The majestic peaks, picturesque villages and immaculate snow of the Alps are legendary. But it’s not all about Chamonix and Saas Fee: you can sample the snow, plus sand and souks, in spots from Cyprus to Sicily too. Strap on your ski boots and join Holiday Lettings for a run-down of the world’s most unusual ski destinations.
Mount Etna, Sicily
Photo credit: Franco Pecchio (license) via flickr.com
Sicily is the island of Don Corleone and the spiritual home of Dolce & Gabbana; Domenico Dolce was born there and many of their collections celebrate the island. Take in Taormina’s powerful amphitheatre and Agrigento’s towering temples. Sip Marsala’s famous fortified wines. And why not explore Mount Etna, Europe’s highest active volcano? (Probably best to leave the D&G treasures behind though.) Add a touch of ice to your fiery trip with some skiing on the snowy cap of the volcano: the 3km altitude means there’s typically snow from November to April. Lava flows damaged the lifts in previous eruptions so you should be wary of further flare-ups, but the views way down to the azure Ionian Sea and up to the main crater’s billowing smoke rings are breathtaking.
You’ll soon be head over heels with Aphrodite’s legendary birthplace: tables staggering under stuffed vine leaves, dazzling blue seas fringed by sparkling white sands – what’s not to love? Explore the island’s shady mountain villages with their concealed religious icons, tottering minarets and gracefully decayed Venetian fortresses. Done with swimming? Take Europe’s most southerly ski lift up Mount Olympus: there are four ski slopes of differing levels, from green to the aptly named Zeus black run on the mountain’s north face. You can also tour the opulent Kykkos Monastery or the quaint olive mill in Spilia to get a strong sense of the island’s rich history.
Photo credit: Jørn Eriksson (license) via flickr.com
Getting lost in Marrakesh’s souk is as bewitching as it is inevitable – the filigree lamps are definitely fit for a genie. When you’ve sampled enough spicy sardines and aubergine fritters at a street food stand, fall under the spell of French painter Jacques Majorelle’s wonderfully restful gardens about 20 minutes away on foot. Travel less than 80km – on a camel if you really must – to Oukaimeden, Africa’s highest ski resort. It has 7 ski runs, from nursery to black, and offers you scenic cross-country skiing when snow’s low on the slopes. You can also go hiking, taking in the lunar landscapes, ancient rock engravings and exquisite spring flowers.
Photo credit: Peter (license) via flickr.com
Kashmir is simply stunning. If you’re in the east of the region, watch the colourful boats bobbing on Lake Dal’s blueish-green waters, stroll through Mughal pleasure gardens and visit characteristic Kashmiri wooden mosques. You have to try the moreish curries too – the richly spiced tomato and sumptuous cashew nut sauces are delicious. Head to the Himalayan village of Gulmarg for a further taste of the exotic and some incredible powder. It’s 2.7km above the Kashmiri plateau and benefits from some of the heaviest snowfalls in the Himalayas. Forget traditional après-ski and try the typical chai (local tea) instead. Look out for the mischievous monkeys roaming the resort’s streets and do keep your eyes peeled for snow leopards in the mountains.
Ben Lomond, Tasmania
Photo credit: Lauchlin (license) via Wikimedia Commons
Say g’day to Tasmania’s dramatically rocky coastline and unique native animals. Discover the Bay of Fires’ cobalt waters and rugged cliffs, with boulders casually scattered offshore. You might just meet the carnivorous Tasmanian devil – the island’s the only place in the world where it can be found in the wild. Complete your holiday with a run down the mountains of Ben Lomond. As you hurtle 1,500 metres down the piste, you’ll have an opportunity to take in the island’s strikingly contrasting scenery, from the peak’s alpine plateau all the way to eucalyptus forests and the ocean below. Will you spot a wallaby or a wombat?