We don’t quite understand why the Azores aren’t better known. These stunning Atlantic islands are crammed with natural wonders and boast superb beaches, volcanic lakes and some of the best whale and dolphin sightings in Europe. Local hotels are full of character, the food is great and there are direct flights from Gatwick. Oh, and the weather sparkles year round.
Some people are happy just lying beside the Mediterranean. But those who want to do something in it, on it or under it should consider a beach club holiday where a full range of watersports, from sailing to diving, windsurfing to waterskiing, is on the menu, along with land-based activities such as tennis and biking.
Some places have that elusive ‘wow’ factor – others don’t. The Seychelles has it in spades. Silky beaches, tropical forests, the super deluxe hotels. Swim with turtles in the morning, spend an afternoon unwinding in the spa then dress for cocktails at sunset. Perfect? You bet.
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.
Cycling is one of the most enjoyable way to explore a country. Meander along back roads or climb tough ascents, either on your own or in a guided group. Whether you choose the rural charms of France, Portugal or Austria, you will burn enough calories each day to earn a generous dinner.
Beijing’s Olympic legacy goes way beyond the Bird’s Nest stadium. Stylish hotels, gleaming new airports and improved road and rail infrastructure mean there has never been a better time to witness the dizzying mix of old and new in the Chinese capital, along with the superstar cities of Shanghai and Xian.
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.
Most destinations fail to live up to the glossy brochure hype. The Maldives is an exception. No photographer can do justice to the splendid natural colours – the cobalt seas, the turquoise lagoons, the fiery orange sunsets. The standards of hospitality are outstanding and the modern world is a million miles away.
Ask most people to name an Indonesian island and you’ll probably get Bali, possibly Lombok. But Indonesia is a nation of 17,000 islands, each with its own distinctive show of both nature and culture. In these days of global travel, names like Java, Sumatra, Sulawesi and Komodo still evoke an enormous sense of adventure.
The scenic wonders of New Zealand have stolen the show in many Hollywood movies. In real life, the landscapes of the newest country on earth are even more impressive than their on-screen portrayal, populated by a cast of friendly Kiwis, featuring a host of thrilling activities and served with some of the best food and wine on the planet.
The beauty of Sri Lanka lies in the easy proximity of cultural treasures and world-class beaches. Take a tour of magnificent temples and national parks, stay in boutique hotels then relax on the beach. You’ll find a rich seam of experiences with friendly people, excellent food – and nonstop flights from the UK.
From the pyramids at Giza to the Valley of the Kings and the fascinating whirl of Cairo, 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 combine a few cultural treasures with a relaxing Nile cruise.
Whatever your level of fitness and experience, a walking holiday is the perfect way to explore off the beaten track. Travel with a specialist who will provide well researched route maps, transport your luggage each day and book accommodation in delightful inns and hotels. Calories duly burned, enjoy epic dinners in charming village restaurants.
There’s more to Spain than big cities and crowded costas. The north-west regions of Cantabria, Galicia and Asturias offer character and authenticity, friendly people and delicious food. You’ll find unspoilt sandy beaches, wild mountains, beautiful medieval towns and plenty of outdoor activities. It’s great value whether you fly or travel by overnight ferry.
The Antarctic is the most pristine wilderness region on Earth, offering eye-popping landscapes and heart-melting wildlife encounters – from seals and whales to Emperor Penguins. Explore Antarctica on a small expedition ship or enjoy the luxury of a larger cruise liner with the option to take in the Falkland Islands too.
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.
If you’re looking for an exciting new destination, try Ethiopia. This beautiful diverse country is packed with cultural treasures, dramatic mountain scenery, ancient churches and monasteries, national parks and volcanic lakes. The people are welcoming, the food is delicious, and the coffee is pretty good too.
Borneo boasts sandy beaches, luscious scenery and luxury hotels, but what distinguishes this huge island from its Asian neighbours is the abundant wildlife. Most famous are the orangutans, easily inspected in Sabah’s Sepilok sanctuary, along with Probiscus monkeys, turtles and exotic birds. For adventure, climb Mount Kinabalu or stay in a village longhouse.
A visit to India is an unforgettable experience – the swirling energy, the intense colours, the culture, the history, the sheer life-affirming exuberance of the place. Enjoy a private tour of Rajasthan in the North in your own chauffeur-driven car, or explore the glorious landscapes and beaches of Kerala.
Summer in Sweden, with its long hours of daylight, is a magical time. The Swedes themselves blossom like meadow flowers, taking time off to enjoy gorgeous beaches, sail away to islands, forage for berries and escape to log cabins in the woods or besides tranquil lakes. Be warned, this fairy tale atmosphere is very infectious. You’ll love it.
Draw up a list of all the wonderful reasons for going to Italy – Blue Flag beaches, medieval hill towns, historic palaces, nights at the opera and galleries full of Renaissance masterpieces – and you’ll find them in abundance in Le Marche, the barely-known back garden of Italy, sandwiched between the Apennines and the Adriatic.
Are you ready for a personal challenge, perhaps a career break? Join an overland truck tour of Africa, Asia or South America and you’ll experience a true adventure, visiting remarkable places and bonding with your fellow passengers. Everyone passionate about travel should try this at least once.
It’s rare to find a single reliable source of great places to stay in the UK – with options to suit all pockets, from a stylish budget weekend to a celebratory splurge. i-escape has the pick of cheap and chic, trendy boutique and downright luxurious boltholes in cities, countryside and on the coast.