Friday 17 January 2020

Wanderlust: 50 of the world's best spots to visit in 2020

Who wouldn't love a holiday after the frantic running around of the last few weeks?

Wineglass Bay - Tasmania
Wineglass Bay - Tasmania
Our wanderlust top 50 have holidays to suit everyone from family to solo travellers
The Maldives at sunset
The Stone bridge (Pont de pierre) is located in Bordeaux, France
Northern Lights, Svalbard, Norway
The Santa Monica Pier at night
View of Sher-Dor Madrasah at night in Samarkand, Uzbekistan
Author Joseph O’Connor
Celine Byrne
Rijeka, Croatia 
Kilkenny Castle
Deirdre Purcell
Brendan Courtney
Christ the Redeemer statue on top of Corcovado, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Louise McSharry
Soprano Claudia Boyle
Vegan author and model Holly White at the Merrion Hotel, Dublin. Photo: David Conachy
Finghin Collins.
Actor and comedian Bernard O'Shea. Photo: Mark Condren
Lottie Ryan
Mary Mitchell O'Connor. Picture: Mark Condren
Stefanie Preissner

Andrea Smith & Emily Hourican

Whether it's a lie-down on white sands listening to the sound of lapping waves, a passage to India or biking the greenway, Andrea Smith and Emily Hourican pick some of the fab-best holidays for the year ahead...

Best child-friendly


Please log in or register with for free access to this article.

Log In

The biggest of Spain's Balearic Islands ticks a lot of boxes: short flight times, reliable weather, an abundance of child-friendly beaches, and picture-postcard scenery, including the Serra de Tramuntana mountains, and dramatic cliffs. Take a trip to the Caves of Drach, extending to a depth of 25m and around 4km in length, featuring one of the world's largest underground lakes. There are hotel resorts of shapes and sizes. Try TUI.

Brittany Ferries

Take the hassle of air travel out of your holiday. The luxurious Pont-Aven ship offers the fastest direct ferry crossing from Ireland to France, taking just 14 hours. Choose from a broad range of great-value accommodation (ferry-inclusive), across some of the most beautiful parts of France.

Niyama Private Islands, Maldives

OK, this is a splash-out family holiday, but these islands are pretty unbeatable for once-in-a-lifetime getaways. Two in particular, Play and Chill, offer white sands, gorgeous villas and activities including a kids' club, splash park, wildlife safaris, underwater exploration with the resort's marine biologist, private snorkelling tours, dolphin-scouting and gourmet cooking classes. There is also a glorious spa, plus yoga, jet-skis and catamarans.


For hardy kids who enjoy walking, hiking and exploring, the glorious mountains and desert lands of the Grand Canyon State offer superlative star-gazing, along with cactus-counting, reptile-spotting and ranch handling. Flagstaff was the training site for the Apollo 11 astronauts, and you can visit the Lunar Legacy attractions. Tombstone Arizona offers a chance to step back in time to when the West was Wild, and T

Hiking in the Grand Canyon. Photo: Deposit
ucson recently won a Unesco Gastronomy award.

Tremblant - Quebec, Canada

Less than a two-hour drive from Montreal, Tremblant is where to go for Canadian skiing, bolstered with a dash of French flair. Enjoy more than 100 trails spread across 755 acres, catering to all levels and abilities, and there is a ski school. Try biking, dog-sledding, ice fishing, ice skating, tubing and falconry. Kids under 17 stay free at select accommodation in the village.

Best for foodies


An ideal destination for foodies, mixing Hungarian, Viennese, Turkish and Greek influences with local fare, alongside glorious beaches, lush nature reserves and exhilarating mountains. Try the newly Michelin-starred Draga di Lovrana, tucked away in Lovran, close to Rijeka.

Jerusalem, Israel

Always a draw for those interested in religious culture and historical architecture, Jerusalem is increasingly known for its style and foodie scene. Visit the iconic Mahane Yehuda Market, dating back to the Ottoman period, now a glorious jumble of stories, tastes, smells and sounds, then kick back in the stylish Gatsby Cocktail Room. The Open Restaurants Festival, usually in November, is a fantastic opportunity to dip in and out of many restaurants and bars.

The Gaslamp District, San Diego

San Diego, California, USA

A vibrant mix of communities makes up the eclectic neighbourhoods of San Diego, from the buzzing bars of the Gaslamp Quarter to the glittering Pacific Beach and hipster haven of North Park, and there is a wide variety of excellent Mexican and 'Cali-Baja' restaurants. Try Puesto at the Headquarters in Seaport Village, serving the finest fish tacos, or Tahona in Old Town, offering a vast mezcal selection, while the city is home to 140 craft breweries.

