places where you can spot elephants and leopards, eat like a queen, and relax on idyllic beaches in one trip, which is why Sri Lanka is so captivating. Prepare to explore an awe-inspiring island that really does have it all

11 hrs

Flight time from London



Average temp in September

N THE VELVETY blackness of 2am in the Sri Lankan bush, above the raucous lullaby of bull frogs chirping their hearts out, I hear rustling, and the crack of big branches snapping. I leap out of my four-poster bed and scuttle to the windows of my tent, trying to raise the blind with as much speed and stealth as possible. The object of my hopeful attentions? An elephant known to wander the camp – and pilfer the kitchens – at Wild Coast Tented Lodge, perched on the fringes of Yala National Park on Sri Lanka’s southern coast. I stake out the windows and wait for signs of life, but the watering hole in front of my >


National Parks in Sri Lanka



FORCE OF NATURE: An elephant wanders in Yala National Park, where you’ll also find sloth bears, crocodiles, and the very rare Sri Lankan leopard


PITCH PERFECT: Wild Coast Tented Lodge is a tranquil place to stay, and great for elephant spotting

(rock temple) dating back to 200BC believed to have once housed 12,000 monks, squatting on top of the monolithic Elephant Rock – an otherworldly sight that gives me an extraordinary sense of place. We pass a couple of peacocks parading in the road, looking utterly unsuitable for life in the wild. After an hour, we round a corner and find a young bull elephant flapping his ears as he delicately plucks leaves from a tree. “This is Gemunu,” announces Sampath. “He’s a very naughty elephant.” Apparently when the mood strikes, Gemunu will block the track, refusing to budge until he’s given a banana. Yala is home to some 220 Sri Lankan elephants, a subspecies of the Asian elephant. They’re found throughout Sri Lanka’s drier areas, mainly inside the national parks, but they also live outside the protected areas, particularly in the north. “It’s not at all unusual to see the elephants roaming around in dry season,” Sampath tells us. “That’s when they go to the paddy fields – it’s like their supermarket shop.” It’s unsurprising that human-elephant conflicts are unfortunately becoming more common as more and more of Sri Lanka’s land is cultivated. Beyond Gemunu, we see a whole herd, the youngest one only a week


Nomadic Resorts

> tent remains frustratingly untouched. Perhaps my friend isn’t thirsty tonight. After a few hours, I see a light bobbing towards me in the gloaming, followed by Sampath, the assistant manager of field operations at Wild Coast, come to take me out on an early morning game drive. Because, like many of the visitors to this teardrop-shaped island, the main activity on my hitlist is – whisper it with me – safari. On Sri Lanka’s southeastern edge, Yala National Park is just one of the country’s protected areas; 130,000 hectares of light forests, scrubs, grasslands and lagoons that are home to elephants, more than 212 species of bird, the sloth bear, and – the holy grail – the panthera pardus kotiya, a leopard species endemic to the island. The park is thought to contain between 300 and 350 leopards, making it the highest density in the world and luring in safarigoers looking for an alternative to Africa, or honeymooners wanting to combine their animal-spotting with romantic forts, ancient temples and ex-colonial tea country. Today, tourism here is growing at a breathtaking rate – Sri Lanka’s capital, Colombo, is a building site for the likes of Ritz-Carlton, Radisson and Four Seasons – but it wasn’t always that way. A brutal civil war ended as recently as 2009, which means the island largely escaped the ravages of mass tourism. Now, though, infrastructure

is improving massively (poor roads often scuppered tourists’ attempts to explore the country), and ‘tea, sea and safari’ itineraries that take in the diverse landscapes and cultures of Sri Lanka’s south are on the up – which is how I find myself in the back of a Jeep as it makes its way to the park gates, headlights bouncing through the trees. My eyes and ears are straining for something, anything, that could be a critter rooting around for its breakfast. Eventually we reach the gates, where we have to wait with the 174 other Jeeps allowed into the park for the morning session. At 5am sharp, we’re off, and the Jeeps trundle along dirt tracks into the wilderness. We all go our separate ways, and soon my group and I are alone in Yala’s semi-arid jungle. It’s light by now, and my senses are on high alert. We spy birds freewheeling above the treetops: changeable hawk eagles, so-called because each one looks different; and Asian open-bill storks, whose distinctive beaks inspired the efficient shape of crab crackers. I spot a snake sliding through the undergrowth, its muscular body rippling through the dry grass. In the distance you can make out the shape of Sithulpawwa, a Buddhist stupa


or so old, tumbling around in the greenery. I find it pretty hard to imagine any quarrels with these gentle giants. Sampath tells us about the challenges of his work. Along with Chandika Jarayatne, a former conservation lawyer turned senior naturalist at Wild Coast, he runs the lodge’s safari tours. They’re both overwhelmingly passionate about their jobs, particularly the conservation aspects. Chandika is a keen photographer, heading into the park on his days off just to see (and snap) more animals. I understand Sampat’s concerns when we see a leopard. She’s majestic, sprawled along the branch of a tree, tail and paw dangling. We’re all completely silent, passing around binoculars and enjoying her presence. After ten minutes, she makes her way down from the tree and slinks towards us in the undergrowth. By now, another few Jeeps have joined ours. As she begins to pad across the track, more Jeeps come around the corner and park up, then more, then more. Someone has radioed out to their buddy to

let them know there’s a leopard here, and the area has become overcrowded. It strikes me that Sri Lanka has escaped some of the ravages of mass tourism, but it still has some way to go to develop the sophistication of other safari destinations – so while the country is a paradise for nature lovers, it’s worth taking the time to research the eco credentials of the tour operators you choose to travel with. Malik J Fernando, the forward-thinking hotelier behind Wild Coast Tented Lodge, sees this as an opportunity to develop the country’s tourism industry in It’s definitely worth adding a trip to the right way, with a Mirissa to your focus on sustainability to-do list – the and philanthropic pretty area has initiatives. developed a rep as a destination for good At Wild Coast, nightlife thanks to he’s working with a its beach bars. local university and the Department of Wildlife Conservation to create a leopard research centre in the lodge, and is also

lobbying for the creation of a wildlife conservancy that would allow you to go on safari by bike or on foot. But this is just one of Fernando’s extraordinary endeavours: the other hotels in his Resplendent Ceylon portfolio are Tea Trails, a clutch of luxury, colonialstyle bungalows in the tea plantations in Sri Lanka’s Central Highlands, and Cape Weligama, a luxurious, sprawling resort on the outskirts of Mirissa, a destination popular with surfers and travellers keen to see the vast, beautiful blue whales that frolic in the waters just off Sri Lanka’s south coast. Back at camp, I take in Wild Coast Tented Lodge by day. There are six clusters with six ‘cocoons’ each – beautifully appointed tents that are decked out in steampunk-colonial style. The sensitively built camp isn’t fenced off from the park, and leopards and elephants regularly make their way through, leaving behind only a tell-tale paw-print. One of the things I love most about Wild Coast is its extraordinary location right >

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THE FORT THAT COUNTS: Galle is a historic fortified city that lies on Sri Lanka’s southwest coast

NEED TO KNOW Original Travel ( offers a seven-night trip to Sri Lanka from £3,900pp. Price includes flights with Sri Lankan airlines, ground transfers and a seaplane transfer with Cinnamon Air from Colombo to Tea Trails, two nights at Tea Trails, two nights at Wild Coast Tented Lodge (with game drives), two nights at Cape Weligama and one night at Fort Bazaar.

John Crux / Getty

> at the edge of the Indian Ocean, setting it apart from just about any other safari camp you’ll come across. Waves crash against the rocky beach, creating an alluring soundtrack. Sadly the waters here are too rough to be swimmable, but a gem-coloured infinity pool stretches towards the beach instead, partly housed in a huge arched dome that’s home to a sleek bar and the restaurant. This brings me to the other major activity on my Sri Lanka hitlist: eating. Post morning safari, I refuel with egg hoppers, the irresistibly light, bowl-shaped fermented rice pancakes made around a fried egg, which you eat piled high with curry, pickles and coconut sambol. There are string hoppers, too: these are piles of short strings of rice noodles that you make into a ball in your hand, pressing in the curry and its accompaniments before popping the whole lot into your mouth. Later in the day I tuck into fresh, squeaky okra salad; a sour and spicy seafood soup that hails from northern Sri Lanka; stuffed cuttlefish; prawn cutlets; and adukku roti, which is made of layered pancakes filled with chopped beef, spices and herbs – a bit like a lasagne, but cake-shaped and without cheese – then baked for a crispy roti top. I take a tour of the country with my stomach, learning that beef and red wine were introduced by Portuguese settlers before being adapted with local herbs and spices. In the north, the cooking is very

spicy, with cumin, mustard seeds and mustard oil. Here in the south, coconut oil features heavily, and there are fewer aromatics. That doesn’t mean less flavour, though. My staple throughout the trip is the Sri Lankan vegetable curry, which is served with no fewer than seven side dishes. The best I come across is at Church Street Social, a BYOB restaurant housed in the overtly beautiful 18-room boutique Fort Bazaar hotel in the historic fort town of Galle, further along the south coast. Sitting in the cool of the restaurant’s verandah, I scoff delicately spiced cashew and pea curry – the nuts unbelievably sweet and creamy – with poppadoms, rice, curried beetroot, pickled veg, aubergine, a smoky dhal with a gentle kick, and a tomato and red onion salad. It’s all wonderfully fragrant, and I improbably finish every last morsel of the dish and its seven generously sized sides. I’ve loved everything I’ve seen of Sri Lanka, from its verdant Central Highlands, where children run through the tea trees in their school uniforms; to the laid-back town of Mirissa, home to beach bars, white-sand beaches and pounding surf. I’m captivated by Colombo, Sri Lanka’s capital, and the oldworld glamour of its iconic Galle Face Hotel, and I get lost in a Buddhist temple, exploring barefoot in the middle of a torrential downpour. Everywhere I go, I stumble across games of cricket being played in fields, on the beach and barefoot at the roadside. But where I really fall in love is Galle. The town was once an important trading post, and its beating heart is the old fort, which has stood guard since the 16th

century, seeing the Portuguese, Dutch and British come and go. A visit is like taking a trip back in time – except this past is littered with cool cafés and bohemian boutiques. I could wander the maze for hours, dodging tuk tuks and the baker vans that rattle down the narrow, dusty streets, playing worn-out monotone jingles. In the market square, snake charmers work their magic while I stop to admire the vibrant batik works of Dudley Silva, and a monkey ambles nonchalantly along the telephone wires above my head. There are tourists, yes, but Galle holds them well. Many visitors soak up the colonial grandeur of hotels like Fort Bazaar, while others recharge in resorts just outside of town, like Fort Bazaar’s irresistibly peaceful younger sister, Kumu Beach, which makes for a perfect pit stop en route back to Colombo. In the baking heat, I eat fingers of fresh mango sprinkled with chilli flakes as I leave the confines of the walls and explore Galle’s hectic, up-and-coming New Town. And come dusk, when the heat begins to fade, I make my way to the city walls, looking at the patchwork of rooftops and towers on my left, and the glittering sea on my right. Lovers canoodle in the hidden corners of the ramparts, and children play hide and seek in the ever-growing shadows. Alone, I sit in a hidden corner of my own and watch Buddhist monks cool off in the sea, their orange robes billowing out behind them in the blue water like the elegant fins of koi carp. You couldn’t find a setting more romantic, but I don’t envy the honeymooners – it’s so special that I feel lucky to have it all to myself. ◆




