With the new political entente cordiale between the west and Iran, now is the time to travel to this culturally-rich and friendly country, either independently or on an escorted tour. With 700 years of history, attractions include jewels of Islamic architecture, old bazaars and stunning landscapes.
Affordable family holidays need not mean having to sleep under canvas in a field bare of everything but grass. Many continental sites and ‘parcs’ not only provide a choice of mobile homes, lodges and apartments but have a broad range of on-site activities to keep all ages fully occupied and entertained throughout their stay.
There are plenty of gorgeous hotels on the beaches of St Lucia where you’ll be tempted to stay put. But don’t get too comfortable – this is a spectacular island crying out to be explored, from its glistening forests and volcanic peaks to its sleepy fishing villages and colonial plantation houses.
Even if you can only manage a two week holiday, Australia is still well worth considering. You can plan a trip that blends beaches with the outback, rainforests with Aboriginal culture, and vineyards with cosmopolitan cities without having to spend half your time travelling.
Mallorca leads a double life. Parts of the island are overwhelmed by cheap package tourism but vast swathes remain untouched, from the mountains of the west to the “secret” sandy coves in the east. Throw in outstanding cuisine and some of Europe’s most elegant villas with private pools and you’re in paradise.
Nowhere in Africa can match Kenya for spectacular scenery and the sheer volume and diversity of its wildlife. The Masai Mara should be on everyone’s list of must-sees, not only during the annual summer migration of millions of wildebeest, but throughout the year to view lion, cheetah, leopard, hyena and hundreds of species of birds.
The Dalmatian coast of Croatia is dotted with delightful beaches overlooked by mountains and pine forests. Whether you opt for beautifully-restored Dubrovnik, the historic city of Split or one of the island hotspots like Hvar or Brac, throw in good food and friendly people and you have one of Europe’s most underrated destinations.
Verbier is one of Europe’s most glamorous ski resorts, and the place to stay is Sir Richard Branson’s Lodge – a stunning catered chalet with indoor pool, snooker room, gym, Jacuzzis and children’s bunk room. Rent it in winter with friends, or enjoy the beauty of the Alps in summer when you don’t need to hire the whole property.
Renowned for its profusion of wildlife and flora, 80 per cent of which can be found nowhere else on Earth, Madagascar is a nature lover’s dream. The island’s unique evolutionary path has produced elephant birds, giant lemurs and pygmy hippos. It also offers dazzling beaches and clear turquoise waters teeming with marine life.
One in every ten Brits bound for the promise of sun each winter will be in Tenerife, just a four hour flight away and with many more stylish properties than its reputation might suggest. Aside from beaches, don’t miss a trip to the end of the world landscapes of the Las Canadas Teide national park, bang in the middle and dominated by the two mile high, Fuji-like volcano.
Namibia is Africa at its most starkly beautiful. Think vast sand dunes, endless deserts and the shipwreck-strewn Skeleton Coast and velvety night skies. You can sleep under the stars or in superb lodges, while in the game parks you can track rhino, leopard and cheetah. Namibia is clean and safe and from the UK there’s no jetlag.
The dramatic scenery of the Amalfi coast, with its lemon groves, almond trees and bougainvillea, is stunning. You’ll find resorts for all tastes, from popular Sorrento – an ideal hub for boat trips to Capri and outings to Pompeii and Vesuvius – to the exquisite hilltop retreat of Ravello and alluring island of Ischia.
America is amazing but don’t bite off more than you can chew. The six states of New England make up a perfect bite-sized chunk. Packed with history, tradition, pretty villages, fine hotels, great food and natural beauty, they are ideal for self-drive or escorted tours at any time of year.
Just four hours from the UK, Lanzarote ranks among the prettiest of the Canary Islands, with low-key resorts, sandy beaches, dramatic volcanic landscapes and a wonderful year-round climate. It’s easy and fun to explore and offers a wide selection of villas with private pools, making it an ideal choice for families, couples and groups of friends.
In the unspoilt Greek region of Halkidiki, Sani is one of Europe’s most attractive family resorts set on an eco-reserve of pine forests, jagged cliffs and superb sandy beaches. In addition to a choice of hotels within the resort, there is a marina stuffed with posh yachts, authentic tavernas, a crèche, tennis centre and outdoor cinema.
It’s arguably the most gorgeous island in the Mediterranean, with perfect beaches and an interior dotted with medieval hilltowns, forests and the famous scented maquis. Yet compared to islands such as Mallorca, Corfu and Ibiza, it is curiously overlooked by British visitors. Corsica, in our book, is the Med to perfection, with a thick layer of French polish.
Grand Cayman is sophisticated, polished and safe – in every sense of the word – with classy hotels, top restaurants and dreamy Seven Mile Beach. There’s also plenty to explore with pristine reefs, stingray encounters, submarine trips, botanical parks and island-hopping excursions to Cayman Brac or Little Cayman. Perfect with or without the kids.
You won’t be disappointed if all you want to do is fly and flop on beautiful beaches. But Thailand is a place to discover as well as loaf, inspecting temples, visiting traditional hill tribes, exploring such enthralling cities as Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai, joining a cookery class and, of course, irresistible shopping.
Tobago is the Caribbean of your imagination. Pristine beaches, children playing cricket, a friendly bar serving cold beer and barbecued shrimp, fishing boats bobbing in the sea. Untroubled by mass tourism, this picturesque island has some excellent hotels and direct flights from the UK.
Koh Samui has moved upmarket from its backpacking heyday but lost little of its natural charm. Amid the coconut groves and palm trees you’ll find gorgeous luxury hotels and spas, plus countless beaches where you can swim, chill, party and dine under the moonlight with your toes in the sand.
Renting a boat is one of the most relaxing ways to enjoy the British countryside. Potter along at 5mph amidst the reeds and marshes of the Norfolk Broads, or explore a network of rivers and canals by narrow boat. Wherever you go – for a weekend break or a summer holiday – you are never far from a waterside pub.
A luxury villa holiday in France is all about freedom, escaping the overcrowded resorts of the Med and sinking back into your private domain, splashing in your pool, cooking on the barbecue, sipping wine on the terrace. Just decide whether you prefer a rural hideaway or a stylish house close to the sea.