Travel 2011: The year of travelling differently

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It's surely the stuff of dreams. The ultimate, fantastical, globe-spanning holiday, lasting 365 days and starting ... now. You put aside the mundane demands of the office, unburden yourself of family responsibility and sample the freshest experiences that the planet can throw you. Wherever you have been and whatever you have done, everything in this ultimate itinerary will be novel: taking advantage of new flights, you'll stay in brand-new hotels and sample brand-new holiday itineraries. Money is no object as you contemplate a year of living from a suitcase (incidentally, prices here are per person and, for packages, normally based on two sharing). Crucially your new 2011 desk diary is suddenly clear of previous engagements, and instead will read like this...

1-4 January

Chicago

Shrug off your hangover and head for Heathrow, where an array of wide-bodied jets is awaiting you for the eight-hour flight to Chicago O'Hare. British Airways (0844 493 0787; ba.com) has one at 4.15pm, with a fare of £608 return at the time of going to press. You'll touch down in good time to join the crowds converging on another world first in Chicago – the planet's highest skating rink, which opens for business on New Year's Day atop the John Hancock Center (001 312 751 3681; hancockobservatory.com). The 900 sq foot rink stands at 1,000 feet above the Magnificent Mile, with views across the Illinois state line to Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin. The surface is not actually ice, but "a state-of-the-art synthetic substance called Xtraice". Admission plus skate hire is only $6 (£4) on top of the normal admission for the Hancock Observatory (starting at $15/£10).

5-12 January

Mauritius

After snow and ice in the Midwest, make for white sand and sunshine in the Indian Ocean. Following your overnight flight from Heathrow, make for the north-west coast of Mauritius, where the Trou Aux Biches Resort (00 230 204 6565; beachcomber-hotels.com) has just reopened after a major revamp – in fact the entire place was demolished and then lavishly rebuilt. Chill out in a thatched villa giving on to crystal-clear turquoise waters and saunter through palm shaded gardens to the Clarins spa (though at the time of going to press this was not yet completed). A one-week, half-board break in a junior suite costs £2,908 through Beachcomber Tours (01483 445 683; beachcombertours.co.uk), including return flights from Heathrow.

13-28 January

Miami Beach

The free art deco festival takes place over the weekend of 14-17 January (001 305 672 2014; mdpl.org), but just coming for that would be so last year. Explore the city's hinterland, from Coral Gables to Little Havana, as you wait for 25 January and the opening of the New World Symphony Campus, designed by Gehry Partners (001 305 673 3330; nws.edu). Located in South Beach, the hi-tech building contains a six-storey atrium with a titanium canopy. Festivities will follow the opening, including a premier by composer Thomas Adés. Guided tours of the new complex will also be available.

29 January-4 February

Las Vegas

Flights to Las Vegas from Miami are currently as low as £75 one-way with American Airlines (0844 499 7300; americanairlines.co.uk) on 29 January, if you book ahead. Now's your last chance to see Cher in her farewell show at the Colosseum at Caesars Palace before she takes a final bow on 5 February.

Alternatively, if you prefer to pop back home and freshen-up first, then Jetsave (0871 664 0293; jetsave.com) offers a one-week Simply Vegas package for £1,299, including non-stop flights from Gatwick on the self-styled "rock-star" airline Virgin Atlantic (0844 874 7747; virgin-atlantic.com), room-only accommodation at Caesar's Palace and three shows – including that of the age-defying superstar (Cher, not Sir Richard Branson).

5-13 February

Tasmania

In search of cutting-edge culture, fly to Melbourne and get a connection to Hobart. Just north of Tasmania's modest capital, MONA – the Museum of Old and New Art – opens in January. Exhibits range from Roman antiquities to works by Damian Hirst, all displayed in a state-of-the-art underground museum. It's the latest development in the Moorilla complex which also features a winery, a micro-brewery, a gourmet restaurant and accommodation in eight contemporary pavilions (00 61 3 6277 9900; moorilla.com.au; A$490/£328 double including breakfast). If you decide to start from London, then you could fly to Hobart with Qantas from Heathrow via Melbourne (020-8600 4300; qantas.com.au/uk).

14-17 February

Valentine, en voiture

If you are fortunate enough to own a car, be one of the first in the queue to sail aboard the magnificent new Spirit of Britain, which is due to enter service early in the new year with P&O Ferries (08716 645 645; poferries.com) between Dover and Calais. The ship is the largest ever to sail the route, and will replace P&O's more elderly vessels. Take advantage of the quiet Valentine's Day traffic to head south through wintry France to beautiful Gascony – which has just got its first dedicated motorway. The brand-new A65 Autoroute de Gascogne swooshes south from Bordeaux to Pau, a fascinating city with magnificent views of the Pyrenees (skiing is easily available just an hour south of Pau).