SPACE TO CREATE Leipzig has already seen significant change since the reunification of Germany, but with huge areas still ripe for development and a city-wide appetite for creativity and regeneration, the transformation has only really just begun

1 hr 40

Flight time from London



Average temp in September

EIPZIG SWAGGERS LIKE Oliver Reed or Mick Jagger – bottle in one hand, fag in the other. It doesn’t want to be provincial, it wants to be performing on a bigger stage. Look at those palaces, churches, Jugendstil (Art Nouveau) mansion blocks and the massive ring road encasing the city centre like a tarmac doughnut. Its middle almost wants to be Vienna. And beyond the ring, the acres of factories, working class suburbs and dive bars where it wants to be Manchester or Berlin. But Leipzig is none of these cities, and it has its own quirks. Where else can you find not one but two different 1960s Russian >


Distance from London

Words by CHRISTOPHER BEANLAND Novarc Images/Alamy

REFLECTING ON THE PAST: This massive arched glass hall is where the Leipzig Trade Fair – the oldest of its kind in the world – is now held


> airliners decked out in the paint job of Interflug, the East German flag carrier that went kaput when the Berlin Wall fell, just sitting around on stilts? (One on Karl Heine Strasse and one on Arno Nitzsche Strasse, both attracting people for a glass of the local brew, gose, at bars under the wings). Everything seems bigger here – the novelty planes, the famous Feinkost family sign advertising soup (which takes up a whole wall of the former plant), the huge market place, the gigantic Hauptbahnhof where ICE trains crackle off to Berlin in just over an hour thanks to a new tranche of track. The football team wants to be the biggest and it’s doing it with Red Bull’s dosh – you probably know that about Leipzig – and it

makes football fans who follow other Bundesliga clubs roll their eyes. But more than anything the gigantism manifests itself in Leipzig’s postindustrial areas where everything including the kitchen sink used to be screwed together. Today, these areas are at the centre of a boom in art and design. The famous Baumwollspinnerei once had a quarter of a million looms clicking and clacking and making cotton so fast Lancastrians would blush. Now? There’s a neat new neon sign pointing the way from If you want to see the iconic Spoon Family neon sign illuminated, you have to call a number and pay €3 – a pretty neat way of conserving energy if you ask us.

UP IN LIGHTS: [clockwise from right] Leipzig’s rooftops; boating on the canal in Plagwitz; one of the most iconic neon signs of former East Germany

(Skyline) Michael Bader; (kayaking) Andreas Schmidt; (sign) Iurii Buriak / Alamy

Plagwitz S-Bahn station. Artists work here, there are many galleries and studios. There’s a cinema, an art supplies supermarket. Creatives mill around smoking ciggies next to a former Volkspolizei paddy wagon parked by an enormous chimney that thrusts towards the heavens. Nearby, former sidings are a kids’ park, railway buildings have been converted into neat modern houses with skylights. But all around there’s acres of spare land. The space is refreshing. There’s no pressure on housing here – you can get a flat in Leipzig for £65,000. Plagwitz, where the Spinnerei is built, was a planned industrial town with all the services and housing the workers could want. But it was dirty work. Canals cut into the ground once ran rancid with effluents from leather and chemical plants; today they are perfect for boating. The nearby Westwerk also holds cultural events and Connewitz’s Werk 2 is now used as a concert venue. You can sleep, eat and party in these solid old brick behemoths. And a new interloper is on the scene too – the Kunstkraftwerk or KKW, the ‘art power station’ that sat abandoned near to the Spinnerei for several years after it had generated its last volt; now it generates interest in visual and performance art. Along Karl Heine Strasse out towards Plagwitz and Karl Liebknecht Strasse, towards the southern Connewitz district, there are music bars, book stores, vegan restaurants, the automatic photo booths that show you hipsters are about. They’ve moved east too. Follow the beanies and the bare ankles and you get to Eisenbahnstrasse and its new wave of bars like Fischladen. More centrally, on Gottschedstrasse, there’s a cluster of eateries – Japanese, German, a natty-looking burger bar and Pilot. This shabby boho restaurant does a tasty schnitzel. Its more upmarket sister Max Enk, in the city centre, is filled with art and perfect for a fancier dinner – order roulade, the typically Leipzig (and typically filling) rolled beef dish – here stuffed with cheese lest you’re run low on calories after your 3pm apfelkuchen.


THE DERELICT BUILDINGS ARE A FRAGMENT OF A WORLD THAT NO LONGER EXISTS, BUT IT’S ALSO A WORLD OF FUTURE POSSIBILITY Scattered around the city you can’t fail to notice the relics of the GDR. Leipzig found itself on the ‘wrong’ side of the wall and because of its huge number of restive manufacturing workers, the Stasi concentrated its mean-spirited efforts here. You can witness the sadness and the evil for yourself at the museum in their former HQ. The East Germans put up buildings. A lot of them. You’ll instantly recognise the no-frills plattenbau blocks fashioned from pre-cast concrete panels. They housed the workers – but the ones who cooperated most got them first and got the biggest ones. This era is brought to life in Netflix’s new drama The Same Sky, where Juliane – one of the main characters – is trying to get into Leipzig’s famous medical school. But that

dream is more dependent on her sister’s swimming success and her parents toeing the line than it is about her grades. If you really want to get a true flavour of the GDR, you need to head for the biggest thing of all – 20 minutes from Leipzig’s Hauptbahnhof is Halle NeuStadt. When it was first built in the 1960s it was nicknamed ‘HaNeu’ – pronounced Hanoi – perhaps because there are lots of Vietnamese in eastern Germany, perhaps because the Americans bombed the hell out of the Vietnamese capital. HaNeu is vast – miles of sprawling tower block, some painted wacky colours, interspersed with social realist sculptures, murals and sports grounds. The hundreds of huge blocks in the new city once housed tens of thousands

of workers in the local chemical industry. There are still people here, but there are lots of derelict buildings too, as in many of Leipzig’s inner suburbs. It’s a sobering sight. It’s a fragment of a world that no longer exists. But it’s also a world of possibility for a future that hasn’t yet fully arrived. There are buildings, homes and space – and people who want to make things. Creativity is the new maxim, and Leipzig has it in spades. ◆

NEED TO KNOW Vienna House Andel’s Berlin offers double rooms from £80 per night, and the new Vienna House Leipzig offers double rooms from £70 per night; for more information, see Travel to Leipzig from Berlin with DB ( in 70 minutes. For more information on visiting Leipzig, see and



0800 082 8000 | | #ZabeelHouse

Dubai, Al Seef

Dubai, The Greens

London, Shoreditch






RISING TO THE TOP Es s e n t ia ls gu ide: a b u dha b i, ua e

Think it’s all sunshine, sand and shopping? Think again – from its own outpost of the Louvre to traditional markets, breathtaking architecture and untouched natural habitats to explore, Abu Dhabi is full of inspirational experiences

7 hrs

Flight time from London


Average temp in September

GRAND DESIGNS: Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is breathtaking both in size (it accommodates 40,000) and looks, with elegant marble arches and domes


Flamingos in Mangroves park


From high-flying skylines to high-flying, er, falconry demonstrations, there’s plenty to see in Abu Dhabi, but make Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque the first thing you check out. Its ornate vaulted chambers and 86 domes can accommodate more than 40,000 people during Eid al Adha each year. Oh, and since you’re asking, it’s also home to the world’s biggest carpet, which took 1,200 weavers more than a year to craft, tying 2.2 billion knots in a rug that weighs more than 12 tons. 5th Street;


You might not immediately associate peace and tranquillity with a trip to the fast-paced, thrumming centre of Abu Dhabi, but you’ll find both of those things just minutes from the bustle of the city. Heading out into Mangrove National Park in a kayak is like entering another world: you’ll be able to soak up the city scenery and skyline from afar, but immerse yourself in the emirate’s remarkable natural landscape at the same time: it’s home to 60 species of bird, as well as marine life and verdant saltwater forests. Kayak tours from £33pp;


Strangely, the UAE’s own version of the world’s most famous art gallery is about way more than just art. Tracking humanity from prehistory to the present day with its exhibits, this is an exhaustive, all-encompassing museum that takes in everything from classical artifacts and decorative pieces to the world-leading artworks you’d expect from a museum like the Louvre. What’s more, the Jean Nouveldesigned building that houses the exhibition space is so ornate and intelligent in the way it plays with shadows and light, it’s practically a whole new exhibit in itself. Saadiyat Cultural District, Saadiyat Island;



If you want to see the Emirati desert but don’t want to deal with the heat, the resplendent, palatial luxury of Qasr Al Sarab will do the trick. Set a 90-minute drive from the city in the rolling dunes of Abu Dhabi’s Empty Quarter, this blends Bedouin-style rustic living and sumptuous modern luxury. And if you ever want to venture outside the oasis, the resort can organise fat biking tours and bespoke dinners out in the dunes, too. From £351; Qasr Al Sarab Road.


Somehow balancing the opulent architecture of the old Middle East with the luxurious fin de siècle glam of European grand hotels, Kempinski’s Emirates Palace is the perfect place to kick back, relax and take a break from the helter skelter streets at the centre of the city, or, indeed, London. Here, you’ve got a private beach, a luxury spa, and more palms and fountains than you could ostensibly shake a stick at (should you so wish). Put simply, from food to plush furnishings, this is old-school glamour for the Instagram era, and we couldn’t be any happier to rest our heads on its pillows. From £400; West Corniche Road.


How do you have a city break without doing the, well, ‘city break’ things? In Abu Dhabi, you get on a ten-minute boat from Saadiyat Island to Zaya Nurai – a compact private island resort – and then you relax. You relax in the sea-level infinity pool, you relax on a lounger on the private island’s beach, you relax by, er, getting dragged across the Arabian Gulf with your feet taped to a wakeboard or waterskis. And when you’ve done all that relaxing, you might feel like getting the ferry back to the city for some sightseeing. Yep, city breaks are pretty easy when you know how to do them. From £717; Nurai Island.


