Top Ten Winter Escapes – Make 2013 the year of the great escape… By Hannah Norman

A holiday should be about creating an experience of a lifetime. With this in mind, The Luxury Channel brings you ten of the best…

1) Lux* Le Morne, Mauritius

Lying off the east coast of Madagascar, basking in the warmth of the African sun, is Mauritius. Protected by a mountain that bears the same name, Lux* Le Morne offers a slice of tropical paradise, with a snow-white beach, four swimming pools – and the chance to swim with dolphins. But if swimming’s not really your thing and you still want to test your sea legs, the resort offers its guests catamaran cruises around the south of the island, and for the more courageous, kite surfing and wind surfing. But if that simply sounds like a bit too much, then guests can slow it right down with tai chi classes, or relax completely with a treatment in the spa.
www.luxislandresorts.com

2) Jetwing Vil Uyana, Sri Lanka

If you’re looking to be close to water, but don’t like the idea of staying near the sea, why not relax in a cabana on stilts above a paddy field? Each cabana has a private deck so you can comfortably view the local wetland wildlife without having to venture out anywhere, but for a bit of a twist on the traditional nature ramble, guests can head out in an open-top jeep for a little elephant spotting. Even if you don’t actually manage to see anything, the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage means you won’t be missing out. For those who like culture (and a bit of physical exertion!), a climb to the top of Sigiriya Rock Fortress (a UNESCO World Heritage Site, no less) takes in the astonishing ancient frescos painted on the cave walls – not to mention the truly stunning views.
www.slh.com/destinations

3) North Island, The Seychelles

Resembling an emerald dropped into the ocean, North Island in The Seychelles is the ultimate in offering relaxation, seclusion and tranquility. With only 11 villas on the whole island, guests can enjoy uninterrupted views of this breathtaking paradise – and a complimentary 20-minute massage provided on arrival. North Island’s dramatic landscape can be explored by buggy or, for the more adventurous, by kayak. Plus, with a heavy emphasis on conservation, you may well find yourself face-to-face with some of the island’s most valued inhabitants – turtles, tortoises and fruit bats.
www.north-island.com

4) Heron Island, Australia

If you’ve ever been captivated by the sheer majesty of sea turtles, Heron Island, off the coast of Queensland, Australia, has a resort fully dedicated to these magnificent creatures. The experiences on offer are truly once-in-a-lifetime. From watching the turtles come ashore to lay their eggs, to witnessing the newly hatched babies scurrying down the beach to be swept up by the ocean, Heron Island is a nature lover’s paradise. As well as watching turtles on land, guests can take a semi sub tour and see them underwater. Of course, if you’d rather get up close and personal, then diving is the perfect way to watch these beautiful animals in action. The adventures don’t stop there either, as guests can dive with manta rays at Heron Bommie and with Wobbygong sharks at Lost Mooring.
www.heronisland.com

5) QT Sydney Hotel, Australia

Sticking with Australia, QT Sydney Hotel gives big nods to both art deco and contemporary design, which borders on almost futuristic opulence. Housed within the city’s historic Gowings and State Theatre buildings, the hotel offers luxury without the fuss – it is cool, chic and unashamedly quirky. Each room is unique with bespoke finishes, and the flourishes of colour and creativity don’t stop there. Collaborations with copious designers and up-and-coming artists have ensured QT Sydney is the nouveau place to be seen. Plus, you’re in a prime place to explore one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world. (Image courtesy of QT Hotels & Resorts).
www.qtsydney.com.au

6) Steenberg Hotel And Vineyard, South Africa

Situated a mere 20 minutes from the craze of Cape Town, Steenberg is the oldest farm in the Constantina Winelands. Having just been completely renovated, it is billed as a modern, luxury hotel, offering not just sumptuous rooms and fine dining, but reduced rates to access the neighbouring Steenberg golf course, and daily wine tasting tours in the Tasting Lounge and “sensory” gardens. Don’t miss the annual candle-lit Christmas Carol Concert (pictured; pre-booking essential), held on the front lawn. Settle down on a blanket with a complimentary glass of wine, and enjoy carols as you’ve never experienced them before.
www.steenberghotel.com

7) JW Marriott Hotel Rio De Janeiro, Brazil

Want to get your New Year off with a bang? The JW Marriott Hotel Rio De Janeiro is situated right on the sea front, affording rooms with a fabulous view, and the perfect setting to watch the annual New Year’s Eve fireworks at Copacabana Beach. Guests can attend either a supper served at Terraneo Restaurant (facing the beach) or a party in Wayanna Ballroom, with special access to the hotel’s rooftop, not to mention an open bar. (The two celebrations are not included in the room package and reservations are required by phone – 55 21 2545 6553). Once the celebrations are over, however, no stay in Rio is complete without visiting one of the world’s most iconic statues, Christ The Redeemer, at the top of the Corcovado mountain, affording fantastic views of the city below. For thrill-seekers, there’s the option of hang-gliding. Complete your Rio experience with a trip to the historic, arty town of Santa Tereza, crossing the Arcos de Lapa (an 800 metre long viaduct) on the last remaining (but fully functional) tramcars in Brazil.
www.marriott.co.uk

8) The Tree House Suites At Chewton Glen, Hampshire

For complete tranquility whilst still embracing the idea of being a bit outdoorsy, Chewton Glen’s tree house suites could be a unique way of holidaying. Set high up in the treetops, these luxurious suites offer a panoramic view of the forest in which they are nestled. With food delivered daily to your door, there is no need to leave the sanctuary of your leafy hide-out – but if you do decide to tear yourself away, the main hotel is but a walk away, offering tennis, golf and access to the spa. Of course, if you’d rather immerse yourself in the beauty of the woodland, Chewton Glen sits on the edge of the historic New Forest, so this really is one get-away where you can simply just escape into the trees.
www.chewtonglen.com/tree-house-suites

9) Llama Expeditions, Peru

For a winter escape with a difference, Llama Expeditions is a philanthropic company offering treks along the Lares Valley through Peru, with local guides who are knowledgeable about Peruvian culture, and who speak fluent English. If you’ve ever thought about making New Year’s Eve just that little bit extra special, Llama Expeditions will help you to see in 2013 with a ceremony performed by a local shaman. Yes, really! (Well, with the Mayan calendar finishing this year, it surely makes sense to protect yourself from the onslaught of the end of the world).
www.llamaexpeditions.com

10) Lickleyhead Castle, Aberdeenshire

Okay, so Scotland isn’t much of an escape, but for the time-poor traveler, renting your own castle for the week could be a handy compromise between wanting to get away, but not wanting to go too far. With enough space to sleep 14, this could be the perfect solution for getting all the family together in one place (the castle even has a civil license for in-house weddings for up to 60 guests). With a stream running right through the centre of the grounds, and the Scottish mountains on the doorstep, this is a winter escape unlike any other. If you can bear to tear yourself away from the drawing room’s open fire or the charm of the cosy snug and brave the winter elements, then local activities include fishing, falconry and clay pigeon shooting. There’s also the Glendronach Distillery – we’re not ones to stereotype, but when in Scotland….
www.scottscastles.com