18-20 February

Wales

Full steam across Snowdonia. This weekend, for the first time, members of the public will be able to travel the full length of the restored Welsh Highland Railway – a stunning trip from Caernarfon to Porthmadog, where the narrow-gauge line will connect with the national rail network, and the train to Blaenau Ffestiniog. Tickets are still available for the opening weekend if you book a package with Ffestiniog Travel (01766 772030; ffestiniogtravel.com). The price of £225 covers two nights with breakfast at the Celtic Royal Hotel in Caernarfon; first-class travel on the steam locomotive, lunch on board and a celebration dinner.

21-24 February

South Tyrol

Entertain the children over half-term by taking them skiing in the Dolomiti Superski area of northern Italy, which has a dozen resorts and more than 1,200km of slopes. A five-star hotel has recently opened above the picture-pretty village of Castelrotto. At Alpina Dolomites hotel (00 39 04 71 79 60 04; alpinadolomites.it), you can have the best of all worlds: ski action, stylish accommodation, stunning views and fabulous facilities such as an extensive spa. Three nights' half-board start at €1,880 for a family of four. The nearest airport is Verona, served by BA (0844 493 0787; ba.com) from Gatwick.

25 February-7 March

India

Watch the ICC Cricket World Cup in India on an 11-day trip with Greaves Travel (020-7487 9111; greavesindia.com). Your journey takes in Kolkata, where England play India on 27 February; Bengaluru where England play Ireland on 2 March; and Chennai where England play South Africa on 6 March. En route you'll sleep in style, including at two of the country's newest hotels: the Oberoi Gurgaon in Delhi and the Alila Hotel in Bengaluru. The price of £2,275 includes flights from Heathrow to Delhi returning from Chennai, domestic flights, transfers, and accommodation with breakfast – but crucially, not match tickets, which you could book at www.bit.ly/gJm4dL.

8-11 March

Estonia

Take a trip to Tallinn, one of two European Capitals of Culture (the other is Turku, just across the Baltic in Finland). Wander the maze of cobbled streets in the Old Town of the Estonian capital, visit the Soviet-era Occupation Museum and see the hilltop Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. Regent Holidays (0845 277 3317; regent-holidays.co.uk) is offering three-night city breaks from £310 with flights and accommodation in a three-star hotel with breakfast and Estonian Air flights from Gatwick.

11-18 March

Nicaragua and Costa Rica

Make a quick turnaround and jet out from Heathrow to Central America via New York. Tropical Sky (0870 907 9600; tropicalsky.co.uk) has added a new one-week tour along the Pacific aboard the luxury yacht Wind Star. A maximum of 148 guests set out from Puerto Caldara and takes in the beautiful Nicaraguan port of San Juan del Sur, as well as the sleepy Costa Rican banana town of Playas del Coco, plus Quepos, Bahia Drake, Curu and Tortuga. The price of £2,269 includes full board on Wind Star.

19-22 March

Austria

On the picturesque banks of the Wörthersee in the south of the country, a new property called "my lake hotel" (00 43 151580 1831; mylakehotel.com) is unveiling 70 studios and two penthouses. Doubles start at €155 with breakfast. Fly to nearby Klagenfurt Airport from Stansted with Ryanair (0871 246 0000; ryanair.com), which has returns leaving 19 March, returning 22 March, for £77.

22-24 March

Bristol

Back in the city that was at the starting point of many a journey of exploration, the interactive science centre, At Bristol (0845 345 1235; at-bristol.org.uk), launches a £1.5m exhibition called "All About Us" in March. It's a celebration of all things human, from how the brain engages with the body to how people relate to each other. Stay at the neat, contemporary Mint Hotel Bristol on Temple Way (0117 925 1001; minthotel.com; doubles from £79 including/excluding breakfast).

24-28 March

Libya

From lakeside to beachside: Cox and Kings (020-7873 5000; coxandkings.co.uk) launches its new Long Weekend in Libya on 24 March. Fly with BMI (0870 60 70 555; flybmi.com) from Heathrow to Tripoli and head to the Sheraton Four Points hotel that has just opened on the beach in the city. From here, move inland to Bab Ramla on the edge of the Sahara, and from Libya's first luxury tented camp explore desert lakes and prehistoric rock art. The price looks a very reasonable £1,045 including flights, transfers and full board.

