News Bargains below: 5 sunny south of the equator escapes

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Bargains below: 5 sunny south of the equator escapes

With the nights drawing in and memories of balmy evenings spent sipping rosé fading, most of us are dreaming of escaping to sunnier climes. Good news: we can turn your world upside down with the best budget-friendly destinations south of the equator where spring has most definitely sprung. We’ve found affordable places to stay and even had a play with the Skyscanner things to do tool – in fact, we’ve mentally packed our bags….

Cape Town

An embarrassment of riches in terms of just about everything you’d want from a holiday destination, we’d struggle to come up with reasons not to go to Cape Town. But springtime here offers some particularly compelling selling points, not least competitive air fares (£569 for a return trip).

With spring in the air, Cape Town’s jaw-dropping natural wonders and Insta-gorgeous city sights seem to shine all the brighter. The only problem is knowing where to start. To get your head around the city, take a sightseeing tour, then take advantage of the weak rand with a slap-up dinner – a mid-range three-course meal for two will cost around £26.

The Western Cape is home to the UNESCO-recognised Cape Floral Kingdom, a biodiversity hotspot covering 550,000 hectares that is bursting into bloom right now. Vast swathes of wildflowers cover the fields and mountains and are best admired at Table Mountain National Park and Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden, known as Africa’s most beautiful garden.

Go now and you’ll catch the end of whale watching season too, as the southern right whales migrate to calve and nurse. Whales often come within metres of the shoreline at Hermanus, an hour and a half’s drive south of the city. But if you don’t want to venture far, there are plenty of vantage points along False Bay too.

If that’s not enough to tempt you, try pristine beaches – 72 in all – that are still relatively empty yet beautifully balmy by British standards, not to mention world-class wineries. The Constantia Valley is just 20 minutes away from the city and includes Groot Constantia, the country’s oldest wine farm, which has been producing since 1685.

Editor’s hotel pick: a double room at the four-star aha Harbour Bridge Hotel & Suites costs from £65 per night in October.

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Bali

You’d be forgiven for assuming a holiday to this Indonesian beach paradise will cost the earth – with a flight time of 16.5 hrs, long-hauls don’t get much longer – but Bali’s enticing beaches, emerald rice paddies and tropical jungle landscapes are more accessible than you think.

As the island’s peak period is July and August, air fares become more palatable in autumn (£556 return in November) and there are fewer tourists to clog up the beaches by September, too. There’s still plenty of sun and even during the rainy season, which gets going in November, downpours are often refreshingly brief.

South Bali is a surfer’s paradise, so why not try a lesson at a surf school, such as at the famous Kuta Beach. If exploring is more your bag, there are more than 20,000 Hindu temples scattered across the island. Visit Tanah Lot which is perched on an outcrop just offshore. It’s particularly stunning at sunset.

Make sure you check out Ubud, Bali’s spiritual centre made famous in Elizabeth Gilbert’s bestseller Eat, Pray, Love. A hippie hotspot, it’s packed with yoga retreats and luxe spas. The sacred Monkey Forest is well worth a visit, too.

Many people opt for all-inclusive to keep food costs down, but eating out is cheap and cheerful in Bali. Sample freshly grilled seafood on the beach at one of the local cafés known as warungs or treat yourself to a fancy three-course meal, which should cost around £40 for two, including wine.

Editor’s hotel pick: a double room at the three-star b Hotel Bali & Spa costs from £21 per night in November.

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Buenos Aires

Argentina’s most sultry city is at its most beguiling in springtime. With the jacaranda flowers painting the town lilac and the temperature neither too hot nor too cold, it’s a glorious time to wander the winding streets and wide boulevards with their grand European-style buildings.

Hotels range from five-star to budget-friendly and with a return trip in November costing as little as £469 (that’s 13% less than the average flight in other months), there’s really no excuse to miss out on this South American gem.

There’s so much to see and do in Buenos Aires, you’ll have constant FOMO, so it’s a good idea to plan your days around some must-sees. Head to the main square, Plaza de Mayo, and take snaps of the Italian-style Casa Rosada (pink house) government building, then delve into BA’s maritime history at portside La Boca, with its colourful painted houses. And escape the bustle of the city at the Japanese Gardens, at their most glorious in spring.

