Real deals! 10 exotic bargain breaks

From Peru to the Maldives, Simone Kane discovers that remarkable holidays don't have to be ludicrously expensive
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The Independent Online

Head overland in Peru

Just how adventurous are you? Find out on a guided trip across Peru with Dragoman Overland, a new company formed from a merger of venerable adventure holiday specialists Dragoman and Encounter Overland. One of a selection of its Escapes, the 24-night Inca Heartland Revisited, is tailored to offer a level of adventure with a good degree of comfort, mainly staying in hotels. Travelling in an overland vehicle, you'll make the journey from Quito to Cusco, calling at the spa town of Baños, taking a guided day trip into the Amazon jungle. Then there's an overnight stay in colonial Cuenca, lazing on Pacific beaches, seeing the Moche pyramids, spending two nights in Lima, flying over the Nazca lines, watching the condors at the Colca Canyon, and enjoying seven days in and around Cusco on the Inca trails. Enough? There are more activities if you want them.

To celebrate the launch of Dragoman Overland (01728 861133; www.dragoman.com), it is offering a "Skegness Voucher" discount of £150 off this 24-night trip, departing 30 December 2005. That brings the price down to £690 per person, no single supplement, plus a contribution towards the kitty of $700 (£389). Flights cost extra: either find your own cheap flight or book one through the company.

Get behind the wheel in Australia

Explore the beautiful south-west of Western Australia from behind the wheel, travelling at your own pace. Spend three nights in the heart of bustling Perth, where you can enjoy the shopping and nightlife, then pick up your car and head for the Margaret River wine region. Two nights in Emerald Colonial Lodge allows plenty of time to explore some of the area's 50 wineries, and sampling some of its famous gourmet food. Ninety minutes' drive away is the Karri Valley Resort, where you spend the last two nights in five-star luxury. The hotel sits on the edge of Lake Beedelup in a forest of towering karri trees, from which it takes its name. Lots of active pursuits are on offer, including canoeing, fishing, mountain-biking, as well as organised children's activities, and if that's not enough to keep you amused, the town of Pemberton is 10 minutes' drive away.

Book by 30 September and save £230 on this seven-night break through Airline Network (0870-234 9912; www.airline network.co.uk). At £859 per person, based on two sharing, the price includes return scheduled flights from Heathrow to Perth with Air Malaysia, room-only accommodation and five days' car hire. There is limited availability for departures in October and November,but good availability 16 January to 31 March 2006.

Dubai with a difference

There's more to this emirate than tax-free shopping. The five-star Hatta Fort Hotel is the ideal place to escape and relax, away from the city. Its 80 acres are situated in the Hajar Mountains and facilities include a swimming pool, a restaurant and bar, fun golf, tennis, archery and clay-pigeon shooting. A range of excursions, such as a four-wheel-drive desert safari, can be arranged. But if you really can't resist the shops, Dubai city is just a short journey away.

Travel before December and save £45 per person per night, or get every fourth extra night free, on this four-night break with Go Dubai (0800-316 0194; www.godubai.co.uk). At £499 per person, based on two sharing, the price includes return flights with British Airways from Heathrow to Dubai, transfers and b&b in a Garden Chalet room. When booking be aware that the Muslim festival Ramadan, which lasts from 4 October to 2 November 2005, may result in restrictions on restaurant opening times and on the serving of alcohol.

Stay in a tree house in Kenya

The Satao Luxury Tented Camp is pitched in the Tsavo East National Park, one of the largest wildlife sanctuaries in the world. The 20 en-suite tents are designed from local, natural materials and each has a patio, from which you can watch the wildlife gathering at the camp's watering hole. Your two days here will include five game drives with an expert local guide. The trip also includes a two-night stay in a tree house - Ndovu Bonde in the Shimba Valley - complete with a butler to serve you candlelit dinners under the stars. The three nights at the beachside Kokonut Cottages, where you can kick back and snorkel, scuba-dive and fish, should round things off nicely - especially with the services of a personal chef.

Travel any Monday from 3 October to 5 December to make a saving of £150 per person on this seven-night break with Q Holidays (0800-035 2559; www.qholidays.co.uk). At £949 per person, based on two sharing, the price includes four nights' full board and three nights' half board, including return flights with Monarch Airlines from Gatwick to Mombasa, transfers, five game drives and the services of a butler and a chef on certain sections of the trip.

