Join the in-crowd: 10 top summer destinations
Where are the latest places to take a holiday? Harriet O'Brien consults the experts to discover this season's hotspots
Sunday 18 July 2004
It was good news - both for travellers and for the island's tourist industry - when, on 6 July, the British Foreign Office lifted its advice against holiday trips to Bali. Add some of the most glamorous hotels in the world to glorious beaches, sublime Hindu temples, a lush, volcanic interior, spectacular rice terraces, a tourist culture complementing indigenous traditions and it is no wonder that Indonesia's best-known destination was considered so halcyon. But after the October 2002 bombings Bali's visitor numbers practically halved. Since 6 July, however, travel agents have been reporting a sudden flood of enquiries about the island. Get there before the rest of Britain does. "The island can be a little rainy at the moment, but who cares?" says Nigel Tisdall, travel editor of Marie Claire. "Bali is wonderful at any time of year, and right now there are some great deals on offer."
Getting there: Colours of Asia (0870-900 5004; www.coloursofasia.com) is offering 10 nights at the new Grand Bali Beach from £879 per person, based on two sharing, including return flights and b&b, for departures between 22 July and 17 August. For the type of full-on luxury that has become almost synonymous with Bali, Scott Dunn (020-8682 5020; www.scottdunn.com) offers a seven-night holiday at the Begawan Giri, a top-of-the-range spa resort close to Bali's cultural centre of Ubud. The price of £1,795 per person, based on two sharing, includes return flights, transfers, b&b accommodation in a suite and personal butler service.
2 St Tropez
The Provençal fishing village that became an iconic glamour spot in the 1960s may subsequently have developed a reputation for flash and Euro-trash but suddenly it's chic once again. "St Tropez is about as fashionable as it's possible to be this summer" says Dylan Jones, editor of GQ and style columnist of The Independent. This is not, he adds, directly attributable to the number of low-cost airlines now serving the area: the sort of people coming here tend not to be bothered about the expense factor. "After a few well-known celebs started descending recently the ironic edge has disappeared and once more this is an immensely cool place to be."
Getting there: The nearest international gateway to St Tropez is Nice, served by easyJet (0871-750 0100; www.easyjet.com) from Stansted, Luton, Gatwick, Liverpool, Bristol and Newcastle; bmibaby (0870-264 2229; www.bmibaby.com) from East Midlands and Teesside; Jet2 (0871-226 1737; www.jet2.com) from Leeds Bradford; and British Airways (0870-850 9850; www.ba.com) from Heathrow, Birmingham and Manchester. The two most famously stylish hotels here are Byblos St Tropez (00 33 04 94 56 68 00, www.byblos.com) with doubles from €360 (£240) per night, room only; and Bastide de St Tropez (00 33 494 55 82 55, www.bastide-saint-tropez.com) with doubles from €410 (£273), high season, room only.
Once considered the Cinderella of Africa, Zambia is rapidly gaining a reputation as the place for walking safaris - quite apart from the spectacular appeal of the Victoria Falls and the Zambezi River. "This is certainly an up-and-coming destination," says travel writer and broadcaster Sankha Guha. "Zambia is fabulous for wildlife. And holidays here tend to be less packaged than Kenya, less cosseting than South Africa, so you'll get a rawer, more down-to-earth experience than in many other parts of Africa. The emphasis is on the thrills of being in such an extraordinary environment - but that said, accommodation in the bush ranges from basic, very eco-sensitive, camps to all-singing all-dancing luxury."
Getting there: Tim Best Travel (020-7591 0300; www.timbesttravel.com) offers a 10-night trip to Zambia from £2,490 per person, based on two sharing. The price includes a walking safari in the legendary Luangwa Valley (with excellent food and comfortable accommodation), all flights, transfers, hotels, meals, drinks and park fees.
With its spectacular scenery, picture-postcard villages and absorbing cultures, Guatemala is regarded as a hidden gem by those in the know. As Simon Calder, travel editor of The Independent, explains: "Central America runs the Middle East a close second as a region of the world that many tourists shy away from. The turmoil of the 1980s, which began with death squads in El Salvador and ended with the US invasion of Panama, has left a lasting impression that deters many potential visitors." But he adds that an increasing number of travellers are realising that Central America contains an immense breadth and depth of traditions and landscapes - and that Guatemala, the largest country in the region, has the dual advantage of being both the most intriguing and the least expensive. "Whether you fly in for an instant immersion in Mayan culture followed by a high-altitude chill-out at Lake Atitlan, or spend a month or two learning Spanish in the original colonial capital Antigua, Guatemala will add an extra dimension to your travel experiences."
