November 26, 2018
Reasoning: Birthplace of the Renaissance, Florence’s cultural credentials step even further into the spotlight in 2019 as the city marks the 500th anniversary of Leonardo da Vinci’s death. At the Uffizi, a new room hosting his paintings opened in July and an exhibition of the Codex Leicester (a collection of his scientific writings, on loan from Bill Gates) runs from 29 October until 20 January 2019, with further displays planned at the Galileo Museum. In London, a major exhibition of the Royal Collection’s Leonardo drawings opens on 7 February, doubtless sparking UK travellers’ interest in a visit to the city with which he is so closely associated.
Sample trip: Kirker Holidays* (020 7593 2283; www.kirkerholidays.com) offers three nights at Antica Torre di via Tornabuoni 1 from £698 pp (two sharing), including flights (Gatwick), private car transfers, accommodation with breakfast, a guaranteed entrance ticket to the Uffizi, Kirker’s Guide Notes to restaurants, museums & sightseeing, and the services of the Kirker Concierge.
Reasoning: The successful ITV reality series Our Shirley Valentine Summer, touted as Love Island for grown-ups, has brought to the public’s attention the many charms of the Cycladic island of Naxos and has helped establish this destination as the perfect setting for romance and self-discovery. The lush Greek island – which lies about halfway between the famous (and crowded) islands of Santorini and Mykonos – offers some 92 km of sandy beaches, beautiful whitewashed villages and an attractive main town with waterfront tavernas and narrow cobbled lanes leading up to a Venetian Kastro. Sunvil has sent customers to Naxos for many years as it appeals to Grecophiles but, with renewed attention as the backdrop to the celebrity show, it looks like Naxos is set for fame in 2019.
Sample trip: Sunvil* (020 8758 4758; www.sunvil.co.uk) offers a seven-night B&B stay at the attractive Galaxy Hotel, near Naxos Town and just a minute from the sandy beach of Aghios Georgios, featuring a large pool and lush gardens, from £856 pp (two sharing), including flights (Gatwick), 20 kg luggage, transfers and its own experienced representative service on the island.
Reasoning: With a well-preserved Viking farmstead in the north and a small but thriving capital in the south, Streymoy is the largest of the 18 Faroe Islands, located in the North Atlantic, midway between Norway and Iceland. This captivating island is developing fast, with newly-opened boutique accommodation, Hotel Havgrím – featuring striking views of the wild landscape and décor inspired by the land and seascapes – and iconic Faroese restaurant KOKS, which retained its Michelin star in 2018 and moved its location to a grass-roofed 18th century farmhouse in the remote valley of Leynavatn. Streymoy is also a Hollywood movie location, has a burgeoning art and music scene, plus underground Supperclubs run by farmers Anna and Óli, who’ll invite you to their home for a taste of “heimablídni” (home hospitality). Stay in 2019 and discover one of the friendliest places on earth.
Sample trip: Stay at Hotel Havgrím on Streymoy from DKK2,000 / approximately £236 per night (two sharing), including breakfast. Flights from Copenhagen to Vágar are priced from £165 pp return or Edinburgh to Vágar from £180 pp return with Atlantic Airways. Visit www.visitfaroeislands.com for further information.
Reasoning: Why go long-haul when you can enjoy beautiful Caribbean-style beaches in not-so-far-away southern Europe? A-listers including Will Smith and Hugh Jackman love the tiny island of Antipaxos, spanning a mere five square kilometres, where the white-sand beaches are gloriously remote, and the vibe is unreservedly laidback. With just 30 local inhabitants, few cars, three tavernas and no shops (food orders are delivered by boat), this is the place to come for total privacy and the perfect excuse to switch off your phone, shun all shopping and simply relax. An Instagrammer’s paradise, Antipaxos remains relatively quiet even in high season and is characterised by its lush olive groves, vineyards and crystal-clear coastlines.
