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.
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.
Think of Africa and you might conjure up images of safari parks and overcrowded cities. But one of the best ways to see this amazing continent is on a guided walk, whether it’s a short break in Morocco’s Atlas Mountains, an ascent of Kilimanjaro or a sensational trip to the Simien Mountains in Ethiopia.
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.
As well as those familiar Greek island assets of blue seas, delicious swimming, jaunts by boat and long, lazy lunches in waterfront tavernas, Paxos is an island of silvery-leafed olive groves, a legacy of the 14th century Venetian occupation. With no airport – and not even a single traffic light – it’s a perfect place to escape the crowds.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Nowhere within a four-hour flight of the UK is as exotic and alluring as Morocco. The highlight is Marrakech, with its swirling souks, ornate palaces, elegant back street restaurants and stylish riads, but you won’t want to miss the soaring Atlas Mountains nor the majestic kasbahs of the south.
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.
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.
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.
Anguilla is a tiny low-lying Caribbean island that offers a real sense of escape. It’s a coral island, so the beaches are powdery and white, and you can only get there by ferry or a short flight from one of the bigger islands. The hotels and villas are outstanding, and the food is out of this world.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
With its diverse mix of habitats, from the doily of waterways and lagoons of the Okavango Delta to the salt pans of Nxai and the sands of the Kalahari, Botswana is a supreme safari destination. Explore it in an amazing variety of transport: elephant and horseback, mountain and quad bike, dug-out canoe and camel, as well as the more familiar 4WD vehicles.
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.
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 beauty of Sri Lanka lies in the easy proximity of cultural treasures and world-class beaches. Take a tour of magnificent temples and national parks, stay in boutique hotels then relax on the beach. You’ll find a rich seam of experiences with friendly people, excellent food – and nonstop flights from the UK.
Nowhere in Africa can match Kenya for spectacular scenery and the sheer volume and diversity of its wildlife. The Masai Mara should be on everyone’s list of must-sees, not only during the annual summer migration of millions of wildebeest, but throughout the year to view lion, cheetah, leopard, hyena and hundreds of species of birds.