Forget all you’ve heard about the Costa Brava. The northern, knobbly, genuinely ‘Brava’ – or wild – stretch of coast is as scenic as anywhere on the Med but without coachloads of Brits. The resorts are tiny, the food superb, the walking and cycling trails well defined and, when you fancy a change, the foothills of the Pyrenees beckon.
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.
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.
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.
The most awe-inspiring views of the Rockies, the spine of mountains that form the backbone of North America, lie in Canada. More precisely, they lie within a single World Heritage Site that straddles British Columbia and Alberta. Drive yourselves or, for the ultimate in scenic rail journeys, travel from Vancouver aboard the Rocky Mountaineer.
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.
You’ll find exclusive hotels throughout the Caribbean but Barbados has the lion’s share, most of them bang on the narrow sandy beach in the west, hence the nickname: the Platinum coast. If you tire of sybaritic living you can emerge from your luxurious cocoon for a spot of golf, or dinner at a fancy restaurant.
Spend a day walking the coastal paths of Cornwall and you might wonder why Brits ever travel abroad. The undulating hills, the secret sandy coves, the miles of beach and the soaring cliffs are as fine as you’ll see anywhere. With excellent local restaurants and superb self-catering cottages, this is one of the finest UK holiday destinations.
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.
Dotted off the coast of West Africa, the 10 islands of Cape Verde are as varied and fascinating as they are beautiful. With tropical beaches, lush mountains, year-round sunshine and direct 6-hour flights from the UK, they offer high standards at a fraction of the price of many African destinations.
Cuba is the ideal combination of city and beach, culture and indolence. Spend a few days strolling the streets of Old Havana, visiting cigar factories, drinking mojitos and dancing in salsa bars. Explore the colonial city of Trinidad then kick back on one of the Caribbean’s most beautiful beaches.
You might think of The Gambia as a cheap winter sun destination on the west coast of Africa. And you’d be at least half right. In fact it’s so much more than that, with superb beaches, charming hotels, friendly people and stunning wildlife – and only six hours flying time from the UK. Best time to visit is November to June.
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.
On an inland waterways cruise, the water’s calm, there’s always passing scenery on both sides and, unlike touring by road, you only have to unpack once. Choose a luxury crewed hotel barge to explore the rivers and canals of France and other countries – and you won’t even have to tilt your own wine bottle, let alone take your turn on the tiller.
From the pyramids at Giza to the Valley of the Kings, from the fascinating whirl of Cairo to the warm waters of the Red Sea, Egypt is one of the world’s greatest tourist destinations, and superb value. Don’t expect to see it all in one visit. It’s usually better to tick off a few cultural treasures then spend a few days lazing on a beach.
If you love the big outdoors, Chile is the ultimate destination. Climb volcanoes in the Atacama Desert, go hiking in the Lake District, discover Easter Island and experience the majestic fjords and glaciers of Patagonia. With a great choice of stylish hotels, world-class food and wine, Chile is red hot right now.
Not all the Canaries have been over-developed. On La Palma you’ll find soaring volcanic peaks, wild forests and few other tourists. Its capital Santa Cruz is a cobbled colonial outpost with great charm. The barely known and tiny La Graciosa could pass as a desert island with tranquil beaches and crashing surf.
Nowhere within a four-hour flight of the UK is as exotic and alluring as Morocco. The highlight is Marrakech, with its swirling souks, ornate palaces, elegant back street restaurants and stylish riads, but you won’t want to miss the soaring Atlas Mountains nor the majestic kasbahs of the south.
If you want maximum pampering and total relaxation in the Caribbean, it’s hard to beat Sandals, which has luxury all-inclusive resorts on prime beaches in Jamaica, Antigua, St Lucia, Grenada and the Bahamas. Look out for the Caribbean’s first over-the-water suites which open at Sandals Royal Caribbean in January 2017.
A voyage aboard one of the three Star Clipper ships is a vastly different experience to a conventional cruise. Modelled on historic sailing vessels, they fly great clouds of billowing sails and offer passengers a timeless adventure as they explore the world’s most beautiful oceans and islands.
If you believe much of the Med has been ruined by high-rise hotels, head to North Cyprus. Although the main tourist hub of Kyrenia – with its perfect Venetian harbour – fairly bustles, surrounding villages appear stuck in a time warp. Explore hilltop castles, ruined abbeys and the remote beaches of the Karpas Peninsula, amongst the wildest and most beautiful in Europe.
As well as tropical beaches and top hotels, your memories will be shaped as much by the Balinese countryside. You’ll see emerald rice paddies one minute, immense volcanoes the next. Bali is a spiritual place where daily life embraces ceremony and ritual, temples and stone gods. And Balinese craftsmen are amazing, so take an extra suitcase.
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.
When Brits started going abroad on package holidays it was to the Alpine lakes, following the 19th Century ‘grand tourists’. Today, Italy’s Como, Maggiore, Garda and tiny Iseo are ideal family destinations, with boating, beaches, cable car rides to mountain highs and footpaths to explore, plus easy access to Verona, Padua and Milan.