Forget dry January, this new year you should channel your motivational energy into something that’s both good for you and enjoyable – travel. And not just anywhere; pick a place that’s known for sports, activities and the great outdoors. Here are seven of the best destinations for just that.
Queenstown, New Zealand
Queenstown is a remarkable place to reconnect with nature
There’s nothing like the New Zealand landscape to beckon you outdoors. Most tourists come to Queenstown, a city on the shores of Lake Wakatipu, for the adrenalin – to trek glaciers, bungee jump off the Kawarau Gorge Suspension Bridge, skydive or raft the rapids. In winter, you can ski nearby mountain range, the Remarkables. But you can also reconnect with nature at a slower pace by admiring the wild and formidable terrain on a gentle hike, a trout-fishing trip or a visit to a local vineyard. And after a day of outdoor activities, a glass of chilled Chardonnay on the banks of the broad, glassy lake makes a nice reward. Stay at the regally decorated Queenstown Park Boutique Hotel for stellar views out over Lake Wakatipu.
Seoul, South Korea
The mountains near Seoul are a hub for outdoor activities and snowsports
The mountainous surrounds of Seoul are laden with snow come winter; often 15 metres thick, it's even enough to compete with the legendary snowfall of Japanese island, Hokkaido. The region is a prime destination for snowsports enthusiasts, especially since the city of Pyeongchang hosted the 2018 Winter Olympics, putting South Korea in the sporting spotlight. It offers a cornucopia of modern resorts, filled with snow parks, a variety of slopes (including plenty with moguls) and efficient ski lifts. And the ski and snowboard culture here is electric – expect nighttime skiing, plenty of soju (a Korean distilled spirit), BBQ and soaking in bathhouses known as jjimjilbang. Stay in a wooden chalet-style cabin at Simscabin Winter House in Pyeongchang.
Cycle along the canals of cosmopolitan Amsterdam
A visit to Amsterdam is a city break with a (gentle) active edge. Cycling along the canals of this cosmopolitan capital (with a distinct village demeanour) is by far the best way to see the sights and blend in with the locals. A network of cycling paths covers the country so you can take your bike as far afield as you like, perhaps visiting Utrecht or Den Haag, heading to the tulip fields, or the beach at Zaandvoort for some windsurfing. Closer to home, Amsterdamse Bos is a forest that’s only a half hour's cycle from the city centre, yet is around three times the size of New York’s Central Park. Here you’ll find slender trees, lakes with obstacle courses in the water and rivers perfect for a spot of canoeing. Stay in the old heart of the city at B&B Keizers Canal.
The Dordogne region can be explored on foot, horseback, by bike or canoe
Perigeux is an old Roman town right in the middle of southwestern France's Dordogne region, an area that really lends itself to active and family-friendly holidays – centred around the Dordogne River. Take a canoeing day trip through archetypal French countryside, where châteaux sit atop honey-coloured rocky promontories, poking out of the forests and vineyards. There are tree houses, yurts and throngs of riverside campgrounds, so you can pitch a tent en route and carry on canoeing the next day. You'll find an abundance of cycling, walking and horse-riding expeditions, too. Start your trip in a suite filled with eclectic antiques at Chambres d'Hôtes Couleurs du Temps in the middle of Perigeux.
Trek through the world's highest mountains near Kathmandu
As you descend into the valley of Kathmandu, the sight of the city alone is enough to whet your appetite for adventure. As rickshaws race around ancient temples, your eyes will be drawn to the Himalayan backdrop, containing several of the world’s highest mountains. Opt for a high-altitude trek and you’ll be camping in the snow, enveloped in unparalleled silence and mountains of a spine-tingling scale. Alternatively, treks run through woodland and waterfalls lower down the mountain range, while bungee jumping, skydiving and other extreme sports are also available. Base yourself at Kumari Boutique Hotel in Kathmandu and wake up to views of the city's temples from your bedroom window.
Morocco offers world-class hiking and surfing not far from Marrakech and its glittering medina
Getting lost in Marrakech’s labyrinthine souks amid the aroma of spices and recently tanned leather is an activity in itself. But once you’re outside of the city, there are ample ways for you to get truly active on holiday. In just a few days, you can go from hiking in the arid Atlas Mountains or riding camels over towering sand dunes in the Sahara, to surfing strong swell in the Atlantic Ocean. Upon arrival in Marrakech, check in to Riad Alili and relax ahead of your active trip in the lantern-lit courtyard.
Though it's known for surfing, Hawaii offers a plethora of other active holidays too
The state of Hawaii is a utopia for active holiday-goers, with several outstandingly beautiful tropical islands to choose from. Whichever you pick, you can expect to hike through rainforest up to volcanic craters, or through canyons and valleys taking dips in cascades and mountain streams on the way. The island’s beaches are also among the world’s very best surfing spots but if you're looking for a mellower way to admire this paradisiacal place, there's kayaking, sailing and snorkelling too. Wake up to exceptional ocean views at Hale Kai Hawaii Bed & Breakfast in the Big Island town of Hilo.