From island-hopping in Tahiti a new, Irish-owned French hideaway and trekking in Slovenia, Nicola Brady has some tempting ideas for next year’s great escape
With so many question marks over overseas travel this year, dreamers — and an increasing number of bookers — are turning their attention to 2021. So what is available at this stage?
Why: Beloved of Irish visitors, holidaymakers are keenly watching the Balearic Islands. Due to open later this year, the Zafiro Palace Andratx is a family-friendly hotel that sits right on a sandy, blue flag beach, with the historic town of Andratx just a few minutes away. Slated for a Spring 2021 opening, Can Ferrereta (hotelcanferrereta.com) is another new arrival, set to be one of the island’s hottest hotels, in the quaint village of Santanyí.
We’re missing: Getting lost down pretty city side streets.
How: Rates from €151; zafirohotels.com
Why: After Deirdre McGlone and Marc Gysling sold Harvey’s Point in Donegal a year ago, we wondered how long it would be before their return. The answer is here. Smitten during a Valentine’s break at Le Moulin Sur Célé this year, the couple bought the place — realising a dream of “owning a wee place in France”, as Deirdre puts it. Three luxury properties sleep 12 near the charming village of Saint-Sulpice in the Midi-Pyrénées, and exclusive hires get use of the 15-acre property, its pool and river beach.
We’re missing: The French countryside... and food!
How: The getaway is roughly two hours from Toulouse (Blagnac). Weekly exclusive hire from €3,450 in low season to €7,550 in peak months; lemoulinsurcele.com
Why: 2021 is a Holy Year on the Camino de Santiago, which means the spotlight is on this classic walking pilgrimage. It’s the only time that pilgrims can enter the Santiago Cathedral through the Holy Door and, if you do, it’s said that you’re forgiven of all your sins. All the more reason to have some fun in 2020...
We’re missing: Long, meandering chats in the open-air. And a beer at the end of the day.
How: Walk the classic last stretch with Camino Ways, from €525pp; caminoways.com
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Why: In a post-pandemic world, New Zealand is going to look mighty appealing. Swift handling of the crisis means it could be one of the first places to recover, even though borders may be closed for a while. But when it’s an option once more, this is real ‘trip of a lifetime’ territory. Get a campervan and explore the otherworldly beauty of the county’s fjords, lakes and mountains. Potter around vineyards, hike in the national parks and kayak on a river that’s been legally declared a living entity. In New Zealand, it’s all about nature, culture and adventure. And that’s just what we’re all going to need...
We’re missing: Lord of the Rings landscapes… and a wicked sense of humour.
How: Silver Fern Holidays specialises in New Zealand holidays (and has seen a significant increase in enquiries in recent weeks). Trips are tailor-made but a sample 24-day itinerary costs from €4,999pp; silverfernholidays.com
Why: If the Canary Islands reopen as quickly as some say they might (Spain plans to unlock for overseas visitors, without quarantine, from July 1), there’ll be a big sigh of relief from Irish holidaymakers. We love those Spanish islands, and with good reason — the lovely, temperate climate, great scenery and, let’s face it, good prices. In 2021, why not explore the other side of the islands? There are beautifully rugged, remote spots to discover, like the natural pools you’ll find throughout the archipelago.
We’re missing: Canarian potatoes, and dinner outdoors.
How: itaa.ie/offers; clickandgo.com; tuiholidays.ie
Why: With its ethereal landscapes, wide open spaces and ridiculously cute breed of native horse, Iceland is always a heavenly spot for a break. Explore the northern part of the country, from the city of Akureyri, to avoid the tourist crush. Tourism is set to resume from June 15.
We’re missing: Magnificent wilderness and surprisingly good music for such a small population (but not the prices).
Why: Right now is a time for fantasy. And what better fantasy than a trip hopping between the Pacific islands of Tahiti? Imagine — white sand the texture of icing sugar between your toes, water so clear you can see the tropical fish zipping around on the seabed, and volcanic peaks rising up in the background. Heaven!
We’re missing: The feeling of warm sand and salty skin
How: Tropical Sky has a 10-night Tahiti Island Hopping trip from €5,069pp in summer 2021; tropicalsky.ie
Why: Private villas are going to be all the more appealing in a post-pandemic world. But what if you still want some of those handy little hotel touches? Enter ‘The Private Hotel’ experience from The Greek Villas. You’ll find 57 villas all over the Greek islands, with the addition of full hotel services like daily cleaning, catered meals and spa treatments. Villas range from white stone modernist affairs with infinity pools overlooking the sea, to traditional farmhouses among the olive groves.