As the evenings warm up, the streets come alive with revellers ready to tango the night away. Nightlife is a big deal in BA and, as the clubs don’t get going until 2am, sleep should be low on your agenda! There’s plenty of action at Puerto Madero, a vibrant marina with cafés, bars and nightclubs galore. But for a truly authentic experience book ahead at a milonga (tango club). Some places, such as Oliverio Girondo in the artsy barrio Villa Crespo, even let learners have a go!

Food means steak in BA but you needn’t spend a fortune in swanky restaurants. You can find cheap eats and robust reds at neighbourhood parrillas (steakhouses) in less trendy areas such as the corner of Alvarez Thomas and Avenida de los Incas. There are local pizza joints on every street corner and you can soak up all those caipirinhas with tasty takeaway empanadas just about anywhere for about £1.50 a piece.

Editor’s hotel pick: a double room at the four-star Centuria Hotel Buenos Aires costs from £30 per night in November.

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Auckland

New Zealand’s largest city is a belter. Situated between two harbours, to the west is the Tasman Sea and to the east, the sparkling islands of the Hauraki Gulf give way to the Pacific Ocean beyond. And just an hour’s drive out of the city, rainforests, thermal springs and wineries await the lucky visitor.

These far-flung wonders are by no means out of reach, though. The New Zealand dollar is at a two-year low, meaning you can effectively double your money when booking and once you’re there. With hotel prices down by 9% too, it’s a great time to head down under.

Even better news is that Auckland’s biggest draw comes for free – those views. And as the city is perched on top of a volcanic field, there are plenty of vantage points from which to enjoy them. At 196m high, Mount Eden offers arguably the best panorama from the edge of its huge crater, while One Tree Hill has extensive grounds to explore, including the beautiful Cornwall Park.

If you’re fine with forking out an entrance fee, head to the Sky Tower, where adrenaline junkies can take the SkyJump from an observation deck or strap on a harness and walk around the narrow pergola nearly 200m above ground.

Back on terra firma, stroll around the bustling Waterfront where you can admire the city’s Harbour Bridge, delve into history at the Maritime Museum and refuel at stylish restaurants and bars.

Make time for a day trip to one of the Hauraki Gulf’s stunning islands. A big favourite is Waiheke, which boasts 30 boutique wineries, stunning coastal walks and quirky galleries and shops.

Editor’s hotel pick: a double room at the Waldorf St Martins Apartments Hotel costs from £64 per night in October

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Mombasa

Kenya’s second largest city after Nairobi, Mombasa is the gem of East Africa’s Indian Ocean coastline. Boasting some of Kenya’s most idyllic palm-fringed beaches, a vibrant mix of cultures and of course, plenty of sunshine, this place ticks all the boxes. Add to that the fact the cost of a return trip in November comes in at £473 and it’s a no brainer.

The beaches around Mombasa are powdered-sugar perfect and long hot days are only occasionally interrupted by short rains in November, often in the morning and evening. Soak up the rays at popular Diani Beach, south of Mombasa, or nearby hippie enclave Tiwi Beach, go snorkelling or take a dolphin-spotting tour on a traditional dhow.

The city itself is a melting pot of Arab, African, Asian and European cultures, which can be seen in the mosques, temples and ancient buildings of the Old Town. Take your camera and explore its narrow alleyways, as the intoxicating scent of spices wafts from the local market. Try some of the fusion cuisine at one the many cafés then head to Fort Jesus, a 16th century Portuguese fort and Mombasa’s most famous landmark.

Mombasa also makes an affordable base for a safari, with many companies offering dawn-to-dusk or two-day options that won’t break the bank. Seeing lions, giraffes, rhinos and elephants up close is well worth the 4am wake-up call!

Editor’s hotel pick: a double room at the New Palm Tree Hotel costs from £34 per night in November.

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All prices are as of date of publication on 2 October 2018 and are subject to change and availability.

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