IT’S PRETTY COLD HERE
Some of us go great distances to escape the winter’s chill, others embrace the cold and all of the comforts that come with it. For those “chill-seekers”, Cheapflights.com.au has come up with five places that are at their best when the temperature dips and the clouds roll in.
Prague, in the Czech Republic, shines in the winter light thanks to its Gothic architecture and Old Town charm. A close second is Skaftafell in Iceland, which offers a great vantage point for the northern lights and Europe’s largest glacier, Vatnajokull. Only in the winter months can visitors walk through this natural wonder, when running water freezes creating ice caves.
In third place is Harbin, China, best known for its incredible ice sculptures on display from December to February. Nagano, Japan, came in fourth, thanks to the attraction of snow monkeys soaking in “onsen” hot springs at Jigokudani Yaenkoen Park. Recognisable by their distinct red faces and browngrey fur, the Japanese macaques are native to northern Japan.
Last but not least is incredibly photogenic Queenstown in New Zealand’s South Island, which is at its best from now until October. The city is built for the cold, with toasty restaurants and hotels ready to welcome weary skiers who have enjoyed the region’s snowcapped mountains.
GET A LITTLE SLEEP
Pod hotels are popping up all over the place, and the latest is due to open in Canada’s popular Whistler Resort next year. The Pangea Pod Hotel is targeting the solo traveller, with 88 cosy sleeping nooks. Each boutique pod promises luxurious wood lining, comfortably outfitted with a memory foam double mattress and high-end linens.
There are also individually controlled LED lights, multiple charging points and an integrated fan for ventilation and white noise.
Despite the compact size, there’s space for everything with a lockable cabinet for valuables, hangers and hooks for clothes and a storage area for luggage. The pods are complemented by more than 60 “bathroom components” – separate shower cubicles, washrooms, vanities and changing rooms. It’s not for everyone but for travellers who just want to sleep when they get to their hotel and spend their money on other activities – it sounds ideal.
Fancy the idea of a cycling holiday but not sure about the effort required? This may be the perfect compromise – electric bikes or ebikes are now available on 80 per cent of UTracks’ cycling itineraries across Europe.
The bicycles have an electric motor that provides a speed boost when pedalling and some extra grunt when going up hills. UTracks general manager Kate Baker said ebikes make cycling holidays accessible to people of varying levels of fitness, age and experience. “They can be ridden by almost anyone and are great for couples or families with differing degrees of ability, or people who love the idea of a more demanding cycling route but are not sure whether they can physically complete it,” Baker told Escape.
Among the most popular UTracks itineraries are the Blue Danube Cycle through Austria, following the winding route of the river; the selfguided back roads to Venice trek; and Catalonia by bike in Spain. Prices start from $1250 a person for an average of eight days including accommodation, most meals, equipment hire, experienced guides and luggage transfers between hotels. UTRACKS.COM
A holiday that combines fun and relaxation with learning about the local culture and environment seems an ideal mix, and this certainly fits the bill. Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort in Fiji has recently opened a School Under The Sea Program, focused on learning, exploration and an immersion into Fijian culture.
During their stay at the resort, children aged six to 12 can enjoy snorkelling, beach walks, island excursions and rainforest hikes under the guidance of in-house marine biologists. Activities include coral planting, waterfall adventures, a visit to a local school and arts and crafts. Best of all, the program is complementary for resort guests – as is the Bula Club for kids.
The resort is in Savusavu, in the south of Vanua Levu Island. FIJIRESORT.COM
The range of quirky tourist accommodation in Australia just broadened with the addition of stables to Mittagong’s Old Bank Boutique Hotel in the NSW’s Southern Highlands.
Built by convicts as a butchery in the 1820s, the historic building later served as stables behind the 1890s bank.
Now, the structure has a new lease of life as the eighth accommodation offering at the Old Bank Hotel, which opened last September following a seven-year restoration.
The Stables provide the hotel’s first twin-bed accommodation and first fully accessible facilities.
Rates including breakfast start from $425 a couple midweek and $475 on weekends. OLDBANKHOTEL.COM.AU
Tyn Church on a snowy Christmas evening, Prague. PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC