Mountainous, heavily wooded and dramatic, Basilicata is a very different side to Italy. Savvy travellers are discovering the many charms of this impressive land. A UNESCO world heritage site and European Capital of Culture for 2019, Matera has undergone a renaissance in recent years, with many of the ancient Sassi cave dwellings that characterise the town being converted into hotels, cafes and art galleries. The seaside town of Maratea is a great base for the lovely surrounding villages, think of a more relaxed version Amalfi coast. Basilicatan cuisine is simple but delicious, based on locally sourced fish, meat and vegetables.
Chicago and Lake Michigan
If you’re looking for a good time, then Chicago is very much your kind of town, easily accessible with direct flights from the UK. The “Windy City”, with its spectacular Lake Michigan location is home to one of the liveliest music scenes in the USA. Jazz and Blues clubs are everywhere and the city hosts hundreds of gigs and concerts throughout the year. Experience Chicago’s street art and the impressive architecture of the Pritzker Pavilion and Frank Lloyd Wright’s beautiful Robie House. Lake Michigan is extremely beautiful with dramatic cliffs, tranquil sand dunes and beaches. The area is also home to uncrowded national parks where you can experience the American wilderness at its awe-inspiring best.
Georgia is a delightful and surprising destination, easily accessible from the UK with direct flights into its capital Tbilisi taking just under five hours. Tbilisi is a lively, fun city with a growing club scene, great restaurants and many impressive wine bars and Georgian wines are often of a very high standard and also, good value for money. The Georgian countryside is very green and largely unspoilt, with 70% covered in forests. Georgia is home to UNESCO world heritage sites including the atmospheric Jvari Monastery and Svetitskhoveli Cathedral in Mtskheta. Perhaps the country’s greatest draw is its open and friendly people who regard visitors as welcome and honoured guests.
Grenada is incredibly fertile, and its green hills are full of fruit, nut and spice bearing trees and chocolate also grows happily on the island. Visit the Grand Etang National Park with its gorgeous volcanic lake surrounded by lush rain forest. The capital St. George’s is a very attractive place with lively bars and restaurants and after lunch head off for the impressive views from its colonial forts. Grenada has some very beautiful beaches which are less crowded than many other Caribbean islands, the most popular is Grand Anse, and take a boat out to the Underwater Sculpture Park for some unforgettable memories.
Madrid and its neighbouring cities
Madrid is one of the world’s great city break destinations, and it is also a perfect base to visit many other historic cities and towns which are easily reachable by public transport and car. Madrid is renowned as a party city with many top-class roof-top bars, restaurants and clubs. Culture lovers are spoilt for choice with over 60 museums. Four neighbouring cities are all very different and all quite exceptional. Toledo, a beautiful city enriched through its rich Christian, Moorish and Jewish cultural heritage; Segovia with its fairy tale castle the Alcazar; Ávila, rising out of the plain with its intact medieval walls and Cuenca, a totally unique place with its signature cliff-top hanging houses.
Morocco has dramatically varied landscapes offering windswept beaches, the sand dunes of the Sahara and the rugged beauty of the High Atlas and Rif mountains. The ancient city of Marrakesh is home to the unforgettable street theatre of the Djemaa El Fna square and the beautifully well-preserved medieval city of Fez. While beach lovers are well served in Morocco with the resorts of Agadir, Taghazout and Essaouira. To get a taste of another side of Morocco head into the mountains for hiking trails, beautiful waterfalls and picturesque Berber villages. Shopping for leather goods, rugs and brass lamps are all part of the Moroccan experience and they are extremely good value for money.
This incredibly beautiful country is a place of dramatic contrasts and spectacular landscapes, home to some of the world’s largest sand dunes, oldest cultures and the most extensive conservation areas in Africa. Head to Etosha National Park for elephants, big cats, antelope and the eerie Skeleton Coast, strewn with shipwrecks and whale bones. The traditional peoples of Namibia, the Himba in the north west and San of the Kalahari are fascinating and humbling examples of how to live a lifestyle in tune with your environment and time spent with them will be a highlight of any trip. Don’t forget though to reserve some time for the capital Windhoek; it has some exceptional restaurants and great nightlife.
Join the party in Singapore as this impressive and modern country celebrates its bicentenary. There is no more impressive airport on the planet than Singapore’s Jewel Changi, which regularly tops polls as the world’s best. Singapore effortlessly combines the modern with its very distinguished history, epitomised by the recently refurbished iconic Raffles and Barracks Sentosa hotels. Singapore is also a very green city; it is surrounded by jungle and delightful walking trails and the spectacular and beautiful UNESCO world heritage listed Botanic Gardens. Singaporeans take their food very seriously and they enjoy a delicious mix of Malaysian, Indian, Chinese and Indonesian cuisines and food choices suit all budgets with street vendors and Michelin starred restaurants.
South Korea is already a leading cultural power in the Far East, but its reach is now global, driven by world-class films, food and the blockbuster phenomenon of K-pop. The capital Seoul is a vibrant, modern and bustling city and whilst there visit a traditional tearoom in the Insadong for a taste of old Korea. wine. Spring is a great time of year to visit with the cherry trees in bloom and celebrated in blossom festivals. Korea’s coast is dotted with over three thousand lovely islands, well connected with ferries that make for a relaxing trip at leisure. Korean food is delicious spicy and very good for you, particularly the ubiquitous Kimchi.
This amazing country is only a short trip across the North Sea and is easily accessible via a short ferry ride or direct on the Eurostar to Amsterdam and Rotterdam, and these two cities are a great introduction to the country. The Netherlands has always punched above its weight artistically and you mustn’t miss the masterworks of Rembrandt, Vermeer and Van Gogh. This year more adventurous travellers are advised to head out and visit other lesser known gems, such as Delft, Haarlem and Utrecht – smaller, quieter versions of Amsterdam. The city of The Hague contains beautiful royal palaces as well as startling ultra-modern buildings and only a 15-minute tram ride away are the long sandy beaches and chic hotels of Scheveningen.
Uruguay is one of the smallest countries in South America, but it packs a lot into its land mass. The capital Montevideo has elegant art deco buildings, cafes and restaurants. The UNESCO world heritage site of La Colonia is a lovely little cobbled town, also head to the chic beach resort of Punta del Este and the coastal town of Rocha, set in a dramatic landscape of sand dunes and rocky crags. Free your inner cowboy or cowgirl in Tacuarembó and stay for a few days on one of the nearby ranches. Uruguyan cattle are also bred to very high welfare standards and you will eat some of the best quality beef you will ever have, and its wine is of a high standard with a trip to a winery a must.
Vienna was once the capital of the Austro-Hungarian empire and this rich heritage is reflected in the imposing baroque buildings, all in pristine condition, that make up its centre. Vienna has led the world culturally at many times in its history and it can quite rightly lay claim to be the world capital for classical music. In 2020 the city will celebrate the 250th anniversary of the birth of Beethoven, just one of the city’s many great composers. Vienna’s coffee houses and rich cakes are rightly world renowned, but a pleasant surprise are the many good value restaurants. The city is particularly lovely in the winter snow with many Christmas markets, especially outside the magnificent town hall or Rathaus.