Hachinohe, Japan

Forget sport, the best reason to travel to Japan in 2020 is food. Head for Hachinohe, in the southeast of the Aomori Prefecture, alongside the Pacific Ocean. In the city of Hachinohe itself, try amazing squid dishes in the busy port. Then head for the town of Gonohe, home to Kuraishi beef, among the finest in Japan, with perfect marbling that means it almost melts on the tongue.

Amsterdam, Netherlands

The city of canals, coffee shops and red lights is also, increasingly, a city of food. Start with the markets: Foodhallen has the city's best street-food vendors, dishing up dim sum, grilled fish, pizzas, Indonesian rice bowls, tacos and more; the beautiful Food Department is home to a host of 'gastro-casual' bars and eateries. Then try Stork, a large, industrial seafood spot on the banks of the IJ, reached by a free ferry.

Best for romance

The Maldives at sunset


The 1,000-plus islands that make up the Maldives are heaven for honeymooners. Laze by a pool sipping tropical cocktails, walk hand-in-hand along picture-perfect beaches, or enjoy some serious activity adventure, thanks to the perfect surfing conditions. Stay at the Kuredu Island Resort, offering the Maldives' largest watersports centre. Or head for Naladhu Private Island, a boutique gem with private houses that offers private dining aboard a luxury yacht. Kick back, and be happy.


A remote paradise in the Pacific, Tahiti is densely lush and beautiful, framed by spectacular beaches. Get busy zip-lining, waterfall jumping, jet-surfing, cycling and canoeing, or explore local traditions of dance, cuisine, tattooing (which originated here over 2,000 years ago) and music. Watch sunsets from one of the traditional over-water bungalows or from the deck of a cruise boat.


If you really want away from it all, here's where to go: Namibia has the second-lowest population density in the world; 80pc of it is uninhabited, home only to stunning terracotta desert landscapes, spectacular sand dunes, beautiful coastlines and rugged mountains. The safari experience is astonishing: Namibia is the last place on earth where black rhino roam free; it is home to rare desert-dwelling elephants, and has the largest free-roaming population of cheetahs in the world.

Marrakesh, Morocco

Step into a world of colour, light, and intensely romantic tradition. Marrakesh is where to go if you are the wandering, take-it-as-it-comes kind, willing to go where the city leads. The main draw is the Medina, where you can shop for beautiful woven rugs, baskets, spices, jewellery, brass goods, leather and much more. Visit the Yves Saint Laurent museum, particularly the beautiful Jardin Majorelle.

Manali, Himachal Pradesh, India

Beyond the Taj Mahal and off the beaten track, India has a whole lot of love to offer. Consider Manali, high in the glorious Himalayas. This resort town is a favourite of Indian honeymooners, with its lush valleys and snow-topped mountains. It offers hiking, paragliding, rafting, mountaineering and skiing. Visit the sacred village of Vashisht, the Dhungri temple or Bhrigu lake. Or snuggle up in front of a roaring fire and admire the astonishing natural beauty all around.

Best city breaks

Krakow, Poland

Repeatedly voted Europe's best city break, Krakow, a delightful mix of Gothic and Renaissance buildings, is plenty busy enough to keep you moving, but not so packed that you will feel swamped by all you want to do. Getting round by foot is easy and advisable: start in the 13th-Century market square. Try modern Polish cuisine at Art and, time permitting, a walk through the foothills of the Tatra Mountains, two hours south.

Coimbra, Portugal

The former capital (from 1131 to 1255) is a riot of architectural and cultural styles, including magnificent structures dating back to the Roman era, overlaid with lavish buildings from the Middle Ages when the city evolved into a major cultural centre. This is a university town, with lively nightlife to match. Head for restaurant Loggia, with spectacular views across the old town, while Tapas Na Costas has fine Portuguese wines and gourmet tapas.

Christ the Redeemer statue on top of Corcovado, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Rio is a must for any lovers of city, beach, rainforest or the general glory that is Brazilian culture. Stay at the beach end, close to the bustling strips of Copacabana and Ipanema: try the art deco Belmond Copacabana Palace. Take a cable car up to Christ the Redeemer and look down over the city below, or visit the beautiful Botanic Gardens. Drink fine coffee and eat custard tarts at the spectacular art nouveau Confeitaria Colombo.