29 March-7 April

The Holy Land

When the summer flight schedules start at the end of March, one of the highlights is the new easyJet link from Gatwick to Amman in Jordan. The first few outbound departures are heavily booked and expensive, which is why the smart traveller will instead take the easyJet flight from Luton to Tel Aviv on 29 March (£144), soak up the sun on the Med for a couple of days then move on to the miraculous city of Jerusalem. You can sample life and flotation on both the Israeli and Jordanian sides of the Dead Sea, before flying back on 7 April for an astonishingly cheap £47.

8-19 April

South Africa

In time for the Easter school holidays, Africa Sky (0870 904 0925; africasky.co.uk) has launched a 10-night escorted tour of South Africa's Western Cape. This is an ideal trip for families, visiting exquisite beaches, monkey and elephant sanctuaries and the Addo Elephant National Park. Adults pay £2,899, children £1,699, including return non-stop flights from Heathrow to Cape Town and accommodation in family rooms, with a mix of meals.

20-26 April

Lancashire

Make your way to Lancashire in time for the grand opening of the Brockholes Floating Visitor Centre on 22 April. Just off the M6, on the banks of the River Ribble and close to Preston, Brockholes (01772 318 373; brockholes.org) is a former a quarry cleverly converted into a nature reserve. Admission is free. Nearby accommodation options include the family-friendly, four-star Preston Marriott (01772 864087; marriott.co.uk), a Victorian manor house where doubles cost £85 with breakfast and including free meals for under-12s.

27 April-1 May

London

If you're not on the list, but the royalist romantic in you still yearns to be close to the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton, join the throng and wave your Union flag before making your way to your own piece of royal luxury at the five-star Royal Garden Hotel (020-7937 8000; royalgardenhotel.co.uk/royal-wedding-package). It's a good 10 minutes by limousine from Westminster Abbey, but a short walk from Kensington Palace – and tickets to this royal residence are included in the three-night package, price £840, which includes breakfast and a Royal Afternoon Tea.

1-8 May

Greece

On the day the main Mediterranean package-holiday season gets under way, take a May Day flight from Gatwick to Preveza in north-west Greece, and make for the pretty little town of Parga on the coast. V C Here, the newly opened Salvator Hotel is a boutique outfit with stylish rooms offering sea or mountain views. This is a new destination for Ionian Island Holidays (020-8459 0777; ionianislandholidays.com), which sells packages for £799 including flights, a week's car hire and breakfast.

9-13 May

London

Head briefly to London and enjoy a few nights in Victorian-Gothic splendour. The St Pancras Renaissance Hotel is a Grade-1 listed building designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott. After painstaking restoration, it is formally reopening its doors to coincide with its original launch on 5 May 1873. This will also mark the completion of the £150m regeneration of St Pancras International station. Doubles start at £300, room only (020-7841 3540; stpancrasrenaissance.com).

13-16 May

France

Catch a train from St Pancras to Paris and transfer to a "classic" train from Austerlitz station to the beautifully named station of Limoges Benedictins (total journey £99 return if you book early through Eurostar, 08705 186 186; eurostar.com). From there you'll be picked up by Go Learn To (08445 020 445; golearnto.com) which is offering a new digital photography course in the Dordogne, staying in an 18th-century house. The three-night trips cost £495 including meals, tuition, accommodation and transport to photo locations.

17-21 May

Turkey

Try out your refined photography skills on Turkey's Aegean coast – all the more accessible thanks to new easyJet flights from Gatwick to Izmir that start on 15 May. Nearby Cesme presents golden beaches, while accommodation options include the seaside Suzer Sun Dreams Hotel and Spa. Book a four-night break here through easyJet Holidays (0905 821 0905; holiday.easyjet.com) for a truly remarkable £190 including flights and all-inclusive accommodation.

22 May-7 June

All at sea

You might want to take advantage of the new Eureka trains on the East Coast Main Line (highlights: slightly faster from Edinburgh and Leeds to London, but almost all the Glasgow services axed) and make for Southampton to board the Adonia, the latest addition to the P&O fleet. She is the smallest member of the fleet, aimed at adults only, and formerly sailed as the Royal Princess. You'll be taking a cruise around the western Med – a 16-night voyage calling at Lisbon, Alghero, Portofino and Cadiz. The price of £1,729 includes your accommodation, entertainment and most meals (0845 025 300; adoniacruise.com).

