Winter Sun Holidays For Food Lovers

Where to stay: Castara Retreats, a collection of treehouses nestled into lush hillside rainforest, boasts breathtaking views of the sun setting over the Caribbean Sea, best enjoyed from hammocks strung across large private decks. You can try the island’s fresh ingredients in dishes such as grilled red snapper with homemade salsa, Jamaican jerk fish, and passion fruit mojitos at on-site, open-air restaurant, Caribbean Kitchen. A mooch down the hill leads you to Cheno’s Coffee Shop, a no-frills café that serves as a local meeting point over breakfasts of coconut bake, salt fish and tropical star fruit salads.

Check out David Carter’s guide to Barbados’s cuisine here


Sri Lanka – for a sun-fuelled reset

Start the new year with a mood-boosting holiday to return nourished, rested and rejuvenated for the months ahead. Sri Lanka’s south coast boasts plenty of sunshine in the winter months, without much rain. Tropical fruits such as electrolyte-rich coconuts, pineapples and papaya are in abundance all year round, as are vibrant vegetarian curries that include plenty of turmeric and nourishing veg.

Where to stay: Peace-seeking visitors seek solace at traditional village Ulpotha, cocooned by mountains and paddy fields. You can stay in a hut on the 22-acre organic farm and spend time swimming in lakes dotted with water lilies or practicing yoga and tai chi. Stomachs are nourished as well as souls, with fresh fruit juices to drink (watermelon, custard apple, hibiscus flower) and homemade organic curries and sambals to eat.

King coconuts, a variety native to Sri Lanka with a yellow orange exterior

Florida – for al fresco dining

Make the most of the Sunshine State’s abundance of warm weather with alfresco eating and outdoorsy adventures. Choose an eclectic city break in Miami, that boasts everything from sandy beaches and swish cocktail bars to an artsy independent craft beer and restaurant scene amongst the colourful murals in Wynwood. Or stay in the heart of Little Havana to soak up the area’s Cuban culture with morning cafecitos, El Sanguich’s pork-stuffed toasted sandwiches and late-night cocktails at iconic bar Café La Trova.

Down in the Florida Keys, take in ocean views and breathtaking sunsets over seafood suppers on the vast deck of Key West institution, Louie’s Backyard. The town’s picture-perfect, porch-fronted clapboard houses host plenty of restaurants with dining decks; tuck into key lime pie and Caribbean dishes in Blue Heaven’s vibrant backyard complete with live music and chickens mooching around.

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Where to stay: If you’re looking for a sunbathing bolthole in Miami, try Arlo Wynwood, complete with a mural-clad staircase leading to a funky tropical cocktail bar and terrace. The rooftop pool is the place to relax for classic Miami vibes; wiggle along to tunes on your sun lounger and sip refreshing mezcal cocktails or tuck into tuna poke bowls beneath candy-striped parasols. The ground floor restaurant is a collaboration with some of Miami’s best-known names, including chef Brad Kilgore and Broken Shaker’s Elad Zvi and Gabriel Orta.

People on stools at La Sandwicherie Miami

Jordan – for street food and desert feasts beneath the stars

In the centre of the Levant, Jordan looks out across the Middle East, North Africa and the Mediterranean and all of these influences can be seen in the country’s food. The way to a country’s heart is through its stomach. At least, that’s the conclusion drawn by solo-friendly tour operator Intrepid, which expanded its range of foodie experiences in 2018 to provide more immersive trips. On Intrepid’s six-day Jordan Real Food Adventure a local guide invites a small group to experience the country’s cuisine. Sit outside a local falafel restaurant and soak up the late night bustle of an Arabic city. Amman really comes alive after dark, when the heat has dissipated and people are free to do their shopping, catch up on local gossip or, among the younger generation, congregate with friends to drink mint tea and share a shisha. As dinners go, sharing slow-cooked goat with Bedouin tribesmen under a star-filled sky in the Wadi Rum desert is unmissable. Guide Mohammed and his brothers cook a traditional ‘zarb’, an ancient method of cooking where they bury meat, vegetables and rice in a pit in the ground, add lots of embers, wrap it in blankets and bury it in sand. Other experiences include drinking sheep’s milk with local shepherds, preparing lamb mansaf with a family at Petra (before visiting the site itself) and whipping up your own dinner at Amman’s most innovative cookery school.

