How far would you go for a first taste of sun in 2014?

From beach breaks to exotic family holidays, Sarah Baxter selects the best in Europe and beyond

Beach breaks

Southern Europe is starting to heat up, so short-haul beach breaks are a possibility. But for guaranteed sunshine – and to mix in wildlife, temples and extra bragging rights – go further afield.

Perfect Mexico

The Yucatán peninsula is marvellous in March – highs of around 30C, the New Year crowds have left and hurricane season is still months away. The boutique hotel specialist, i-escape, is offering seven-night stays at Hotel Esencia on the Mayan Riviera throughout March and April for £1,004 per person, excluding flights ( Set on a perfect powder beach, the Escencia is wave-lapped luxury. Its 29 cool-white rooms have private terraces, where pastries appear each morning; other perks include your own Havaiana flip-flops, morning yoga, a spa and thatched palapas for two on the beach. Thomson (0871 231 4787; has return flights from Gatwick to Cancún from £677 in March.

Balmy Balearics

For a short-haul sun boost, try Mallorca – by mid-April, the temperatures are hitting 20C, with nine hours of sunshine a day. In addition, you'll be in time to witness the celebrations of Spain's holiest week, Semana Santa (11-20 April). The clifftop Jumeirah Port Soller ( is an excellent perch. All rooms have a terrace or balcony looking over the sea or at the Tramuntana Mountains; pathways through the gardens lead to the fishing town of Port de Sóller. Destinology (01204 823589; is offering a four-night March stay from £599pp, including flights.


Indian Ocean idyll

For guaranteed warmth, try Mauritius. The main cyclone period (January and February) is over, and the late-summer weather is nice and hot, averaging 30C. Western & Oriental (020 7666 1234; offers a week at the five-star Residence Mauritius from £1,675pp, including flights, for departures in March and April. This colonial-styled hotel sits on one of the island's best beaches, perfect for windsurfing, snorkelling, kayaking or lolling. Rooms come with shutters, wood-and-marble bathrooms and your own butler.

Crowd-free Amalfi

Quick! Make a dash for Italy's Amalfi Coast. This popular spot is a little bit less so in April, right at the start of the season – so you can see its classic clifftops, daubed with wildflowers, before the masses arrive. The classy, antique-filled Le Sirenuse, the grande dame of pretty Positano, re-opens its doors for the season on 24 March. To get you in the spring spirit, the hotel offers flower tours of its jasmine and frangipani-draped grounds and lessons in making limoncello from the region's abundant lemons. La dolce vita indeed. Kirker Holidays (020 7593 1899; offers three-night spring stays from £1,048pp, including flights.

Borneo's wild beaches

Combine the seaside and wildlife on a tailormade two-centre trip to Borneo with Audley's Hidden Beaches (01993 838250;; 13 nights from £2,088pp including flights). The wild South-east Asian island is ideal in March and April when it's largely dry and sunny. Make the most of conditions at the Shangri La Rasa Ria Resort, a good base for exploring Mount Kinabalu and visiting the orang-utans, before retreating to Gaya Island. This resort, which is set in a marine park, is an ideal spot for jungle walks, sub-aquatic exploration with marine biologists, or just relaxing by the beach or pool.

City breaks

Spring is super for wandering around city sights without getting hot and bothered, yet it's warm enough for park picnics and pavement cafés.

Paris in springtime

Ah, a wonderful cliché: but the French capital truly is splendid in spring. It's quieter, cooler and growing greener; alfresco tables demand your presence, and a blockbuster exhibition, "Paris 1900 la Ville Spectacle" will examine the City of Light during the Belle Epoque at the Petit Palais (2 April -17 August; 00 33 1 53 43 40 00;; €11). And why not stay opposite a famous icon? Homestay specialist OneFineStay's Rue Gaston de Saint-Paul apartment is over the Seine from the Eiffel Tower, which marks its 125th anniversary this year. Le Tour is visible from its balcony (020 3582 2351;; from €507 per night).

Germany by train

Eurostar now sells through-tickets to six German cities – Aachen, Cologne, Frankfurt, Munich, Dusseldorf and Bonn – valid from London St Pancras for any connecting Deutsche Bahn train at Brussels or Paris on the day of your chosen Eurostar departure (08432 186 186; You can reach Frankfurt from £79.50 one way, where the Dippemess spring folk festival takes place on Ratsweg from 11 April to 3 May, with fairground rides and food stalls ( In Munich (reached from £97.50 one way), the Bavarian State Opera stages its Ballet Festival from 4-13 April (00 49 89 21 85 01;

Low-cost Lisbon

Western Europe's cheapest capital is arguably one of the most interesting. Lisbon has myriad small pleasures: rickety yellow trams, the tumbling Alfama district, port tasting and late-night revelry in the lively Bairro Alto, and espresso at just 60¢ a shot. Sunvil (020 8568 4499; can arrange tailormade breaks; three nights at the Hotel Heritage Lisboa Plaza cost from £507pp, with flights. Or combine three cities: fly into Porto, train it to medieval Coimbra, then on to Lisbon (seven nights from £627pp including flights).

