No matter what you think you know about Japan, nothing prepares you for the raw thrill of landing in a country that is so exotic, so refined, so modern and yet so steeped in tradition. Get your pulse racing in Tokyo then explore the serene and majestic countryside of Japan before taking the Bullet Train to the temples and gardens of Kyoto.
Goa is one of the most exciting winter sun destinations – and among the cheapest. A combination of world-class beaches, superb food – including plentiful fresh fish and seafood – and friendly people are the basic ingredients. Add in markets, waterfalls, historical sites and some of the world’s most beautiful sunsets, and you have a clear winner.
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.
Norway is much more of a year-round destination than you might realise. Besides the iconic, deeply-incised coastal scenery, there’s an abundance of natural beauty from forests to mountains, a rich seam of Viking history, interesting towns and fishing communities, lots of outdoor activities, and, depending on the season, the midnight sun or spectacular Northern Lights.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Often staged in historic settings, such as the 2,000 year old amphitheatre in Verona where audiences applaud divas from the same seats as they once cheered their favourite gladiators, Italy’s opera season extends far beyond La Scala, with al fresco performances both magical and musically memorable.
A 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.
Argentina is one of the world’s great destinations, from the vast fertile plains of the pampas to the magical glaciers, lakes and ice fields of Patagonia. The capital, Buenos Aires, delivers style and pizazz while the countryside provides opportunities to stay at historic estancias, ride horses and drink fine wines at sensible prices.
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.
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.
Spain has a fast and comfortable state-run rail network, which includes some outstanding luxury trains. Tour northern Spain, gliding through stunning countryside and visiting historic cities such as Santiago de Compostela and Bilbao. Facilities on board include dining cars, lounges and private cabins with double bed and shower.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The ski chalet is a wonderful British invention. With breakfast, dinner and afternoon tea provided, you get to enjoy your day on the slopes – and pay a lot less than you would staying at a hotel and eating out. Making new friends and dining together is a key part of the chalet experience.
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.