Where to stay: Intrepid’s six-day Real Food Adventure includes accommodation in bedouin tents, boutique hotels and homestays.

Jordanian Food: What to Eat in Jordan

Cape Town – for an al fresco city break

UK winter is summer in South Africa, and that means platters of crayfish and local oysters, and glasses of local chenin blanc enjoyed by the water’s edge. At the V&A Waterfront, a shopping and dining complex, settle in for a magnificent view of the harbour and the mountain at waterside Harbour House and take your pick from a fine selection of seasonal seafood caught by the restaurant’s own trawler; in late December it’s all about crayfish. Fish and chips is a must in Cape Town. Take yours up a gear by ordering snoek, a large-boned member of the barracuda family. Eat it outdoors with the locals at no-fuss Fish on the Rocks in Hout Bay. Fish comes served with slap chips doused in vinegar and you’ll find the 25-minute drive from the city centre worth every bite. Book a historical walk in colourful Bo-kaap, an iconic area renowned for its commanding views over the city and its tight-knit, traditional Cape Malay community. The city’s numerous parks and Kirstenbosch National Botanical gardens are perfect for picnicking. For platters of the best Western Cape produce – think goat’s milk labneh, cumin-studded boerenkaas, chorizo, homemade pâtés, pickled South African peppadew peppers and spreads – head to Saucisse for supplies. The Saturday Neighbourgoods Market at the Old Biscuit Mill in Woodstock is a great place to pick up artisanal staples and vegetables if you’re self-catering (or food souvenir hunting). Many shoppers stay on for a street food brunch from one of its stalls, from steak sandwiches at Kitchen Cowboys to cultivated Saldanha Bay oysters from Mother Shuckers.

Where to stay: Boutique b&b Welgelegen is in prime position to mooch along trendy Kloof Street, that’s bursting with coffee shops, restaurants and bars including quirky Kloof Street House.

Cape Town South Africa, Table Mountain and tourists eat and drink under umbrellas on the waterfront

Athens – for a sunny European city break

During the winter months, Greece’s capital city offers plenty of blue sky days and mild temperatures. The lack of crowds means the Acropolis, and other ancient sites usually crammed with tourists, can be visited at a much more leisurely pace. Back down the hill in the city centre, walk through the cobbled streets with one of the many street food options – hearty gyros, crisp spanakopita and sweet, syrupy loukoumades. Grab a coffee to go from Samba Coffee Roasters and climb up Lycabettus Hill for magical orange-hued sunsets over the Acropolis, mountains and Aegean Sea. Duck into one of the city’s many tavernas (we loved no-menu cellar Diporto, deli-restaurant Karamanlidika and old-school fish spot Ouzeri Lesvos) for traditional Greek dishes such as homemade moussaka, fresh Greek salads and rice-stuffed vegetables, known as ‘gemista’.

Where to stay: Book one of the nine suites at intimate boutique hotel Monument to enjoy a made-to-order Greek breakfast on your private marble balcony with dazzling views of the Acropolis.

View of an ancient Greek street, Plaka district, Athens, Greece

Mexico – for winter wellness

Discover Mexico during the UK’s winter months to make the most of sandy beaches, warm turquoise seas and vibrant cenotes. Graze a smorgasbord of street food in Mexico City; try chilli-chocolate mole poblano and pizza-like tlayudas in Oaxaca (Mexico’s culinary capital) and eat fresh-fish ceviche on the Yucatán. Carnival, Semana Santa and various feast days fall in UK winter season, so there are plenty of opportunities for food-fuelled festivities and social gatherings. Tacos are a way of life, and there’s nowhere this is more true than in Mexico City, where you can enjoy a variety for breakfast, lunch, dinner and at any time between.

