IT’S PRETTY COLD HERE

Sunday Herald Sun - Escape - - GADGETS TRAVEL NEWS - ROBYN IRONSIDE

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.

ELEC­TRIC AV­ENUE

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

SUBMERSIVE TRAVEL

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

STA­BLE LODG­INGS

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

PIC­TURE: ISTOCK

Tyn Church on a snowy Christ­mas evening, Prague. PRAGUE, CZECH REPUB­LIC

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