8-15 June

Montenegro

Sveti Stefan is reborn. This picturesque Adriatic island is home to a fortified fishing village of the same name that in the 1950s became a dreamy hotel graced by the likes of Sophia Loren. By now it will have been reopened by Amanresorts as a 50-room retreat. Original Travel (020-7978 7333; originaltravel. co.uk) has a week there for £2,548 room only with flights to Dubrovnik from Gatwick and car hire.

16-21 June

Tanzania

Set on the banks of the Wami River and overlooking Saadani National Park, Saadani River Lodge is due to open on 1 June. This stylish, 50-room wilderness retreat is hidden in the canopy of the riverine forest, and offers a wealth of activities including walking safaris, tag and release sport fishing, and water excursions. To Escape To (020-7060 6747; toescapeto.com) can arrange five nights here for £1,999, including flights from Heathrow to Dar es Salaam, transfers and full board.

22-26 June

Border of England and Wales

Walk part of Offa's Dyke. The King of Mercia's earthwork frontier dating from the 8th century runs from Chepstow to Prestatyn. This year is the 40th anniversary of this 177-mile footpath as a National Trail (nationaltrail.co.uk/offasdyke), which is currently being considered for listing as a World Heritage Site. Accommodation along the way can be arranged by Sherpa Van (01609 883 731; sherpavan.com) from £12.50 per night, if you are content to camp.

27-30 June

Verona on the cheap

All new air routes have to be sold off cheap at first to stimulate bookings, but we were frankly amazed to find the easyJet link from Gatwick to the home of Romeo and Juliet (starting in June) on sale for only £57 return on these dates. It will provide much-needed competition for BA on the same route, and spur exploration of this great city and its fabulous hinterland. Stay at Design Rooms, almost within touching distance of the Arena (00 39 346 363 0128; designrooms.it). The city will be buzzing at the start of the Opera season.

1-6 July

Yorkshire

Take an arts break in Yorkshire. The Hepworth Gallery in Wakefield opens in early summer, adding to the allure of an area which boasts four other major art establishments – Salt Mill in Bradford (for David Hockney), Leeds Art Gallery (for Moore, Gormley and more Hepworth), the Henry Moore Institute next door, and the Yorkshire Sculpture Park close to the M1 near Wakefield. Stay at the Moyles Hotel (01422 845272; moyles.com) in Hebden Bridge, which offers doubles decorated by work from local and international artists for £91.50, including breakfast.

7-14 July

Faroe Islands

Make for the rugged and remote Faroes where, new for this year, Sunvil Discovery (020-8758 4722; sunvil.co.uk) is offering a walking tour of Mykines Island, which has a wonderful puffin colony, as part of a week staying in Gjógv on the island of Eysturoy. The price of £975 includes return flights from Stansted on Atlantic Airways, car hire and accommodation with breakfast in a grass-roofed guesthouse. The three-hour puffin walk costs an additional £45.

14-27 July

Peru

The flight from Torshavn in Faroe arrives at Stansted at 11.15am on 14 July; make a swift transfer to Heathrow and you should be able to reach Lima by the following morning, in time to join a once-in-a-lifetime trip to celebrate the centenary of the re-discovery of Machu Picchu on 24 July. Journey Latin America (020-8747 8315; journeylatinamerica.co.uk) is offering a special two-week group tour guided by the celebrated writer and historian Hugh Thomson that takes in lesser-known pre-Inca sites in the north of Peru before heading to Machu Picchu. At this spectacular ceremonial centre, a range of events is planned, including a concert with Paul McCartney. The price of £4,328 includes flights from Heathrow via Madrid, all transport, four-star accommodation, guided excursions and most meals. It's an epic trip, so just this once you'll have a day to repack before your next journey.

29 July-1 August

Iceland

The trekking and climbing specialist, KE Adventure Travel (01768 773966; keadventure.com) has launched a new volcano hiking and driving tour in Iceland. The short break shows off the best the island's extraordinary landscape, including the Eyjafjallajokull volcano that caused such aeronautical turbulence last year. Four days cost £1,095 including return flights from Heathrow on Icelandair to Reykjavik, accommodation and most meals.

2-5 August

Staffordshire

More thrills are to be had in Tamworth where Drayton Manor Theme Park (0844 472 1950; draytonmanor.co.uk) is opening a new 150-room hotel this summer. Rooms will include themed options such as Thomas the Tank Engine, plus there'll be wedding facilities.