NEED TO KNOW Etihad Airways flies direct from London Heathrow to Abu Dhabi from £349 return, see for details. Alternatively, Pegasus Airlines flies from London Stansted to Abu Dhabi via Istanbul from £233, visit

Antonio Saba



If you don’t mind dropping big bucks on a cocktail or two, a trip to Ray’s bar and grill high up in the Jumeirah hotel at Etihad Towers is well worth it for the incredible views alone. From the window seats at this exclusive 62nd-floor hangout you can fix your sights on everything from the highflying skyscrapers of the Corniche to the sprawling mangroves and the beautiful, shimmering Arabian Gulf below. Oh, and it just so happens to be a steakhouse serving a pretty staggering array of prime cuts of beef from across the globe, too, so there’s that to bear in mind as well. Etihad Towers, West Corniche.


You may head to a place like Abu Dhabi with the intention of chowing down on the food of the Middle East, and there are plenty of places to do just that (try Atayeb or Mijana to get started). But with Indian nationals making up more than a quarter of all people living in the UAE (compared to the 11% of Emirati citizens), a lot of Indian food on offer in the city is every bit as worth getting your chops around, too. From hole-in-the-wall spots to fine dining, there’s something for everyone, but few do it as well as Ushna, a high-end Indian in Souk Qaryat Al Beri, just a few minutes from Sheikh Zayed Mosque. Souk Qaryat Al Beri ◆

Getty Images/arabianEye/Matilde Gattoni

If you’re even remotely into fresh seafood, a trip down to Al Mina Fish Market on Abu Dhabi’s Zayed Port is an absolute must while you’re in the city. Pick your prize catch, take it across the way to be gutted and prepped, and then drop by one of the nearby restaurants, who’ll season and grill it for you (or make it into an absolutely banging fish curry) to eat on the lobster pots outside while admiring the view. It really doesn’t get much fresher than that. Al Meena


Travel Insurance with you in mind Travel insurance designed by travellers Up to £10M medical expenses Available for UK/EU Citizens if you’re already abroad Cover for cameras and gadgets available Extreme sports and activities covered, including trekking and winter sports

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the most instagrammable resorts in the caribbean Home to pristine beaches, golden sunsets and lagoon-style pools, Sandals resorts are what you could describe as picture perfect. The Luxury Included® Caribbean resort company specialises in choosing stunning locations for guests to snap the most epic selfies and #SandalsMoment photographs. Looking for pure holiday inspiration? These lust-worthy photos, taken by some of our favourite Instagrammers, will have you jumping on a plane faster than you can say “Take me to the Caribbean”, where you’ll be able to chill out in a floating water hammock, sip cocktails at an over-the-water bar and breeze through the air on one of Sandals’ beach swings. And because it’s Sandals, you know you’ll get to enjoy its incredible perks, from unlimited 5-Star Global Gourmet™ dining to luxury amenities and services, all included in your stay. For more information on holidays with Sandals, visit, call 0800 742 742, or pop into the Sandals Luxury Travel Store at 135 Fulham Road, London, SW3 6RT SANDALS ROYAL CARIBBEAN, JAMAICA




a flavour of the caribbean From 5-Star Global Gourmet Dining™ to unlimited Premium Brand drinks, you won’t find anywhere quite like Sandals Resorts when it comes to Luxury Included® eating and drinking in the Caribbean...

FROM ABOVE: A flavour of the food you’ll find at a Sandals Resort; with so many different options on offer, finding great food is a breeze at Sandals


If your idea of paradise involves whitesand beaches, azure waters and perfectly prepared plates of fine food, look no further than Sandals, the Caribbean resorts where everything you need to have a great getaway is included. And with up to 16 restaurants per resort to choose from, plus unlimited premium drinks, speciality cocktails and exclusive wines, you’ll be hard pressed to find a better place to get the party started. Whether you’re keen to get an authentic taste of the Caribbean, fancy a lunchtime fill of supremely tasty sushi, or just want a healthy salad after a day relaxing by the pool, at Sandals Resorts the choice is yours, and as many as 21 different global cuisines are available to please your palate whenever you get peckish, from morning till night. But the unique variety of a Sandals Luxury Included® holiday doesn’t stop there; each

resort comes packed with tons of amazing exclusives, too. From one-of-a-kind overthe-water restaurants like Gordon’s at Sandals Royal Bahamian to barefoot beach dining on secluded offshore islands, you’ll be hard-pressed to find anything as romantic or luxurious as dinnertime at Sandals’ beautiful resorts in the Caribbean. The crowning jewel of Sandals’ elite culinary offering, though, is the 5-Star Global Gourmet Dining™ experience, in which Emmy Award-winning ambassador to Sandals Walter Staib will take you on an epicurean voyage that’ll tantalise your senses and amaze your palate by serving a variety of specialities from around the globe. With this much great food to choose from, you’re going to need to book an extra week to try it all. So what are you waiting for? Culinary adventures await. Dig in. ◆




flights, Camera, action Every Sandals resort is an amazing Caribbean escape with plenty of epic adventures and excursions you can take directly from your resort. Here are just a few of the activities you can try while you’re there

experience the majestic dunn’s river falls – ocho rios, jamaica

If you’re all about awe-inspiring natural treasures and epic vistas, take a trip to Dunn’s River Falls in Jamaica with Island Routes. On the excursion, you’ll clamber up the slopes of this 600-foot-high waterfall in a human chain, bathing in beautifully pure lagoons on the way. It’s one of the few waterfalls on the planet that cascades directly into the sea, so it’s an absolute mustsee for Sandals guests visiting Jamaica. hike the pitons – soufriere, st. lucia

go on an Island Routes Caribbean

swim with pigs – exumas, Bahamas

Adventure – All Sandals Resorts

You’ve probably seen these cute pink fellas popping up on your Insta feed a fair bit in the last few years, but when you holiday with Sandals you can turn Instagram dreams into real life. Setting sail from the resort in a 35foot Power Cat yacht, you’ll cruise through 75 little-known cays in The Bahamas’ Exumas, before dropping anchor and feeding the world’s most famous colony of pigs. If you’re into marine life, there’ll be the chance to see stingrays frolic in the water, as well as snorkelling in the shallows alongside a lively reef that’s packed with colour, coral and loads of amazing fish to fix your goggles on. We don’t know what paradise looks like, but this is pretty close.

All done lounging around on the beach and eating all the food at Sandals’ first-class restaurants? Lucky you, because now it’s time to experience Sandals’ own Island Routes Caribbean Adventures, which are easy to book as an optional extra during your time at the resort. Not only is it the world’s leading Caribbean attraction company, it’s also the best way to get right to the heart of life in the Caribbean. Whether that’s swimming with dolphins in the pristine waters of Antigua, going sport fishing off the coast of Grenada or heading on a picnic excursion to the world-famous coffee farms of Jamaica’s Blue Mountains, the decision is yours.

island routes adventures are a great way to get right to the heart of life in the caribbean

The twin peaks of the Piton mountains are easily the most iconic emblem of the glorious Caribbean island of Saint Lucia. Soaring straight out of the sapphire-blue sea at the foot of the island, these hills are covered in verdant forests through which you’ll wind, snaking your way up boulderstrewn mountainside to admire a once-ina-lifetime view from the top. This 3,000ft climb might not be for the faint-hearted, but for the views alone, it’s well worth it. ◆

FROM ABOVE: Heading out on a snorkelling excursion is the perfect way to relax; meeting one of The Bahamas’ famous swimming pigs



a world well travelled Take your holiday relaxation up a notch by booking yourself into one of Sandals’ exclusive Red Lane® Spas, where you’ll be pampered from head to toe until you’re so blissed out you won’t want to leave


FROM LEFT: True relaxation at Sandals; relax your mind and your body at a Sandals’ yoga studio

connection, time and love – which means you’re guaranteed to leave any treatment feeling on top of the world. Speaking of treatments, there’s plenty to choose from at a Red Lane® Spa. Take your pick from a selection of experiences that range from hot stone therapy – which harnesses the healing power of heat for total body wellbeing – to a lavender massage that’ll help you get off to a good night’s kip; or one of Sandals’ new Night Blooming Jasmine Massages that’s designed to strengthen the bond between you and

(Massage) JR Delia

Visit one of Sandals’ Luxury Included® Resorts and you’ll find rest and relaxation are at the top of the agenda – and nowhere more so than at one of Sandals’ exclusive, decadent Red Lane® Spas. Inspired by the traditions, majestic backdrops and natural ingredients of the Caribbean, a Red Lane® Spa is the perfect place to kick back and unwind while you soak up the ambience of your surroundings. The expertly trained Red Lane® Rejuvenation Specialists are dedicated to providing you with an experience that focuses on

your other half. Taking place after hours, the massage leverages the delicate aromas of Chinese jasmine, while a paint brush and the therapist’s hands create a deeply relaxing experience you’ll find hard to forget. Once you’ve looked after your body, it’s time to take care of your face with one of the Spa’s pampering facials. Enhance your holiday radiance with a Tropical Glow facial, which uses papaya and pineapple enzyme exfoliation, extraction and a vitamin-rich mask; or take things to the next level with a Heaven On Earth facial, where two therapists work on your body from head to toe, with a Signature Flawless facial, a back ritual, a soothing leg massage and a 30-minute Feet First treatment. Alternatively, book into the Glamour Bar for hand and foot treatments that’ll help you look your best. And they’re not just for women, either: the Real Men Spa offers manicures and pedicures for guys, too. Whatever you’re looking for, Sandals Red Lane® Spas will make sure you leave looking and feeling your very best. And why not? You definitely deserve it. ◆



S P O T L I G H T S A N D A L S , F O R T H E S O P H I S T I C AT E D

the very best of luxe With butlers ready to cater to your every whim, decadently luxurious accommodation and everything from secluded Love Nest Suites® to private candlelit dinners, a holiday at Sandals will be your most romantic yet OK, so you already know that a holiday at one of Sandals’ Luxury Included® Resorts will take you to a beautiful destination in the Caribbean, and that you’ll be more pampered than you ever have been before. But you can go one step further with Sandals’ exclusive extra-luxurious experiences that range from professionally trained butlers to staying in your own private, decadent Love Nest Suite® or having an exclusive candlelit dinner under the stars. Book into one of Sandals’ finest suites and you’ll have access to a butler whose sole job it is to cater to your each and every whim. Each of Sandals’ butlers is trained in parnership with the Guild of Professional English Butlers, and they’ll be on hand to unpack your luggage, make all your dinner

ABOVE: One of Sandals’ gorgeous private pools with sweeping ocean views; [right] get breakfast delivered to your door, so you can you eat what you want, when you want, where you want

reservations, serve you lunch on the beach or by the pool, and much more. And if you’re looking to take your holiday to the next level, try a Sandals Tranquility Sleep Experience™ that will combine the laid-back ambience of the Caribbean with the romantic elements of a Sandals getaway. You’ll be able to sleep in a Tranquility Blissful Bed™, complete with fine Egyptian cotton linen and feather-down pillows – so you’re sure to be well-rested and able to make the most out of your holiday. If that isn’t enough – or if you’re heading on holiday to celebrate an extremely special occasion – make sure you book into one of Sandals’ Love Nest Suites®, where every single detail has been taken into account to make your holiday extra perfect. You’ll have access to 24-hour room service and one of Sandals’ professionally trained butlers while staying in a secluded exotic suite that could be anywhere from on the beachfront to a sweeping clifftop. Even the stunning bathrooms are as well thought-out as the

bedrooms, complete with free-standing tubs and decadent rain showers. If you’re looking to make a night of it, book a private candlelit dinner, where a waiter will serve you Sandals’ top-notch cuisine and unlimited pours of Robert Mondavi Twin Oaks wines. We’ll drink to that. ◆


FROM LEFT: Scuba diving excursions with top-ofthe-line equipment; stand up paddle boarding is one of the watersports on offer at Sandals Resorts



activity without limits With unlimited land and watersports included in the cost of your stay at a Sandals Resort, you can spend your precious holiday time doing as much or as little as you like. The choice is yours...

