Travel: Give in to winter wanderlust

The Grand Bazaar in Istanbul
The Grand Bazaar in Istanbul
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THE decorations are packed away, the New Year’s resolutions have already failed and the post-party blues just won’t fade away – so it must be the perfect time to pack up and head off on holiday.

Late winter is an increasingly popular time to get away from it all, and while others are tightening their 
belts or churning out sums in a bid to pay off credit cards, 
intrepid travellers are bagging bargains by booking city breaks or a spot of sun during the first few months of the year.

Sunshine in Tenerife

Sunshine in Tenerife

Travel agents said passports were being pulled out across the Capital as skiers head for Slovenia while sun-seekers top up their fading tans in the Egyptian resort of Sharm-El-Sheikh, where temperatures reach an average high of 25C.

Ken McNab, managing director of The Travel Company, in Corstorphine Road, says: “The ski crowds are getting under way as usual with the French, Swiss or Austrian Alps being most popular.

“There are, however, a growing number of thrill-seekers looking at alternatives in the new resorts like Slovakia and Slovenia.”

Edinburgh-based flight search service Skyscanner said jet-setters were also plumping for the more traditional European havens of Spain, Italy and Portugal as part of multiple planned holidays for the year.

The Alps

The Alps

A poll of 1000 travellers by the comparison company, which has an office at Quartermile, found most intended to take one main holiday and one or two additional breaks.

Skyscanner’s Catherine McGloin insists shopping around is paying off for travellers looking to take an early break in 2013.

“I think these destinations remain popular because holidaymakers are used to going to these places and know what they 
are going to get,” she says.

“If you are wanting a bit of winter sun then Tenerife has always been a favourite because of its reliable weather.

“Weare finding lots of people are looking at Europe rather than 
further afield during these months, perhaps because they are 
saving up to go somewhere more exotic in the summer.

“Poland is proving a popular choice as a city break and is in our top 20 destinations. In January there are a lot of flight sales so it is possible to get some real bargains early in the year. People just have to be careful where they look and have a good shop around.”

Poland’s former capital, Krakow, 
has gained in popularity in recent years, partly fuelled by the surge in cheap flights, making it easier for people to discover its rich history, which dates back to the fourth century. The atmospheric Old Town and 
Kazimierz’s streets in the Jewish district are crammed with galleries, cafes 
pubs and restaurants in addition to 
the sights such as Wawel Royal 
Castle, the striking 14th-century St Mary’s Basilica and Europe’s largest market square.

Travel agents in the Capital said that those looking for something a bit different were taking advantage of the first direct flight from Edinburgh to Istanbul. Trips to Turkey’s largest city have soared since the route was introduced by Turkish Airlines in July.

One of the fastest growing tourism destinations in the world, Istanbul is full of beautiful contradictions where east meets west. The city, which combines ancient and modern, straddles both the European and Asian continents over the Bosphorus Bridge.

Visitors can explore the historical mosques including the Ayasofya, barter at the Grand Bazaar or enjoy a scrub down at a hamaam in the daytime before frequenting its many lively bars by night.

Travel giant Thomas Cook is 
launching a city break sale this weekend, and is recommending Iceland’s 
capital city, Reykjavik, for a chance to see a stunning show by the Northern Lights and the 
country’s many other natural wonders. Visitors can explore its volcanic 
craters, lava flows, hot springs and geysers, glaciers and stunning waterfalls or go whale watching during a short break.

Claire Bentley, managing director of British Airways Holidays, is expecting Monday to be the busiest day for holiday bookings.

She says: “We anticipate a bumper booking day on Monday, with the return to work and start of a new school term, signalling the need for families to have sunny climes to look forward to.

“With such miserable weather over Christmas, we saw many people booking their holiday even before they would have sat down for Christmas dinner. On Monday we expect some people will be booking before their breakfast.”

kate.pickles@edinburghnews.com