I recently returned from an epic journey halfway around the planet. It sounds exotic and exciting, but the reality of crossing multiple time zones within 24 hours isn’t quite as romantic. After several nights of staring at the ceiling and days spent in a foggy stupor, I turned around and did it all again. Sadly, memories of any palm-strewn beaches and glittering oceans have all dissolved in a haze.
Presumably Phileas Fogg didn’t have this problem; he had 80 days at his disposal. Most of us, however, are in a rush to reach destinations, squeezing every last holiday minute out of precious annual leave allocations. But the results can be devastating.
“Jet lag is a temporary sleep disorder that happens when you travel quickly across multiple time zones during long-haul travel,” says Dr Guy Meadows from Sleep School. “It happens because of a confusion between the timing of your internal body clock with the local time at your destination. This results in insomnia and daytime sleepiness as your body attempts to sleep and wake at the wrong times.”
Struggling to think clearly, emotional mood swings and digestive problems are all connected to a sudden switch in patterns of light and darkness, adds sleep physiologist Stephanie Romiszewski. “The cycles of our planet have a large impact on the physiological processes that run over a 24-hour period such as our sleep/wake cycle, our appetite hormones, and our mood regulation hormones,” she says. These effects are most noticeable when travelling east or west, over three or more time zones – bad news for winter-sun destinations such as the Maldives.
But seeking warmer weather doesn’t necessarily mean hopping to far-flung longitudes. Look south and a golden corridor of destinations promises sun, sea, sand and even safari without the jet lag. Although the likes of Tenerife and Madeira are already firm favourites, places like Gabon and Mozambique are thrilling wild cards – it should be possible to enjoy every lucid minute from the moment you touch down.
From the more obvious to the outré, here are 10 winter holidays in the time zone that’s right for you, to keep body clocks in healthy sync.
Increasingly hot summers make it impossible to enjoy southern Europe’s many hiking routes. But as temperatures dip from boiling to breezy, coastal paths and mountain trails are more pleasurable to tackle. Volcanic landscapes and ancient mist-wrapped forests provide a scenic platform for admiring the ever-changing sea views on this Portuguese island, which sits much closer to Africa than Europe.
Walk along the Levadas, a 15th-century network of stone channels engineered to collect mountain water and irrigate crop fields now functioning as a 1,300-mile network of sun-dappled forest walks. For a more strenuous workout, climb a steep, jagged staircase to one of the island’s tallest peaks, Pico do Arieiro, where views are glorious. A gentler alternative is the glass-bottomed Cabo Girão Skywalk in the south of the island, stretching across jagged cliffs with the roaring Atlantic Ocean below. A six-day trip costs from £679 per person, excluding flights. Departs November 12 (020 7313 6953; gadventures.com).
São Tomé and Príncipe
One to brag about for passport stamp collectors, this tiny twin island nation off the coast of Gabon, Africa, is one of the 10 least visited countries in the world. Hovering right above the equator, its palm-fringed pearlescent beaches and emerald jungle slopes are as Arcadian and exotic as body-clock battering islands in the South Pacific. A short 35-minute flight connects the sister islands, where stays range from rustic cabins to luxury ocean-side lodges.
Learn about the island’s turbulent chocolate history at restored plantation Roça Sundy on São Tomé, where a new sustainable community project is thriving. A breeding ground for more species than the Galapagos, around 28 per cent of the country is wrapped in rainforest – mostly focused on the Unesco Biosphere Reserve of Príncipe. Phonolite towers soar from the forest at the Bay of Needles, while other beaches provide a nesting ground for turtles between November and March. A nine-night trip costs from £2,650pp, excluding international flights (020 3808 3860; timbuktutravel.com).
Expensive, indirect flights and limited tour operator engagement have left West Africa largely out in the cold, even though its glistening sandy beaches promise warm winter sun. All that’s going to change in November, however, when package holiday giants Tui launch a direct flight to Senegal, a country favoured by French holidaymakers for decades.
Get to grips with the realities of the colonial slave trade on the Unesco-listed island of Ile Gorée and dip into the burgeoning African art scene at the Ifan Museum of African Arts in Dakar. Waves roll right up to the Senegalese capital, making it a great spot for surfing, and beaches stretch along the coast. Sleepy fishing village Pointe Saréne has been transformed into a resort with several hotel developments, although there are still plenty of quieter patches along the Petite Côte. Slip in a safari with a trip to the Saloum Delta National Park and cruise saltwater canals in the company of flamingos and spoonbills. A seven-night trip costs from £880pp, including flights. Departs November 21 (020 3451 2688; tui.co.uk).