It doesn’t matter how beautiful the sand and gently lapping seas of the Caribbean are, there’s only so much carefree relaxation you can do while you’re there. Why? Because Luxury Included® holidays with Sandals give you access to so many different active pursuits you’ll want to give them all a try during your stay Every time you stay with Sandals, you’ll get unlimited land and watersports included in the cost of your stay – no rental costs, no extra fees – so whether it’s an afternoon of volleyball, a game of beach cricket or a spin out on the water with a wakeboard, you’re

more than covered for fun in the sun. But that’s not all: from basketball to billiards, stand-up paddleboarding to snorkelling, your options are endless – even scuba diving excursions with top-of-theline equipment and incredible instructors are included in the cost of your stay if you already have a PADI® certification. Dive in – you certainly won’t find water much clearer this side of the Caribbean. What’s more, all this fun doesn’t have to stop at the boundaries of your resort; if a particular activity tickles your fancy at another resort in your destination of choice,

with so many activities to choose from, you’ll quickly find your feet during a stay at sandals

you can go and give it a go as part of the Sandals Stay At One, Play At All programme, meaning even more adventures come as part of your Luxury Included® stay. Whether you fancy trading the Hobie Cat sailboats of Sandals Royal Plantation in Jamaica for a quick go on the rock climbing wall at Sandals Ochi down the road, or swapping your kayak at Sandals Regency La Toc in Saint Lucia for the croquet lawn at Sandals Halcyon Beach, you can. Go for it, it’s all included, and there’s nowhere else you’ll get as many options as here. If you’re a golfer, things get even more exciting, because you can play unlimited rounds at championship-level courses in both Jamaica, Saint Lucia and The Bahamas, setting Sandals head and shoulders above your average active getaway. With this much to choose from, it can be pretty tough to know where to start. But with an active adventure for every traveller, you’re sure to find your feet at Sandals. ◆




Sandals: hop until you drop With so many different options across the whole Caribbean, there’s something for everyone on an island-hopping getaway with Sandals. Here’s what to expect from a multi-centre Caribbean escape When you choose an island-hopping holiday with Sandals, you don’t have to settle for one single paradise island in the Caribbean, because you can have them all. Whether you’re eternally excited by the sprawling green golf courses of the Bahamas or can’t wait to set your sights on the sparkling waters and misty blue mountains of Jamaica, one thing is for sure: with Sandals you can see both, and you’ll always be able to sit back and soak up the chilled-out vibes of the Caribbean while you’re there. With a twin- or triple-centre stay at any of the 16 sumptuous Luxury Included® resorts found on some of the Caribbean’s most stunning coastline, you’ll always be treated to the very best accommodation and hospitality, as well as more options than anywhere else in the whole of the Caribbean. Whether you’re after a romantic escape split between the Skypool Suites of Sandals Grenada and the butlered luxury suites of recently opened Sandals Royal Barbados,

or you just want to put your feet up and pamper yourself with a massage at the Red Lane® Spa, every Sandals resort gives you the chance to live your best life in the Caribbean and relax to your heart’s content. Designed for couples in love and voted the most romantic resorts in the Caribbean year after year, the turquoise waters and whitesand beaches of Sandals’ 16 luxurious resorts are the ideal escape if you’re looking to get away from it all. They’re the perfect place to plan your wedding and honeymoon, too, and there’s no easier way to do things than by including both in an island-hopping holiday: Sandals Resorts include a free wedding as well as a complimentary honeymoon package – and you won’t find anything more simple than that. If you’re an active sort, you’ll be glad to know that all Sandals resorts offer unlimited land and watersports, too, and you’ll be able to try most of them with an island-hopping break: whether you want to head out on


the golf course in Saint Lucia, the Bahamas or Jamaica, or just want to paddle a kayak around the crystal-clear waters of Antigua, you’ll never have it easier. Beyond the resort, you can head out on loads of amazing adventures with Island Route Caribbean Adventures, the region’s leading attraction company. That way, you can tick the Blue Mountains of Jamaica, the Piton mountains of Saint Lucia and the swimming pigs of the Exumas in Bahamas off the bucket list in a single trip. After all that, you’ll probably have worked up quite an appetite, and at Sandals resorts, the choice is yours. With an abundance of restaurants to choose from and premium drinks included, you’re more than sorted. There really is something for everyone when you go island hopping with Sandals. ◆

(Fishing excursion) JR Delia

stay at sandals


For more information on holidays with Sandals, visit, call 0800 742 742, or pop into the Sandals Luxury Travel Store at 135 Fulham Road, SW3 6RT









Sandals Negril Beach Resort & Spa, Jamaica

22 Years Running


Call 0800 742 742 • Visit • Come In-store 135 Fulham Road, London, SW3 6RT • Or see your local travel agent

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83 93

The Checklist

Taragalte Festival, Morocco

Dan Medhurst


Winter Sun 114

The Intrepid Series

The Selector

Rear View

WHAT’S ON YOUR BUCKET LIST? HUSKY SAFARI NORTHERN LIGHTS SNOW HOTEL SNOWMOBILING LOG CABIN For moments that will take your breath away, choose a winter holiday with Artisan Travel. Combining once-in-a-lifetime experiences, remarkable destinations and expert local knowledge, we are your shortcut to some of travel’s greatest adventures. Don’t delay. Book before November 2018 and save £50pp – simply quote ‘winter50’.

Call 01670 333 099 or visit us online at

❖ To advertise in this section please call 020 7819 9999



(this section) Matthew Hasteley, assistance Louis Moss






F YOU’RE ANYTHING like us (and since you’re here, you probably are), you definitely can’t be trusted to browse the web for gear without impulse buying every item on your holiday wish list. And considering the best kit in the world of wintersports can come with a pretty hefty price tag, you’re probably going to need some serious guidance if you want to have any cash left for après by the time you actually hit the slopes. That’s why we’ve rounded up all the essentials for the 2018-19 snow season, from

this year’s best (and most stylish) outers, mids and base layers to nice woolly hats and gloves that’ll keep you toasty in the cold. Then, for the more experienced skiier, we’ve got the finest in techy, top-of-the-line goggles and a smartwatch to help improve your sightlines and performance on (and off ) the piste, as well as looking damn glam while you’re at it, too. So what are you waiting for? Flip the page, pick your winter essentials, and whatever you do, control that pre-season splurge. ◆




THE CHECKLIST With great powder comes great responsibility. Responsibility to share this season’s best snow gear, that is





GANDEN HAT, £25: Cute, cosy,

THE ROCKS 2.0 JACKET, £269: Yeah,

Featuring Primaloft’s pioneering, NASAdeveloped Aerogel, which is streets ahead of traditional insulation.

lined with soft, moisture-wicking Polarfleece and handmade just outside the Nepalese capital, Kathmandu.

we know this jacket is gorgeous, but it’s functional, too, with body-mapped insulation and lots of pockets.



as the iconic brand’s warmest baselayer yet, this’ll keep you toasty when temperatures plummet.



a sleek fit, these will keep you stylish – and warm – on the slopes, whatever the weather.





Graduated compression and anatomical support make these the ultimate snowboarding socks.

Winter is coming, and we’re excited. OK, fair enough, there’s nothing exciting about the short days, long nights and dark mornings – they all suck. But we’ll trade them all for a handful of bluebird mornings, big powder days, fresh tracks and this: a whole new season of gorgeously techy skiwear goodness. This year, we’ve got big prints, a few products with big sustainability credentials and – as always – some of the best new snow apparel on the market. So whether you’re just in for a new hat and gloves or a whole new wardrobe this winter, here are a few essentials to get your chilly little mitts on before you go. Ladies (to the left) and gents (to the right): choose your weapons.


INFUSE MID LAYER, £149.99: This 100%

recycled polyester mid is body mapped to keep you warm.


line for big powder days, this camo number from Norwegian brand Helly Hansen is iconic.



Sustainably minded waterproof trousers engineered for the slopes and made of recycled polyester.

Toasty insulation, Gore-Tex waterproofing and durable leather fingers and palms will have you mountain ready.



UNDER THE LENS When you’re on a ski holiday, a top-quality pair of goggles can be the difference between harenecking it to the bottom of the run in style and spending half your time wiped out on the floor like a sack of spuds. With that in mind, we’ve rounded up a few of the finest bits of goggle technology for your alpine adventures this winter. From innovative frames that’ll enhance your peripheral vision to novel new easy-change lenses, you’ll never have to deal with steamed-up sightlines again. Maybe.



Prizm lenses maximise contrast and enhance visibility when everything in front of you is white.


PXV, £160: Dragon’s

unique Panotech lens shape will give you better clarity and wider peripheral vision for the moments you need it.





With a lightweight, comfortable build and fast-swap lenses, these are the perfect goggles for all day wearing.

Waterproof N52 magnets help make changing the lenses of these goggles a total breeze when you’re on the go.


I/O MAG, £229.99:


These sensors help estimate your heart-rate without the need for a chest monitor, and the watch monitors stress throughout the day, too.

With maps, music, payments, smart notifications and tons of different workout metrics, this does a lot of work for an 86-gram watch.



