Brighten nights with beer baths and aurora hunt­ing

Stargaze from a con­verted snow groomer, lis­ten to sto­ries around a bon­fire, or hike through Ibizan orange groves, says Sarah Mar­shall

Belfast Telegraph - Weekend - - TRAVEL -

Long win­ter months are some­times dif­fi­cult to en­dure, but the prom­ise of mini get­aways can al­ways re­lieve the pain. And if ski hol­i­days or Christ­mas mar­kets don’t ap­peal, there are still plenty of ways to plan short Euro­pean stays. Whether you fancy hik­ing in the Balearic is­lands, or hunt­ing north­ern lights from a re­mote Nor­we­gian cabin, the op­tions are end­less. Th­ese are some of the sea­son’s best picks. 1. A SUNNY SUR­PRISE Where: Ibiza In Ibiza, ther­mome­ters hover around 15C at this time of year, crowds have dis­ap­peared and the is­land ticks along at a very dif­fer­ent pace.

Set within 10 acres of orange groves on a for­mer fam­ily finca, Atzaro Agro­tur­ismo show­cases the qui­eter side of this Balearic party gi­ant. Launched for the cooler months, a new col­lec­tion of cycling and walk­ing pack­ages en­cour­age guests to ex­plore the coun­try­side.

For­age for medic­i­nal wild herbs, dis­cover in­dige­nous plants and hear about the is­land’s his­tory from lo­cal guides. The prop­erty has also re­cently in­tro­duced a Scandi-in­spired gar­den sauna pod, so even if it does get chilly, there’s still some guar­an­teed heat. How: A three-night na­ture walk­ing pack­age costs €660pp (around £575, plus tax), in­clud­ing B&B ac­com­mo­da­tion, use of spa fa­cil­i­ties, yoga and well­ness classes, plus three guided na­ture walks. Visit atzaro.com. 2. PO­LAR STO­RY­TELLING SES­SIONS Where: Alta, Nor­way Tra­di­tion­ally, Nor­we­gians liv­ing above the Arc­tic cir­cle would while away long, dark win­ter even­ings by shar­ing en­ter­tain­ing tales and roast­ing meats on bar­be­cues.

Join a sto­ry­telling ex­cur­sion from Alta, travel to a re­mote lo­ca­tion, far away from light pol­lu­tion, and sit around a blaz­ing fire lis­ten­ing to myths and lo­cal leg­ends. With any luck, the aurora bo­re­alis may turn up, giv­ing a mag­i­cal twist to any nar­ra­tive. How: A three-night stay in a cabin with break­fast and a snow­shoe­ing trip starts from £775pp. Flights ex­tra. Visit magneticnorthtravel.com. 3. DETOXING IN A BEER BATH Where: Is­tria, Croa­tia Only a hop over the Adri­atic sea, Croa­tia com­mands a sim­i­lar culinary prow­ess toI­taly , yet its food scene is still un­der-ap­pre­ci­ated by out­siders.

A healthy craft beer scene is also emerg­ing, and one brew­ery has even gone so far as to launch the coun­try’s first beer spa. Lo­cated in Buje, the San Ser­volo Re­sort & Beer Spa in­vites guests to re­lax in a beer-filled tub while help­ing them­selves to pints from nearby taps.

Stay overnight in smart ac­com­mo­da­tion and dine at the re­sort’s restau­rant, where menu high­lights in­clude truf­fles and beef from the re­gion’s long-horned Boskarin cat­tle. How: Dou­ble rooms from £95 with break­fast. Visit sanser­volore­sort.com/beer-spa. 4. CHUG­GING ON A SNOW TRAIN Where: Fin­nish La­p­land You can hunt them by foot, car or cruise ship, but have you ever heard of search­ing for north­ern lights by train?

The snow train trun­dles through wilder­ness ar­eas sur­round­ing Apukka Re­sort in north­ern Fin­land, keeping guests cosy while they look out for mag­i­cal lights.

Stop­ping off at a tra­di­tional Fin­nish Kota for grilled sausages and hot drinks, the evening con­tin­ues with a sci­en­tific ex­pla­na­tion of the aurora.

Spend the first night in an ice cabin, wrapped in ther­mal sleep­ing bags, and then switch to a stay in an aurora wagon, dropped off by a driver in a re­mote lo­ca­tion. Fur­ther ac­tiv­i­ties in­clude a husky sa­fari, rein­deer ride and the op­por­tu­nity to watch the sun­rise from a spot spe­cially se­lected by a lo­cal ex­pert. How: A four-night trip with half-board costs from £1,311pp. In­cludes flights from Lon­don, trans­fers, cold weather cloth­ing and ex­pert guides. De­par­tures from Jan­uary 2 to March 24, 2019. Visit theau­ro­ra­zone.com or call 01670 785 012. 5. RO­MANCE ON A MOUN­TAIN SUM­MIT Where: La Plagne, France Imag­ine fall­ing asleep on top of a snowy moun­tain, so high it feels al­most pos­si­ble to reach up and touch the moon.

In­trepid guests at French alpine re­sort La Plagne have the op­por­tu­nity to give it a go by stay­ing in a con­verted snow groomer, driven up to the 2,400 me­tre-high Ar­pette sum­mit.

The func­tional ve­hi­cle has been trans­formed into a lux­ury pad de­signed for two, with a queen-sized bed, spa bath, large flat-screen TV, stereo, and cof­fee ma­chine. Champagne and fresh mac­arons are also in­cluded — along with a com­pli­men­tary ‘love­box’ fea­tur­ing an erotic board game, feather and mas­sage oil.

Panoramic win­dows frame the night sky, al­though with so many dis­trac­tions in­side, there may not be enough time to ad­mire the views. How: The one-night Over the Moon pack­age costs €320 (around £280) for two peo­ple, and is avail­able from early Jan­uary 2019 un­til the end of April 2019. Visit skipass-laplagne.com or la-plagne.com.

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