No Filter Needed: Six Colorful Destinations to Escape the Winter Blues
As winter is just around the corner - for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere - the days are already getting shorter and darker. With nothing but grey and cold to look forward to, if you’re already daydreaming about exotic destinations, clear blue skies and sunshine on your skin, you’re in good company! In fact, a majority of US travelers consider an ‘exotic atmosphere’ (48%) and ‘reliable weather’ (73%) to be important factors when picking a destination for their next trip*. With that in mind, Booking.com, the digital travel leader connecting travelers with the widest choice of unique places to stay, a range of must-do travel experiences and seamless transport options, has handpicked six of the world’s most colorful places to encourage travelers to escape those winter blues and recharge their batteries. With rainbow-hued architecture, fragrantly spiced food and plenty of Vitamin D on offer, leave the winter wool behind and soak up some serious rays with these vibrant and sunny winter getaways.
Popular with Instagrammers, the “blue city” of Morocco is a bright and cheerful feast for the eyes, with its myriad houses and shops all painted in brilliant shades of azure, iris and indigo. Warmed by the North African sun and buffeted by the sounds and scents of the city’s vibrant souks, Chefchaouen entices with the seductive smell of freshly ground spices and the exuberant haggling of bargain hunters bidding on hand-crafted treasures. With an average temperature of 61 °F during the winter months, it’s ideal for travelers who don’t like sweltering temperatures and prefer to visit when the city is much less busy. If you really want to turn up the heat though, you can always spend some time sweating it out in one of the city's many hammams (traditional Turkish baths), ideal for relaxing after a day of exploring.
Where to stay: Dar Jasmine is a cozy guest house, just a short walk away from Ras El Ma, the photogenic source of drinking water for the village. Since you can only get to Chefchaouen by car or bus, it’s worthwhile to also visit Fes while you’re traveling through the region. The ancient walled city is about a 4.5 hour drive away from Chefchaouen and beckons with numerous narrow alleys, hidden gardens and more tempting aromas.
Bo-Kaap, Cape Town, South Africa
While it might be winter for the northern half of the planet, it’s summer in Cape Town! For a high intensity injection of color, sunshine and spice, spend a day exploring the historic Bo-Kaap neighborhood with its vivid jewel-toned houses and cobblestone streets. Meaning ‘above the Cape,’ in Afrikaans, Bo-Kaap is also known as the Cape Malay Quarter and the epicenter of Cape Malay culture in the city. A mix of Indonesian and European influences, dating back to the Dutch colonial period, Bo-Kaap promises an intoxicating mix of restaurants and markets to enjoy. Musts include sampling the sweet and spicy traditional Cape Malay curry and a visit to the Bo-Kaap Museum, housed in a renovated building from the 1760’s.
Where to stay: Nazari House offers modern and colorful apartments in the heart of Bo-Kaap and is a perfect homebase not only for discovering all the colorful quarter has to offer, but the wider Cape Town area, as well.
With thousands of houses in every shade of sky and sea imaginable, on first glance, Jodhpur might seem an unlikely candidate to escape the ‘blues’. But with winter temperatures ranging from 68 -77°F, historic architecture to explore and spicy street food to enjoy, it makes for a pleasantly warm and colorful getaway. Built around 1459 and jutting up over 400 feet from Jodhpur’s oceanic cityscape, the sand-colored Mehrangarh Fort is one of India’s largest and the city’s most iconic landmark. Other musts include a peaceful stroll through the public Mandore Gardens to admire its many temples and manicured landscapes, as well as sampling local specialties, such as mirchi bada, a traditional spicy snack, and pyaaz ki kachori, fried pastry with a spicy onion filling. A delight for all the senses, it’s no surprise that Jodhpur is attracting more visitors and is even featured on Booking.com’s list of top emerging travel destinations for 2020**.
Where to stay: Just a short drive from Mehrangarh Fort and nestled in a tranquil neighborhood surrounded by lush greenery, The Almond Tree bed and breakfast deftly combines luxury, charm and relaxation for those that want to escape the hustle and bustle. You can even enjoy a home-cooked meal at the property’s rooftop restaurant overlooking the stunning Umaid Bhawan Palace (one of the world’s largest private residences) while admiring the sunset.