We’re missing: That feeling of waddling out in the morning, fresh cup of coffee in hand, to dip your feet into your own private pool... bliss.
How: A ‘private hotel’ villa starts at €580 per night, sleeping up to seven; thegreekvillas.com
Why: If there’s one place we can’t wait to revisit, it’s Italy. And 2021 will hopefully see a wave of new openings to tempt us back. Puglia will welcome some fabulous new spots, like the Paragon 700 Boutique Hotel & Spa. Set in a converted palace in the heart of Ostuni, the hotel has just 11 beautifully restored rooms, and is set to open later this year. Another recently restored property, Castello di Ugento is a 17th century castle that was meticulously converted into a nine-room boutique hotel, and there’s a world-renowned cookery school and restaurant on site. Up in the Dolomites, the brand new hotel Forestis is set on the Southern slope of the Plose mountain and is an absolute beauty. All suites have jaw-dropping views of the mountains, and were built with natural, native materials.
We’re missing: That glorious moment at sundown, where people gather in town squares to chat.
How: 2021 Rates at Paragon 700 start from €300; paragon700.com; rates at Castello di Ugento from €440; castellodiugento.com, suites at Forestis from €420; forestis.it. See also topflight.ie, for packages from Ireland.
Why: One of the most beautiful countries in Central America, Costa Rica is also a great spot for outdoor adventures. A third of the country is swathed in national parks, so you can hike through cloud forests, over volcanoes and along beautiful beaches. Another bonus? Costa Rica aims to be completely carbon neutral by 2021.
We’re missing: The squawk of tropical birdsong.
How: A 14-day guided walking tour with Walks Worldwide costs from €3,435pp, excluding flights, next year; walksworldwide.com
Why: You couldn’t ask for a more beautiful setting than the one at Hotel Bellevue Dubrovnik. Reopened after an extensive refurbishment last year, the hotel sits right on the top of the cliffs, with incredible views over the Adriatic and the secluded bay below. The local vineyards aren’t too shabby, either.
We’re missing: That first sip from a glass of frosty white wine on a hot day... and the Dalmatian Coast.
How: Rates from €234; adriaticluxuryhotels.com
Why: Sick of the sight of your own four walls? How would you feel about spending the night in a place with no walls at all? The Zero Real Estate concept sees temporary hotel rooms set up without roofs or walls, among the drop dead gorgeous scenery of the Lake Constance region. You’ll have a super plush bed with lamps and bedside tables, but otherwise you’ll be completely out in the fresh mountain air (you can use the bathroom facilities in a nearby hotel).
We’re missing: A proper sense of adventure.
How: Put your name on the 2021 waiting list at zerorealestate.ch
Why: Cancun was the number-one destination searched for by Irish Skyscanner customers over the last month, for travel in 2021. So it looks like we have Mexico on our minds. And why not? With sexy beach resorts and great nightlife, it’s the perfect destination. If you really want to treat yourself, check out Hotel Esencia, a dreamily chic resort about an hour away on the Mayan Riviera that was originally built as a hideaway for an Italian duchess. It’s set on one of the most beautiful beaches in the region, and is a haven for sea turtles, too.
We’re missing: Sipping a daiquiri from the side of a pool.
How: Rates at Hotel Esencia start from €647 in 2021; hotelesencia.com. Or keep an eye on sunway.ie for Cancun deals next year.
Why: A lack of tourists is emerging as a major concern for wildlife conservation, which is often funded by tourism (fewer guides, staff and visitors mean fewer eyes on poachers). So if you’ve longed to go to Africa, 2021 could be the time. There are some top-notch new openings, too — Sanctuary Tambarare (sanctuaryretreats.com) is opening in Kenya at the end of the year, and has an unbeatable location in Laikipia, with luxurious guest tents overlooking the plains roamed by the Big 5. On a remote island off the coast of Mozambique, Kisawa Sanctuary (kisawasanctuary.com) is an incredible new resort slated for early 2021, and is an absolute paradise for wildlife. Over in Zimbabwe, Victoria Falls Safari Spa (africaalbidatourism.com) will be the first destination spa in the region when it opens towards the end of 2020. It’s set under canvas with incredible views (and a cool-looking rope bridge).
We’re missing: The inimitable sense of awe that comes from seeing an elephant in the wild.
