From the captivating beauty of Petra to the luscious coral reefs of the Red Sea, it's not hard to see why the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan is fast becoming one of the top holiday destinations. Petra, also known as the Rose City due to the colour of the stone, encompasses Bab Al Siq (the gateway), The Dam, and The Siq (the main entrance). But perhaps the most recognised of these colossal structures is the Treasury - a 40-metre high façade that may once have protected a pharaoh's riches. While most visit Petra during the day, at night it is transformed by 1500 glowing candles, lending a majestic charm to the ancient city. Embarking on a day trip to the Wadi Rum in the south is highly recommended. This protected desert is like a scene from the surface of Mars, with endless expanses of red rock and sand, which are replaced by spectacular starry skies come night. Nestled on the southern tip of the country is Jordan’s only coastal town, Aqaba. In addition to the 12th century Aqaba Fortress and Archaeological Museum, take this chance to scuba dive or snorkel amidst the stunning coral reefs.
If it’s snowfall and the northern lights that you desire, Iceland is an idyllic winter holiday destination and one of the best European cities to visit. Located in the North Atlantic, Iceland is an island of glacial rivers, rugged mountains and impressive waterfalls. Start your trip in Reykjavik; the country's capital is a little hub of activity loaded with eateries, both traditional and modern. Visit Hallgrimskirkja, Iceland’s largest church for panoramic views of the city, then catch a classical performance at Harpa Reykjavik Concert Hall. For pampering the Icelandic way head to the famous Blue Lagoon natural spa and immerse yourself in the soothing geothermal waters. Next, brave the big outdoors and hire a four-by-four to explore Thingvellir National Park, the Geysir Hot Springs and the magnificent Gullfoss Waterfall, collectively known as the ‘Golden Circle’. Iceland is one of the best places to see the northern lights so it would be criminal not to catch them during your trip. This natural phenomenon takes place at night when electrically charged sun particles collide with the Earth’s atmosphere resulting in a colourful display of pulsating light.
When time is of the essence, try looking closer to home for a fun escape. Famed for its distinctive medieval appearance and wealth of history, the English city of York is a classic ‘staycation’ choice and amongst the most romantic places in the UK. The walled city contains a labyrinth of narrow streets, most notably The Shambles which in recent times has replaced its butcher shops with quaint local stores. Explore York Minster, the biggest medieval cathedral in northern Europe, and wander through the National Railway Museum (the city was a hub of railway networks in the 19th century). Barley Hall, a restored 1360 medieval townhouse, is also worth a visit; dramatic high ceilings and timber frames hold the secrets of its past inhabitants. When your stomach is rumbling, Bettys Tea Rooms is a prime spot for cream tea. Alternatively, Hispanic vegan eatery El Piano boasts an organic locally-sourced menu for healthier options. Finally, sample a pint of the local beer from one of the city’s traditional pubs for a fitting finish to your quintessentially English outing.
Mexico is an excellent destination for a dose of winter sun. From December to April, the country’s dry season, temperatures flutter pleasantly between 20°C and 25°C. Tulum, a yoga town in the state of Quintana Roo boasts enchanting turquoise waves and idyllic sandy beaches, and when you're craving a cocktail and burrito, you can take your pick of fashionable bars and eateries. But Tulum is more than just a beach hangout; it has thousands of cenotes (natural sinkholes) rippling with inviting water - great for enjoying a refreshing dip. For an afternoon of culture, explore the ruins of the old Mayan port with beautiful beaches as its backdrop. As one of the most visited countries in the world, Mexico can get busy, Cabo San Lucas on the Baja California peninsula is the Pacific Coast’s answer to beach heaven with less of the crowds. Awash with Instagrammable pools and plush hotels, there's also the opportunity to try your hand at surfing, snorkelling and countless other water sports. Round off your adventure with a sailing excursion and watch the sun dip behind the horizon.