Holiday hotspots in 2013

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To get the inside track on great travel ideas for the coming months, we asked leading tour operators what they thought would be their most  exciting  new destinations. The result? A planet’s worth of alluring options

What's hot?

Premium Cruising

Says who?

Jacqui Ridler, regional manager, The Luxury Cruise Company.

What’s the attraction?

“On a premium ship you get more space, fewer people, no big queues and a higher quality of food, plus impeccable service. Much more is included in the original price with no hidden extras. The luxury cruise line Regent Seven Seas published a price comparison on the same itinerary – a  10-night Baltic cruise in July – contrasting its 700-passenger ship, Seven Seas Voyager with Holland America’s 2,104-passenger Eurodam, including flights, pre-cruise hotel, transfers, tips, drinks and excursions – and claimed a fare of £329 less than the Eurodam . With smaller ships they are also able to offer more interesting itineraries. For example, the premium line Oceania has a new two-week Pacific Exploration cruise, starting and ending in Seattle and taking in some little-visited parts of Alaska.”

See for yourself

Oceania Cruises’ Nautica departs on 28 September for a  10-night trip starting at Istanbul (with an overnight stay on board) and taking in Ephesus (Kusadasi), Mykonos, Marmaris, Rhodes, Santorini, Crete, Nauplion and Athens (Piraeus) from £1,094pp, through The Luxury Cruise Company (0800 6123 354; theluxurycruisecompany.com).

We say...

Demand is weak, so the cruise lines have some excellent deals to entice us on board next year. When comparing cruises, take into account the extras.

Kosovo

Says who

Ashley Toft, managing director of Explore.

What’s the attraction?

“Explore is the first major adventure travel company to include Kosovo in an itinerary. As well as spending five days in this, the world’s third-newest country (after South Sudan and Timor-Leste), the new Undiscovered Balkans tour also takes in the unspoilt and little-visited north of Albania and Macedonia. Apart from its recent troubled history, very little is known about Kosovo and, indeed, this region in general.

“The rich culture and outstanding beauty of this area cannot be overstated. This trip takes in dramatic mountains and lakes and pretty valleys and towns, as well as Kosovo’s rejuvenated wine region. What’s more, the trip offers exceptional value for money. “

See for yourself

The price of this two-week trip is from £1,296pp, to include flights, B&B plus four other meals, transport and the services of a tour leader, driver and guides. Departures are from May to September 2013  (0844 875 1892; explore.co.uk).

We say...

The ideal way to get some strange Balkan stamps in your passport.

Malawi

Says who?

Chris McIntyre, managing director of Expert Africa.

What’s the attraction?

“19 March 2013 marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of David Livingstone – explorer, missionary and medic. The Scot is famed as one of the first Westerners to make a transcontinental journey across Africa. His “discoveries” include Victoria Falls, the Zambezi River and Lake Malawi. Victoria Falls is the obvious destination, but we’d recommend a more expedition-style trip.”

See for yourself

Expert Africa (020-8232 9777; expertafrica.com) offers an  11-night trip, available from March onwards, from £3,576pp, including SAA flights from Heathrow to Blantyre with a change of planes in Johannesburg, transfers, full board, most activities and park fees.

We say...

Before you go, visit the David Livingstone Centre at Blantyre outside Glasgow, a National Trust of Scotland property.

Sochi Russia

Says who?

Ian Davis, product director at Crystal Ski.

What’s the attraction?

“With only one winter to go before the 2014 Winter Olympics, the first resorts in Russia’s Sochi ski area are nearing completion. The ski lifts that are under construction include several that will be among the biggest, fastest and best in the world. Sochi is set to become one of the world’s leading ski destinations for the 21st century.”

See for yourself

Crystal Ski (0871 231 2256; crystalski.co.uk) offers a four-night stay at the Grand Hotel Polyana, 300 metres from the lifts, from £745pp, including half board, transfers and flights from Heathrow.

We say...

As with any Olympic venue, you can anticipate a fair amount of disruption up to a year before the Games as the necessary infrastructure is installed. But with Vladimir Putin a regular at Sochi, expect the best runs to be in good condition.

Icelandic adventures

Says who?

Georgina Hancock, marketing director at Discover the World.

What’s the attraction?

“We’re looking forward to a new luxury adventure hotel, Hotel ION, opening in Iceland in January. It is only an hour from Reykjavik and sits in a stunning location on the edge of the Thingvellir National Park. From here, you can explore Iceland’s Golden Circle of natural wonders or choose from a fabulous range of activities. The hotel includes a luxury spa with a heated outdoor spa pool, and the floor-to-ceiling windows in the bar area are perfect for watching the aurora borealis or enjoying the midnight sun.

See for yourself

Discover the World (01737 214291; discover-the-world.co.uk) has a three-night Iceland Winter Adventure from £799pp including B&B at the Hotel ION, Icelandair flights, transfers, SuperJeep safari and a lobster dinner.