Viejo San Juan, Puerto Rico
Another one of Booking.com’s top emerging travel destinations for 2020**, San Juan is popular for its rich history, delicious cuisine, vibrant nightlife and colorful Spanish architecture in its traditional center, known as Viejo San Juan, literally Old San Juan. The best way to explore this cobblestoned beauty is on foot, so bring your favorite comfy pair of shoes. Whether wandering around the beautiful plazas and soaking up some sun during the day or dancing the night away with some friendly locals to the sounds of salsa, flamenco, cha-cha and jazz at an impromptu street party, a visit to San Juan is a surefire cure to the winter blues.
Where to stay: Located in the heart of San Juan’s vibrant Santurce Art District, Santurcia Hostel is a great place to meet other travelers from all around the globe. Booking.com guests love the friendly staff, the rooftop terrace with its breathtaking urban views, the modern design and the special events that organized by the hostel itself, like yoga by moonlight and film nights.
Willemstad, Curaçao, Netherlands Antilles
With traditional Dutch architecture in vivid hues of orange, pink and yellow, the vibrant capital of the Caribbean island of Curaçao, provides a tropical dose of color therapy for anyone struggling with the wintertime blues. A truly photogenic UNESCO World Heritage site, Willemstad overflows with inspiring opportunities to brighten your mood (and your social media feed), from shopping for fresh fruit at the famous floating market to strolling along the cobblestone streets of the historic waterfront to snap the perfect shot of the harbor from Queen Emma Bridge. Highly endorsed by Booking.com customers for its beaches, relaxation, snorkeling and sunny weather, Willemstad truly has something for everyone. With over 20 beaches to explore in a relatively compact area (171 square miles), renting a car is one of the best ways to discover the island’s stunning natural beauty. Afterwards, you can toast your victory over the winter blues with a cocktail in an oceanfront café made from the island’s signature blue liqueur.
Where to stay: Right in the heart of Willemstad just a short stroll away from the water, Bed & Bike Curacao (as its name might suggest) actually offers free bikes for guests to explore the city. The colorful hostel is located in the popular Pietermaai District, home to fine restaurants and great nightlife, ideal for mingling with fellow travelers from all over the world, as well as local artists and music lovers.
George Town, Penang
Combining the old with the new, the capital of the Malaysian island of Penang is a lively destination steeped in history and full of contemporary and traditional artwork. Perfect for ‘snowbirds’, George Town knows no real winter. With an abundance of sunshine from December to April and pleasant weather throughout the year, this UNESCO World Heritage city is ideal to explore on foot and warm up while admiring the stunning street art, old houses, ancient Chinese shops, beautiful temples, mosques and churches. Considered a foodie capital of Malaysia, the city has fully embraced food trucks, offering an incredible array of dining options, including everything from Indian, Cantonese and Malay to Hokkien Chinese cuisine. Coffee lovers will also find a satisfying array of trendy cafes to unwind in during their time in the city.
Where to stay: Surrounded by a variety of local shops and restaurants, Campbell House is a luxurious boutique hotel with a charming, sophisticated style. Although George Town offers delicious street food, if you are in the mood for tasty Italian food, the hotel’s restaurant will not disappoint.
*Research commissioned by Booking.com and independently conducted among a sample of adults who have taken a trip in the last 12 months/plan to take a trip in the next 12 months. In total 21,500 respondents were polled (including 1,000 each from Australia, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, China, Brazil, India, US, UK, Russia, Indonesia, Colombia and South Korea; and 500 each from Japan, New Zealand, Thailand, Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Hong Kong, Croatia, Taiwan, Mexico, Netherlands, Sweden, Singapore and Israel). Respondents completed an online survey between 10th August to 30th August 2018.
**The data analysts at Booking.com selected the top 1,000 booked destinations during the time period August 2018 - June 2019 and ranked them by fastest growing when compared to the window of time of the previous year. Only international and leisure trips were taken into account and the destinations were slightly curated to ensure geographic distribution. Visit the 2020 Travel Predictions site for more information on the other trending destinations and other travel predictions for the coming year.