Long haul destinations for a winter sun holiday
The beaches of Bali are tempting for a winter break, of course, but Indonesia comprises thousands of volcanic islands with a vast range of things to do. On the island of Java is the sprawling metropolis of Jakarta; head east and you will find the cultural capital of Yogyakarta with its sultan's palace and dedication to traditional crafts such as batik. A must-do day trip from here is a visit to Borobodur, a ninth-century Buddhist temple. Head further east to hike a volcano by climbing Mount Bromo. For relaxation with a beach party vibe, there are the tiny Gili Islands. These are near Lombok, which some travellers say is like Bali but quieter. Indonesia offers many treats for the scuba diver, including cruises to unspoilt Raja Ampat and Komodo Island. Here you will find few people, lots of wildlife and stunning marine diversity.
Unbearably hot, wet or cold during other parts of the year, the subcontinent offers a balmy climate during European winter - at least in Goa, the former Portuguese colony that has been a popular beach destination for many years. Goa offers a range of beaches, from hippyish Arambol in the north with its Glastonbury Street full of tie-dyed bedspreads and T-shirts to five-star resorts. In between are the cheerful package deal area of Calangute, peaceful Benaulim and the idyllic cove of Palolem. For culture, visit the state capital of Panaji with its colonial attractions. Goa is quite compact and it is easy to hire a driver and move about from one beach area to another. From here it is quite easy to board a train to take you to Hospet, the gateway town for the compelling village of Hampi with its desert landscape and the remains of a 15th-century Hindu kingdom complete with elephant stables. Trains are best booked ahead, as the service to Hospet is limited.
It is winter here too, but the Thai winter is a magnificent thing. Gorgeously warm without being sweaty, it is the best time of year to visit this country weather-wise. It is a nation full of lovely beach destinations, in particular the western side of Phuket, Hua Hin and the area around Krabi. As the temperatures are so pleasant, you will have the energy to take on other activities, such as cooking classes, elephant riding or exploring the Khao Yai National Park - a vast spread of jungle where elephants and other creatures roam free. The charming former capital of Chiang Mai is in the country's north and boasts a captivating night market and the remains of ancient kingdoms in Ayutthaya and Sukothai.
It is summer in the southern hemisphere during the European winter, making it a great time to visit Australia and its famous beaches. Seaside areas will be extremely warm in the tropical north of the country; however, for travellers who want to experience the great outdoors of the southern states such as Victoria and New South Wales, this is the perfect time to go. A vast island, Australia has many coastal resorts from which to choose. These include simple camping grounds; the wilderness of areas such as the Mornington Peninsula National Park, which is a couple of hours from Melbourne; and secluded five-star luxury at resorts in places such as Sanctuary Cove in Queensland and Lizard Island near the Great Barrier Reef.