We say...

The Northern Lights can be fickle, but the chances of a sighting this winter are excellent.

New kids' clubs

Says who?

Lydia Dearden, product director, Thomas Cook.

What’s the attraction?

“Thomas Cook is introducing an innovative multi-activity Kids Club in 55 hotels. They’re about getting kids involved, being active, and, ultimately, having fun. We offer a range of 30 age-appropriate sports, activities and games six days a week and some evenings.”

See for yourself

Thomas Cook (0844 412 5970; thomascook.com) offers a week’s all-inclusive Family World holiday from £2,560 for four staying at the four-star Parque Cristobal in Gran Canaria, including flights from Gatwick on 27 May (May half-term).

We say...

Remember suncream in midsummer.

Kashmir

Says who?

Tanya Dalton, PR director, Greaves Travel.

What’s the attraction?

“This November the Foreign Office relaxed the advice allowing travel to Srinagar and Jammu, once the most popular tourist destination in India. The return of Kashmir on the tourist map is set to have numbers skyrocketing in 2013. Not only a heavenly paradise of shimmering lakes, soaring peaks and floating worlds, Kashmir also helps promote India as a year-round destination with the best travel times occurring from April to September. With several new hotels opening too, this really is a great time to go.”

See for yourself

A nine-night itinerary to Kashmir with Greaves (020-7487 9111; greavesindia.co.uk) costs from £2,250pp, including all flights, full-board on a houseboat and B&B at Vivanta by Taj, Dal View in Srinagar, Highland Park in Gulmarg, and The Oberoi in New Delhi, plus sightseeing, guides and all transfers.

We say...

Not that relaxed. “Foreigners remain vulnerable in rural districts and outside  the main population centres and tourist areas, and there is a risk of unpredictable violence,” says the Foreign Office. Nevertheless, this is a beautiful and compelling corner of India.

Japanese arts festivals

Says who?

James Mundy, PR manager at Inside Japan Tours.

What’s the attraction?

“The Setouchi Triennale Arts Festival (setouchi- artfest.jp/en) will be held in 2013 for the second time. It will show work by 75 artists across the islands that dot the Seto Inland Sea. This unique and natural gallery exhibits installations, sculptures and art for 108 days.”

See for yourself

InsideJapan Tours (0117-370 9730; insidejapantours.com) has a 10-night “Art Island” self-guided package for £1,439pp (based on two sharing) including accommodation, domestic transport, Setouchi Festival Pass and private guide in Kyoto. Flights extra.

We say ...

Fly to Osaka’s Kansai airport, not Tokyo. Air France has excellent deals from a wide range of UK airports via Paris.

Patagonia

Says who?

David Nichols, product manager, Journey Latin America.

What’s the attraction?

“For the first time, we are able to offer a self-drive holiday that crosses the border between Chile and Argentina, previously extremely difficult to organise. Our new holiday allows you to explore some of the most remote and untouched corners of Patagonia with the freedom of a rental car, discovering remote forests, tawny plains, snow-draped volcanoes and glacial lakes.”

See for yourself

Journey Latin America (020-8747 8315; journeylatinamerica.co.uk) offers a 10-day “Self-Drive: Northern Patagonia” holiday from £2,574pp, including flights from Heathrow, B&B accommodation and car hire.

We say ...

Consider combining this trip with a cruise to Antarctica or around Cape Horn from Punta Arenas in Chile or Ushuaia in Argentina.

Venice

Who says?

Stephanie Pritchard, managing director of Citalia.

What’s the attraction?

“There is much excitement in Italy next year around the reopening of one of the world’s most iconic hotels, the five-star Gritti Palace in Venice. The hotel has been closed for the past 15 months and is due to reopen in February 2013 after a meticulous hand-crafted restoration which has brought the historic palace back to its ancient grandeur. The hotel has sparked enormous interest from our customers since it was introduced to our new brochure.”

See for yourself

Citalia (0844 415 1956; citalia.com) has a three-night B&B break at the Hotel Gritti Palace from £529pp, including flights with easyJet from Gatwick, departing 4 March.

We say ...

To see the city at its best, and without the regular hordes, go before Easter or after September.

Croatian Islands

Says who?

Nico Kostich, director of trading at Transun.

What’s the attraction?

“Transun’s new programme of summer holidays in Hvar makes the beautiful island accessible for everyone. It’s a fabulous place – and you don’t need to be in a mega yacht to enjoy its delights.”

See for yourself

Transun (01865 265200; transun.co.uk) offers a “Hidden Hvar” package from £699pp, including three nights’ B&B, activities, transfers and flights from Heathrow, Stansted, Manchester or Glasgow.

We say ...

You can go island-hopping, thanks to the ferries along the coast.

The 787 Deamliner

Says who?

Chris Browne, managing director of Thomson Airways.

What’s the attraction?