6-13 August

Med meander

Calvi in Corsica and Sète in Languedoc Roussillon is the alluring new French combination offered as ports of call on the Mediterranean Medley cruise aboard Thomson Dream, which also calls at Genoa, Livorno and Barcelona. The trip costs £940 including charter flights from Luton.

14-20 August

Madagascar

Madagascar, Sir David Attenborough's latest wildlife documentary, is due to air on BBC2 in spring, providing inspiration to those wishing to marvel at the island's unique ecosystem for themselves. Bailey Robinson (01488 689 700; baileyrobinson.com) offers a new one-week tailor-made tour of the south of the island, including three nights at the Mandrare River Camp (great for lemur watching), and two nights at the Manafiafy Beach and Rainforest Lodge, which opened in 2010. The price of £2,450 includes flights to Madagascar from Heathrow via Paris.

21 August–2 September

Sudan

This year Explore (0844 499 0901; explore.co.uk) is offering a new trip through the scenic wonders of the Nile valley and the remote desert landscapes of Sudan. It is a controversial choice of destination, given the widespread human-rights violations by the Sudanese government; Amnesty International currently condemns "arbitrary arrests and detention, torture and other forms of ill-treatment" by the regime. The Ancient Nubia Explorer tour is a four-wheel-drive adventure taking in pyramids, black basalt mountains and traditional Nubian villages. Accommodation is in comfortable hotels and desert camps. The price of £2,595 include flights from Heathrow to Khartoum via Amman, nine nights' B&B and guiding.

3-6 September

Cornwall

Take a late-summer break at Watergate Bay where The Village holiday complex (01637 861004; thevillagewatergatebay.co.uk) has opened four new "ecopads". Complete with huge windows, uninterrupted views and environmentally friendly features, the villas sleep up to four.

7-20 September

Norway

From Arctic Spitsbergen to glaciers, lonely fishing villages and the Art Nouveau town of Alesund, Hurtigruten (0844 448 7601; hurtigruten.co.uk) offers a new "Polar Bears, Islands and Fjords" cruise. Starting in the Svalbard archipelago, the expedition ship sails south to remote Bear Island before heading down to mainland Norway and proceeding through a maze of fjords, to Bergen. The price of £2,876 includes 11 nights' full board on the ship, one night's pre-cruise hotel stay with breakfast, sightseeing and flights from Oslo to Longyearbyen. International flights cost extra.

20 September–14 October

Russia to China

Make a quick turnaround to Moscow on Great Rail Journeys' new Silk Road tour (01904 521 936; greatrail.com). After two nights in the Russian capital you board the Golden Eagle private trans-Siberian express train for Beijing. Excursions along the way take in the ancient cities of Kiva and Merv, the World Heritage Site of Bukhara and the stunning city of Samarkand. At the Chinese border you transfer to the Shangri-la private express train travelling via Urumchi and Xian to China's capital and the Great Wall. The 21-day tour costs £8,995 with flights from Heathrow to Moscow and back from Beijing, all transfers, five nights of hotel accommodation, 15 nights on board trains, all meals and guided visits.

15-20 October

Abu Dhabi

It's back east again to Abu Dhabi, where a new leisure destination is taking shape. Saadiyat, optimistically being marketed as "the island of happiness" is vying to outshine Dubai with a national museum designed by Norman Foster and a Guggenheim courtesy of Frank Gehry. Another new landmark will be the luxurious St Regis beach resort, opening this month (starwoodhotels.com). Fly to Abu Dhabi with Etihad (0870 241 7121; etihadairways.com) from Heathrow or Manchester.

21-24 October

Nottinghamshire

Back in Britain, pack your little monkeys and head for the trees for half term. Center Parcs (08448 267 723; centerparcs.co.uk) has a new series of luxurious treehouses at its Sherwood Forest site, which sleep up to eight guests in five-star style. Expect games dens, hot tubs, maid service and iPod docks. A three-night half-term break costs £2,799 for eight people.

25 October–7 November

Australia

Get into the pioneering spirit and head to Australia, where 26 October marks the 150th anniversary of the first European crossing of the country. John Mcdouall Stuart set off from Adelaide on this day in 1861 to arrive in Darwin in April the following year. Follow his footsteps in rather more style with Austravel (0800 988 4834; austravel.com), which offers an 11-night "Down the Middle" trip from Darwin to Adelaide from £3,195 per person. The price includes flights from Heathrow to Darwin and back from Adelaide, three nights in a hotel in Darwin, a "Litchfield and jumping crocodiles" tour, two nights in Alice Springs, a camping safari and travel on The Ghan on the "Pioneer's" route to Adelaide, plus three nights in Adelaide.

