Experience

SEROTONIN AND SUNSHINE

Winter weary? These are the best places to escape the cold.

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British weather. How does something so dreary dominate common discourse? Perhaps what we’re actually doing is artfully steering the conversation in the direction of The Sun. Yes, like a maddening crush that we’re desperate to mention the name of, we just can’t help ourselves. It’s pure escapism. We’ll tell ourselves it’s about wellness, but it’s actually about doing sweet FA with a view. Those fed up of hearing about your crush will tell you to go after them, to up sticks and move where you can feel their warmth, but they’d be missing the point of what makes them so alluring in the first place. It’s the forbidden fruit. The thrill of the chase. But mostly, let’s be honest, it’s the smug - bordering on obnoxious - satisfaction of asking everyone back in the UK how the weather is while you’re lying supine in Sri Lanka.

Here, the destinations bound to boost your serotonin, and equip you with that statement: ‘yeah, we got some sun’.

1/5

Skoura, Ouarzazate Province, Morocco | Hotel: Dar Ahlam

Photo courtesy of Dar Ahlam

With the snow-capped High Atlas to the north and the searing heat of the Sahara to the south, this is Morocco outside of the medina. At grand old dame Dar Ahlam peace is palpable and days start slow. Barreling through the burnt-orange dust roads of the Dadès and Drâa valleys in a 4x4 will blow any cobwebs away. In need of further respite? Staff will point you in the direction of an ancient Berber village where a tea ceremony awaits. But if genuine horsepower is more your thing, ride down to the shores of Al Mansour on an Arabian Stallion.

Rooms from £386 per night

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2/5

Harbour Island, Bahamas | Hotel: Bahama House

Photo by Louis A. W. Sheridan

It doesn’t get much better than lazing in the Bahamian shallows of Harbour Island (or ‘Briland’ to those who know it better). ‘Island time’ isn’t verbalised. Instead, ‘yeah yeah later’ is an unspoken law. Bahama House is smack-bang in the centre of town, though you can lap the whole island in three minutes flat in a golf buggy. Pastel houses, pink beaches and saccharine shop names are all in on something. Somewhere between the beach and the bar, sun-drunk and full of rum, you’ll have an epiphany. Or perhaps at Gusty’s on the sandcovered dance floor. Everyone loves life in there.

Rooms from £1,166 per night

3/5
Pioneertown, California, United States | Hotel: Pioneertown Motel

Photo by Louis A. W. Sheridan

This is a long-since-shuttered Western film set in the sparse end of nowhere. Actually that’s not fair, it’s right next to the big cactus between Palm Springs and Joshua Tree. It’s everything you always wanted a cowboy town to be. A burning hot sun casts long shadows across the main street. There’s a general store, a miniature motel, a church and a swing-doored boozer with unintelligible opening hours. But with boutique ceramicists and sage sellers (to name but two enterprises), its proximity to LA is obvious. As the sun rides on out of the Morongo Basin, remove yourself from your hammock and mosey on over to Pappy and Harriet’s to throw back a bourbon or six. You’re about as far from England as it gets. But wait, isn’t that the sound of a Sheffield accent on stage? Arctic Monkeys and other soul-searching, desert-roaming misfits occasionally rock up here for very lowkey shows.

Rooms from £150 per night

4/5
Byron Bay, NSW, Australia | Raes on Wategos Place

Photo by Louis A. W. Sheridan

Byron greets you with a big, friendly, sun lotion laden slap on the back of your wetsuit. Surf crashes onto the rounded rocks of Wategos Beach, smoothing the sand on its way back out and, in the distance, there’s a plume of smoke twisting its way out of a barbecue. This is the free-spirited, Australian utopia that we rarely pursue because we barely believe it exists. It’s exactly as it should be and no acoustic guitar is out of place. The scene is backdropped by Raes, a once faded, now painstakingly restored hotel favoured by surfers and scenesters alike.

Rooms from £354 per night

5/5
Windhoek East, Namibia | Hotel: Omaanda

Photo courtesy of Omaanda

Occasionally you have to lead from the front when it comes to sun worship. Clear your calendar, get a running jump on the day and start stirring before dawn. It’s the conference call of the wild that kicks things off at Omaanda, followed by a breakfast meeting with rhinos, giraffes, leopards and their cohorts on the morning’s game drive. By the time the sun has found its place in the sky, the world seems more vast, concerns are condensed, and your place in the fabric of things seems little more than a loose stitch. Spend your afternoon in the pool, staring out over endless savannah, making a mental agenda for the evening’s game drive.

Rooms from £559 per night

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