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.
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.
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.
The countries of the Arabian Gulf have successfully reinvented themselves as luxurious winter sun destinations. Turbo-charged Dubai is the best known but for the real Arabia, consider Oman which is steeped in culture and history, or Abu Dhabi, which offers an awe-inspiring desert experience plus shopping and sightseeing.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
It’s one of the most thrilling travel experiences on Earth: hike high into the forests of Rwanda and Uganda for an intimate encounter with mountain gorillas. Combine the trip into the Volcanoes National Park with a visit to Nyungwe Forest National Park, home to chimps and Colobus Monkeys, then kick back on Tanzania’s beaches.
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.
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.
Once the last of the snow has melted and summer comes around, the Alps spring back to life, with hillsides carpeted with flowers and sunshine glistening off lakes. Stay in a cosy Alpine village and choose from a menu of thrilling activities, from mountain biking and rock climbing to glacier skiing and white-water rafting.
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.
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.
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.
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.
When Brits started going abroad on package holidays it was to the Alpine lakes, following the 19th Century ‘grand tourists’. Today, Italy’s Como, Maggiore, Garda and tiny Iseo are ideal family destinations, with boating, beaches, cable car rides to mountain highs and footpaths to explore, plus easy access to Verona, Padua and Milan.
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.