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.
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.
Vietnam’s temples, sampans, hill tribe villages, historic ports and breathtaking mountain scenery contrast with chic boutiques, fancy restaurants and stylish beach hotels. To get the most out of this fascinating and beautiful country, take a private tailor-made tour, with interludes on the beaches as opposed to full-time loafing.
The aptly-called Rainbow Nation offers a spectrum of different experiences including beaches, game reserves, indigenous heritage, cities and handsome winelands, all readily savoured on a single trip. With overnight flights in both directions and no jet lag, South Africa is also remarkably easy.
Few animals are as beautiful and elusive as the Indian tiger. At Bandhavgarh National Park the chances are high of a close encounter, particularly if you stay a few nights and take dawn and dusk safaris in your own private jeep. Combine it with the best bits of Delhi and Agra, including the Taj Mahal.
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.
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.
When Mount Vesuvius erupted in AD 79 it brought tragedy to the towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum. The volcano also served to freeze in time a fascinating period of Roman history. Visit the scene in the company of an expert archaeologist to discover the most complete insight into everyday life in Ancient Rome.
One of Sir Rocco Forte’s newest hotels is the Verdura Golf & Spa Resort, set on a gorgeous stretch of Sicilian beach. With rooms designed by Olga Polizzi, a spectacular spa, free kids club and world-class golf courses, you may be tempted to stay put. However, we recommend car hire to explore this fascinating island.
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.
Ecuador offers a potted version of the entire South American continent. Join a tour to take in jungle, Andean peaks, exquisite Spanish colonial architecture, nights in haciendas, Indian markets and Inca ruins, with the added bonus of a guided cruise to the Galapagos, Darwin’s own laboratory.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Brazil offers beach life in the raw: endless stretches of sand, blazing sunshine, a seductive samba soundtrack and a copious supply of caipirinhas. There are chic retreats, trailblazing eco-hotels, rustic fishing villages, turtle sanctuaries and canoe trips through mangrove swamps. The vibe is easy-going and the time difference is just three hours.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Burma is one of the world’s most fascinating and beautiful destinations, its people gentle, warm and genuinely friendly. Although Burma is ruled by a brutal military dictatorship, the release from house arrest of the democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi makes us believe that now is the right time for tourists to discover this hidden gem.
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.