With the festive fun drawing to an end there’s no better time to start planning for the year ahead. Our travel experts have journeyed far and wide to select the best vacation destinations for 2016 and here’s what they found…
Oia village on Santorini island, Greece
Thought to be the inspiration behind Plato’s story of Atlantis, the Greek island of Santorini is sure to inspire your imagination before you even arrive. With multi-coloured cliffs soaring over a sea-filled caldera, and its rich and mysterious past, this island in the indigo Aegean is the most magical gem in the Mediterranean crown. Curved around a vast crater left by one of the biggest volcanic explosions in history, the main island of Thira will take your breath away. Snow-white towns line the cliff tops, spilling down in drifts to the water’s edge while churches, castles and hilly villages billow in the blue beyond. Santorini’s smaller islands curl around the western cusp of the caldera, paving the way to the vast volcanic sites that mark the heart of the sea-drowned lagoon. The magic of Santorini is no secret, drawing crowds from every corner all through the year. The island may attract tourists but it wears it well with a whole host of extraordinary offerings that make it worth the hubbub. The island’s intrigue reaches deep into the past with ancient Minoan sites and historic hilltop villages. Santorini also boasts contemporary charm with its modern artists, excellent wineries and some of the finest dining in the Cyclades. The sandy black, red and white beaches are some of the most unique in the world and are truly the icing on the Santorini cake.
With year round sun and plenty to pique your interest Barbados is a top spot for a 2016 vacation. This sophisticated tropical island boasts a rich history, a lively cultural scene and a distinctly British vibe with cricket as its national sport. Boasting around 70 miles of powder-white sands you could be forgiven for heading straight to the coast, but with its historic sites, stunning landscape and lively cultural festivals, this exclusive Caribbean island offers something to suit every taste. Many visitors flock to the island’s renowned Platinum Coast, lined with luxury resorts, refined restaurants and world-class golf courses. Away from the beach lies the island’s capital Bridgetown offering a wealth of stylish restaurants, trendy bars, great shops, museums, art galleries and historic landmarks. Some of the most beautiful beaches can be found on the lively south coast with countless diving sites, shops, cafes, restaurants and bars – while the east coast is less developed but offers a dramatic Atlantic-pummelled coastline and world-class waves – perfect for surfers and sightseers alike. A jeep safari is a great way to discover central Barbados with its quaint towns, old sugar mills, vast plantation houses, historic churches and colonial architecture. Excellent snorkelling and diving facilities provide easy access to the island’s stunning coral reefs; other water-based activities include fishing, boating, kayaking, surfing, sailing and more. Combine this with innumerable rum shops, cricket with the locals and a distinctive laid back island vibe and you’ve got a recipe for an unforgettable vacation.
Orlando is ideal for families
Orlando may be best known for Walt Disney World but the Sunshine State has a lot more to offer than just roller coaster rides. Located in Orange County, Florida and with an estimated 60 million visitors a year, Orlando and many other areas in the region have developed to cater for all ages and tastes. Step away from the theme parks and discover world-class golf courses, huge sports and music venues, vast shopping malls, superb restaurants and bars plus plenty of exciting nightlife and entertainment offerings. Head to Downtown Orlando with its business district, historic sights and plethora of restaurants, bars, parks and museums – or take a trip out of Orlando to Florida’s west coast swathed with golden beaches at Clearwater, St Petersburg and Tampa. Everglades National Park lies further south and is home to an array of endangered wildlife such as American crocodiles, leatherback turtles, Florida panthers and more. Other top vacation spots include the Florida Keys, a haven for diving enthusiasts plus nearby Miami with its party vibe, art-deco heritage and Spanish ambience. Florida’s east coast is a must-see with its Atlantic shores, Fort Lauderdale and the NASA Kennedy Space Centre.
Paris Eiffel tower
France is one of the most visited countries in the world, with everything from romantic cities and gorgeous beaches to picturesque villages, lush countryside and vast snow-capped mountain ranges. France vacations can be as diverse as you wish, from short city breaks and luxury weekends to self-drive trips and long beach, city or countryside vacations – the choice is yours. Little ones will love all the magic at Disneyland Paris, with its endless attractions sure to thrill kids of all ages. Coastal camping holidays in France offer fun and freedom for all the family while foodies will be in heaven with the nation’s infinite offering of excellent food and wine. Expect to be wowed by the fascinating history and culture in famous French cities such as Paris, Marseille and Toulouse. Crank up the glamour at swanky seaside resorts in the South of France including Antibes, Cannes, Nice and St Tropez. Vacations to the Arcachon Coast are perfect for oyster lovers and watersports fans, while snow lovers are sure to enjoy winter skiing trip at resorts in Chamonix, Courchevel and The Alps.
Located on Florida’s fabulous northwest coast, Destin is a dream worthy vacation destination. Powder-white beaches, exotic food, world-class fishing and a laid-back lifestyle define Destin, which has recently seen a surge in attention from luxury travellers from across the globe. Destin’s outstanding natural beauty is a massive draw for those who visit, with the seemingly never-ending Miramar Beach, the rugged wilderness of St Vincent Island and the endless emerald-hued Gulf waters. Destin is widely known as the ‘World’s Luckiest Fishing Village’ on account of its always-hungry underwater population. It also harbours a whole host of world-class beachfront rental homes and some of the best golf, dining and shopping to be found anywhere in Florida.
Aspen, Colorado is known as one of the all time greatest ski destinations in the world. Skiers of all abilities will find an array of challenging slopes and pistes over Aspen’s four main areas – Aspen Mountain, Snowmass, Highlands and Buttermilk – all easily linked by a free shuttle service. Adding to the diversity of Aspen’s snow terrain is a lively town with extensive shopping, dining and nightlife offerings. In fact, there’s so much après-ski fun to be had it’s no wonder Aspen vacations are popular both in and out of ski season.
This Latin city boasts beautiful beaches and a diverse population with everything on offer including a vibrant Art Deco district, miles of top-ranked beaches, lively restaurants, an exciting party atmosphere and a fantastic climate. South Beach is the place to be seen with its trendy, rich and famous crowds. This historic district is speckled with iconic Art Deco buildings plus plenty of shops, restaurants bars, beaches and amenities. Downtown Miami offers a metropolis of skyscrapers, impressive architecture and array of museums, cafes, shops, restaurants and entertainment for all ages and tastes. Miami offers fabulous weather all year round with hot summers and warm winters making it the perfect vacation destination whatever the month.