Where to stay: Palmaïa, The House of AïA, offers a secluded sanctuary in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. With oceanfront suites, a jungle spa and five gourmet plant-based restaurants on-site, Palmaïa is truly a place to rest and rejuvenate in style. The all inclusive resort offers a daily schedule of activities from guided meditation to yoga, sound baths, full body workouts and even beachfront art classes. The approach to wellness is very personal so guests can decide how deeply they want to immerse themselves on any given day, whether that’s reading a book by the water and grabbing a fresh vegan taco or waking up early for a sunrise yoga session, you get to decide.

A basket of green peppers against a blue wall in Oaxaca Mexico

Tasmania – for waterfront festivities

The seasons are switched down under, so December and January celebrates Tasmania’s “Taste of Summer” festival. It takes place on the waterfront in the dynamic capital of Hobart from 27 December to 6 January. Try the island’s abundance of oysters and celebrate the diverse cuisines available, from Vietnamese banh mi to Indonesian stuffed breads and Mexican street food. Tasmanian boutique vineyards will hold tastings alongside craft breweries, cider makers and whisky distilleries.

While you’re in town, hop around Hobart’s wine bars to try glasses of locally-grown riesling, chardonnay and cool-climate pinot noir, accompanied by Tasmanian cheeses. Follow the River Derwent up to The Agrarian Kitchen for a seasonal lunch or to take part in a field-to-fork cookery class. If you’re staying for longer, take yourself on a self-guided tour through northern Tasmania’s Tasting Trail, strung together with artisan producers. Pick your own berries at The Berry Patch, tuck into hot smoked salmon from 41 Degrees South’s inland salmon ponds and treasure black truffles grown in the volcanic soil.

Where to stay: The glamorous design hotel MACq 01 on Hobart’s harbour has architectural pizzazz and an imaginative concept: each of the 114 rooms is named after an extraordinary character in Tasmania’s colourful history and guests can join complimentary door-to-door storytelling tours.

Macq 01 Hotel and harbour Hobart Tasmania

Cyprus – for a diverse culinary escape

The Mediterranean island of Cyprus enjoys a hot climate for most of the year, and its position makes it a cultural and culinary melting pot. The impact of Turkish and Greek gastronomy is undeniable but it has its own distinct repertoire of recipes influenced by Eastern cuisines. The ingredients used in many Cypriot dishes can be traced back to Arabic and Asian cooking where spices such as sweet cinnamon, aniseed and cumin, and fresh produce such as jute mallow, okra and taro root provide the backbone to some of its unique dishes. The island boasts a coastline that delivers an abundance of fish and seafood, such as sea bass, bream and octopus. Home-grown produce includes wild asparagus, white courgettes and black-eyed beans. Bitter oranges and bergamots are preserved whole in jams, and citrus fruits are made into cordials (limonata), with the thickly sliced zests, along with walnuts and watermelon rinds made into spoon sweets (macun).

Read Meliz Burg’s guide to Cypriot cuisine here.

People sitting at an outdoors cafe in Omodos village, Limassol District

New Orleans – for vibrant carnival vibes

New Orleans’ Mardi Gras carnival falls on 13 February this year, so visit the city to soak up the atmospheric anticipation in the air. While you’re there, tuck into Louisiana specialities at traditional haunts such as The Parkway Tavern for shrimp po’ boys, Willie Mae’s crispy fried chicken and Café du Monde’s sugar-coated beignets. For a break from the action, explore the grandeur of the quieter Garden District before a jazz and bloody mary-fuelled brunch of shrimp and grits, waffles or gumbo of the day at Atchafalaya. Just outside the French Quarter, the backyard party held each night at Bacchanal makes for one of the city’s great romantic spots. Enjoy wines from small producers and bowls of ceviche while listening to jazz under the night sky.

Where to stay: Stay at Catahoula Hotel and catch carnival sounds from the street below at the rooftop pisco sour bar.

New Orleans - Scene with jazz music in a big square

Images: Getty, Bob Thomas/Popperfoto via Getty Images, Hiran Thabrew, Peter Titmuss/UCG/Universal Images Group via Getty Images, Fitopardo via Getty Images, MACq 01 hotel, Kirillm via Getty Images, Atlantide Phototravel via Getty Images

Words: Alex Crossley, Tracey Raye, Meliz Burg, Lucy Gillmore

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