Sample trip: GIC The Villa Collection* (020 8232 9780; www.gicthevillacollection.com) offers a seven-night self-catering stay at honeymooners’ favourite, Bacchus House, which offers complete privacy, its own pool and a terrace overlooking the sea, from £989 pp (two sharing), including flights (Gatwick), 20 kg luggage and transfers.
Reasoning: The ancient city of Matera is the European Capital of Culture in 2019, putting this formerly deprived city in southern Italy’s Basilicata region firmly on the map. Explore the fascinating complex of sassi (cave dwellings) carved into the mountainside, discover Baroque churches and elegant palaces, and meander labyrinthine alleyways of traditional stone houses and beautiful courtyards in this picturesque UNESCO World Heritage city.
Sample trip: CV Villas (020 7261 5400; www.cvvillas.com) offers seven nights at Villa Egnazia, a 1.5 hr drive from Matera. This stunning two-bedroomed property (sleeping four) is a slick, glass-fronted contemporary villa with crisp white décor, large pool, spacious garden and within 2.5 km of a local beach. A week’s stay costs from £1,674 (total). Flights extra.
Reasoning: Japan is hosting the Rugby World Cup (20 September-2 November, 2019), the world’s third largest sporting event after the Olympics and Football World Cup. For seven weeks, 20 teams will compete in 48 matches at 12 venues across the country, from the opening match at Tokyo Stadium (20 September) to the finals at Yokohama Stadium, (2 November). Sports fever is sweeping the Japanese nation as it also gears up for the 2020 Olympics. Visit in 2019 and beat the crowds!
Sample trip: Hoshino Resorts (www.hoshinoresorts.com/en) has 36 properties in Japan with prices from £66 pppn. Choose from two hotels in Tokyo, HOSHINOYA Tokyo, the city’s first luxury ryokan, or affordable bolthole OMO5 Tokyo Otsuka. Outside Tokyo, the Hakone area is easily accessible from Yokohama where many matches, including the final, are being held. Stay at KAI Sengokuhara, the world’s first art-oriented hot spring ryokan (opened 27 July 2018).
Reasoning: Joanna Lumley’s recent ITV travelogue explores the Silk Road, the most important ancient network of trading routes between China and Europe that include several of ‘the Stans’ (meaning ‘land of’) – Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. Relatively inaccessible to the modern visitor until fairly recently, how better to explore the region in comfort than by private train, travelling from Samarkand to ancient Merv and the legendary high passes of the Tian Shan Mountains?
Sample trip: Jules Verne (020 3553 3722, www.vjv.com) offers Silk Road Express, a 13-night escorted tour retracing this legendary trading route by private train that visits Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. Departing 28 March and 3 October 2019, the price is from £5,295 pp (two sharing), including flights (Heathrow), hotel & train accommodation, most meals, excursions as per the itinerary and the services of a tour manager, guides and local representatives.
Reasoning: Vietnam’s northern region features some of Asia’s most spectacular landscapes, but the popular area of Sapa has become increasingly busy and inauthentic – for those looking for breathtaking scenery without the crowds, Pu Luong is the place to go. It’s 3.5 hours from Hanoi, with just one retreat, Pu Luong Eco Retreat, which sits on a hillside amid rice terraces, scenic rivers and waterfalls, plus beautiful quaint villages. The small, exclusive resort features an open-air restaurant, infinity pool, spa area and rock garden and plenty of relaxation zones. Trek through the surrounding hills and valleys, or try bamboo rafting, kayaking and cycling around this unique region of tropical forest.
Sample trip: InsideAsia Tours* (0117 244 3380; www.insideasiatours.com) offers a 13-night Trekking Northern Vietnam & Laos trip from £3,580 pp (two sharing), including airport and guided transfers, 10 nights’ hotel, guesthouse and eco lodge B&B (including two nights at the Pu Luong Eco Retreat), a one-night B&B homestay and two nights’ B&B jungle hut stay, 11 lunches and nine evening meals. International flights extra.