Seattle, Washington, USA

Seattle has had something of an aesthetic and cultural renaissance of late. The city centre is pleasantly compact and walkable, and now fairly car-free. Check out the museum of Pop Culture, and Chihuly Garden, showcasing the astonishing studio glass of Dale Chihuly. Trawl the iconic Pike Place Market, then head to the Capitol Hill neighbourhood for delicious food, live bands and cocktails. You're only a two-hour drive to Mount Rainier National Park, the Olympic National Park and the San Juan Islands.

Naples, Italy

Naples fell from grace as a holiday spot for years (deemed dirty and dangerous), but is newly resurgent, thanks to better rubbish collection and traffic restrictions. Check out the Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli, or shop at Galleria Umberto I. Plan ahead and take in the glories of Pompeii, half an hour away - the central baths finally opened to visitors for the first time in November.

Best for luxury

Tuscany, Italy

A joy that never gets old, this fabulously diverse region does charming cities and towns, stunning coast and beautiful countryside. Get off the well-worn track: once you are done exploring the architectural delights of San Gimignano, Lucca and Monteriggioni, head for Gaiole in Chianti and the Castello di Spaltenna, once a 10th-Century monastery, whose modern luxuries include two swimming pools, a billiard table, sauna, tennis courts, fitness centre and amazing food.

Qasr Al Sarab Desert Resort by Anantara

The Rub'Al Khali is the world's largest uninterrupted sand desert: 650,000 sq km of flame-coloured dunes. This resort lies 90 minutes from Abu Dhabi - a sumptuous experience of private villas, personal pools, a Moroccan hammam and desert spa rituals. Take a drive into the desert at night to gaze at stars; go on a guided hike at sunrise or sunset; camel trek across dunes; or ride Arabian horses along winding trails.


Known for its casinos, Macau is starting to attract a new kind of high-end tourism. The former Portuguese colony has a unique east-meets-west cultural mix: Chinese temples stand next to classical architecture, and the cuisine is an intriguing jumble of influences. If you are pushing the boat right out, stay at the absurdly luxurious MGM Cotai hotel, a dynamic architectural curiosity with its own theatre and a renowned art collection.

Gran Canaria

Perfect as a low-key family destination, Gran Canaria, with its fragrant pine forests, soft sandy beaches and cloud-scraping mountains, also has a more luxurious side. Meloneras, a chic town on the island's south coast, teems with elegant bars, restaurants and boutiques. Try the Lopesan Baobab Resort: this African-themed hotel is all about the water, with seven pools, and sand dune beaches close by. It has two championship golf courses.

Wineglass Bay - Tasmania

Tasmania, Australia

Luxury doesn't have to mean lounging, and beautiful Tasmania offers an ideal blend of activity and relaxation. The Wukalina Walk is a four-day Aboriginal-owned and operated guided tour: stay in perfect comfort and learn about Aboriginal culture as you explore their heartlands. Or base yourself in the MONA Pavilions, created as part of Tasmania's Modern Art Museum, on a private peninsula 15 minutes from Hobart.

Best Irish holidays

Kilkenny Castle

City break - Kilkenny

Start with the Medieval Mile; Kilkenny Castle, built in 1195; the imposing St Canice's Cathedral and the Black Abbey Dominican priory. Then, head for the Dunmore caves, about 10km from the city, site of a famous Viking massacre. Campagne in the city and Lady Helen at Mount Juliet both offer Michelin-starred food, while Anocht and Foodworks are just two of the many buzzy, contemporary, creative offerings.


If you don't live in Dublin, now is the time to visit. And if you do, take a couple of days and play tourist. Check out the new Museum of Literature Ireland on St Stephen's Green for a journey through Irish storytelling, with James Joyce to the fore. Equally unmissable is the Seamus Heaney: Listen Now Again exhibition in the Bank of Ireland Cultural Centre on College Green.


Bike or hike the Waterford Greenway, a 46km route along an old railway line, or the 42km from Westport to Achill that make up the Mayo Greenway. Follow the Shannon Blueway, a network of canals and rivers, by canoe, or along the tow-path. Or try kayaking and paddle-boarding at beauty spots along the coast. There are now night-time trips through flashes of bioluminescence, while you watch homeward-bound seals and sea birds.


Belfast is having a culinary moment, with The Muddlers Club joining EIPIC and Ox in winning a Michelin star, while James St and Ora Restaurant are also attracting rave reviews. Temper the eating with some culture - check out Titanic Belfast; the Botanic Gardens; the science centre, W5 at Odyssey; and the restored SS Nomadic - the closest you'll get to stepping on board the Titanic.