Go west! To LA and Hawaii

Explore the glitz and glamour of Los Angeles, star-spotting and shopping in Rodeo Drive. Then jet off for six nights' relaxation in Hawaii at The Queen Kapiolani Resort in Waikiki, on Oahu, just five minutes from the beach.

Travel between 1 November and 10 December to save £80 per person on this 10-night trip with Jetlife (0870-787 7877; www.jetlife.co.uk). At £839 per person, based on two sharing, the price includes return flights from Heathrow to Los Angeles and onto Hawaii, airport transfers in Hawaii only and room-only accommodation.

Steam up river in India

Get off the tourist trail in India on this spectacular cruise along Assam's Brahmaputra river. Dhubri, close to the maharaja's palace at Cooch Behar, is where you will join the 12-cabin river steamer Charaidew. Over the next 14 days, you will head upriver, disembarking to take part in safaris and elephant rides and to visit temples, tribal villages and, of course, the famous tea gardens.

The itinerary takes in the Manas and Kaziranga national parks, which are both Unesco World Heritage Sites. The demands are not too strenuous, but you should be able to walk over rough ground, along riverbanks and through villages. At the end of each day's exploring, you will return to the comfort of the boat and can reward yourself with a shower and a G&T on deck.

Depart on 29 October 2005 and save £430 per person on this 16-night trip with Andrew Brock Travel (01572 821330; www.coromandelabt.com). At £2,545 per person, based on two sharing, the price includes return flights with British Airways from Heathrow to Calcutta, two nights' b&b in Calcutta and 14 nights' full-board on the Charaidew steamer, and all excursions.

Taste the sweet life on St Kitts

Based in Frigate Bay on the pretty island of St Kitts, the Sugar Bay resort is set in five acres of tropical gardens, minutes from white-sand, palm-fringed beaches. It is a great beach option, but if you need a few diversions, the fitness centre, tennis, golf and a supervised children's club are at your disposal. Further afield, nature-lovers can explore the island's lava formations made by its dormant volcano, hike in the tropical forest, take a boat trip around the coastal lagoons, or try a scuba-diving trip to the many wrecks that are dotted around the island.

Depart in October to save £150 and get an upgrade to a Poolside Studio with terrace or balcony on this seven-night break with The Holiday Place (020-7644 1793; www.theholidayplace.co.uk). At £599 per person, based on two sharing, the price includes return scheduled flights from Gatwick to St Kitts, transfers, room-only accommodation and departure taxes.

Mellow in the Maldives

A thousand coral islands in the Indian Ocean, the Maldives is the ultimate beach destination - with some good diving too. At the four-star Meeru Island Resort in the North Male Atoll you can while away your holiday just strolling the beaches or participate in some of the resort's more gentle activities, such as excursions to the nearby Dhiffushi or Kagi islands or a night-fishing trip. Diving and a programme of sports are also available for the more active.

Depart 31 October to save £120 per person on this trip available through Cheapholidaydeals.co.uk ( www.cheapholidaydeals.co.uk). Seven nights costs £589 per person, based on two sharing, including return flights from Gatwick to Ari Atoll, speedboat transfers and half-board accommodation.

Lounge by the lagoon in Polynesia

La Pirogue, a small hotel of rustic thatched bungalows, is your destination in French Polynesia. Comprising just eight cottages set on the edge of the Tahaa Lagoon, looking out at the adjoining island of Bora Bora, it is sure to provide an intimate atmosphere.

Get 12 nights for the price of eight, saving more than £300 per person, if you travel between 1 November 2005 and 28 February 2006 with Audley Travel (01869 276245; www.audleytravel.com). At £1,421 per person, based on two sharing, the price includes return flights with Virgin from Heathrow to Los Angeles or New York, and Air Tahiti Nui from Los Angeles or New York to Tahiti, domestic transfers, airport taxes and b&b accommodation.

Chill out in Malaysia

The four-star Lone Pine Hotel in Penang on Batu Ferringhi beach is a peaceful spot with an informal atmosphere set among trees. Its elegant rooms with private courtyards are decorated with modern and antique furniture in colonial style. The landscaped gardens have a large swimming pool adjacent to the beach and hammocks are strung between the casuarina trees for the ultimate chill-out. If you get peckish, the hotel's restaurant is known for its Hainanese cuisine.

Book and travel before 29 November to save £80 per person on this seven-night trip with Somak Holidays (020-8423 3000; www.somak.co.uk). At £649 per person, based on two sharing, the price includes return flights with Malaysia Airlines from Heathrow to Penang, transfers and b&b accommodation.

Prices were correct at time of going to press. All deals are subject to availability

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