“We are thrilled to be the first UK airline to fly the 787 Dreamliner from May 2013 to Florida and Mexico from four UK airports [Gatwick, East Midlands, Manchester, Glasgow]. With more space [33in or 34in of legroom in economy, and 38 inches in Premium Club], intelligent lighting to mimic the time at destination and reduce the effects of jet lag, and 30 per cent bigger windows for you to enjoy the view.”

See for yourself

Thomson (0871 230 2555; thomson.co.uk) offers an all-inclusive week in Mexico staying at the Sensatori  Mexico from £1,114pp, based on two sharing and including flights from Gatwick.

Departs 10 May.

We say ...

If you want to try the 787 before May, you have two choices – try Qatar Airways from Heathrow to Doha (with connections across Asia and Africa), or wait and see where Thomson will fly the new jet before using it on long-haul routes. The airline will probably shuttle the Dreamliner around the network, eg Malaga, as crews get used to the plane.

Sailing in Italy

Says who?

James Thornton, managing director at Intrepid Travel.

What’s the attraction?

“Take a voyage along the spectacular Amalfi Coast and you’ll discover Ischia’s gorgeous white beaches, the ancient ruins of Pompeii, the culinary delights of Naples, the incredible blue hues of Capri’s Blue Grotto, the lemon groves and vineyards of Amalfi and much more. By day, there’s plenty of activity if you want it: swimming, snorkelling, bathing in hot springs, exploring castles and amphitheatres and hiking along scenic coastal paths. By evening, sample the region’s sumptuous seafood in local restaurants before returning to your cabin to be lulled to sleep by the sea.”

See for yourself

Intrepid Travel (0844 499 8487; intrepidtravel.com) offers a week’s Amalfi Coast trip from £1,040pp, including accommodation in a twin cabin, breakfasts, lunches  and excursions but excluding flights.

We say ...

Go first to the “Life and death in Pompeii and Herculaneum” exhibition at the British Museum, from 28 March.

South Africa

Who says?

Susan Hooper, chief executive, Saga Travel.

What’s the attraction?

“Holidays to South Africa are selling particularly well. Our clients are being enticed by the excitement of a safari holiday and we have expanded our range of Stay and Explore holidays where our customers stay in well-positioned lodges, close to the best game-spotting locations and venture out daily on a wide range of included excursions.”

See for yourself

Saga Travel (0800 096 0078; travel.saga.co.uk) offers nine-night holidays to the Entabeni Safari Conservancy from £1,649pp, full board, including seven game drives, a door-to-door travel service, travel insurance and return flights. The price is based on travel in July.

We say ...

Only for people over the age of 50; inclusive travel insurance is a real benefit.

Lemnos Greece

Says who?

David Hopkins, managing director at Club Mark Warner.

What’s the attraction?

“We are very excited about our new beach resort for 2013 on the Greek island of Lemnos. It’s one of the lesser known islands, but it’s one that we are sure our guests will fall in love with.”

See for yourself

A week’s full board at Mark Warner’s Lemnos Beach Resort (0844 273 6796; markwarner.co.uk) is available from £784pp (child price £471pp) based on 11 September departures, two adults and two children under 12 sharing. Includes return British Airways  charter flights from Heathrow, transfers, kids’ clubs (over two years), watersports  and tuition, use of tennis courts, mountain biking and fitness classes.

We say ...

Make a break from the resort for at least a few hours to explore the lanes of the island’s main town, Mirina.

The Cairngorms

Says who?

Stevie Christie, director at Wilderness Scotland.

What’s the attraction?

“With the Cairngorms National Park celebrating its 10th anniversary in 2013, Wilderness Scotland has introduced a new wilderness walking trip to help visitors to get the most from their experience. We’ll explore some iconic areas such as Royal Deeside and Speyside, and guests will return home with a true appreciation of the Cairngorms’ magnificent wild landscapes.”

See for yourself

Wilderness Scotland (01479 420020; wildernessscotland.com) offers a six-night Cairngorms National Park & Royal Deeside trail from £895pp based on two people sharing, including full board, all your guides, transfers to and from Inverness; distillery tour; entry fee to Blair Castle and to RSPB Reserve. Departures: 4 May, 29 June and 14 September.

We say ...

When the sun shines, this is one of the most beautiful parts of the world.

Burma

Says who?

Amrit Singh, managing director of TransIndus.

What’s the attraction?

“With Aung San Suu Kyi actively encouraging tourism to Burma, now is the time to travel to this Golden Land that promises a glimpse into traditions and lifestyles that have remained untouched for centuries.”

See for yourself

TransIndus (020-8566 2729; transindus.co.uk) offers a 13-day Burma Highlights group tour from £2,698pp, including accommodation with breakfast, welcome dinner, internal flights and travel, flight from Heathrow to Yangon via Bangkok on Thai Airways, scheduled sightseeing and a local tour escort.

We say ...

“There are stringent restrictions on  freedom of movement and speech,” warns the Foreign Office, adding: “You may only go to officially  designated tourist areas.”

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