Dreaming of a white Christmas? It looks like snow will be a no-show, as latest forecasts indicate that the festive break is far more likely to be green.
Despite the sub-zero temperatures and snowstorms of recent days, weather experts have not only ruled out the white stuff over Christmas – they say that Britain is set to bask in one of the warmest Christmas Days ever.
The freezing temperatures that had many of us shivering this weekend are about to give way to a sudden tropical burst of air - which means temperatures will reach as high as 14C in places.
In the past few days, north-westerly winds have been causing the coldest spell of weather so far this winter, sucking air south from Greenland and the Arctic.
But the Met Office says that a change in wind direction means westerly breezes originating from the tropics are set to send temperatures soaring, even to the north of Scotland, where predicted temperatures could reach as high as 12C.
Before the warmer winds arrive on Tuesday evening, weather warnings have been announced for snow and ice in parts of the country including Tayside and the border region.
The UK's warmest ever Christmas Day came when 15.6C was recorded in 1920 in Killerton, Devon.
Last Christmas was the coldest on record, with the Scottish Highlands experiencing temperatures as low as -18.2C.
Snow? What snow? Christmas in UK set to be warmest on record
Take in the wonders of a faraway world and explore the sources of the Amazon river at the remote Pacaya Samiria Reserve. The river cruise will include daily excursions lead by local experts, taking you into the Amazonian communities, wildlife spotting, and fishing for piranha. The reserve spans over five million acres and was created to protect the ecosystems of the Loreto region, preserve the local people’s culture and heritage and protect the unique wildlife, which includes monkeys, butterflies and the endangered pink Amazon river dolphin. UK winter is a great time to sail the Amazon as it's the high water season, meaning you'll enjoy 'cooler' temperatures, still hot at 30C on average, and, because the forests are flooded and lush, you'll be able to explore the higher parts of the forest canopy by boat and get up close to the birds and mammals. A true hidden gem. Price: A three-night Amazon Discovery Cruise starts from £1,557 per person, based on two people sharing, on a full board basis. This price includes all excursions, beverages (soft drinks, house wine and beer), transfers to and from Iquitos (if arriving on recommended flights) and entrance to Pacaya Samiria. Visit aquaexpeditions.com
Arizona is perfect for a horse riding holiday during the UK winter, as you'll enjoy warm highs up to the 70s. Stay at the White Stallion a Spanish-style ranch set in a 100,000-acre game reserve surrounded by desert mountains. There are daily horseback adventures and the property also features a heated pool, hot tub and masseurs on hand – perfect for riders with saddle aches and pains. Price: Seven nights from £889pp (two sharing) accommodation, all meals, most ranch activities, taxes, transfers and gratuities. Return flight from £799pp. Visit ranchrider.com or call 01509 618811.
The Montpelier Plantation & Beach (montpeliernevis.com), idyllically set against the breathtaking backdrop of Nevis and St Kitts, is the perfect place to swap grey skies for blue. Surrounded by 60 acres of lush tropical gardens and sugar cane fields, this private estate is set up in the hills of Nevis, but also offers its own private beach with private access. Nevis boasts lush rainforests and landscapes are perfect for hiking, climbing and mountain biking. Price: From £1,760 per person based on two people sharing a premier room on a breakfast basis for seven nights. Includes economy flights with British Airways, inter-island flights and private car transfers. Visit elegantresorts.co.uk for more information or call 01244 897516.
The 13-day Snow Leopard Experience starts in Leh, the former mountain capital of the ancient Himalayan kingdom of Ladakh near Tibet. From here, you'll depart for the Husing Camp in the Hemis National Park, then trek the elevated regions of Rumbak and Tarbung Valley - areas famous for its snow leopard population, as well as the Great Tibetan Sheep, Tibetan Wolf, Eurasian Brown Bear, and rare bird life including the Golden Eagle. Treks follow the Indus River to Ulley village and back to Leh, and culminate in a departure out of Delhi. Price: £1,193/US$1,904 per person, including all meals, accommodation and park entry fees (not including international flights). Visit planetwildlife.com for more information.