There is no bad time to visit the Canary Islands, where the annual average temperature hits 23C. But in winter, the Atlantic-washed archipelago is one of the few places in Europe promising comfortable sea swims and respectable sun tans. Tenerife tops the lot, with some of the best beaches, four Michelin-starred restaurants, historic architecture and hiking trails. Cooler weather is ideal for climbing the island’s showpiece Mount Teide, part of Spain’s most visited national park. Or try scrambling through the Cueva del Viento, the longest lava tunnel outside Hawaii, formed 27,000 years ago.
Continuing the sci-fi theme, Bahia del Duque resort in Costa Adeje offers guided astronomical tours of the night sky, highlighting winter constellations through telescopes. And once the trip is over, the 4.5-hour flight is fairly painless to navigate home.
The details: A seven-night B&B stay at Bahia del Duque costs from £1,535pp, including flights. Valid November 2022 to April 2023. Book by September 30 (01244 897271; elegantresorts.co.uk).
Driving through folds in the Sahara Desert, it is easy to lose any sense of scale and space. Part of an untamed region covering 90 per cent of Algeria, the Grand Erg dunes present some of Africa’s most dramatic sandscapes, too blisteringly hot to explore at other times of year. Elsewheare, absorb the sheer volume of history locked in Algeria’s sand and rocks. Use your imagination to fill gaps in Tindjillet ksar, a former fortified village and palm grove; admire ochre oasis Timimoun; and search for ancient petroglyphs and rock engravings in the caves of Taghit.
Some of the best-preserved Roman cities can be found at Djemila, showcasing a collection of temples, basilicas and triumphant arches, while modern life unravels along the French-style boulevards and labyrinthine lanes of coastal capital city Algiers. Remains of a citadel, old mosques and Ottoman-style palaces make up the Kasbah, where people have lived for more than 2,600 years ago. A 15-day trip costs from £2,795 including all meals, excluding flights. Departs December 5 (01273 823 700; responsibletravel.com).
Sunseekers and hawkers are few and far between on the beaches of this complex Central African country in the Congo Basin. Instead, elephants have been spotted skirting the 560 miles of uninterrupted, virgin coastline and hippos occasionally roll in the surf. Infrastructure is limited, with barely any roads, but the reward for intrepid explorers is a rainforest paradise where holidaymakers rarely step.
Navigate tropical rivers, trundle through the jungle on train tracks and hike through a mosaic of savannas, forest and mountains in Lope National Park. Colourful mandrills, black colobus satanas and the world’s only growing forest elephant population are an alternative to the Big Five of East Africa’s busier safari parks. Find mangroves, beaches, Congolese forest and tropical meadows in Loango National Park, where sitatungas and furry-eared red river hogs reside. Journeys can be tough and days long, but – with a population of only 1.5 million people – there is no better place to escape the crowds. A 10-day trip costs from £5,845pp, excluding flights (00 34 935 174 917; middle-africa.com).
Few places within a four-hour flight of the UK evoke exoticism quite as much as the sights, smells and sounds of this North African country: the rainbow of leather babouche slippers hanging in souks; the zesty scent of fresh orange and sweet cinnamon drifting from hammans; the hypnotic call to prayer echoing from muezzins. Venturing the entire length of the country, a Souks to the Sahara itinerary visits some of Morocco’s more off-the-beaten-track locations.
Head south to frontier town Zagora to camp overnight in the desert and afterwards explore the great dunes of the Erg Chigaga. Then travel north to the date-growing region of Tinzouline, where the sweet fruits are at their very best in November. Once you have reached Marrakech, skip past the popular sights to visit Maison Tiskiwin, a museum set in the home of pioneer ethnographer and collector Bert Flint, where each room represents a caravan along the Sahara-to-Marrakech trading route. An 11-day trip costs from £1,760 per person, excluding international flights (020 8265 3064; millispotter.com).
Every shade of blue decorates clifftop hideaway Sidi Bou Said – from cerulean skies to cobalt doorways and the sapphire seas below. Frequented by 19th-century philosophers, artists and great thinkers, the blinding white settlement is a bohemian sprawl of outdoor cafés and galleries. No matter what month the calendar shows, it is always possible to find a relaxing corner in which to sit and worship the sun.