Highclere Castle

Downton Abbey

Take a tour inside Highclere Castle, the real-life castle that's the inspiration for the fictional Downton. European Waterways' six-night 'Classic Cruise - England' trip aboard the eight-person Magna Carta Hotel barge also visits Henry VIII's apartments at the magnificent Hampton Court Palace. You then head to Windsor Castle, where you'll explore the State Apartments and have a nose around St George's Chapel, where Meghan and Harry were married.

European Chocolate Cruise

Combining chocolate and cruising around Europe sounds like the perfect trip. Costa Cruises is offering an eight-day cruise from April 16 in conjunction with the Eurochocolate festival in Perugia. On the Costa Pacifica ship, you'll enjoy chocolate workshops and cooking classes, with excursions to Genoa, Barcelona (visiting the Chocolate Museum), Palma de Mallorca, Malta and Catania. Just don't blame us if you arrive home five kilos heavier.

Caribbean/Perfect Day at CocoCay

Set sail on Symphony of the Seas, the largest cruise ship in the world, and spend a day on the private island of CocoCay, where you can plunge down the tallest waterslide in North America, soar 450 feet in the air in a helium balloon, and relax on pristine, white-sand beaches. But with 18 decks of things to do - including the tallest slide at sea - you may not want to leave the ship.

Ecuador and the Galapagos

An eight-day trip will give you a great flavour of South America's most biodiverse country. Highlights include exploring Galapagos National Park, sightseeing around historic Quito, and a visit to the Charles Darwin Research Station to learn about conservation efforts for giant tortoises. Cruising around the Galapagos Islands, look out for sea lions, pelicans, albatross, marine iguanas and flamingos.

The Stone bridge (Pont de pierre) is located in Bordeaux, France


A new immersive cruise experience will allow passengers to revel in a gastronomic and cultural journey through Bordeaux. Guests will explore wines and cultural treasures across the region, taking in an assortment of culinary-inspired excursions that include Libourne's farmers' market, artisanal wine-tasting at Chateau de Cazeneuve, and a bike ride tour through Medoc vineyards.

New Destinations

Rijeka, Croatia 

Rijeka, Croatia

It has been overshadowed by its glitzier sister cities, Dubrovnik, Zagreb and Split, but Rijeka is poised to take centre stage in 2020, as one of the two European Capitals of Culture, alongside Galway. Boasting amazing views of the Adriatic coast, it is a charming, cultured city with great nightlife. Check out the Rijeka Carnival, from January 17 to February 26, to see thousands of people on the streets taking part in mask competitions, and enjoy endless concerts, exhibitions and parties.

Dana Point, California, USA

Between San Diego and Los Angeles in Orange County, Dana Point is California's coolest coastal gem, with nine varied beaches and a big surfing heritage. It has some of the best whale watching in the US - take a tour to see blue whales and killer whales, or get up close in underwater viewing pods. Dana Point offers a multitude of family activities, as well as unique shops and restaurants.

Lausanne, Switzerland

Recently voted the best small city in the world, Lausanne is surrounded by vineyards and has an upbeat, almost Mediterranean vibe. Attractions include the Aquatis aquarium and the Musee Olympique, telling the story of the Olympic Games from inception to the present day. Lake Geneva is within easy reach. Fly to Geneva with Aer Lingus, and Lausanne is an hour's ride away.

Tozeur, Tunisia

Famous for its distinctive architecture and historic medina, Tozeur is a great base for visitors to traverse the dunes of the Sahara, explore canyons and marvel at oases in abandoned Berber villages. Many scenes from the planet Tatooine in the Star Wars movies were filmed in Tozeur, and you can visit the locations. Try the luxurious new Anantara Tozeur Resort: it offers ancient Arabian cleansing rituals in the hammam.

Paparoa, New Zealand

If you love a challenge, try the recently opened 55km Paparoa Track in Northland, designed for both mountain-bikers and walkers. Enjoy diverse and spectacular scenery, and stay in huts that are offered by New Zealand's Department of Conservation.

New Zealand

In Depth is offering a trip that includes flights, 12 nights' accommodation, plus two nights in huts, car hire, track transfer and TranzAlpine train.


New South Wales

The idea of staying in an Australian eco-cabin with a bit of star wattage is appealing, and there is one whose design was led by Oscar winner Matthew McConaughey. 'The Reserve' is a solar-powered, off-the-grid cabin that was built using sustainable materials. McConaughey also chose the vintage books and music on the cabin's vintage cassette stereo. A percentage of proceeds from the cabin are donated to the Foundation for National Parks & Wildlife.