South Africa’s hidden gem, the Eastern Cape, offers a wealth of spectacular wildlife and adventures. With 800km of untouched coastline, there are miles of deserted long sandy beaches: ride the perfect waves of Jeffrey’s Bay, do the world’s highest commercial bridge bungee jump, or walk the Wild Coast, the birthplace of Nelson Mandela. It is also the only place in the world to currently offer wildlife’s Big Seven in the malaria-free Greater Addo Elephant National Park. Price: The luxurious Pumba Private Game Reserve and Spa (pumbagamereserve.co.za ), just an hour’s drive from Port Elizabeth, has all-inclusive rates start from £245 per night per person sharing when staying in a double room in the impala chalet and include two game drive activities per day. Visit ectourism.co.za
Shake off the winter blues with a shopping bonanza in Shanghai. although it's cold, there are much fewer tourists, so it’s a dream time to explore. One of the fastest growing economies in the world, China, and Shanghai in particular, is an intriguing location for its juxtaposition of the old, traditional China to the brand new. The Bund, Shanghai’s iconic waterfront area, harks back to the glamour and decadence of the 1920s while Pudong, on the opposite side of the river, reaches higher and higher into the sky with countless skyscrapers. Fantastic shopping opportunities include high end fashion brands such as Chanel and Burberry, who are embracing the surging market and are even creating off shoot Chinese brands. You can also experience its incredible spas, and exceptional restaurants, bars, and clubs. Price: A stay at luxurious Puli Hotel and Spa (thepuli.com) in a Deluxe King Room is from £385 per room per night based on two people sharing + 15% taxes. Seven nights are available for the price of five (saving £434). Price includes complimentary breakfast, complimentary soft drink mini bar, wifi internet access and access to health club facilities. To book call +86 21 3203 9999 or e-mail email@example.com
In Salzburg's Gastein (which includes the towns of Dorfgastein, Bad Hofgastein, Bad Gastein) you can head straight from the slopes to one of two top spa resorts. After a day of skiing, relax achy muscles in soothing warm waters, or heat up those cold bones in a sauna. For hundreds of years, the healing effects of Gastein’s spring waters have been world renowned. Felsentherme Gastein has one million litres of water from 17 different springs feeding the pools of its spa. And the Alpentherme in Bad Hofgastein has six worlds of aquatic enjoyment, as well as the Sauna World with its own mountain lake. Price: From £1,125 for seven nights half board including flights, transfers, six days with a ski instructor or guide. Visit skiclub.co.uk/freshtracks.
Do something really different this winter.Thailand’s stunning coral reefs are in desperate need of conservation and you can help by doing your bit, by getting involved in all sorts of clean-up operations including diving in and testing water quality, cleaning up the ocean floor and other important tasks on the beautiful island of Koh Tao, with its smooth currents and swaying palm trees. Price: £695 per person including a PADI open water dive course or Advanced Dive course and use of equipment. Flights are not included. Visit responsibletravel.com for more.
Take in the wildlife of the Yellowstone National Park in winter – usually only open for tours between May and September. Spot bison, elk, wolves and bighorn sheep wander across snow-covered valleys. Yellowstone’s geologic features are even more spectacular in the freezing temperatures and you'll also get to see mudpools and hot springs surrounded by frozen landscapes, and waterfalls whose cataracts partially freeze into ice bridges and geysers – such as Old Faithful – erupting dramatically in the air. You can also enjoy winter activities like hiking by snowshoe, ice skating and cross country skiing. Price: Twin share prices start from £1,195 per person inclusive of return UK flights to Montana, SUV hire and 13 nights B&B accommodation in various hotels. Visit bon-voyage.co.uk/spotlights or call 0800 316 0194.
With more 300 days of sunshine a year, Agadir is the perfect secret winter escape. Known for its historic ruins and picturesque buildings, it's a fascinating destination, particularly as it boasts a 10km-long beach. Don't miss a trip to a local Souk. Try this: Stay at the Sofitel Agadir Royal Bay Resort (sofitel.com) for its exclusive private beaches and luxurious facilities.