Explore it on a day trip from The Residence Tunis, one of several beachfront hotels along Tunisia’s glittering Mediterranean coast, with a 4,000sqm Thalasso Spa and an 18-hole golf course. To grasp the lay of the land, explore the ruins of former Phoenician city Carthage and the medina of capital city Tunis – both much more comfortable to amble through on a cooler day. Lower prices off season make this an even more favourable break. Five nights cost from £1,017 B&B, excluding flights. Departs November 2 (00 216 71 910 101; cenizaro.com).
This year marks two major milestones in Egyptian history: the 200th anniversary of the Rosetta Stone decipherment and a century since Tutankhamun’s tomb was discovered. You can pay your respects to the first one at the British Museum, but an appreciation of the boy king requires a journey into North Africa’s archaeological centrepiece.
Artefacts excavated from the tomb will finally be displayed at the long-awaited Grand Egyptian Museum next to the Giza pyramids. Due to open in November, it’s the cultural kickstart to a classic tour along the Nile, sailing along the temple-lined riverbanks from Aswan to Luxor. Avoid a hieroglyphic headache by balancing history with relaxation on a four-night cruise with the Sanctuary Nile Adventurer, accompanied by an Egyptologist to share stories of the pharaohs and figures depicted in millennia-old carvings. A seven-night escorted tour costs from £2,995pp based on a January 2023 departure. Take as a private trip from £3,699pp (03330 603 303; coxandkings.co.uk).
A coastline isn’t essential for beach bathing and splashing in the sun. Despite being landlocked, Lake Malawi provides this often-overlooked southern African country with a vast body of water, suitable for sailing, cruising and freshwater snorkelling with cichlid fish in astonishingly clear visibility (especially in November and December). Some of the best underwater scenes can be found around tropical getaway Mumbo Island, staying in rustic chalets with bucket showers and hammocks strung across verandas.
Stick with a watery theme at Mvuu Camp in Liwonde National Park, set along a riverbank teeming with hippos. Once denuded of predators, a few years ago lions were successfully reintroduced to the park. Infrastructure within Malawi is more limited than its neighbours, but that serves as its charm. Drive or cycle along roads as red as cayenne pepper, passing through simple villages and mountain-fringed landscapes decorated with swollen baobabs. Find cooler climates in several higher altitude traditional tea plantation estates. An 11-night trip costs from £4,705pp, including flights (01768 603 715; farandwild.travel).
There aren’t many places where it’s possible to watch humpbacks breach on the ocean horizon while elephants graze beyond dunes on shore. Overlooking sands stretching into a hazy infinity, White Pearl Resort sits at the edge of the recently formed Maputo Special Reserve, a unique coastal and terrestrial habitat. Swim with pods of dolphins, enjoy picnics on empty beaches and drive into the park to find the area’s darker-skinned coastal elephants.
Combine with a stay in capital city Maputo, a two-hour drive away, where Maputo A Pe leads excellent walking tours of time-frozen surrealist buildings by Pancho Guedes, a grandiose, British-built train station, and murals depicting struggles for independence from the Portuguese. A new e-visa system, due soon, promises to make access to this largely undiscovered country far more straightforward. A six-night trip (two nights at Hotel Cardoso B&B and four nights’ full board at White Pearl Resort) costs from £2,575pp including flights and transfers (01608 638 777; exceptional-travel.com).
As pleasing as a pinotage blend, South Africa provides the perfect holiday mix of superb beaches, exciting safari encounters and fine wine. Despite the 10-hour flight, the one-to-two-hour time difference is negligible, and access is about to get even easier: on November 5, Virgin will relaunch direct flights to Cape Town and BA has announced it will increase capacity on its services. As our pound continues to tank against the dollar, it’s also one of the few places in the world still offering good value for money.
Women-led group Last Word join the country’s top dots with their Ultimate South Africa itinerary. Swim and surf below the shadow of mountains at Long Beach in Kommetjie on the Cape Peninsula, sample the many wines and independent art galleries at their Franschhoek sanctuary, and witness wildlife streaming from the Kruger National Park into Private Game Reserve Kitara where fences have been dropped. A nine-night trip costs from £1,845pp, excluding flights (03301 734 712; abercrombiekent.co.uk).
For full details of entry requirements and Covid rules for destinations mentioned in this issue, see telegraph.co.uk/tt-travelrules. Refer to gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice for further travel information.