The Santa Monica Pier at night

Santa Monica, California, USA

You don't have to compromise on luxury to go green in Santa Monica, home to many eco-friendly restaurants, hotels, attractions and transport alternatives. The city has banned single-use plastics, and it aims to achieve zero waste through diversion, composting and recycling by 2030. Stay at Shore Hotel: more than 75pc of its roof surface is covered in solar-reflecting material, it uses locally-procured recycled material, and its swimming pool is heated by solar energy.

Chang Chill, Chiang Mai, Thailand

The message is, at last, being heeded that elephants should not be ridden or expected to perform tricks for visitors. This new camp offers interactions with the six resident female elephants that don't stress the animals and don't involve riding or touching. The eco-friendly camp harnesses hydropower from the local river, and visitors can spray-wash the elephants by turning on a sprinkler system. Ethical and fun.

Northern Lights, Svalbard, Norway

Svalbard, Norway

There's an environmentally friendly way to see the Northern Lights on this remote island. All of the activities on the 'Truly Green Aurora' adventure make as little impact as possible, using revolutionary e-snowmobiles powered by renewable energy from the Arctic winds and midnight sun. You'll get to see reindeer, ptarmigans and polar foxes. It's recommended from November to January, when the skies over Svalbard are almost permanently black.

Dominican Republic

Eco-travel doesn't mean having to deprive yourself, but it does involve being more thoughtful in your choices. The new Club Med Miches Playa Esmeralda is a great option for a luxurious getaway, because it's an ecologically preserved paradise in a lush palm grove. It is made of four distinct boutique villages - for families, active guests, wellness seekers and couples. Outside the resort is Laguna Limon, a nature reserve with stunning waterfalls.


Swedish Lapland

You don't need snow to enjoy Swedish Lapland. It's the perfect place to see the Northern Lights; spas abound, and there are bracing walks overlooking the sea or along a forest trail. Or hike to the lingonberry marshes, spotting reindeer and moose. Stay in one of the permanent ice art installation rooms in Icehotel 365 - an amazing experience. Or try the Treehotel in Harads, with its seven treehouses, each designed by a different world-famous architect.

Georgia and Armenia

A new immersive tour to two gems of Eastern Europe will take in their dramatic landscapes and colourful history. The 'Georgia & Armenia Uncovered' tour is an 11-day trip that includes a masterclass in Georgian bread-making, taking a cable car to the ancient Narikala Fortress, and crossing the Wings of Tatev ropeway to the 'monastery on the edge of nothing'.


It may be small but Montenegro is a great place for a multi-activity holiday. It has majestic mountains and deep canyons to hike in, and you can chill out on its gorgeous beaches. Rafting the Tara Canyon is a popular activity, and jeep safaris, canyoning, kayaking and zip-lining will keep adrenaline junkies happy. Beaches, glitz and history blend in Budva Riviera, and party people will adore its vibrant nightlife.

Colorado, USA

A state filled with beauty and grandeur - and blessed with 300 days of sunshine a year - Colorado has four national parks as well as an abundance of hot springs. Ride the historic railroad through the San Juan National Forest or brave the zip-line at the Royal Gorge Bridge & Park. Children can live out their cowboy fantasies on a working dude ranch. Denver has great restaurants and bars and a lively arts and music scene.

Solo travel


The tiny city state has one of the world's lowest crime rates thanks to its strict laws, and its sleek and efficient public transport system makes getting around a doddle. The street food is amazing. Enjoy a Singapore Sling at Raffles Hotel and check out the bargains on Orchard Road, but leave time to check out all the temples. Those with green fingers will love Gardens by the Bay, the 21st-Century fantasy botanic garden. And take a dip in the infinity pool at Marina Bay Sands.

View of Sher-Dor Madrasah at night in Samarkand, Uzbekistan


Voted one of the top five safest countries for solo travel, Uzbekistan has a fascinating history and architecture, and you'll be made to feel genuinely welcome by its people. You'll be dazzled by the Samarkand's colourful Registan, with its public square and historic

Vicenza, Italy

Architecture-lovers will adore Vicenza, and it's filled with museums and art galleries. You can't walk far without being blown away by one of the 47 buildings designed by 16th-Century architect Andrea Palladio. The Teatro Olimpico is particularly jaw-dropping. Stay at the fabulous Villa Michelangelo Vicenza - Starhotels Collezione, which offers panoramic views over the city; its restaurant's menu combines centuries of rich Venetian food and wine history.

