Make the next decade your most meaningful by planning adventures and getaways for the year ahead, says Sarah Marshall.
If the start of a new year stimulates reflection, the dawn of a fresh decade demands some serious thought – specifically when it comes to all-important travel plans.
New flight routes, anniversary celebrations and exciting hotel openings plunge destinations into the spotlight. Some other places are simply having their moment, right now.
So, whether you want to adventure far and wide, or clear your environmental conscience by staying reassuringly close to home, these are a few of the contenders vying for your annual leave.
Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt
Best for: Beach, diving and snorkelling
Promising good weather, calm sea conditions and an abundance of marine wildlife, Egypt’s premier Red Sea resort was once favoured by divers of all abilities. All that came to a halt after a terrorist attack, however, compelling many countries – including the UK – to suspend flights. Four years later, the ban has finally been lifted, shining the green light for direct air access from the UK. Red Sea Holidays already have charters underway and TUI launch operations in February.
A drop in visitor numbers over the past few years has given the reef a chance to flourish and attract new species, such as whale sharks. According to experts, the Red Sea has never looked better.
How: TUI (tui.co.uk; 020 3636 1931) offers four nights all inclusive at the TUI Magic Life resort from £493pp (two sharing), including flights from London Gatwick on February 26.
The Lake District, UK
Best for: Contemplative hikes and pub lunches
Wander lonely as a cloud o’er vales and hills in honour of poet William Wordsworth’s 250th birthday, celebrated on April 7. Inspired by the beauty of the Lake District, his writings were the foundation for an early conservation movement, and the 1820 publication of his Guide Through The District Of The Lakes is regarded as the beginning of mass tourism to the area.
A major project, Reimagining Wordsworth, is currently underway to transform his former family home, Dove Cottage, in Grasmere, into an interactive attraction. The Wordsworth Museum is also being expanded and modernised, and new trails will be launched to showcase the landscapes described in his poems.
How: The Landmark Trust (landmarktrust.org.uk; 01628 825 925) offers stays at Howthwaite, a four-bedroom property sharing the same views as Dove Cottage. From £560 for four nights (sleeps eight).
Best for: Wildlife watching and chasing northern lights
There aren’t many places where you can travel without a visa, but Svalbard’s unusual status could become even more appealing in a post-Brexit world. A mountainous, glacier-laced archipelago dangling from the top of the globe, this European slice of the Arctic was placed under Norwegian sovereignty a century ago. In that time, a seemingly uninhabitable and hostile destination has become a booming tourist attraction.
Visit in summer to search for polar bears, walruses and flocks of migrating birds; in winter there’s the chance to take snowmobile safaris across frozen terrain and hunt for the northern lights. But if you really like it and you’re British, why not stay? As a signatory of the Treaty, Brits have to right to fish, hunt and set up a home here.
How: Discover The World (discover-the-world.com) offers a three-night Northern Lights break in Longyearbyen from £958pp (two sharing) including B&B accommodation, one evening meal, an aurora hunt using eco-friendly electronic eSleds, and flights from London Heathrow. Available December to February.
Best for: Archaeological ruins and sustainable stays
A mass of uninterrupted jungle lapped by sparkling Caribbean Sea and fringed by coral reefs, this Central American country has developed slowly but surely, managing to keep its natural treasures intact. Although popular with American retirees, it’s still reassuringly off the radar; Mayan ruins such as Caracol attract a fraction of the crowds heading to Mexico’s Chichen Itza, and an ancient cave system is still largely a mystery.
In 2019, single-use plastics and Styrofoam were banned – part of a move to make the destination a leading force for sustainability. Actor-turned-conservationist Leonardo DiCaprio opens his highly anticipated solar-powered Blackadore Caye eco-resort (which will also feature a research station focused on climate change) in 2020, and inland, in San Antonio, Mariposa Jungle Lodge will launch as the country’s first vegan resort.
How: Mariposa Jungle Lodge (mariposajunglelodge.com) offers a three-night stay from £855pp (two sharing) including all meals, airport transfers and some tours. International flights extra.
Best for: Art and culture
Lured by a boho spirit and attitudes as loose and wafty as a silk kaftan, rock ‘n’ rollers descended on Morocco’s charismatic city in the Sixties. An artistic vibe flourished in the Medina’s labyrinthine souks, which became a favourite haunt for fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent, whose legacy lives on in the vibrant Jardin Majorelle and an elegant museum dedicated to his work.
The opening of the Museum Of African Contemporary Art Al Maaden (MACAAL) in 2018 solidified the city’s status as Africa’s home of modern art, and and it’s been crowned the continent’s first Capital Of Culture for 2020.
How: Abercrombie & Kent (abercrombiekent.co.uk) offers a three-night tailor-made Marrakech City Break from £560pp, including flights.
The Azores, Portugal
Best for: Whales and volcanoes
Whichever ocean they emerge from and whatever climate they enjoy, there’s something alluringly exotic about islands. Cut off from our seven continents, they support a plethora of unique and often fragile species. Visiting them often feels like discovering a place lost in time.
Next year, Portugal’s far flung Atlantic island chain will become that bit easier to reach with the introduction of two new direct flight routes from the UK. Ryanair will extend their current weekly Saturday offering by launching a seasonal weekly Tuesday flight from London Stansted to the largest island, Sao Miguel (June 2–August 18), making long weekends possible. A route between London Stansted and Terceira (a gateway to several of the nine islands, including Pico – home to the Ponta do Pico volcano) will start from April 1.
How: Sunvil (sunvil.co.uk; 020 8758 4722) offers the seven-night Whale And Dolphin Watching Holiday on Sao Miguel (27 species have been cited from the Azores) from £1,220pp (two sharing), including self-catering accommodation and direct flights.
Best for: Wine and value
In an age of rising prices, it’s rare to find a destination where the cost of living is still cheap. But Georgia, formerly part of the USSR, is one of the few places where you can parade like a prince with the earnings of a pleb. A glass of decent wine in capital Tblisi, for example, costs only a couple of pounds.
In a post-Soviet era, European wine-making techniques are experiencing a renaissance – although the country’s traditional amber wine (made for 8,000 years) also deserves attention. And the word is already out: G Adventures reports a 44% increase in travellers to the destination in the past three years.
How: G Adventures (gadventures.com) offers an eight-day Best Of Georgia & Armenia trip from £1,299pp. Flights extra. Departs May 1.