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life-style, michael turtle, turtle, travel, winter, destinations, samoa, malaysia, jordan

I still remember when I worked at the Press Gallery and would be assigned the early morning shifts in winter. Trying to scrape the frost off the windscreen was never very successful. I normally ended up driving to Parliament House with my head out the window so I could see the road ahead of me. Thank goodness I have now followed a path as a travel journalist, rather than a political one, a job that generally takes me to the world’s warmest climates this time of year. If you’re thinking of your own getaway to escape the Canberra winter, I wanted to share some suggestions based on my experiences. You can probably picture the obvious destinations – places like Bali, Greece, and California. But following the crowds can often be annoying (not to mention expensive). There are plenty of warm places you can head towards this time of year that provide everything you’re looking for, even if they’re a bit under the radar. You don’t need to head too far from Australia to avoid the cold days. I feel like the Pacific islands don’t get much hype these days but somewhere like Samoa is a perfect escape. White sandy beaches, a laidback atmosphere and cocktails under a palm tree. While there are resort-style options, Samoa is one of the most traditional countries in the region and you’ll still be able to have an authentic cultural experience. Combine that with jungles, waterfalls, and volcanoes and you’ll have a fun mix of relaxation, culture and nature. I feel like Malaysia often gets overlooked for its more popular neighbours like Thailand and Vietnam, but it’s the more relaxed tourism industry that makes it such a pleasant destination. Kuala Lumpur doesn’t necessarily offer the kind of heat that you want, but head to the eastern islands like Tioman or the Perhentians for a tropical treat. Hiking amongst the beautiful tea plantations in the Cameron Highlands is a wonderful experience – or just eat your way through George Town on the island of Penang. The Middle East is seriously hot in summer so this is just for the real heat-seekers. But, if you can handle it, Jordan is a great option because you won’t need to battle the crowds to see world-famous sites like Petra. Walking through this ancient city will make you feel just like Indiana Jones, while the desert landscapes of Wadi Rum look like they’re straight out of a painting. Jordan is a great choice if you like history, with the country full of religious sites and medieval fortresses. Mediterranean countries like Spain and Italy are the obvious summer choices but I actually find them to be too hot (plus crowded and expensive) in summer. For something a bit different, I would recommend Finland where you can make the most of the long sunny days in a country that can be too dark and cold at other times. Helsinki is a vibrant city with plenty of cultural offerings. But further afield you can take a boat to the small islands along the coastline, hike in the countryside, try the local fish delicacies and finish every day with a traditional sauna. When it comes to summer in Europe, you won’t find much hotter than Cyprus. In July and August, the average temperature is about 35 degrees and there normally isn’t a single drop of rain. This means the beautiful beaches and coastal pools are full of swimmers and sunbakers, and the nightlife goes late into the night in holiday cities like Paphos. There are also a lot of fascinating historical sites in Cyprus because of its strategic position, while the friendly culture is a blend of Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa. For a lot of Australians, Canada may seem like more of a winter destination because of its incredible ski resorts. But the same thing that makes the winter so good – mountains – can also be the reason to go in summer. The twin national parks of Jasper and Banff in Alberta make up one of the most beautiful regions I have ever seen. Driving along the Icefields Parkway, surrounded by dramatic peaks, glaciers, and waterfalls is a great way to enjoy the natural wonders on offer. There is no shortage of fabulous islands in the Caribbean and, if you’re looking for a beach getaway with free-flowing rum, you can’t go wrong with any of them. But I think Antigua and Barbuda is one of the best options if you’re looking for affordable luxury. There’s something casual about the way of life in this former British colony, where you can explore the old forts, swim with friendly stingrays, sail between the beaches, and taste the rich local foods. It won’t take long until you’re on island time. And, finally, if you’re looking for a bit of adventure then I would recommend Kyrgyzstan, the most accessible of the Central Asian countries for independent travellers. Much of the country consists of stunning mountain ranges where you can hike or ride a horse through the lush forest to refreshing alpine lakes. It’s easy to find guides who will take you for a day – or for weeks, if you really want to disconnect from home. In the cities, you’ll find some heritage from the Soviet days but also a unique local culture (which includes drinking fermented horse milk, I discovered). Kyrgyzstan is not your usual summer destination but why not combine an escape from the Canberra chill with some exciting exploration! Michael Turtle is a journalist who has been travelling the world full-time for the past eight years. Follow his travel adventures at