South Africa Classic

Escapes is offering a new 10-day package inspired by Meghan Markle and Prince Harry's recent trip, called 'In the Footsteps of the Royals'. You'll be part of a group, spending time in Cape Town and the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, as well as the Apartheid Museum and Mandela House Museum in Johannesburg. Other highlights include Kruger National Park, checking out the adorable penguins in Boulder Beach and taking a trip up Table Mountain.


The tiny Gulf nation is one of the world's safest countries, and solo travellers can expect to enjoy true Arabian hospitality and a rich variety of culinary experiences. Spend a night in a tent on a sand dune and visit the Souq Waqif street market, where you'll find woodcarvers and tailors, and you can hone your haggling skills at stalls selling a dizzying array of spices, fabric, handicrafts and perfumes.

Some well-known faces share their holiday memories

Louise McSharry

Broadcaster, journalist

Louise McSharry

We took our first family holiday when my eldest son was 11 months old. We were really looking forward to it, naively presuming it would be an idyllic time spent playing in the pool as a family. It was horrendous. The pool was too cold for him. He woke at four every morning, it was pitch dark until 7.30 and even the town's supermarket didn't open until eight.

We spent the whole holiday exhausted and snappy, watching other people's holidays and wondering if we'd ever have a relaxing holiday again. I don't think I've ever been so happy to get on a plane home. Needless to say, lessons were learned!

Joseph O'Connor


Author Joseph O’Connor

In the summer of 1985, I was technically a student at UCD, but in fact I was in Nicaragua, hanging around and writing the odd article for newspapers and magazines back at home. I found it a fascinating place, full of life, hope and colour. The Sandinista revolution had happened six years earlier and there was a sense that new things were happening in Central America.

I stayed with a local family in the capital, Managua, who were kindness itself. From time to time they would say to me that it was important not let my tourist visa run out since a dim view would be taken by the police if that happened. I was sure they were exaggerating and I didn't pay much attention.

On the day that the visa was due to expire, a Saturday, I ambled along to the local visa office, which was in the local police station, to find it was closed for a public holiday. I wasn't worried. Returning on the Monday morning, I explained in my smiling, broken Spanish what had happened. The sergeant couldn't have been nicer as he smiled back and nodded, filling in what seemed an immense amount of paperwork.

After about an hour, a police car pulled up outside the door, sirens and lights going gangbusters. I assumed that some very major local criminal had been nicked.

No, the kindly sergeant explained, taking me by the arm and leading me down the steps towards the car. I was being arrested for visa violation. And now, I'd be going to jail.

I don't know if you've ever spent a day in jail in Nicaragua? It wasn't quite as bad as you might imagine. I wasn't tortured or mistreated in any way at all. To a man, the guards were lovely, and very interested in Ireland.

But it was a jail. With cells. And bars on the windows. And something happens when a door closes and you're locked into a cell. It's not like Porridge. There's no Ronnie Barker.

All day long I sweated, and a bit of the night. I kept trying to explain what had happened and they kept nodding and smiling and making it clear that no, they didn't blame me, not in any way at all, but that there were laws, and that was that, and I had been arrested for breaking them, then they'd close that hole in the door and go away, whistling.

It was the longest day of my life and I hated every moment of it, the day I did stir in Nicaragua.

Joseph O'Connor's novel Shadowplay won the 2019 An Post/Easons Irish Novel Of The Year award and is shortlisted for the 2019 Costa Novel Award

Celine Byrne


Celine Byrne

My worst travel memory is from when I was doing a German tour with Jose Carreras. The first stop was Hamburg. I had checked in my luggage for the two-week tour, and it didn't arrive in Hamburg, so I only had my travel clothes for two days. The concert was on the third day, I was still hoping that my suitcase would make it, but it didn't arrive, so I had to go out and buy a new concert dress. It wasn't an easy thing to find, so there was the stress of that.

The next city we went to was Frankfurt. The airline ended up sending the luggage to Hamburg. Somebody kindly went by train to get my suitcase.

My best was when I was in Russia. I was there singing and my children came over to visit. We had an amazing time. I'd never been to Russia before. Little did I know that my father's cousin was living there. He saw a poster, wondered if he was related, and I got talking to him and it turned out we were.