Getting there: There are no direct flights from Britain to Guatemala, however American Airlines (0845-7789 789; www.americanairlines.co.uk) and Continental Airlines (0845-607 6760; www.continental.com) both provide connecting services from about £860 this summer. South American Experience (020-7976 5511; www.southamericanexperience.co.uk) offers a seven-day trip taking in the glories of Antigua, Lake Atitlan and Chichicastenango. The price of £615 per person, based on two sharing, includes accommodation in comfortable hotels and travel within Guatemala.
5 Costa de la Luz
The southern part of Spain's Atlantic coast is increasingly popular with discerning travellers from Britain, says Kate Simon, deputy travel editor of The Independent on Sunday. It hasn't been spoilt by overdevelopment and its towns are still working communities, not wholly pursuing the tourist euro - for now. "The Atlantic beaches are lovely: windswept, dune-backed, and with few hotels to mar the view," she says. "The area is becoming increasingly popular because it still offers an authentic taste of Spain. Plus there are more and more smart hotels and apartments springing up, especially around Tarifa, which windsurfers discovered more than a decade ago, but is only just registering on mainstream tourists' radar. The countryside is dotted with Moorish white towns. They aren't on the official Pueblos Blancos trail, which follows a route further to the north, and consequently don't get mobbed by tourists. I've explored Medina Sidonia in the middle of July and had the streets virtually to myself."
Getting there: The area has become more accessible since Ryanair (0871 246 0000; www.ryanair.com) took over the old Buzz route to Jerez, the most convenient international gateway to the area. In addition, Malaga, some three hours' drive away, is served by easyJet (0871-7500 100; www.easyjet.com), bmibaby (0870-264 2229; www.bmibaby.com) and Thomson (0800-000 747; www.thomsonflights.com), which together provide departures from more than a dozen different airports across the UK. Among the packages offered by specialist Spain at Heart (01373 814222; www.spainatheart.co.uk) is a seven-day summer break at the El Monasterio de San Miguel, a former monastery in the old quarter of the seaside resort El Puerto de Santa Maria. The price of £437.50 per person, based on two sharing, is for accommodation. Flights can be arranged by the company but travellers generally prefer to make their own arrangements using the Ryanair service from Stansted. The company also provides villa rentals: its late availability this year includes Chani Cottages, near Conil de la Frontera. Offering accommodation for up to five guests each, the detached properties with shared swimming pool can still be rented between 24 July and 16 August at £950 per week or £1,645 for a fortnight.
Corresponding to British summer, Mexico's "green" season has increasing appeal: long days, fewer crowds than at the traditional peak period from October to May and possibly, best of all, far greater scope to enjoy the country's fabulously stylish hotels. For Sarah Miller, editor of Condé Nast Traveller, Mexico's chic factor is a huge draw. "The Starwood haciendas near the great Mayan sites on the Yucatan Peninsula are wonderful - San Jose, Santa Rosa and Temozon. On the Pacific Coast, Hotelito Desconocido is extraordinary, while Verana, off the beaten track, offers real barefoot luxury. But for true glamour there's little that can beat Mahakua Hacienda de San Antonio, run by Amanresorts."
Getting there: Cox & Kings (020-7873 5000; www.coxandkings.co.uk) offers a nine-night luxury tour of the Yucatan Peninsula for £2,095 per person, based on two sharing, including British Airways flights to Mexico City, domestic air travel, transfers and accommodation, with breakfast, at some of the area's most highly rated hotels, Hacienda Temozon near Uxmal and Hacienda San Jose near Chichen Itza among them. The company can also arrange tailor-made tours to take in the eye-poppingly expensive Mahakua Hacienda San Antonio and Hotelito Desconocido along the Costalegre.
This year Ibiza seems to have it all. The clubbing centre of the Mediterranean may be notoriously hip but it is also attracting young families. "People in their 30s and 40s have started going back there with their kids," explains Dylan Jones of GQ. "The island is great for families, and offers stylish living and nightlife potential all in one. It also has some of Europe's best beaches. These are practically empty in the mornings, so you get at least four hours of peace before the younger crew arrives, having slept off the night before - and then you can always retreat to your luxury villa."
