Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Head for Sunny Climes to Stave Off Winter Blues

As the mercury continues its downward trend, it's almost time to extract the mothballs from your thermal underwear and brace yourself for five long months of harsh Russian winter. But there's no need to pack the bikinis and sun cream away just yet. Why not join the steady stream of hedonists heading off on holiday jaunts in search of sunnier skies?

"Last year, instead of spending Christmas at home in Britain, my husband and I decided to go to Jamaica for two weeks," said Anya Blakely, 34, a project manager with a Russian company. "The winter definitely seemed shorter. It was great. We're going back again this year."

It is a trend that seems to be gaining momentum. "A lot of people want to travel somewhere warm for a holiday at this time of the year," said a travel agent at IRO Travel who asked not to be identified. "It doesn't matter to them so much where they go so long as it's warm and fairly cheap. Southeast Asia is the most popular destination."

With great food, ancient temples and tropical islands to boot, Southeast Asia is a justifiably popular choice. However, the high season is upon us and travelers may now be forced to either pay through the nose or spend a significant amount of time on a waiting list to get a seat.

If you have the time and money to spare chasing the sun to the southern hemisphere, Shipra Travel (438-5756) has some great deals on alternative long-haul exotic destinations. A round-trip fare to Buenos Aires on KLM will set you back $1,120 with an additional small charge for airport tax. Flights depart three times a week and fly via Amsterdam. Or for those with a penchant for spectacular mountain scenery and Inca culture, check out the round-trip fare to Lima, Peru, also with KLM, for $1,120.

For a shorter hop before acquiring the essential suntan, Cyprus, with temperatures currently hovering around the mid-20s, is a convenient alternative. IRO Travel (974-1781 or 1798) offers a round-trip flight to Nicosia on Cyprus Airways for $350. Flights depart every Sunday, Monday and Thursday. Package tours to perennial Russian favorites like Turkey and the United Arab Emirates are also available at a wide selection of travel agents.

For a trip on the Nile, IRO also offers a flexible eight-day, seven-night "Egypt a la carte tour." The $980 per-person price tag includes a three-night luxury Nile cruise with meals provided, excursions to such ancient sites as the Luxor and Karnak temples and evening on-board entertainment. (Prices are based on double occupancy, as are all package-tour prices listed.) Accommodation for the remaining four nights is at the Sheraton hotel in your choice of either Cairo, Luxor, Alexandria or the resort of Hurghada on the Red Sea. Flights are not included and can be purchased from the agency for $420.

Set against a backdrop of rugged mountains on mainland Egypt, Hurghada has coral reefs teeming with tropical fish -- providing some of the best diving in the world. It is also a mecca for water-sports enthusiasts and is currently basking in average daytime air temperatures of 30 degrees.

Coral Travel (234-1481) offers a bargain seven-night package to Hurghada with prices ranging from $426 in a three-star hotel to $632 in a five-star hotel. Prices include return flights on Transaero, daily breakfast and dinner buffet, transfers and a Russian-speaking guide.

But for the ultimate hedonist, Viktoria Kakoyeva, manager of IntourService Russia (298-1569) suggests a two-week sojourn to the tropical islands of Sri Lanka and the Maldives. After spending seven nights in a beachfront hotel in Sri Lanka, travelers are whisked off on a half-hour flight to the Maldives for a further six-night stay. The package, priced at $1,890, includes flights on Aeroflot, accommodation in a four-star hotel, daily breakfast and dinner, transfers, insurance and excursions with a Russian-speaking guide. The IntourService agency can arrange English-speaking guides if necessary.

Sri Lanka was once described by Marco Polo as "undoubtedly the most beautiful island of its size in the world." For time to explore what the island has to offer in more detail, consider the 10-day package available from the same agency for $1,275. The price includes accommodation in a four- or five-star hotel with breakfast and dinner, flights on Aeroflot, transfers, insurance and optional sightseeing with a guide.

For bargain-hunters who prefer the flexibility of making their own travel arrangements, IntourService Russia also offers round-trip fares on Aeroflot to Male in the palm-fringed Maldives for between $550 and $580.

British Airways (258-2492) also has a wide range of sunny destinations to tempt even the most discerning traveler. Irina Gavrikova, a travel agent for the airline, said numbers are up this year on travel to Africa and the Caribbean. Current high-season fares to African destinations like Harare, Lusaka and Johannesburg start at $1,200. But for a trip flavored more by rum and reggae, British Airways offers flights to many Caribbean islands such as Antigua, Bermuda and Barbados starting at $1,400.

Continuing the Caribbean theme, Supernova Travel (292-2119) is touting a seven-day cruise that includes Mexico, Grand Cayman, Martinique, San Juan and Barbados in its many ports of call. Prices start from $429 for the cheapest cabin and include all meals. The cruises depart from Miami, and Alexei Odinovo, sales manager for Supernova, suggests flights on Delta Airlines for a further $800.

Mexico is another destination enjoying growing popularity according to Moscow travel agents. Globus Travel Elite (203-6233) currently offers a two-week winter escape to Cancun in southern Mexico for $1,295. The price includes flights, accommodation at a three-star hotel, transfers and insurance. The same agency also sells a variety of package tours to Tenerife -- the largest of the Canary Islands. A two-week sojourn flying either Aeroflot or Air Europa will set you back about $940. The price includes accommodation with breakfast and dinner, transfers and insurance.

Finally, travellers with their hearts set on Southeast Asia might want to check out bustling Hong Kong before China resumes sovereignty in July 1997. TransService (155-6375) has an economy class round-trip on Aeroflot available for about $1,450.