Deirdre Purcell


Deirdre Purcell

The worst? In the 1980s, our family of four took a 'villa' for a week in Dunmore East. Unceasing rain, day and night, while the 'villa' proved to be a couple of damp, leaky rooms above the garage of a small house.

The best? A six-week trip with my husband for which we pulled out all the stops: a transatlantic voyage on the newly launched Queen Mary 2, travelling from Southampton and six days later, coming into New York at dawn with the rising sun gradually gilding every skyscraper in Manhattan; attending The Producers on Broadway after dinner at Sardis, also hearing the Mormon Tabernacle Choir in a basketball arena in Boise.

Then a mesmerising motorhome journey through the national parks of northwestern USA, via Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, Montana and Washington State. Yellowstone was wonderful but I'll never forget Glacier, the eagles, bighorn sheep or the grizzlies.

Grace in Winter by Deirdre Purcell is published by Hachette Ireland/ Trade Paperback and eBook/ 13.99

Brendan Courtney

Designer and broadcaster

Brendan Courtney

I started a travel show in 1999 called Wanderlust, because I wanted to travel more. I travelled all over the world. My job was to jump out of a bus, point at the Eiffel Tower, do a piece to camera and jump back into the bus. And that's how much I saw of everywhere I went. I went on to do four other series of travel.

My worst experience was in Vietnam: we checked into our hotel and it had no window. Then there were rats running across the pipes; all sorts of madness.

The best travel experience has been our annual trip to the Greek islands; this year was the third year we have gone. Every year we do a different set of islands and we backpack. We competitively under-pack: I only bring hand luggage. Two pairs of shorts, one pair of flip flops, and myself and Adam.

And we have no plan: we fly to Athens, connect from there, and off we go. We have the most incredible time, end up in the weirdest places. We ended up in Ikaria, which is one of only five blue zones in the world, they are the areas in the world that have the highest incident of centenarians. It's unbelievable; people in their 90s come down every day and swim in the sea. Families are all very involved with older people; they're very much part of the community. And they live on hills, so they passively work out every day, and they all nap every day. It was a fascinating place to be. My mission is to now visit the other blue zones.

Claudia Boyle


Soprano Claudia Boyle

I went on a walking holiday with my husband. I'm the kind of person who when I go on a holiday I like to swim up to the bar in the pool. It took some convincing for me to go on a walking trip, but it was the best experience.

It was a week in Provence. It was tough, very warm. But we have so many memories from that trip: out in nature, talking to each other. We walked about 22km every day and then stopped at little towns. Even in the humblest of places, the French love their food and they cooked it so well. I just lapped it up. I know it sounds really cheesy but there is nothing like being in nature. It's so good for the soul, good for everything.

Our worst was when we were in America visiting friends, and for one day we went to Atlantic City. Not my thing. We stayed in a casino; it was like staying overnight in a shopping mall. We both said no, not for us.

Holly White

Vegan author and food writer

SN DC HOLLY003 (Read-Only).jpg
Vegan author and model Holly White at the Merrion Hotel, Dublin. Photo: David Conachy

I feel I should be speaking about something glamorous or decadent but what sticks out in my mind is a recent trip to northern California. I was there to attend a retreat on mindful eating. Food is naturally a huge passion of mine but it goes much deeper than just cooking and eating and I wanted to find out more about the psychology of the emotional component of why, what and how we eat. The retreat was in Mount Madonna, which is 300 acres of wild Americana: think wood cabins, deer crossing on the way to breakfast, wild turkeys arguing in the bushes and infinite starry skies at night.

On day two of the retreat we were requested to continue in silence. As terrifying as that might sound, it was bliss. Gone was the need to make idle chit-chat.

In the silence surrounded by redwoods I felt deeply touched by seeing how perfectly nature works when left alone. It gave me a huge feeling of faith that we should never underestimate the power of Mother Nature. It really was the very best trip I've been on for my body, mind and spirit.

Bernard O'Shea

Comedian and author

Actor and comedian Bernard O'Shea. Photo: Mark Condren

Being stuck beside a lake for two weeks together resulted in an engagement ring being thrown at me, but let's begin at the beginning.

During a holiday in Riva del Garda with my wife Lorna we met a couple who offered local walking tours and took us on a little hike up the old road of Garda. It was halfway up this mountain road that I found out that my wife was afraid of heights. A sharp tug at my shirt told me she wanted to head back to the town, but she suggested I go on.