How: It’s best to organise through a specialised agent. Belfast-based agent Mahlatini creates bespoke African itineraries and offers a 10-night safari and beach holiday to Kenya from €4,680pp; mahlatini.com. Scott Dunn has some excellent multi-stop wildlife encounters where you can pair gorilla trekking in Rwanda with lemur spotting in Madagascar, for example; scottdunn.com
Why: A holiday in France is always appealing. But Île de Ré holds a particular charm. It’s filled with cycle paths, so you can bike between villages, stopping for the odd glass of wine at a tableside café. Villa Clarisse is a boutique hotel with just nine rooms, in the heart of Saint-Martin-de-Ré (a Unesco World Heritage Site).
We’re missing: Tearing the end off a warm baguette as we leave a bakery.
How: Rates from €290 in 2021; villa-clarisse.com
Why: Beaches and hotels are already opening, and Portugal now has a “Clean & Safe” stamp of approval, provided to tourist businesses complying with hygiene requirements for the prevention and control of Covid-19. One spot that’s received this stamp is The Magnolia Hotel, part of the Quinta do Lago resort in the Algarve. Set amid the Ria Formosa Natural Park, a dream for languid cycling, this is the perfect spot for a laidback break in the sun. Oh, and the resort came up trumps in its Covid response — complimentary rooms are being offered to healthcare workers and €50,000 was donated to local hospitals.
We’re missing: Pasteis de nata. Mmm.
How: Rooms from €98; themagnoliahotelqdl.com
Why: You never really need a reason to go to wine country. But in case you do, two new hotels are opening up later this year. First up is Montage Healdsburg, the first of the exclusive Montage resorts to open in Northern California. Four Seasons Napa Valley will be opening in the historic town of Calistoga, surrounded by vines, mountains and forests. Gaze upon that backdrop with a glass of pinot in your hand, and you couldn’t ask for anything more.
We’re missing: Sipping wine as we stand among the vines where it grew.
How: See montagehotels.com/healdsburg, fourseasons.com/napavalley
Why: Pipped to be a hot spot next year, Slovenia is home to sleepy fishing villages, pretty beaches and an excellent foodie scene. It’s also one of the greenest destinations around, with half the country covered in forest.
We’re missing: Those milky blue lakes.
How: TD Active has a seven-day guided walking holiday from €1,300pp, including flights; tdactiveholidays.ie
Why: The cruise industry has taken a huge knock and will, in all likelihood, look very different next year. But this is a resilient sector that has overcome challenges before, and people are still booking — Cruise Holidays (cruiseholidays.ie) says that while 50pc of its bookings are people rescheduling cancelled trips, there are still new holidays going into the diary. They recently had 10-night Orlando, Bahamas and Mexico fly-cruise with Royal Caribbean from €1,079pp in February. The incentives for new bookings are strong — think free drinks packages, Wifi and on-ship spend. If you’re nervous about a larger ship, try a more boutique line like Seabourn, Azamara or Celebrity.
We’re missing: Squeezing in an extra meal between lunch and dinner... for starters.
How: John Galligan Travel is running a limited offer of two for the price of one CMV Cruises in 2021, with no-fly cruises from €979 for two people; jgt.ie. There’s a winter Med cruise with MSC on Sunway from €850pp including drinks; sunway.ie
Why: There’s nothing quite like the fresh mountain air in the Alps. Heading there in the spring is a delight — once the snow is melted you can hike along the forests and peaks and you’ll feel reborn. For a properly secluded break, try the Walig Hut, a converted 18th century shepherd’s hut you can hike to from the luxury hotel Gstaad Palace. It’s rustic on the outside, but sumptuously designed within.
We’re missing: Sweating in a sauna after a mountain hike.
How: Walig Hut from €1,518 per night, hotel rooms from €565 half-board; palace.ch
Why: You may have visited Yosemite or the Grand Canyon. But chances are, you’ve never seen America’s National Parks like this before. Under Canvas has luxury, safari-style tents in some of the most stonkingly beautiful spots all across the states, from Yellowstone to the Great Smoky Mountains, Mount Rushmore to Zion. Imagine waking up, pulling back the door of the tent to see the great expanse of Utah’s Canyon Country laid out before you. What could be better?
We’re missing: The vast American landscapes that seem to stretch on for eternity.
How: Rates from €73pp per night, bookable with American Sky; americansky.ie
NB: All prices subject to change/availability. Find more 2021 offers from Irish travel agents and tour operators at itaa.ie/offers