Straddling the line between techy multisport watch and high-end wrist-candy, the latest in Garmin’s Fēnix series is that rare beast: proper adventure-focused wearable tech you won’t want to take off once you’re back in the ‘real’ world. With full-colour maps and smart routing based on the runs and cycles taken by other Garmin users, it’s easy to find new routes while you’re on your travels, too. Add to this on-the-go training functions and lightweight build and you’re onto a winner. So whether you’re a runner, cyclist, skier, swimmer, hiker, SUPer (or all the above), it’ll have you covered. For this, plus more top-of-the-line outdoor gear, head to



land of slopes and glory This year, the Telegraph Ski & Snowboard Festival celebrates its 45th anniversary, returning to Battersea Park from 25-28 October, and Escapism readers can get a cool 10% discount when buying tickets online since starting in 1973 with a handful of exhibitors and some expert talks, the Telegraph Ski & Snowboard Festival has grown into a spectacular weekend of alpineinspired fun filled with après-themed street food and bars, live music and entertainment, plus the chance to check out all the latest

gear and the world’s best ski resorts. New attractions include dog sledding and the Snow+Rock Climbing Wall, which brings fun for all the family, while favourites like the ice rink and the Mount Battersea slope have been given a refresh to help elevate your experience in 2018. Taking place over half-term, visitors can expect plenty of games and activities for kids including an arts and crafts zone, face painting, and a stellar line-up of entertainers. The festival will be hosting London’s largest indoor ski centre, Chel-Ski Slope, too. Visitors will be able to brush up their skills or take their first steps into the fun-filled world of skiing or snowboarding, before heading to Mount Battersea to watch the

(Skier) James North

visitors can brush up their skills, or take their first steps into the fun-filled world of snowsports

FROM ABOVE: Sunset Sons take stage; Mount Battersea; see comedy from Famous First Words

British Ski & Snowboard Team soaring into the air demonstrating tricks performed at the recent Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang. On the festival’s music line-up, surfersturned-rockers Sunset Sons will be playing an exclusive set at the Ski Club of Great Britain stage, while an exceptional comedy line-up and premium dining at ‘The Lodge’ will give you the chance to unwind after shopping for the latest ski and snow gear. And then there are the experts: if you’re feeling out of your depth planning your next winter break, you can visit the Travel Genius Bar, where one of the Telegraph Experts will help you plan your ideal holiday with all the great resorts, from Whistler to Val D’Isere. ◆ Save 10% on tickets to the festival by quoting ‘ESCAPISM’ at skiandsnow

a winter wonderland The city of Edmonton in Alberta, Canada, comes alive when the temperature drops, with a host of winter festivals, a vibrant culinary scene, and easy access to the pristine powder of Jasper National Park There’s something exciting about that time when the season begins to change and the temperature finally drops – and nowhere more so than in the city of Edmonton in the Canadian province of Alberta. You could say that winter is when Edmonton is at its best. The city plays host to several bustling festivals throughout the season, and you can keep warm by scoffing loads of the city’s excellent food. Then, of

course, the perfect powder snow of Jasper National Park is in easy reach and the Canadian Rockies are only a short trip away. But with so much on offer, where do you start? We’d begin by getting our chops around Edmonton’s dining scene. For starters, the city is home to some of Alberta’s hottest craft beer taprooms, as well as hyper-local bistros that serve the region’s produce and hipster bakeries that

winter is the season when the city of edmonton is at its best

reflect Edmonton’s young, forward-thinking population. If you’ve got a sweet tooth, you can’t miss the Duchess Bakeshop – ranked as one of Buzzfeed’s top bakeries in the world – where you’ll be able to sample everything from the lightest, flakiest almond croissants to decadent, beautifully presented tarts. But if you’re after something more savoury, make sure you head to Biera, which puts a new twist on the trendy brewpub by serving modern Prairie- and European-influenced sharing plates paired with beer brewed locally by Blind Enthusiasm. In Edmonton, winter is festival season, with plenty of events dedicated to celebrating the colder weather and all the brilliant activities it brings. There’s



ABOVE: [clockwise from main] Edmonton in the middle of winter;the city’s thriving beer scene; taking a wintertime walk through Ice Castles

Luminaria, which transforms the University of Alberta’s Botanic Gardens into a peaceful oasis with candlelit pathways, hot apple cider, acapella singers and glittering ice sculptures. Then go for a nighttime adventure during the city’s Flying Canoë Volant festival, which will turn Edmonton’s French Quarter and the Mill Creek Ravine into a magical, fairytale-like setting with light installations, storytelling and music. Elsewhere, the Boardwalk Ice on Whyte festival is a celebration of winter in all its forms using ice and art. 96,000 pounds of ice is dumped – intentionally – for the weeklong festivities, so you can learn how to carve ice before heading to the ice bar. And then, of course, Edmonton sits cheek by jowl with the stunning landscapes of Jasper National Park, with its crisp blue skies, rolling hills, glacial lakes and white-capped mountain ranges. The largest

national park in the Canadian Rockies and part of a Unesco World Heritage Site, Jasper National Park is the place to soak up pure, unadulterated natural beauty. Here, you can take on a number of short ski touring, alpine ski touring and ski mountaineering day trips, or up the ante with multi-day glacial traverses. There are other activities, too, like winter walking and fat biking, snow shoeing, and ice skating on the many lakes and rivers. But you don’t have to leave the city to make the most out of the natural landscapes

on offer. Edmonton River Valley is the largest stretch of urban parkland in North America, clocking in at 22 times the size of New York’s Central Park. In winter, it’s the perfect place to snowshoe, cross-country ski and fat bike. In Edmonton, your winter adventure awaits. ◆ Looking for extra inspiration for your next winter holiday? Find out more at

THE SKY’S THE LIMIT Eat incredible food with seated 100ft in the air above London

AN EXTRAORDINARY EVENT Drink in the capital’s stunning skyline while savouring an unforgettable meal or drinks flight at one of our Sky Tables

AVAILABLE TO HIRE Treat your friends, colleagues or clients to an experience they’ll never forget










ORGET THE LEAKY tents, forget the warm cans of lager, and forget the glitter (especially if it’s not biodegradable). In fact, you can forget everything you know about festivals for a minute, because this month we sent writer Tristan Kennedy to a weekender in the small oasis town of M’Hamid, Morocco, an eight-hour drive to the south of Marrakech. You won’t find many leaky tents at Taragalte festival, because it’s right in the middle of the North African country’s

Saharan region, where temperatures can often be upwards of 30°c. You won’t find much warm lager, either, as public drinking is frowned upon in Morocco. And you certainly won’t find any glitter, but that’s just because Tristan hates the stuff. What you will find is a celebration of art, music, culture and the region’s rich history of nomadic life, all rolled into one glorious international festival. So what are you waiting for, flip the page, fire up the engine and head on down. We’ll give you a ride. ◆




THE INTREPID SERIES There’s remote, and then there’s Taragalte Festival, a musical celebration of nomadic culture in the Moroccan Sahara that’s accessed via the Atlas Mountains. Tristan Kennedy crosses the sands to find out more…




F YOU’VE EVER woken up in a swelteringly hot tent at a music festival, you know the drill: sleep rudely interrupted by some idiot blasting out drum and bass, you find yourself suddenly, shockingly conscious and horribly aware of your intense hangover. The pain behind your eyes, the dryness of your mouth, the lack of water in the near vicinity – you feel all of these in an instant. And above all, there’s the overwhelming, oppressive, all-consuming heat. It’s a routine I’m painfully, shamefully, familiar with. But this festival wake-up call is slightly different. As I hang my head out of the tent, gasping, I can hear the music. But it isn’t drum and bass – it’s Bni Sbih. A traditional Gnawa group, they’re accompanying their rhythmic chants by clashing swords, clacking krakebs (a kind of Moroccan castanet) and banging an onomatopoeically named drum called a df. The heat is familiar, as is the dry mouth, but this time it’s got nothing to do with the amount I’ve drunk the night before – we’re literally in the Sahara Desert. Finding Taragalte Festival, the annual celebration of nomadic music and culture we’re attending, proved a lot easier in real life than it was on the map. On Google you have to zoom right in to see the speck that is M’Hamid el Ghizlane, the tiny Moroccan oasis town nearest the festival site. Once you’re actually on the ground, however, it’s simple. You just head southeast from Marrakech towards the Algerian border, and keep driving until you run out of road. The route is a long one, travelling over the high passes of the Atlas mountains (where the road becomes as squiggly as the Arabic script on the street signs) past the stunning kasbahs of Ouarzazate (“where they filmed Gladiator,” we’re told); and through increasingly impoverished-looking towns. M’Hamid, where the tarmac finally peters out into dirt track and then dunes, is the last in a descending sequence. It’s little more than a collection of dun-coloured buildings, badly in need of a makeover, and arranged

ROCK THE CASBAH: [from left] The Kasbah at Ouarzazate is one of the sights to see en route to Taragalte; a camel race was part of the festival

around a central crossroads. But if it’s the shabbiest-looking, it’s not as sleepy as some of the towns we’ve driven through. There’s a low-level hum of activity around this outpost. In days gone by, this would all have been related to trade. For centuries, camel trains arrived here from the south and east, their tired minders glad to make landfall after weeks spent crossing the great sandy sea. Remarkably, these ancient routes and routines survived the invention of ships, steam trains and even the internal combustion engine. However, recent developments have made the crossing more problematic. “The caravans still go and they still use camels,” explains Abdul, a hitchhiker we pick up on the way to M’Hamid, “because you can’t take trucks across the desert. “My grandfather used to go all the way to Mali, across the Western Sahara, but you can’t do that anymore.” If modern technology and 20th century borders were already threatening the traditional nomadic way of life, then the war in Mali and instability in the wider region have hammered further nails into its coffin. Yet even though cross-desert trade is much reduced, the air of a port town still lingers around M’Hamid. Only these days >

