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.
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.
Many Brits are sniffy about Corfu but never those that have visited the island’s northeast corner. Far removed from mass high-rise tourism, it is a place of tiny unspoilt coves, lush green interiors immortalised by Gerald Durrell, white pebble beaches, friendly tavernas and a choice of villas among the best in the Med.
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.
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.
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.
Head to Iceland where the summer sun barely sets and the collapse of the local currency has sent prices tumbling. Linger in the capital, Reykjavik, for a couple of days then embark on an action-packed road trip taking in volcanic craters, lakes, waterfalls, geysers, black sand beaches and seal and puffin colonies.
There’s more to Spain than big cities and crowded costas. The north-west regions of Cantabria, Galicia and Asturias offer character and authenticity, friendly people and delicious food. You’ll find unspoilt sandy beaches, wild mountains, beautiful medieval towns and plenty of outdoor activities. It’s great value whether you fly or travel by overnight ferry.
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.
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.
With its rugged moors and soft voluptuous dales, Yorkshire serves up helpings of English countryside at its most iconic. Add pretty stone hamlets and historic market towns, castles and walking trails, fishing villages and cosy pubs into the pot and you have a county that delivers a multi-course menu of holiday pleasures.
We don’t quite understand why the Azores aren’t better known. These stunning Atlantic islands are crammed with natural wonders and boast superb beaches, volcanic lakes and some of the best whale and dolphin sightings in Europe. Local hotels are full of character, the food is great and there are direct flights from Gatwick. Oh, and the weather sparkles year round.
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.
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.
You might think of The Gambia as a cheap winter sun destination on the west coast of Africa. And you’d be at least half right. In fact it’s so much more than that, with superb beaches, charming hotels, friendly people and stunning wildlife – and only six hours flying time from the UK. Best time to visit is November to June.
Crete is one of our favourite islands. Away from the package resorts, it has some stunning villas, boutique hotels and hideaways – as well as mountain villages, hiking trails, archaeological treasures, wild flowers and unspoilt coastlines. The season is long: you can get a tan in March and swim in the sea as late as November.
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 outings to Pompeii and Vesuvius – to the exquisite hilltop retreat of Ravello and alluring island of Ischia.
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.
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.
On an inland waterways cruise, the water’s calm, there’s always passing scenery on both sides and, unlike touring by road, you only have to unpack once. Choose a luxury crewed hotel barge to explore the rivers and canals of France and other countries – and you won’t even have to tilt your own wine bottle, let alone take your turn on the tiller.
It’s easy to find glitzy ski resorts where lunch on the slopes costs as much as your weekly grocery bill. More challenging is to find charming Alpine resorts that combine reasonably-priced self-catering accommodation, sensible prices, accessibility and – of course – great skiing.
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.