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.
Puglia is the heel of Italy’s boot. With 500 miles of beaches, the magnificent baroque city of Lecce and distinctive whitewashed trullo houses, it is one of Europe’s most appealing holiday regions. The food and wine are terrific and nowhere is more than 15 miles from the coast.
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.
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.
Two of the Mediterranean’s smallest islands, Malta and Gozo punch well above their weight. Aside from sea and sunshine, vibrant Malta is jam-packed with history from megalithic temples to the Knights of Saint John, its skyline dotted with grand churches and golden walled cities. Gozo, Malta’s little sister, offers tranquillity, rural beauty and top diving.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
One of the best ways to experience a destination is on foot. A guided cultural walking tour gets you up close and personal – whether you’re exploring the backstreets of Venice, the monasteries of Armenia or the mountain trails of Bhutan. The trick is finding a tour operator that combines imaginative itineraries with expert guides and organises small groups of like-minded travellers.
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.
Tucked away in the south-west corner of Spain, the Costa de la Luz offers superb sandy beaches, pine forests, rolling dunes and fishing villages. If you can drag yourself from your lounger, the sights of Seville are just 90 minutes away by road. Go west and you can hop into Portugal. Or just lie back and watch the terrific sunsets.
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.
With more protected land than any other country in the world, more bird species than the whole of North America and more butterflies than Africa, Costa Rica could have been put on the planet as a living classroom for natural historians. Enjoy rainforests and river rafting, volcanoes and cloud forests plus beaches on both the Pacific and Caribbean.
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.
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.