Dan Firstname Medhurst Surname


THE INTENTION WAS TO CREATE A FESTIVAL THAT CELEBRATED THE NOMADIC WAY OF LIFE, BUT ALSO PROVIDED A BOOST TO THE TOURIST TRADE > the people passing through aren’t traders, they’re tourists, and although there are still wheeler-dealers of the kind you might have found in the 17th century, their hustle now isn’t getting salt from the south at bargain prices; it’s convincing folks from the north to pay top dollar for camel rides, traditional Tuareg costumes, or Jeep trips into the dunes. It’s the combination of these two factors – the long decline of the trans-Saharan trade routes, and the increase in tourism – that explain the presence of a music festival out The word Taragalte here in the desert. translates to ‘meeting place’, and “This is a region the international that’s only opened crowd at the festival to tourism recently, is a reflection of this notion, with people and tourism is very attending from all important,” explains over the world. Halim S’bai, the local who founded Taragalte with his brother Abderahim, “but it can be detrimental to heritage, indigenous culture and the natural environment. So we needed an event that tried to preserve that heritage and keep the existing traditions.” They wanted to create a festival that celebrated the nomadic way of life, the culture, and the music of the desert-faring peoples, but also provided a boost to the

growing tourist trade. According to S’bai, around 60% of the local economy depends on tourism. And the festival, now in its ninth year, is very quickly turning into one of M’Hamid’s major attractions. “There are about 1,200 international visitors who come for the festival every year,” he says, pointing out proudly that increased tourism in M’Hamid has a domino effect on all the towns further back up the road. “Like you – you came for the festival, you had a hotel in Marrakech, so this injects life into tourism in Marrakech, then in Ouarzazate and Zagora…” “We felt there was a need for an event that creates a boost that’s both sociocultural and economic for the area,” Halim explains. It’s worth pointing out that Taragalte is not the first – nor the only – music festival in M’Hamid. While Halim won’t be drawn on it, local hoteliers suggest there is some tension between the S’bai brothers and the organisers of the Nomad Festival, which takes place every March. But even if these brusque, business-like brothers are more interested in the economic than the sociocultural benefits of Taragalte, there is no doubt that the festival brings both. The 2017 edition that we’re attending has a specific focus on the role of women in

JUST DESERTS: [clockwise from main] Bni Sbih, a music group who use swords as percussion; the 2017 festival focused on the role of women in nomadic life



Dan Medhurst

nomadic society – something that’s all too often overlooked. There are workshops led by notable local figures, talks on women’s issues and an all-female musical line-up on the Sunday, starring the Moroccan chanteuse Oum and culminating in an emotional set by Lalla Badi, the grand dame of desert music. “Women play a very important role in the Sahara and in the way of life in the Sahara,” explains Halim S’bai. “Women are the tent poles of society. If you don’t have poles for your tent, you can’t put it up.” The promotion of peace is another of the festival’s raisons d’être. At a European music festival, a proclamation like this might just sound like wishy-washy hippy BS, but in a region that’s been ripped apart by war in recent years, these efforts really resonate. Early on in our stay we’re befriended by Aboubacrine Ag, a Tuareg who’s part of a

visiting delegation from the Festival au Desert in Mali. It used to attract international artists like Robert Plant, he tells us. “But then the war came to Mali. The Libyan president was killed and that created a situation where you had people with guns coming in.” The Islamist insurgency drove the festival out of Timbuktu. “They put their laws in place, they cut off people’s hands,” Aboubacrine explains, matter-of-factly. Music was banned, and along with tens of thousands of others, Aboubacrine fled for The festival brings fear of his life. “I’m a people to an area that they may refugee, my mother not have visited lives in a refugee otherwise, as well camp,” he says. The as providing a space for celebration Islamists have since of indigenous been beaten back, but traditions. since 2011 the Festival

au Desert has taken place “in exile” in a camp, a shadow of its former self. “It used to be the biggest festival in Africa,” he says. “Millions of people came. If you looked over at the dunes, you wouldn’t even see them, there were just people covering them.” But if his home festival is not what it was, then Aboubacrine views Taragalte as a source of hope for the region. “Festivals [like this] bring a lot for people. It shows [refugees] that they haven’t been forgotten by others. We are saying ‘voila, we are with you, we share your suffering, and inshallah there will be better times ahead.’” Taragalte isn’t short of ambition when it comes to its objectives. The festival opens with great fanfare and speeches, including one from the Canadian Ambassador, part of a cultural exchange that will see a Canadian First Nations troupe dueting with a local >



LOCAL KIDS ARRIVE OVER THE DUNES ON CAMELS, DIRT BIKES AND SKETCHY SCOOTERS, RAMPING UP THE ATMOSPHERE SEVERAL NOTCHES The influence of Tinariwen, who started popularising a Tuareg take on rock n’ roll in the 1980s and 1990s, cannot be overstated. Jeunes Nomades’ set in fact consists largely of covers of the older band. Neither they, nor Generation Taragalte, would have seen their heroes play had it not been for the festival. Tarwa n Tiniri, who hail from Ouarzazate, just up the road, also draw inspiration from the Malian greats. Mohammed el-Mobaraky, their singer, explains: “For us they weren’t just a band – it was like a school.” Other bands in Ouarzazate tried to ape western styles – rap, or heavy metal – but Tinariwen made them realise they could draw on more traditional sources of inspiration. “We sing about our culture, our society, and the nomadic life we’re living here in the desert and mountains,” says Mohammed. “We’re singing about all the people that live here in the desert. Also, you know, about the sky and the sand…” So no songs about girls, or love, or cars, I ask? “No,” he laughs. If Taragalte has created an environment where young local lads want to learn guitar, form bands and channel traditional nomadic culture into their songs, then it’s already met one of its core objectives – to preserve the indigenous culture of the desert. But of

GETTING THERE EasyJet flies from London airports to Marrakech from around £85 return.; Hertz offers car rental from Marrakech airport.; it’s an eight-hour drive from Marrakech to M’Hamid, so breaking up your travel is advisable. Stay at Hotel Oscar in Ouarzazate.; for an extra night of relaxation in M’Hamid, stay at Chez le Pacha.; for more information about Taragalte Festival, head to

Dan Medhurst

> group later in the weekend. In light of the huge problems facing this part of the world, it’s easy to be cynical about some of these initiatives. Photographer Dan Medhurst rolls his eyes when we spot the daily tree-planting workshops on the program, and the earnestness of some of the international attendees (do-gooder traveller types in harem pants and beads) can quickly become grating. But even if the festival isn’t reversing regional conflicts, rehousing refugees or resolving the issues around desertification, the positive impact it has on the local community is self-evident. Khalifa Balla plays guitar for Generation Taragalte, who kick up a storm on the main stage on Saturday afternoon. “We formed in 2008, at the first festival,” he explains. “We saw the groups playing and thought: ‘We want to do that.’” His group isn’t the only one. On the Friday night the program is opened up by a group of teenagers from M’Hamid who call themselves Jeunes Nomades. They too started playing together after having watched a performance by the kings of desert music, Tinariwen, at one of Taragalte’s early iterations. Later, they tell us proudly, they were lucky enough to feature in a music video.

course this is a festival, and there’s more to it than just po-faced cultural conservation. We meet metropolitan Moroccans who’ve made the trek from Marrakech or Agadir to join the party. They’re here to soak up the music, do a spot of stargazing, or strum Radiohead covers on battered guitars. There are local hippies straight out of central casting, complete with rasta hats, fleshtube earrings and what they promise us is “really good liquid acid” (which we politely decline). As darkness falls on the desert each evening, the boundaries of the festival become all but impossible to police and the local kids from M’Hamid stroll in without tickets. It might be a nightmare for the organisers, but this influx of youthful energy, which arrives across the dunes on camels, dirt bikes and sketchy scooters, serves to ramp up the atmosphere several notches. There’s no alcohol here, but that doesn’t stop the crowd from losing it. The sound system is impressive, and as the final notes of headliner Ali Farka Touré’s set ring out the cheer is absolutely huge. The desert is so dark that it’s hard to see far beyond the spill of the lighting rig, but there are probably several thousand people watching from the dunes. We wander back to our tent past market stalls selling kebabs, stopping at one point to stare up at the incredible array of stars. M’Hamid might be the middle of nowhere, and the last place you’d expect to find a festival. But they’re onto something here. And it’s certainly worth braving a few uncomfortable awakenings to check it out. ◆



IF THE SHOE FITS... Think you need bags of time for a life-changing adventure? We teamed up with footwear brand KEEN to prove that all you need is 72 hours...

You might think you need a month or a year to have a real, life-changing travel adventure – but we discovered that you can do it in a hell of a lot less when we hit Morocco’s towns and trails in a whirlwind 72 hours with footwear brand KEEN. KEEN has launched ‘Better Takes Action’, a campaign that aims to inspire people to take action in their lives to make the world a little bit better. This idea can include protecting the environment, living sustainably, or making the most out of your weekends. With this in mind KEEN asked us to take action ourselves by setting us the challenge of creating the most amazing adventure possible over one long weekend. Here are five things we learned from our trip... Pick the right place With plenty of three-hour flights available from the UK, getting to Marrakech is straightforward considering it’s in a different continent. Getting around is easy, and you can be slurping tagine at a sun-baked streetfood stall one minute and racing towards the snow-capped Atlas mountains the next. Get yourself a crew You need someone who brings passion,

talent, laughter and grit when the going gets tough. For us, one candidate stood above the rest: KEEN ambassador Sophie Everard, who describes herself as an “adventure-mad writer, surfer, fitness nut and life-lover”. Wear the right shoes Given we’d be winding our way through squares and souks one moment and pounding mountain trails the next, there was one obvious choice: KEEN Terradora hiking boots. These hikers, specially designed for women, are strong, grippy, breathable and light – crucial when only taking hand luggage. Don’t waste a moment You need to hit the ground running. We booked onto a super-early morning flight, and a few hours later we were standing in Jemaa el-Fnaa in the middle of Marrakech. Another early start saw us clamber into a taxi to drive 50km out of Marrakech and hike the Atlas mountains, and we spent our final morning grazing the city’s street-food stalls. Get out of your comfort zone We reckon the best travel is all about trying something new, whether that’s new

cultures, new environments, new food or just a place you’ve never been before, and it’s also at the heart of what KEEN’s Better Takes Action campaign’s all about. And if you’re looking for a jolt out of your comfort zone, Marrakech delivers every time. It may be barely three hours by plane, but once you’re there you’ll feel like you’re a million miles away – and you definitely won’t want to be anywhere else. ◆

keen’s terradora hiking boots When you’re planning an adventure, it’s undeniable that footwear is absolutely key. That’s where KEEN’s Terradora boot comes in: lightweight, comfortable, suited to all terrains and good looking, it’ll take you from city streets to mountain peaks. Available from



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Getting There


With a year-round tropical climate, loads of opportunities for outdoor adventures, great wildlife and stunning beaches sprawling across hundreds of miles of Caribbean and Pacific coastline, Costa Rica is a must-visit for all kinds of holidaymaker, from backpackers on a budget to lovers of all things luxe. What’s more, as one of the world’s happiest and most positive countries, you’re sure to receive a warm welcome when you arrive. Thanks to direct year-round flights with British Airways, and indirect flights to the capital San Jose and Liberia on the Pacific Coast with major carriers, it’s straightforward to get there, too. To start planning your Costa Rica trip today, head to

LLANOS DE CORTEZ FALLS (Llanos de Cortez falls) Carlos Charpentier



discover pura vida No matter what kind of traveller you are, the peaceful Central American country of Costa Rica should be on your must-visit list. Wildlife, beaches, sun, sea and great hotels – it’s really got it all