I told her not to be stupid: I'd head back with her. Then our conversation turned quickly into a to and fro of "No, I'll go back with you", "No, you go on!" until it escalated into a full-on row. Now, instead of just leaving it alone and letting her head back down the road, I did what I do best and made the situation a thousand times worse by trying to convince her she had nothing to be afraid of.

"No, Bernard, I don't need you to help me, I just want you to go on ahead with them and I'll see you back in the hotel." "Don't be silly, Lorna. We're not even that high and there's a road underneath us." It went on like this until the couple walked back down to us. I told them, "Lorna is afraid of heights, so we're going back." The lady turned to Lorna and said, "It's OK. I used to suffer from your illness." "Ha! Your illness!" I roared laughing. "Your illness," I repeated. Then I looked up and an engagement ring was heading towards my retina and she stormed off, leaving me with two complete strangers, one of them holding an engagement ring, right on the side of a cliff in northern Italy.

My Wife is Married to a Feckin' Eejit by Bernard O'Shea is available now in all bookshops and online (Gill Books €16.99)

Lottie Ryan

2FM entertainment reporter

HN Lottie Ryan.jpg
Lottie Ryan

My favourite holiday memories come from my annual family trip to Disney World. If you haven't been, you probably think we're mad. Grown adults going to Disney World every year? YES! It is incredible. I have so many wonderful memories with my parents, brothers and sisters through the years there, and every time we go back we reminisce.

It's almost a rule in my family that no matter how busy we all are, we have to put the time aside to go away together every year for that quality time. I'm very proud that we're able to keep that tradition alive.

Mary Mitchell O'Connor

Minister for Higher Education

Mary Mitchell O'Connor. Picture: Mark Condren

I remember all of us piling into the back of our Volkswagen Beetle and hitting the road to Dublin. My Dad stayed on the farm and we travelled to Monkstown to holiday. During the visit we met up with my mum's aunts Betty and Madge, who lived in Dun Laoghaire.

I loved that we were leaving home in the West of Ireland and it felt like we were going to the exotic east coast. The journey took hours and was all about devising back-of-the-car games, and trying not to fight.

We spent every morning on the beach at Seapoint and Sandycove, swimming and building sandcastles. It never seemed to rain on those holidays. In the afternoon we would all walk into Dun Laoghaire.

I remember sitting on the wall, with all my siblings, Teddy's ice cream in hand, watching the boats out at sea. It's brilliant that Teddy's is still trading today.

On one of the days we would go into the city and walk from St Stephen's Green to the GPO. Dublin always felt so cosmopolitan and foreign.

I loved our holidays spent between Monkstown and Dun Laoghaire, filled with innocent childhood memories. I feel it is serendipitous that I now serve the people of Dun Laoghaire constituency in Dail Eireann - a real honour.

Stefanie Preissner


Stefanie Preissner

I've never been to France, yet my worst two trips have been to Paris. I have tried to go to Disneyland Paris twice and both times have ended up in hospital.

The first time I was 15, going on a school tour. My mum put my complaints about stomach pain down to nerves but when I ended up in surgery as my friends flew over the English Channel she realised that appendicitis and a worry pain are not the same thing.

I swore off France until 2016 when I booked another trip to Disneyland. This time I was due to fly in two days when my doctor discovered a discolouration on the sole of my foot that scared her and the following week I was on crutches with the offending growth removed and replaced by 12 nasty stitches.

Maybe I'll try to go to France again. Third time lucky eh? I guess it depends on what lucky looks like - either I'll get there, or I'll die.

Finghin Collins


Finghin Collins.

Over the years I've travelled a lot. I've had some really, really good experiences and some minor catastrophes.

Just the other day I was in Switzerland, back in my hotel room after the concert, reception and dinner. I was checking in to my flight back to Dublin the next morning and I realised I'd left my music bag with the passport in it in the church where I'd performed, which was now all locked up. I had to ring the organiser, who had to ring the local police who came to open it up. It was a happy ending, I got my passport back. I can be quite forgetful and leave things behind. But I generally get them back, which is good!

I've just been to Russia; it was my first time in Moscow, I had a really wonderful time. It brought back a trip I made in the year 2000, when I was only 23: a week in St Petersburg in June, with my mum and my sister.

It was a magical trip. I performed Rachmaninov, and Rachmaninov's son was at the concert. We had a really special, special time.

Finghin Collins is a concert pianist and artistic director of music for Galway, whose Midwinter Festival BEETHOVEN takes place Jan 17-19 in Galway, as part of Galway 2020

NB: This feature originally appeared in The Sunday Independent.

Sunday Independent

Editors Choice

Also in Life