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.
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.
Few animals are as beautiful and elusive as the Indian tiger. At Bandhavgarh National Park the chances are high of a close encounter, particularly if you stay a few nights and take dawn and dusk safaris in your own private jeep. Combine it with the best bits of Delhi and Agra, including the Taj Mahal.
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.
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.
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.
One of Sir Rocco Forte’s newest hotels is the Verdura Golf & Spa Resort, set on a gorgeous stretch of Sicilian beach. With rooms designed by Olga Polizzi, a spectacular spa, free kids club and world-class golf courses, you may be tempted to stay put. However, we recommend car hire to explore this fascinating island.
With its sweeping beaches and dramatic mountains, Rio de Janeiro ranks amongst the world’s most beautiful cities. But it’s more than that. Rio is a way of life, buzzing with beautiful people, glamorous nightspots and hip-shaking music. It gets under your skin. You may never want to go home…
If you think Ibiza is just a party island for teenage ravers, wise up. Out in the hills are some of Europe’s most glamorous villas where the likes of Kate Moss and Jade Jagger hang out. Take excursions to remote coves and mountain restaurants. Clubbing is optional. Chilling isn’t.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
Some people are happy just lying beside the Mediterranean. But those who want to do something in it, on it or under it should consider a beach club holiday where a full range of watersports, from sailing to diving, windsurfing to waterskiing, is on the menu, along with land-based activities such as tennis and biking.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.