If there’s any such thing as the quintessential tropical paradise, Bali might just be it, thanks to outrageous natural beauty, friendly people and abundant history and culture.
What to do: To paint Bali as an island of beach resorts is selling it desperately short – this is a place with an undeniable spirituality to go with the jaw-dropping backdrop of volcanoes, rainforests and tropical coves. There’s nightlife, too, if the surfing, diving and sunbathing aren’t enough.
When to go: Indonesia’s rainy season lasts from October to March, and for Bali that means higher humidity and occasional downpours, though it also means there are great deals around for those happy to take a chance.
You don’t have to be on a beach to get a dose of summer sun – how does lying poolside on a Havana rooftop, mojito in hand, sound?
What to do: The Cuban capital is full of atmosphere and great things to do, and if it’s not on your travel bucket list, that’s probably because you’ve already been. Apart from just soaking up the post-colonial faded glamour, you can brush up on your salsa moves, learn to roll cigars, explore museums and galleries and – yes – escape the city in a taxi and head to the beach. Or those rooftop bars sound pretty good to us.
When to go: It’s a city, so whatever the weather throws at you shouldn’t be a holiday-wrecker, but expect mild temperatures in the low 20ºCs between November and April, which is also the dry season.
Dubai’s year-round heat, mega-hotels and unabashed glitz have serious winter appeal, and there’s a hidden seam of authenticity to mine, too.
What to do: To say Dubai has everything is obviously stretching it, but few destinations can match the Emirate’s blockbuster lineup of attractions – from white-sand beaches and soaring dunes to art galleries, world-class restaurants and bars and clubs. Friday brunch is when Dubai lets its hair down, and it’s not to be missed.
When to go: The British winter is slap-bang in the middle of Dubai’s temperature sweet-spot – not too hot but still roasting by UK standards – though keep an eye out for the odd bit of rain in January.
Kalutara, Sri Lanka
A rising star in the sun-seeking world, Sri Lanka’s combination of natural beauty, culture and glorious beaches make it a brilliant escape from the winter gloom.
What to do: Whether you’re in search of history, culture, wildlife, adventure or relaxation, you’ll find it somewhere on this island off the southern tip of India. Kalutara is a former spice-trading centre, with long stretches of beach fringed by palms and plenty of old colonial charm. It’s also a great place to experience Sri Lankan cuisine.
Where to go: Confusingly, the island has two monsoons, but high season for the south-west beaches and hill country is from December to March, when the north-east coast is wettest.
The island off the Tanzania coast has picture-perfect beaches and sunsets your friends and family will think you’ve photoshopped when they see your photos.
What to do: Capital Stone Town’s cobbled streets are worth a visit, but most will spend their time on the beach, with good reason. Crystal clear seas are a magnet for divers and watersports lovers, and you can swim with dolphins, too. Many visitors twin a trip to Zanzibar with a safari in Kenya or Tanzania, while others hop over to neighbouring island Pemba for untouched tropical beauty.
Where to go: Zanzibar’s main dry season runs from June to October, but there’s a window in January and February. Whenever you go, it’s likely to be hot.
To find out more about how you can travel to all of these destinations with Virgin Holidays, visit virginholidays.co.uk