Reasoning: Having explored the Great Railways of the UK, United States, Europe and India in his popular BBC series, Michael Portillo has turned his attention Down Under for his latest train adventure. Spotted filming ‘Great Australian Railway Journeys’ in the Southern Hemisphere earlier this year, confirmation of the series’ broadcast date is awaited with eager anticipation by fans of the programme and rail aficionados alike, and seems certain to spike interest in bookings by those keen to experience the far-flung destination for themselves.
Sample trip: Ffestiniog Travel* (01766 512400, www.ffestiniogtravel.com) offers a 20-day tailor-made holiday to Australia (via a three-day outbound stopover in Singapore) exploring this beautiful continent by rail and visitng the three very different cities of Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth, with journeys on the ‘Overland’ and ‘Indian Pacific’ trains, full day excursions to the Yarra and Barossa Valleys with wine tasting, city sightseeing tours and plenty of leisure time to explore. The price is from £4,600 pp (two sharing) including flights, B&B, return transfers to hotels, railways stations and arrival/departure airports, excursions as per the itinerary, and rail journeys in Premium or Gold Kangaroo classes.
Reasoning: Not only will Ethiopian Airlines launch the first Manchester to Ethiopia flights this year on 1 December, it’s also planning to begin a new domestic route between Addis Ababa and Robe, making the Bale Mountains – one of Ethiopia’s most remote and wild national parks – much more accessible (a one-hour flight rather than an eight-hour drive on bumpy roads).
Sample trip: TravelLocal (0117 325 7898; www.travellocal.com) offers a nine-day Hiking Trails of Ethiopia trip from £1,740 pp (based on two sharing), including B&B, some meals, transfers, excursions and the services of a local guide. Flights extra. Beginning in thriving Addis Ababa, highlights include a safari through Awash National Park, a four-day trek through the Bale Mountains, and the trip ends at the Sanetti Plateau, home of the country’s most iconic and endangered resident – the Ethiopian Wolf.
Reasoning: Norwegian Air is to launch services to Brazil in 2019. The low-cost carrier has been cleared to launch flights from Gatwick to São Paulo next year and has also just announced a London / Rio de Janeiro route. This is a huge step in introducing more affordable airfares to the UK market and opening up this diverse country, which boasts 4,655 miles of stunning coastline, wildlife-rich rainforest, tropical savannah, idyllic islands and vibrant cities.
Sample trip: Sunvil Latin America* (020 8758 4774; www.sunvil.co.uk) offers a 15-day Classic Brazil tour taking in the best this country has to offer. Take the cable car up Sugar Loaf Mountain and stand in awe beneath the towering Christ the Redeemer in Rio, marvel at the tropical cascades of Iguaçu Falls, spend time at an ecopark jungle lodge in the heart of the Amazon and spot wildlife on a night-time canoe tour, watch capoeira displays in the colonial city of Salvador, plus much more. The cost is from £5,075 pp, including 14 nights’ B&B (two sharing), some meals, direct flights (London), internal flights, private transfers & private guided tours.
Reasoning: Tourism recovery here is continuing at an impressive rate and yet, pleasingly, rates for 2019 are still considerably cheaper than many other countries in Southern Africa. There’s plenty of new development taking place, in particular in Mana Pools, where Nyamatusi – promising to be one of the most luxurious camps in the park – will open in 2019. What’s more, David Attenborough’s ‘Dynasty’ series, a significant section of it having been filmed in Mana Pools, focusing on wild dogs, should add to the buzz for the safari season.
Sample trip: Expert Africa* (020 3405 6666, www.expertafrica.com) offers the seven-day Buffalo Safari – taking in Mana Pools and Hwange National Park – from £2,921 pp (two sharing), including full-board accommodation for six nights, all safari activities, all transfers, and park fees. Flights extra.
*AITO is The Specialist Travel Association: more than 120 specialist travel companies providing an unrivalled collection of holiday ideas that cover every corner of the world. Consumers booking with AITO can be assured of high-quality holidays and excellent personal service. Visit www.aito.com for further information.
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