If you’ve never heard the phrase ‘pura vida’ before, you’ll become pretty acquainted with it from the moment you land in Costa Rica, the small but mighty Central American country that boasts abundant wildlife, a reputation for positivity and happiness unlike any other nation, and a burgeoning ecotourism scene. While ‘Pura Vida’ translates to ‘pure life’ in English, it’s way more than just a saying

to the people of Costa Rica, it’s a mantra that rings through every aspect of life, with people trying to live to the absolute fullest. You'll get your fill of Pura Vida when you visit, too. From the warm, wildlife-filled forests and diverse national parks to the laidback beach towns and bustling cities, you’re sure to relax, unwind and bask in the sheer beauty of Costa Rica in no time at all. Bordered on the east by the Caribbean Sea and on the west by the Pacific Ocean, the country is blessed with a warm tropical climate, which helps make it a truly yearround destination, and one that’s ideal for everything from surfing on the coast to spotting unique birds and animals inland. In fact, in spite of its relatively small size, Costa Rica proudly shelters 5% of the existing biodiversity on the planet, and 26% of the country is composed of conservation and natural protected territory. That territory includes more unique habitats and landscapes than most other planets on Earth: in as little as a week in Costa Rica, you could hike near active volcanos, explore mist-covered cloud forests, raft rivers through tropical rainforests and slow the pace by exploring one of the country’s 27 national parks. This is a country that suits adventure seekers, nature lovers, beach bums, luxury travellers and sun worshippers in equal measure, but having such a wide array of natural beauty at your fingertips doesn’t mean you have to pay an arm and a leg for it. Costa Rica is the perfect destination for all kinds of budget, too. Whether you’re looking to take a road trip from the capital city of San Jose up to the mountains, cloud forests and world-famous coffee plantations, or just fancy pampering yourself with a specialist treatment or two at a luxurious eco-retreat’s spa, the choice is yours.

CLOCKWISE FROM MAIN: From coast to cloudforest, Costa Rica is full of natural beauty; a baby green turtle; a native capuchin monkey

Speaking of eco retreat, Costa Rica’s ecological credentials are world-leading, as well: the country is currently aiming to be carbon neutral by 2021, and more than 98% of its energy comes from sustainable sources. Add to this the fact that it’s been recognised as one of the world’s happiest countries by both the Gallup World Index and the Happy Planet Index and you know you’re in a place that’s peaceful, welcoming



(Turtle) UVE

and easy to explore right from the get-go. That friendliness and warm welcome extends to its fast-developing hospitality industry. Wherever you go in Costa Rica, there’s a hotel for you, too: from the luxury boutique lodges of the country’s many bioreserves, to the international hotel chains found beachside on the Caribbean and Pacific coasts or the simple, affordable bed and breakfast-style accommodation found throughout the country, you’ll be able to find the place to meet your needs. What’s more, with direct flights from London to Costa Rica available with British Airways, and indirect flights to the capital

San Jose and Liberia on the Pacific Coast with major carriers, there’s never been a better time to visit this Central American gem than right now in 2018. So what are you waiting for? Unbelievable adventures, unforgettable experiences and

a whole world of magic awaits you in Costa Rica. It’s about time you booked yourself a return ticket to paradise. ◆ Looking for more reasons to visit Costa Rica? Turn the page for the top ten reasons to visit, or head to to plan your trip now.

This is a country that suits adventure seekers, nature lovers, and beach bums in equal measure


the holiday hit list With so much on offer, the only problem you’ll have in Costa Rica is choosing what to do next. But that’s where we come in – here are ten mustsees for travellers visiting Costa Rica, from surfing to soaking in hot springs

live the pura vida

easy exploring

‘Pura vida’ is the mantra that Costa Ricans live by, and it translates to ‘pure life’. It refers to the country’s reputation for wellness. Costa Rica’s Nicoya Peninsula is one of the world’s five Blue Zones, which means it’s an area where people commonly live till the age of 100 and beyond. Elsewhere, Costa Rica’s landscapes are the perfect place for trekking, forest baths, earthing, eating shedloads of tasty healthy food, and loads of alternative therapies. If your approach to wellness is more relaxed, kick back with a volcanic mud body wrap or a visit to the hot springs.

Clocking in at around 2.5 times the size of Wales, Costa Rica is small but perfectly formed, making it incredibly easy to get around during a holiday. Most UK operators offer a variety of Costa Rica itineraries, covering everything from the coast to the cloudforests, but visitors are increasingly choosing to self-drive around the country – it’s one of the best ways to take in Costa Rica’s jawdroppingly beautiful landscapes. But if that’s not your vibe, the country has brilliant bus links, too, which are sure to take you from A to B with ease.



go natural Did you know that Costa Rica is has 5% of the world’s biodiversity, but measures in at just 0.03% of the Earth’s surface? That means the country more than pulls its weight when it comes to its wildlife line-up – particularly when it comes to turtles. Costa Rica is home to green sea, hawksbill and leatherback turtles, which you’ll find in the Tortuguero National Park, Playa Grande Guanacaste and Ostional Wildlife Reserve, where you can also watch turtle nesting and hatching. Further out to sea, Costa Rica is also a brilliant destination for whale watching, with humpbacks frolicking in the country’s Pacific waters for seven months of the year. Back on land, Costa Rica boasts a whopping 900 species of birds, including the majestic quetzal, and sloths, monkeys and frogs galore.

hit the beach With two coastlines – one on the Pacific and one on the Caribbean – there’s more than enough sand for everyone in Costa Rica. The country has everything from gnarly surf spots to deserted coves and volcanic black sand beaches to waiting for you to explore. What’s more, the beaches are surrounded by the country’s jungles and forests, with mind-boggling biodiversity. And, as you’d expect, Costa Rica is also home to beautiful, pristine coral reefs that are perfect for keen divers and snorkellers. So what are you waiting for? It’s time to dive in.

see national parks

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Costa Rica is one of the most biodiverse countries in the world, so it’s not surprising that 25% of its land is under government protection in 27 national parks, 58 wildlife refuges, 32 protected zones, 15 wetland areas and mangrove swamps, 11 forest reserves and eight biological reserves. Across the country you’ll find everything from deciduous forest to mangrove swamps, rainforest, herbaceous swamps, cloud forests and coral reefs, along with active volcanoes, caves and areas of historic and architectural interest. That’s a lot of nature to take in... Our favourite pitstops are the Arenal Volcano National Park, where you can hike through lava fields from previous eruptions, and the Corcovado National Park, where you’ll find lagoons, marsh and low-altitude cloud forest, ideal for hiking and camping (although you have to enter with an authorised guide). Elsewhere, Ballena National Marine Park is a must-visit, as it’s a hangout for humpback whales and dolphins.

unearth a nation’s food culture

Costa Rica has a diverse multicultural, multilingual population descended from a fusion of African, Chinese, Jewish, Lebanese and Italian immigrants, and the indigenous peoples of the Bribrí, Cabécar, Maleku, Teribe, Boruca, Ngabe, Huetar and Chorotega groups. As such, it has an extremely diverse – and delicious – local cuisine. Food ranges from traditional to innovative at restaurants and farmers markets around the country, and it all leverages the incredible organic local produce. San José, Costa Rica’s bustling capital, is the main food hub, with a central market and restaurants that pride themselves on a farm-totable ideology. The focus is on fresh and organic food, with locally grown fruits, vegetables, herbs, fresh juices and smoothies – all of which are an essential part of the Costa Rican pura vida. Traditonal delicacies include gallo pinto – a local take on rice and beans – and casado, a hearty, healthy meal made of rice, black beans, plantains, tortilla and perfectly cooked meat. Elsewhere, if you’re a coffee fan, a visit to the coffee plantations of Costa Rica’s verdant central valley is an absolue must. And if you’re a chocolate fiend, Costa Rica has a rich history of making chocolate – and the Chorotega people actually used the cocoa bean as their currency, right up until the 1930s.

live like a local Costa Rica is a country rich in customs and traditions, and the best way to experience them is by experiencing a local stay with a local family. It’s a unique opportunity to learn about rural culture, farming traditions and small artisanal industries, and will give you an insight into the essence and identity of Costa Rican people that you’re unlikely to find anywhere else. By experiencing the family environment that’s characteristic of Costa Rican culture, you’ll also enjoy personalised attention – which means sampling authentic home cooking, learning from local artisans and taking part in traditional festivities. A living experience is also a brilliant way to support sustainable tourism as it respects and protects Costa Rican culture, with money going towards improving local communities. A holiday that gives you amazing memories, and gives something back while you’re at it? We’re into that.

epic adventures With landscapes as diverse and as beautiful as Costa Rica’s, it’s no surprise that the country is a prime destination for adrenaline junkies and keen adventurers. Rafting, snorkelling, kayaking, sport fishing and surfing are all on the menu here – which means the biggest challenge is choosing what to do first. But not all adventure has to be extreme. Costa Rica has amazing hiking trails that cross mountains, pass majestic rivers and take in gushing waterfalls. You can explore the country from horseback and mountain bike, too. For something a bit more pacey, try navigate some of Costa Rica’s most beautiful rivers from an inflatable raft. And where the country really comes into its own is surfing, with four different zones: the Caribbean coast, the northern, southern and Central Pacific coasts, each with their own different conditions.



see volcanoes Because it sits on the infamously volatile Pacific Ring of Fire, Costa Rica is home to more than 120 volcanoes, with most of them in the Central Highlands and northern reaches of the country. Don’t worry, though – only six of the volcanoes are still active today, making their bases perfectly safe to explore on intrepid hike or bike tours. They’re more than just an excuse for an epic adventure and a great view, though, many of Costa Rica’s volcanoes create hot springs that supply people with a unique kind of mineral water that has unique health and wellbeing benefits.

fun for the family

how to get there

Thanks to the country’s compact size, the ease of getting around and the variety of trip types to choose from, family holidays to Costa Rica are a breeze. Checking out the amazing array of unique wildlife is perfect way to keep the kids entertained while learning about something new, and the beaches on both coasts are great R&R for everyone. What’s more, the country’s green season – when Costa Rica is at its most verdant – falls during the school summer holidays, meaning you’ll see it at it’s absolute best when you visit.

