Vietnam is a hot winter sun destination, but to get the most out of this fascinating and beautiful country, take a tour, with interludes on the beaches as opposed to full-time loafing. Temples, sampans, hill tribe villages, historic ports and breathtaking mountain scenery contrast with chic boutiques, fancy restaurants and stylish beach hotels.
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.
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.
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.
Jordan is a safe, friendly and cultured country blessed with a fabulous array of natural and manmade treasures including the Dead Sea, the vast deserts of Wadi Rum – made famous by Lawrence of Arabia – and the ancient rock-carved city of Petra. Take a private journey, group tour or organised trek.
It’s amazing to think that only 30 years ago Cambodia was torn apart by civil war and genocide. Today it’s one of Asia’s most exciting destinations, from the jungle-clad temple complex of Angkor to the vibrant capital, Phnom Penh. Throw in sensational food, great hotels and world-class beaches for an unmissable travel experience.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 world’s most romantic and evocative train journey begins when your British Pullman glides out of Victoria Station in London. Once across the Channel, you take your private compartment on the sumptuous Venice Simplon-Orient-Express, reaching Paris by 9pm, waking in the Swiss Alps then rolling into Venice at around 6pm.
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 dramatic scenery of the Amalfi coast, with its lemon groves, almond trees and bougainvillea, is stunning. You’ll find resorts for all tastes, from popular Sorrento – an ideal hub for boat trips to Capri and Ischia, and outings to Pompeii and Vesuvius – to super-chic Positano and the exquisite hilltop retreat of Ravello.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.