Travel agenda

From Barcelona, Brazil and Bilbo's house to William III's palace and Aldi ski gear
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The Independent Travel

1. Coast away

Five days before Christmas, Hyatt's contemporary Andaz brand launches a luxury resort on Costa Rica's lush Papagayo peninsula. The 150-room Pacific retreat is located on the Central American country's north-west shoulder. It offers three restaurants, a spa and myriad nearby beaches for surfing, scuba-diving and sailing. papagayo.andaz

2. Kick back

The Vana Malsi Estate is a new destination spa that's due to open in the Indian province of Uttarakhand on 4 January. The 21-acre estate is set amid sal, mango and lychee trees, with views of the Himalayan foothills, yoga pavillions, treatment rooms and indoor and outdoor pools. Three-night all-inclusive packages are available from Rs141,000 (£1,379) pp.

3. Ring thing

As the second part of Peter Jackson's cinematic trilogy of The Hobbit opens, Viator is offering three new Tolkien-themed tours of locations in New Zealand. One option takes you to the Hobbiton Movie Set in Matamata, for a behind-the-scenes look at Bilbo Baggins' house, with breakfast at the Green Dragon Inn. The £206 price includes transfers from Auckland.

4. Capital link

Starting on Sunday, London Euston gets reconnected with Edinburgh Waverley by a daytime rail service. Virgin Trains is taking on East Coast (not to mention British Airways and Virgin Atlantic) between the English and Scottish capitals. The link will also provide direct trains from Milton Keynes and Coventry to Edinburgh.

5. Alpine Aldi

Supermarket chain Aldi has just launched a low-cost ski gear range. It includes an adult ski and snowboard helmet (£19.99); a camcorder for keeping track of your skills on the slopes (£89.99); men's and women's jackets (£24.99); children's snowsuits (£9.99); goggles (£7.99), gloves (£4.99) and more. Just the thing for St Moritz this season.

6. Royal revels

In 1699, William III opened up Kensington Palace for a season of parties, with games, music and gambling for "Persons of Quality". This Christmas, the royal residence has been transformed once again into a winter pleasure palace, until 6 January. Festive games will include arranging a tower of fruits, bowling and dancing. Adults £15; under-16s free. 7. Spain train

The much-delayed Paris-Barcelona high-speed TGV train is due to start on 15 December. The connection will reduce the journey time between the two cities to six-and-a-half hours, and provide an enticing alternative to flying. Tickets start at €59. The Man in Seat 61 has written a comprehensive guide to the new service: 8. Brazil bound

Visit Brazil early next year before the World Cup crowds descend in June. The leading Brazilian airline, Tam, is selling non-stop flights from Heathrow to Rio and Sao Paulo for £681 and £697 respectively, for travel between 21 January and 20 May 2014 – though cheap seats are scarce during the culmination of Carnival early in March. Book by 19 December.