8-19 November

India

You could head home via Kerala. Village Ways has just expanded into this idyllic south Indian state with a 12-night holiday hosted by local communities. Spend four nights drifting around the blissful backwaters on a converted rice barge, then take an overnight train to the neighbouring state of Karnataka to stay at a spice plantation before heading to the coast for four nights in a fishing community. The price starts at £869 including accommodation, train journeys, transport and most meals. Flights not included. Fly from Adelaide to Cochin with Qantas (08457 747767; qantas.co.uk) and Bangalore back to Heathrow with BA (0844 493 0787; ba.com); alternatively, Emirates (0844 800 2777; emirates.com) has plenty of flight options if you start in the UK.

20-28 November

New York

Hit the streets of New York for some seasonal cheer. Spend Thanksgiving in the Big Apple on Thursday 24 November then hit the sales on Black Friday. You'll be after somewhere glitzy to stash your swag, so opt for the new Hyatt (hyatt.com), which should now be open near Union Square. Mirroring its upscale location, you can expect sleek design and a restaurant inspired by the nearby organic farmers' market, Greenmarket. Next, wrap up warm and explore the High Line Park (thehighline. org), where Section 2 will now be open from West 20th to West 30th Streets, doubling the length of this railway line-turned green belt. Fly to New York JFK from Heathrow with Virgin Atlantic (0844 874 7747; virgin-atlantic.com) or one of many other airlines.

29 November–3 December

Dubai

It's back to the UAE. Fusion Escapes (0845 519 2655; fusionescapes.com) is a new company offering holidays tailored for jet-setting singles. Forget awkward socials in uncharismatic guesthouses, this is all about fast-paced five-star luxury. The five-night break is at the Westin Mina Sevahi Beach Resort and includes a private city tour, welcome drinks, a hosted dinner and a 4x4 desert trip. The cost is from £2,449 including flights from Gatwick on Emirates.

4-8 December

Maldives

Continue onwards to the Maldives, where Mandarin Oriental (mandarinoriental.com) opens its last hotel of the year on the island of Maavelavaru, a previously uninhabited island in the Noonu Atoll. Here 114 villas will be joined by an extensive spa, manicured gardens and a range of dining options, including an underwater restaurant. Emirates (0844 800 2777; emirates.com) flies from Dubai to the capital, Male, from where the resort is a 45 minute seaplane ride. Alternatively you can fly direct from Gatwick with BA (0844 493 0787; ba.com).

9-23 December

Polynesia

Still haven't had your fill of idyllic islands? Then head to Oceania, where every four years a cultural festival is attended by over 2,000 people from Polynesian delegations including New Zealand, Easter Island and Hawaii. Celebrations are being held on Nuku Hiva in the Marquesas from 15-18 December, so board the Aranui 3 passenger-cargo ship for a special 15-day Marquesas Art Festival Cruise, which will call at the festival. The cost of €3,715 includes full board on the ship, which departs from Papeete, available through The Cruise People (020-7723 2450; cruisepeople.co.uk). Flights to Tahiti from LA via Paris are offered by Air Tahiti Nui (0844 482 1675; airtahitinui.com).

24-28 December

Paris

Stop over in Paris on your way home to enjoy one of the most exuberant exhibitions of the year at the Musee d'Orsay: "Under the volcano – Art in Mexico from independence to revolution". The Orsay will be closed on 25 December, but after Midnight Mass at Notre-Dame on Christmas Eve you can spend the following day travelling around a ghostly city (the Metro will be in operation), taking lunch on the Rue des Rosiers in the Jewish quarter of the Marais, and dinner at the always-stylish Bofinger. Stay at the W Paris, opening in Opéra in December 2011 – neatly trumping the new-for-2011 Pullman Paris Montparnasse.

29-31 December

Portugal

Get yourself to Guimaraes in the Minho region of Portugal to see in the new year in the European Capital of Culture for 2012 (guimaraes2012.com). Portugal's first capital has been declared a World Heritage Site for its well-preserved medieval history and it will be dressed in its finest to introduce a year of exciting cultural events. Fly to nearby Porto in Portugal with Ryanair (0871 246 0000; ryanair.com), easyJet (0905 821 0905; easyJet.com) or TAP Portugal (0845 601 0932; tap.pt).

Additional research by Joe King and Sarah Marsh.

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