Has all this talk of epic adventure, family fun, beautiful nature and sensational stays got you desperate to start planning a trip to Costa Rica? You’re in luck, because it’s never been easier. Whether you want to discover the most stunning mountains and volcanos, work out where to see specific species of flora and fauna or find the best surf breaks on the Pacific Coast, all you need to do is go to, where you can plan your trip, searching by region or activity, as well as looking into flights, tours, care rentals and much more. ◆






w i n t er s u n 3

Don’t just accept the fact it’s likely to be freezing for the next few months – escape the chill and warm up somewhere amazing


Sh ort and he at Warm winters aren’t just found in far-flung destinations – chase the sun closer to home too


With warm winters, sprawling volcanic beaches and the biggest mountain in Spain, Tenerife

is jam-packed with enough allure to give you a tan just reading about it. Actually go there and you’ll find even more: quaint fishing villages, lava-formed seawater pools and Teide National Park, which is easier to ex-

plore in the off-season sun than in the baking summer. STAY: Rooms at Meliá Hacienda del Conde cost from £110. GETTING THERE:

Ryanair flies to Tenerife from £80 return.

Away from its pretty, rural backdrop on land, Gozo is known for its views underwater too, and is a popular place for diving – explore everything from shipwrecks to caves.


Disconnected from the Maltese archipelago’s main island by 5km of sea, Gozo is a blissful contrast to the buzz of capital city Valletta across the water. It’s got ancient sites, gorgeous beaches, a natural bridge and – well – plenty of

space to kick back in the quiet and forget about the freezing cold flat you left behind in London. And if that’s not enough to get you booking, maybe the island’s 300 days of sun a year will help. STAY: Dar tal-Kaptan adults-only B&B costs from £94pn. GETTING THERE: Air Malta flies to Malta from £56 return.






The Cypriot town of Paphos may be more famous for its British expat community than its old town charm and elegant waterside resorts, but a few familiar accents doesn’t mean it’s a write-off. Come wintertime, Cyprus is pretty much the warmest place in Europe, with temperatures still 19ºC on the coast as late as December. Head to Almyra resort on the beachfront and hop in the infinity pool – you can see the waterside castle from there, so there’s no real need to leave (except for local vineyard tours, of course). STAY: Rooms at Almyra Hotel cost from £226pn.

Beyond the beautiful black sands and rugged, rocky escarpments of this Portuguese island, there’s one thing that makes wintertime travellers tick: surf swells. In fact, the waves here are so good that it’s been dubbed the Hawaii of the Atlantic. You can expect modest crowds, and a variety of breaks that suit every ability. Cut your teeth at one of the surf schools in the island’s north east,



then take a tour of the rest of Madeira with a guide. HOW: Take a surf class with Salty Madeira from €50. STAY: Castanheiro Boutique Hotel costs from £115pn. castanheiroboutique GETTING THERE: flies to Funchal, Madeira from £100 return.

(Madeira) Rui Vieira; (Tenerife) Jaume Escofet; (Morocco pool) Matt Livey; (Morocco tea, Tamadot) Jonathan Cosh of Visual Eye

It’s not all about the sun, sea and sand in this pretty coastal city – Paphos is Unesco-recognised for its spectacular ancient remains including four Roman villas.



easyjet flies to Paphos from £56 return.


Glorious castles, harsh deserts, soaring peaks. OK, Morocco’s Atlas Mountains aren’t exactly a classic destination for pools

and loungers, but come winter in this temperate part of the world, you can get all the R&R you need. Park the bus at the Kasbah Tamadot – an opulent oasis in the foothills below Mount Toubkal – and enjoy great grub, hospitality and jaunts to explore the surrounding terrain

if sitting still and breathing in all that lovely mountain air gets a bit stifling. Nah, us neither. STAY: Rooms at Kasbah Tamadot from £408pn. virginlimit GETTING THERE:

Ryanair flies from London to Marrakech from £67 return.

lon g -haul l o u n gi n g Don’t do things by halves – head to one of these exotic destinations to turn the heat up to high


It would be a stretch to say that Belize is full of tourists, but the southern town of Punta Gorda is even quieter than elsewhere. OK, there’s no beach, but some of the guest houses have pools, and you can head out on boat trips to the nearby cayes. Spend your day soaking up the laid-back atmosphere, exploring Mayan ruins or tubing at Big Falls,

This peaceful fishing town makes a great base for exploring the surrounding region, including local villages and the Maya ruins at Lubaantun and Nim Li Punit.

then walk down to local favourite Asha’s Kitchen for Belikin beers, flaky white lionfish, beans and fried plantain. STAY: BlueBelize, £65. GETTING THERE:

British Airways flies from Heathrow to Belize via Miami from £718 return.



Florida might be famous for Miami, Disneyland and, erm, pensioners, but you’ll find a completely different vibe in Cedar Key. The clamming, fishing and artist village oozes charm, with pretty verandahs wrapped around brightly coloured buildings – but what you’re really here for is access to the untouched bayou. Pick up the pace with a kayak trip around the clear waters and pristine beaches at nearby Atsena Otie Key or hike around Manatee Springs State Park. This is Florida, but not as you know it. STAY: Cedar Key Bed & Breakfast, from £83. cedarkeybed




Finnair flies from Gatwick to Tampa from £402 return.



Winter sun isn’t all about kicking back on the beach, although you’ll do plenty of that in Anjuna, Goa, in southwest India. No, what we’re talking

about here are the beach parties. Goa’s been a party haven since the hippies arrived in the 1960s, and Anjuna is its party capital, with laid-back beach bars that become full-on raves at night. If that’s not your vibe, the area’s also great for hoovering up gobloads of fragrant

Goan cooking, exploring the flea market and catching some pretty gnarly waves, dude. STAY: Casa Anjuna, from £193. casabou GETTING THERE:

Air India flies from Heathrow to Goa via Mumbai from £569.91 return.



4) KEP


Get your dose of culture at the awe-inspiring temples of Angkor Wat, then flee the tourists by heading to the sleepy shores of Kep. Here, abandoned villas and mansions conjure a faded glamour, testament to the village’s past


(Kep) Jack Malipan/ iStock; (Goa) Nilesh Bhagat; (South Africa) daron chatz

With balmy temperatures hovering around 26°C, the South African town of Plettenberg Bay is a sun-drenched paradise come December. It also handily ticks most, if not all, the holiday boxes. Nature lovers can head out whale watching, with pods of dolphins coming in close to


as a holiday spot in the 1930s. Sitting on a beach with a frangipani-scented breeze, with nothing to think about other than what to eat next? Yes, please. STAY: Knai Bang Chatt, from £72. GETTING THERE:

Vietnam Airlines flies from Heathrow to Phnom Penh via Ho Chi Minh from £569 return.

the shore, while the Robberg Nature Reserve to the south is the place to head for hiking. It’s also brilliant for surfing and, in the evening, there’s a vibrant food and drink scene, complete with a lively streetfood market. STAY: Grand Hotel, from £87.

p ers o n a l pa ra dis e If you really (really) want to get away, how about a sun-soaked secret island?

Kep is famous for its crab market, and if you’re a fan of seafood, it’s a must-visit – get there early to see a whole variety of fish and shellfish unloaded from the boats – before trying some of course.


Despite being the second largest island in Japan’s Okinawa prefecture, just 3,000 people call the heavily forested island of Iriomote home. The beaches look pretty much tropical, but it’s even better when you’re


in the water, diving, kayaking by waterfalls and exploring the mangroves. STAY: Airbnb is the way to go, with a good selection on offer. GETTING THERE:

All Nippon Airways offers flights from London to Ishigaki from £654 return, with an overnight stopover in Osaka.; ferry to Iriomote from £32.



Petit St Vincent is, well, petite. An 115acre speck of sandy beaches and lush vegetation that sits in the lapis-coloured waters of the Caribbean, PSV has 22 ultra-private villas, a beach bar, a restaurant and a hilltop spa. There’s minimal WiFi, and, aside from watersports, there’s not much to do other than kick back on the beach. Bliss. GETTING THERE:

Caribtours offers seven nights at Petit St Vincent from £4,169pp full board including flights, transfers and airport lounge access.


Thomas Cook Airlines flies from Gatwick to Cape Town from £579. thomascookairlines. com




i sland esca p es c o n t i n u ed


For Robinson Crusoe vibes with a luxurious lilt, look no further than this tiny privately owned island 30km off the

north-west coast of Madagascar. Run by Constance resorts, Tsarabanjina is home to 25 villas plonked right on the powder-soft sands and azure waters of the Indian Ocean. Dive, snorkel, indulge in a spa treatment or just enjoy the feeling of being

barefoot for days on end. The agonising choice is yours. STAY: Constance Tsarabanjina from £568pn. GETTING THERE:

Ethiopian Airlines flies to Nosy Be, Madagascar from £754 return.






Four Seasons resorts on the island. STAY: Rooms at Four Seasons Lanai cost from £642pn. GETTING THERE:

Westjet flies to Maui from £767 return via various airports in Canada. westjet. com; ferry from Maui to Lanai £47 return.


Emirates flies to Queenstown, NZ from £727 return.

(Lake Wanaka) Simon Darby; (Madagascar) Yvon Meyer Photographies 2012


Oahu’s famous for its surf, Maui’s famous for its beaches, Lanai’s famous for its, er… OK, only about 52,000 people visit this small Hawaiian island each year, but that’s the charm: this is a rugged island that oozes old-school Hawaiian charm from reef to rainforest, with a few frills (and Jeep rentals) added by the two lavishly luxurious

There are three golf courses on Lanai, but the rest of the terrain is pretty wild and free, with forests, lush valley, and acres of untouched coastline to explore.

We’ve cheated a bit with this one: you can’t actually stay on Mou Waho, but an island in a lake within an island in a lake is worth breaking the rules for. Nestled in Lake Wanaka, one of the most gorgeous parts of NZ’s Southern Alps, Mou Waho is home to a curious flightless bird called the buff weka, as well as hundreds of baffled tourists trying to get their brains around the concept of islandin-a-lake-ception. Head up from the nearby resort of Wanaka, or head out hiking the gorgeous mountain scenery that surrounds the (outermost) lake. STAY: Rooms at Wanaka Haven B&B from £168pn.





F YOU’RE LOOKING at this photo and wondering why this bunch of skiers have the audacity (and leg muscles) to actually ascend a mountain, chances are you’ve never heard of ski mountaineering. It’s actually easier than you’d think – skiers pop skins on their skis to stop them sliding down as they ascend, then remove them for the downhill sections, often making

fresh tracks in some of the most epic, challenging bits of backcountry. This lot are all competing in the Pierra Menta, an annual race in the resort of Arechês-Beaufort, France, which sees skiers travel an altitude change of more than 10,000m up and down the mountains. We reckon we’ll work our way up to the black runs first, to be quite honest with you. ◆

Jeff Pachoud /Getty Images











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Escapism – 48 – The Ski & Snowboard Special  

Escapism Magazine – Issue 48 – The Ski & Snowboard Special

Escapism – 48 – The Ski & Snowboard Special  

Escapism Magazine – Issue 48 – The Ski & Snowboard Special