Getting there: Airlines flying to Ibiza include easyJet (0871-7500 100; www.easyjet.com) from Gatwick and Stansted; bmibaby (0870-264 2229; www.bmibaby.com) from Manchester and East Midlands; GB Airways (0870 850 9850; www.gbairways.com) from Gatwick; and Thomson (0800-000 747; www.thomsonflights.com) from 18 airports across the UK. Among a number of holiday home rental companies operating in Ibiza, Iglu Villas (020-8544 6401; www.igluvillas.com) has a limited amount of luxury late availability this summer. Villa Pujols, for example, sleeps six and is well situated for beaches and the clubs of Ibiza town. A week here starting 7 August is £2,715. Visit www.ibiza-spotlight.com for details on anything from beaches to the clubbing scene.
This part of the South-west is set to become the fashionable alternative to Cornwall, says Nigel Tisdall of Marie Claire. It's a view endorsed by Mark Jones, editorial director of High Life. "Devon is very much due a resurgence," he comments. "The Dart estuary is waiting to be rediscovered, the off-beat hippyishness of places such as Totnes provides a refreshing change to the Trustafarian-dominated hot spots of the Cornish summer scene, and there's now a good range of hotels in the area - from Peter de Savary's Bovey Castle, which opened this year, to the funky Alias Hotel Barcelona in Exeter, and Fingals, a wonderfully rambling country house near Dartmouth."
Getting there: Bovey Castle, Dartmoor National Park (01647 445016; www.boveycastle.com) has doubles from £180, high season, room only. Alias Hotel Barcelona, Exeter (01392 218000; www.aliashotels.com) offers doubles from £95 room only (and currently a "Weekend Special" of £219 for two nights' b&b for two people with a £40 voucher to spend in the hotel's Café Paradiso). Fingals, Dittisham, Dartmouth (01803 722398; www.fingals.co.uk) has standard doubles from £105, high season, with breakfast. In terms of holiday lets, Helpful Holidays (01647 433593; www.helpfulholidays.com), specialising in the South-west, has just a handful of late availability properties this summer. Bookings for next year's holiday seasons are already fairly high and the company says that in terms of value and location, most of the top properties are usually reserved by Christmas.
There's a real buzz about the largest island in the Mediterranean this summer. Sicily, of course, boasts areas of ravishing beauty, wonderful sandy beaches, Europe's tallest active volcano, and an amazingly rich array of architecture. But as Simon Calder explains: "The increased interest is partly because new flight routes have opened up the eastern side of Sicily. Both British Airways and Air Malta are now flying to Catania, and many travellers are taking the opportunity to arrive here, cross the island in a leisurely fashion, and return with Ryanair from Palermo."
Getting there: British Airways (0870-850 9850; www.britishairways.com) and Air Malta (0845-607 3170; www.airmalta.com) fly to Catania from Gatwick. Ryanair (0871 246 0000; www.ryanair.com) offers a service from Stansted to Palermo. Luxury tour operator Abercrombie & Kent (0845-0700 612; www.abercrombiekent.co.uk) reports a big increase in enquiries about Sicily this year. The company offers a three-night break at San Domenico Palace in the heart of Taormina from £785 per person, based on two sharing, including return flights, transfers and b&b accommodation. New for 2005, it will offer holidays at the Kempinski Giardino di Costanza Grand Hotel, which opens this September. Super-exclusive holidays are offered by Italian specialist Lanza & Baucina (020-7738 2222) which is partly based in Sicily. The company can arrange luxury villa accommodation as well as private views of palaces, churches and art collections.
10 South Jamaica coast
Away from the big resorts and the security concerns that have developed there, the south coast of Jamaica is an almost undiscovered part of the Caribbean. "The area has a real sense of tranquillity," says Mark Jones of High Life. "There are lovely bays and quiet little townships. There's a laid-back funkiness that is part of the appeal of Jamaica. And there are also some seriously luxurious properties, such as the Bluefields Bay villas where Hollywood celebs discreetly hang out."
Getting there: Air Jamaica (020-8570 7999; www.airjamaica.com) has a regular service from Heathrow to Montego Bay and Kingston from £736 this summer. Caribtours (020-7751 0660, www.caribtours.co.uk) offers a week at the exclusive Jakes hotel on Jamaica's south coast Treasure Beach for £902 per person, based on two sharing. The price includes flights, transfers and room-only accommodation. For more information on Bluefields Bay villas call 00 1 202 232 4010 or visit www.bluefieldsvillas.com.
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