Tokyo in bloom

Spring is spectacular in Japan, where cherry trees explode into full-bloom and there are high-spirited hanami (blossom parties). InsideJapan's eight-night Neon and Temples trip combines Tokyo and Kyoto, for two bites of the cherry (0117 370 9751;; £2,380pp with flights). Join celebrating salarymen in Tokyo's Ueno Park or view Miyako Odori (geisha blossom dances) in Kyoto; and there's the Studio Ghibli animation studios and a stay in a traditional ryokan.

Refined Riga

The Latvian capital, as joint European Capital of Culture for 2014, is in celebratory mood. Go now to catch the Windstream Festival (20 March-20 April), a profusion of concerts in halls and churches across the city. However, Riga is always rewarding. Amble through the Old Town, admire Europe's largest collection of Art Nouveau architecture, join locals haggling in the Central Market and pack a picnic for Bastejkalns Park. Regent Holidays (020 7666 1244; has three-night break from £305pp, with flights.

Family breaks

Use Easter to take the children somewhere exotic: prices are hiked for this holiday, but it's still cheaper than the summer break. Or head to Europe – Easter (20 April) is late this year, so the Continent will be warming up nicely.

Get more from Morocco

Cultured and child-friendly, the new Fellah Hotel, just outside Marrakech, makes an excellent Easter base. Come April, with temperatures pushing 25C, it's warm enough to splash in the outdoor pool, which has views towards the Atlas Mountains. But better still are the activities: children can help on the hotel's farm by milking the cows and herding goats; there are classes in soap-making, pastry baking and there's children's yoga. The over-12s can take writing workshops, DJ classes and boxing lessons. Book via Smith & Family (0845 313 9007; to get a free donkey-and-cart tour. Deluxe rooms, which accommodate a cot and child bed, start at £180 per night, room only.

A Greek play

New for Easter 2014 is Activities Abroad's Meteora Family Adventure (01670 789991; It's geared towards all ages having fun together in the natural playground of central Greece. On a seven-night stay, you'll hike amid wildflowers, canoe Lake Plastira, mountain-bike, rock climb, canyoneer and learn a little about Ancient Greek mythology. The trip departs on 11 April and costs from £1,045pp, including flights, as well as some meals, all activities, equipment and guides.

Cycle around Spain

Burn off a few Easter eggs on Headwater's six-night self-guided Contrasts of Catalunya Cycling trip (0845 154 5250; which costs from £1,037 per adult and £779 for under-12s, excluding flights. This ride is gentle enough for the whole family, sticking to almost traffic-free roads to explore the rolling countryside of northern Spain. Armed with quality bikes and detailed route notes, you'll pedal past pretty hamlets, spring blossom, sandy bays and fishing villages. Each night, an upmarket hotel (all with pools, usually close to the beach) awaits you, and there are two nights in a castle.

Last of the lights

Catch the tail-end of the Nasa-predicted peak of Northern Lights activity in Iceland. March tends to be one of the best months for aurora-viewing; plus, the weather is getting warmer and the days longer, ideal for exploring Iceland's waterfalls and weird landscapes. The Hrisateigur Residence, offered by family-rental specialist Kid & Coe (001 212 905 6065;, is a beautiful base in Reykjavík's family-friendly Laugardalur neighbourhood, walkable from a geothermal play pool as well as the city centre and beach. This 100-year-old four-bed Icelandic house has had a bright modern makeover too, and comes with lots of toys and an open fire. Rental starts at $368 (£230) per night. Flights not included.

Kick back in Kerala

For an exotic Easter, head for the Backwaters of Kerala with Families Worldwide (01962 737560;; departures 5 and 12 April). The 12-day trip costs from £1,729 per adult, £1,629 per child, including flights. Temperatures here are rising but the brood can keep cool by floating along palm-fringed channels on a rice barge, exploring Periyar National Park looking for elephants, then retreating to the leafy hill station of Munnar. Learn to cook a curry and throw some Keralan martial-art moves too.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
Oscar Pistorius is led out of court in Pretoria. Pistorius received a five-year prison sentence for culpable homicide by judge Thokozile Masipais for the killing of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp
voicesThokozile Masipa simply had no choice but to jail the athlete
Arts and Entertainment
James Blunt's debut album Back to Bedlam shot him to fame in 2004

Singer says the track was 'force-fed down people's throats'

Life and Style
The Tinder app has around 10 million users worldwide

techThe original free dating app will remain the same, developers say

Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    SCRUM Master

    £30 - 50k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a SCRUM Master to joi...

    Franchise Support Assistant

    £13,520: Recruitment Genius: As this role can be customer facing at times, the...

    Financial Controller

    £50000 - £60000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: A successful entertainment, even...

    Direct Marketing Executive - Offline - SW London

    £25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A fantastic opportunity h...

    Day In a Page

    Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

    Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

    Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
    British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

    British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

    Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
    Let's talk about loss

    We need to talk about loss

    Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
    Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

    Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

    Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
    Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

    'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

    If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
    James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
    Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

    Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

    Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
    Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

    Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

    Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
    How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

    How to dress with authority

    Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
    New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

    New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

    'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
    Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

    Tim Minchin interview

    For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
    Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
    Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

    Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

    Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album