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An hour from Mexico City, Xochimilco (meaning a ‘garden of flowers’) is a time-honoured weekend destination for locals and visitors alike. In this UNESCO World Heritage site, trajineras (flat-bottomed boats) travel canals as they have for hundreds of years. Also, floating on the waters, in a festival atmosphere, are cane structures housing flowers, fruits and vegetables. Visit these chinampas (floating gardens) on Highlights of Mexico, a 16-night tour which costs from £3,658 pp (two sharing) including B&B, internal transport, excursions and internal flights (Flights ex-London from £820 pp).
This sub-tropical isle is famous for its lush vegetation including bananas, bougainvillea and its national flower, the Bird of Paradise. Such diversity is showcased in the spectacular 35-hectare Monte Palace Botanical Gardens. Conveniently, Monte is also the start of the famous ‘toboggan’ ride to Funchal, where the elegant Quinta Jardins do Lago offers delightful accommodation. Horticulturalists will be in heaven here: it’s set within 2.6 hectares of gardens with rare trees and exotic flowers. A seven-night stay costs from £850 pp (two sharing), including flights (Gatwick) and transfers.
The temperatures are ramping up in Greece’s most southerly isle, and for a spot of luxury (and sun), the boutique Avli Lounge in Rethymnon’s historic old town is hard to beat. The rooms are beautifully furnished, spacious and elegant, and the award-winning restaurant offers outstanding Cretan cuisine, as well as one of the most extensive wine cellars on the island. Rethymnon’s pretty Venetian harbour is just a few minutes’ walk away. Departing 5 May, seven nights’ B&B is from £790 pp (two sharing), including return flights (Gatwick) and transfers.
Enjoy the warmer climes of Greece this April and celebrate two Easters on one holiday (ours and theirs are just a week apart this year). Villa Zoe Hotel, in pretty Gialova, offers a wonderful insight to the lively – and world-renowned – Easter festivities in Greece. On Good Friday, the church holds an atmospheric candle-lit procession and Holy Saturday Mass concludes with fireworks. On Sunday, the hotel provides a traditional feast, including painted eggs, Greek Easter bread and mouth-watering spit-roast lamb. Departing 4 April, 10 nights’ B&B is from £644 pp (two sharing), including Easter Feast, return flights (Gatwick) and transfers.
On Costa Rica’s Pacific coast, a 1965 Boeing 727 sits on a hill, its nose jutting out through the trees. And you can sleep in it. Fitted out with two air-conditioned, luxury bedrooms, each with its own private bath, dining area and an ocean-view terrace, this is one of the most unusual bedrooms around. Give it a go on Sunvil’s tour of Costa Rica taking in San Jose, Tortuguero, Arenal, Monteverde with four nights in Manuel Antonio – home of the bedroom Boeing. Price is from £2,889 pp (two sharing) including flights (London), transfers and 14 nights’ B&B.
The mild temperatures in this Portuguese archipelago make it a fabulous destination for a spring holiday. Head to ‘the Blue Island’ of Faial with its nautical atmosphere, learn about the islands’ volcanic origins at the Capelinhos museum, walk alongside its vast volcanic crater – or experience some of the best whale and dolphin watching in the world. In the evening, drop in for a beer at the legendary Peter’s Cafe and listen out for sailing stories. Seven nights’ B&B (two nights on Sao Miguel and five at the harbour-side Pousada Santa Cruz, Horta) cost from £1,065 pp (two sharing), including flights (Gatwick) and all transfers.
Experience culture, wildlife and nature in comfort on this tour that stays at luxurious lodges, hotels and spas on a Costa Rican exploration. Take in San Jose’s historic neighbourhoods, Tortuguero for sea-turtles, Arenal for its beautiful lake, active volcano and tropical forest, Manuel Antonio National Park, for marine activities and the thirteen ecosystems of the Osa Peninsula for some of the nation’s best wildlife viewing. This 15-day holiday costs from £3,955 pp (two sharing), and includes flights (London), 14 nights’ mixed-board accommodation, private transfers and excursions.
Shake off the winter fug and delight in the many museums and music of this magical city. Experience the impressive Calouste Gulbenkian Planetarium and the Ajuda National Palace, be moved by the sorrowful Fado music and, on a lighter note, be sure to try the world-famous, irresistible custard tarts. The Heritage As Janelas Verdes Hotel, a late 18th century aristocratic mansion which was once the home of the Portuguese novelist Eca de Queiroz, is next door to the Museum of Ancient Art. A three-night stay costs from £491 pp (two sharing), including flights (London) and transfers.
During March, to herald the beginning of spring, Rome’s famous Spanish Steps are given a pink-tickled makeover, and covered with thousands of vases of azalea flowers. The blushing blooms remain in place throughout the month, adding an extra flush of colour to this iconic landmark. Stay close by at the Modigliani Hotel, a small, family-run property tucked away on a quiet side street. A three-night stay in March costs from £463 pp (two sharing) including flights (Heathrow) and B&B.
