Last minute winter breaks

Winter is settling in, but that doesn’t mean you have to... just yet, at least.

Laze... in Lanzarote

By quirk of geography, Spain’s Canary Islands enjoy the kind of year-round temperatures Irish people would give their eye-teeth for. In wintertime, Lanzarote wallows around 20 degrees — just the right amount of sun to get you out and about on the island’s beaches, mountains, caves, boats and bike runs. Topflight has a series of specials, including the four-star Vik Hotel San Antonio from €699pps (departing November 29), and the five-star Hotel Volcan in Playa Blanca from €799pps (departing November 21). All prices include flights, transfers and luggage allowance.

Details: 01-2401700; topflight.ie.

Ski... in the French Alps

Cold can be fun too, you know. Especially when it decks the French Alps in crisp blankets of snow, and you’re spending your days on the piste, and your nights ensconced in a cosy chalet. Highlife Ski & Snowboard has a range of flexible breaks in the resorts of Morzine, Meribel and Val d’Isère this December. Four, five, six, seven and nine-night getaways are available on various dates throughout the month, starting from just €430pp. Prices include daily chef-cooked breakfasts and dinners, wines, beers and minerals, and pre-ordered gear and lift passes mean you lose as little time as possible in hitting the slopes. Oh, and the chalets come with hot tubs too...

Details: 01-6771100; highlife.ie.

Horse around… in Spain and South Africa

Fancy riding off into the sunset this winter? That’s a distinct possibility with winter departures from family-run equestrian holiday specialist, Zara’s Planet. Four days riding the beaches, forests and countryside of Andalusia start at €640pp, with departures on Wednesdays throughout November and December. Further afield, a week’s riding at the Waterburg Ranch in South Africa starts from €1,400pp, where guests can look forward to riding with game, mustering cattle and playing polocrosse before swimming with their horses in 25+ degree temperatures. Both options include transfers and full-board accommodation, but not flights.

Details: 01-4407477; zarasplanet.ie.

Shop... at a Christmas Market

Chintzy wooden chalets, vintage carousels, roast chestnuts and hot chocolate, frosty-breathed air infused with the sound of carol singers and the smell of sizzling sausages... nothing says winter like a Christmas market. Departing Cork on Nov 28, The Travel Department has three nights at the four-star Hotel Europa in Munich from €399pp, including a half-day guided city tour. If you fancy bumping things up a notch, Insight Vacations has a ‘Classic Christmas Markets’ boat cruise taking in several stops along Germany’s River Main. Departing Dublin Nov 25, the eight-day trip includes flights, excursions, meals, drinks and rooms from €1,850pp.

Details: 01-6371600; thetraveldepartment.ie or 01-7753803; uniworld.ie.

Flake out... in Fuerteventura

Boasting some 3,000 hours of sunshine every year, with winter temperatures flitting about in the high teens and low twenties, it’s little wonder Fuerteventura is a firm winter favourite with Irish holidaymakers. Clickandgo.com has seven nights from €339pp, bundling Aer Lingus flights and accommodation at the three-star Suite Hotel Castillo de Elba in Caleta de Fuste. Lastminute.com, meanwhile, has seven nights half-board at the four-star, adult-only Barcelo Corralejo Bay Hotel from €687pp. It departs Dublin on Jan 5. Both deals include flights, taxes, accommodation and, handily for sun-seekers looking to shop, up to 20kg baggage allowance.

Details: 01-6371699; clickandgo.com or lastminute.com.

City breaks... from Cork Airport

Wizz Air has been enjoying a grand run of things at Cork Airport. That may be set to change, however, with Ryanair introducing new direct flights to compete on routes to Krakow, Vilnius, Wroclaw, Gdansk and Warsaw from next month. Krakow is perhaps the pick of the new bunch, with Ryanair’s routes starting on Nov 7, and flying every Monday, Wednesday and Friday (going to press, one-way fares were starting from €38.44). Winter is undoubtedly cold in Poland, but a snow-covered market square bedecked in Christmas lights, an atmospheric Old Town and lashings of grzaniec, the Polish mulled wine, should take the edge off Krakow’s chill.

Details: wizzair.com; ryanair.com; corkairport.com.

Fly away... to Florida

T’was the night before Christmas and all over the house, not a creature was stirring... except for Mum and Dad, of course, who were driven demented wrapping the latest movies, toys and princess costumes from Disney. So here’s a thought. Why not abandon yourself completely to the Mouse, and take everyone to Orlando for Christmas? Sunway has 11 nights in the four-star Rosen Plaza Orlando, based on Dec 19 departures, from €859pp. At Walt Disney World, Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party is held on select nights in November and December. It costs around $60pp, but you do get milk and cookies... and the sight of Main Street USA covered in fake snow. Santa Claus himself appears at the Once Upon A Christmastime parade, too.

Details: 01-2886828; sunway.ie.

Go south... to Gran Canaria

With daily temperatures hovering around the low-to-mid twenties in November, it’s the perfect time to explore the canyons, ravines, desert and valleys — not to mention pristine sea — of Gran Canaria. Direct Holidays has package deals starting from €463 for seven nights at the southern resort of Maspalomas, with its stunning 3km beach and Sahara-like dunes. Accommodation is at the three-star Vista Flor Apartments on a self-catering basis, and flights depart Dublin on November 10th. Aer Lingus also has winter flights to Gran Canaria from Cork Airport, so if you prefer to fly from there, you could self-assemble a winter sun package with a dynamic operator like flexibletrips.ie, lowcostholidays.ie or clickandgo.com.

Details: 01-514031; directholidays.ie.

Christmas abroad... in Italy, the Algarve or China

There’s no finer way to dodge the post-Christmas washing-up than to flee the country altogether, and The Travel Department has three options for doing just that. Seven nights at the four-star Grand Liberty Hotel at Lake Garda are priced from €799pp, including flights, half-board, and full-day tours of Venice and Verona. A second trip departs Dublin for Faro on Dec 20, including a similar deal with excursions to Silves, Lagos and Sagres, from €649pp. Last, but definitely not least, is a 10-night tour of China departing Shannon on Dec 23. Priced at €1,999pp, the itinerary includes the Forbidden City, the Great Wall of China, the Ming Tombs, Beijing Zoo, the Terra Cotta Warriors, Shanghai’s Old Town and five-star hotel stays. Thanks, Santa!

Details: 01-6371600; thetraveldepartment.ie.

La Dolce Vita... in Italy

Any time of the year is a good time to travel to Italy’s great cities, but a trio of offers from Travelmood makes a pretty convincing case for winter. Departing Nov 17, three nights at a four-star B&B in Venice are available from €299pp (quote Ref. 226054). On Dec 1, three nights at a three-star B&B in Rome follow at an even lower rate — €264pp (Ref. 226055). And finally, departing Dec 8, three nights at a three-star B&B in Verona start from €276pp (Ref. 226056). All packages include flights, taxes and charges. Meanwhile, if you prefer your slopes to your city streets, Crystal Ski has seven nights self-catering at the three-star Planibel apartments in La Thuile, an up-and-coming resort on the French border, from €399pp.

Details: 01-4331040; travelmood.ie or 01-4331010; crystalski.ie.

NB: All offers subject to availability. All information correct going to press, but subject to change. Offers include flights, accommodation and taxes except where stated otherwise.

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