The unnervingly mild weather of the last couple of weeks (before we all got blown away by Storm Doris) has brought us out of hibernation and dreaming of sunnier times (and climes). It's true that once we Brits get the merest whiff of warmth, summer is pretty much all we can think about. And finding the perfect summer holiday destination is absolutely mission critical; sunshine, great food and an envy-inducing tan are all non-negotiables. Lucky for you we have the inside track on all the best destinations, hotels and activities, whether you want to simply flop on the beach, explore a new culture or spy some serious safari game…
For those with pure relaxation in mind, head for the Peloponnese region of mainland Greece. Accessible from both Athens and Kalamata airports, the rugged landscape and beautiful coastline are best enjoyed alongside a cool beer and delicious meze in the countless tiny tavernas dotted throughout. Also dotted throughout are some fabulous hotels, including the uber-glamorous Poseidonian Grand Hotel on the island of Spetses. And if you do fancy mixing in some culture with all that relaxation, the Peloponnese has it in spades, including ancient sites like Sparta, Corinth and Olympus.
A Canadian Road Trip
One of the best ways to get under the skin of a country is to hit the open road and summer is the best time to explore the dense alpine forests, vast lakes, rumbling rivers and soaring mountains of the Canadian Rockies. One of our favourite road trip itineraries starts in Calgary and sees road trippers weave their way through the likes of Banff, Lake Louise and Whistler, all the while stopping off to enjoy the great outdoors by way of hiking, mountain biking, kayaking, white water rafting and wildlife watching, ending in cosmopolitan Vancouver for a taste of Canada's buzzing city life.
The Inca Trail is one of the most iconic walking trails in the world, which means that inevitably it draws large crowds and permits get booked up months in advance. However, a far more civilised way of reaching Machu Picchu is to do the Salkantay or Lares routes, staying in beautiful lodges by Mountain Lodges of Peru along the way. No need to sacrifice creature comforts on these treks - guests will be treated to excellent cuisine, wonderfully comfortable beds and even outdoor hot tubs from which you can enjoy the spectacular scenery after a hard day of walking. It's the perfect combination of luxury and adventure.
Wall-to-wall sunshine, azure waters, sweeping coastline, and a hotel that caters to your every whim - Verdura Resort, on Sicily's south coast, offers the quintessential summer holiday experience for both couples and families. Dine on delicious Mediterranean cuisine, perfect the all-important tan and indulge in some serious pampering at the spa. For family travellers, the hotel has a fantastic kids club so the little monsters will be well entertained while Mum and Dad enjoy some well-earned relaxation. And if you do fancy something a little more rousing, Verdura boasts a championship golf course, as well as tennis courts, a gym and even a full-size football pitch.
Bush & Beach in South Africa & Mozambique
It may be winter in South Africa during our summer months but it makes for ideal (and more affordable) game-viewing conditions. What's more, for those with kids, the Madikwe and Waterberg regions are malaria free so no need to worry about pesky mosquitoes and medication. Summer is also dry season in Mozambique, making for a fabulous bush and beach combo. A week of spotting game, from rhino to lion and wild dog, followed by complete relaxation on the pristine beaches of Mozambique is a match made in summer holiday heaven.
Throw out the rule book for the conventional summer holiday and head to the Himalayas, and Ladakh in particular. This region, perched high amidst the razor-sharp ridges and mountains of Tibet, was once purely the preserve of backpackers but there are now some wonderful luxury options away from the tourist hub of Leh. The Shakti Ladakh Village Houses offer the discerning traveller an authentic but sophisticated experience of one of the most visually stunning corners of the planet, typified by lush green valleys, glacial lakes and looming mountains. If you can drag your jaw from the floor, there are hundreds of monasteries, ancient ruins and atmospheric villages and towns to explore, as well as the opportunity to see the elusive snow leopard.