February: Political thaw puts Burma back on the map

Where to go, what to do in 2011
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The Independent Travel

The destination

Beat the winter blues in Burma, one of South-east Asia's most beautiful and unexplored countries.

It has been largely off-limits for 15 years but Burma (Myanmar) is now back on the tourist map since the National League for Democracy - Aung San Suu Kyi's political party - announced in early November that the boycott on independent tourism to the country should be eased.

The route

The much-delayed Boeing Dreamliner is due to make its first commercial flight. Japan's All Nippon Airways (ana-europe.com) is scheduled to fly the first international route, though at the time of writing it had not confirmed the destination. The new 787, with a range of 8,500 miles, is quieter, largely made of composite materials, and uses 20 per cent less fuel than aircraft of equivalent size.

The accommodation

One of Britain's biggest hotel openings of 2011 is to take place in February, courtesy of global giant Starwood. The 192-room W London – Leicester Square (whotels.com/london) brings the booming brand to the capital for the first time, and it will be hoping to entice style-conscious guests and romantics when it opens its doors on St Valentine's Day, 14 February. Rooms from £323.

The cultural attraction

The new Royal Shakespeare Theatre and Swan Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon celebrate the completion of a four-year refurbishment, costing £112.8m, with performances of King Lear and Hamlet from 23 February (rsc.org.uk). Audiences will get closer to the action in the new auditorium, which wraps them around the stage on three sides. There is also a new rooftop restaurant and bar.

The great outdoors

Tourists have been given permission to trek through some of India's wildlife parks for the first time in an initiative launched in Madhya Pradesh state. Visitors can accompany and help local forest guards in their efforts to combat poachers. It is part of a wider conservation project called "Patrolling the Tiger Land Country". Steppes Discovery (steppesdiscovery.co.uk) offers a 13-day trip from £2,675.

The family holiday

A romantic break with the children in tow? Don't dismiss the idea entirely. The Family Valentine package at the Victorian Augill Castle, in Cumbria (stayinacastle.com), includes one luxurious night in a family room, with champagne and a four-course dinner for the adults. Meanwhile, the kids are served high tea and can watch movies or pick up a few tips at a Little Cooks Valentine class. From £390 per family.

The adventure

This month, Lough Eske Castle (solislougheskecastle.ie) launches a two-night adventure package in wild Donegal, Ireland, with a guided hike up the Bluestack Mountains. From €310 (£265).

The winter sports

Germany doesn't feature prominently in many ski brochures produced for the British market, yet the biggest downhill event of 2011 is to take place here. The Alpine Ski World Championships (gap2011.com) are to be held at Garmisch Partenkirchen, in Bavaria, from 7 to21 February. They will attract the world's best downhill racers including US superstars Bode Miller and Lindsey Vonn.

All prices are per person, based on two sharing, unless otherwise stated. Hotel room prices are per room per night, unless otherwise stated