The return to work heralds a whole new year of annual leave opportunities and what better time to plan one or two short breaks. Whether you’re looking for adventure, culture or beach flopping, we have a selection to excite and inspire you through these dark and gloomy January days.
Following a three year Foreign Office curfew, Tunisia is open for business again. Overshadowed by its flamboyant Moroccan neighbour, this North African gem offers spade loads of golden beaches, ancient civilisation, buzzing medinas, and a dash of French colonial architecture. Head to Tunis and take in the ancient ruins of Carthage before spending an idyllic afternoon sipping mint tea in the hill-top village of Sidi Bou Said – think an Arabian version of Santorini. If you’re looking for a cheap getaway only three hours from the UK, Tunisia is king of the short breaks.
Having already enjoyed two short breaks to Snowdon and the Gower Peninsula, I was delighted to hear about the launch of the Wales Way – a new opportunity to bike, hike or drive the length and breadth of this fascinating country. You can wind your way around the 180-mile Coastal Way on the Cardigan Bay west coast or whizz along the 185-mile Cambrian Way zig-zagging the spine of Wales through national parks and wide, open spaces. Culture Vultures may prefer the North Wales Way where mighty castles tower along the route to Anglesey.
Slipping off the shackles of its sun and sea stereotype, Maltese capital, Valletta steps into the limelight this year as the European Capital of Culture 2018. Prepare yourself for a cultural extravaganza – from baroque festivals to pop up light installations, sculptures and fine art. Express your spiritual side with a visit to the Oca Dome Mandala – an ephemeral temple where you can have a go at making your very own mandala. Keep an eye out for the annual Carnival (9-13 February)and the Lost and Found Festival (3-6 May) – a rave in a 500-year-old castle.
Now a mecca for the trendy tech community, Lisbon mixes the old with the new – from ancient herbalists and haberdashers in the Baixa district to the thriving start-up community who are housed in the cobble-stoned streets of downtown Lisboa. The 16th century Bario Alto transforms from day-time tranquillity into a vibrant nightlife quarter after dark. And to recover the nearby resorts of Cascais and Sintra offer a chance to flop out on the beach. A winning combination of beach and city for this year’s short breaks.
A perennial favourite any time of year, Paris has an amazing array of events to pique the interest of even the most jaded Francophile. From the glittering cat walks of Paris Fashion Week to the feathers flying at International Pillow Fight day, Paris always surprises and delights. New for 2018, don’t miss the Rodin centenary exhibition at the Grand Palais and the Pompidou Centre’s epic Cubism exhibition featuring over 300 works from October.