The historic Convento do Espinheiro Hotel in Portugal’s Alentejo region is one of the country’s national monuments – a majestic former monastery now transformed into an uncompromisingly luxurious hotel. Deserving mums can kick back and bliss out in the award-winning spa, with Turkish bath, sauna, Jacuzzi, indoor pool and a wide selection of spa treatments. Over Mother’s Day a three-night trip costs from £494 pp (two sharing) including B&B, flights (London) and car hire.
Avoid summer’s scorching temperatures and tourist crowds and visit Tuscany in early spring, when prices are lower, the weather is warm and beautiful bright flowers are beginning to fleck the countryside. Borgo Tre Rose is a medieval hilltop hamlet that has been converted into a peaceful countryside retreat, complete with an excellent restaurant, three wineries and views to die for. A seven-night stay in March costs from £727 pp (two sharing) including flights (London), B&B and car hire.
The new seven-night From Coast to Mountains itinerary focuses on the region of Jokkmokk, deep in the heart of Swedish Lapland. The journey begins in the coastal town of Luleå before striking out north to Jokkmokk, home to a 400 year-old Sámi winter market (held every February), and where winter activities include dog sled tours and snowmobile rides. The price of £1,944 pp (two sharing) includes flights (Heathrow via Stockholm), transfers, B&B and activities.
2015 sees the 100th anniversary of the birth of Sir Patrick Leigh Fermor – one of Britain’s most beloved travel writers. Mani and Roumeli are his twin odes to Greece, a country where he spent a large portion of his life. Mani documents Fermor’s travels around the Southern Peloponnese and the Mani peninsula, focusing on the charming village of Kardamili, which he made his home. See the inspiration behind the work with a stay at Anniska Apartments, set right in the heart of the village. A seven-night stay costs from £645 pp (two sharing) including flights (Gatwick) and transfers.
‘Fortitude’, Sky Atlantic’s latest budget-busting blockbuster, hit screens on Thursday in a maelstrom of mystery and murder. The fictional town – surrounded by epic Arctic landscapes – was inspired by the high arctic archipelago of Svalbard, home to soaring snow-clad mountains, vast swathes of white tundra and around 3,000 Polar Bears. Visit the (far more peaceful!) capital of Longyearbyen to try your hand at an array of wintry activities. A three-night stay at Trapper’s Hotel costs from £939 pp (two sharing) including flights (London) and B&B.
To commemorate the 2,000th anniversary of the death of Augustus in 2014, many of the sites related to the first Emperor and founder of the Roman Empire have been given a facelift and reopened to the public. A new exhibition space has opened at the Villa of Livia, and the Palatine Museum has been carefully refurbished. Work has also begun to restore Augustus’ mighty mausoleum. Stay in a quiet little spot close to the Via Veneto at the Modigliani Hotel, where a three-night stay costs from £463 pp (two sharing) including flights (Heathrow) and B&B.
This new self-guided walking holiday follows Portugal’s Rota Vicentina: two walking trails that meander along the gloriously unspoilt coastlines of the Alentejo and Algarve regions. Stroll past empty swathes of sandy beach, through charming seaside villages and over rugged clifftops, stopping en route to try local delicacies in traditional, family-run restaurants. The seven-night trip costs from £539 pp (two sharing) including flights (Gatwick), car hire and B&B.
Sunvil is offering a free room for children (up to three pax. aged 2-12) at the luxurious beach-front Anassa Hotel in Latchi on stays between 16 March and 30 June 2015. A seven-night stay departing 4 April now costs from £5,020 for a family of four sharing two interconnecting studio suites, including flights (Gatwick), B&B and transfers. Was £7,840 – save £2,820 / 36%.
Head to the sparkling snowscapes of Swedish Lapland for a wonderfully wintery romantic break. Cosy up at Sorbyn, a charming guesthouse fringed by dense forests, which has an excellent restaurant specialising in local Lappish cuisine. There are plenty of snowy activities to try: get your thrills on a snowmobile excursion, whizz through pristine scenery on a husky sled tour or get twinkly-eyed on an Aurora hunting expedition. A seven-night stay departing 10 February costs from £1,228 pp (two sharing) including flights (London), transfers and B&B.
Head to the home of literature’s most renowned star-crossed lovers with a Valentine’s break to Verona. Wander arm in arm through wonderful piazzas, along narrow streets of ancient palazzi and amid the city’s superb shopping streets. By night, stroll about like Shakespearian lovers, smitten with the city and each other. Stay in the city centre at the aptly named Hotel Giulietta e Romeo. A three-night stay departing 13 February costs from £584 pp (two sharing), including B&B, flights (Gatwick) and private transfers.
iPhone run out of battery? Tough. Kolarbyn wilderness huts – located in the rural Swedish countryside – have no electricity or running water, let alone Wi-Fi, 4G or fibre-optic. Leave electrical paraphernalia at home and get back to nature in this peaceful retreat. Try lounging by a roaring fire, chopping wood from the surrounding forest or foraging for the freshest food. A wilderness guide is on hand at all times for those whose survival skills could use a little honing. A seven-night trip including five nights in Stockholm and two at Kolarbyn costs from £729 pp (two sharing) including B&B, flights (Heathrow) and car hire.