Whether you’re a thrillseeker, art buff or beach lover, we pick the best destinations that should be on your radar when planning your 2016 holidays.
Best for nature lovers: Guernsey, Channel Islands
Guernsey is a wonderful gateway to the great outdoors, with windswept headlands and romantic stretches of white sandy beach. It’s a brilliant base for crisp coastal day hikes and kayaking trips to hidden rocky coves. The Channel Islands are home to a huge variety of wildlife, so try an Atlantic grey seal safari to Grande Amfrocque or explore the islands of Sark, Alderney and Lihou, each one circled by soaring seabirds and rich in gorgeous scenery. See the best of Guernsey’s natural beauty by staying at the stunning Fermain Valley Hotel, blessed with far-reaching views and surrounded by flora and fauna.
Best for sun worshippers: Ibiza, Spain
When it comes to large doses of relentless sunshine, few European spots fare better than Ibiza. Even in the depths of winter, Ibiza sees plenty of sunshine and precious little rainfall, making it an ideal escape from the British drizzle. In summer, you can stretch out on sun-kissed beaches and dine alfresco on warm, starry nights, while in winter you can make the most of the tourist lull, taking brisk walks along deserted sands. For the ultimate celeb-worthy escape, stay at Atzaró, a luxurious oasis built on an orange farm, with sweeping vistas and an exquisite spa.
Best for skiers: Cheval Blanc, Courchevel, France
Rolling indulgence and adrenaline into one, a mini break to the gorgeous Cheval Blanc in Courchevel is like no other. Teetering in the high Alps, this snow-dusted world of decadence is surrounded by 600 kilometres of slopes in the Trois Vallées. The resort is ski-in ski-out, your boots will be warmed to perfection and the instructors include a handful of international champions. But oh there’s more. The spa is a slice of heaven on earth, offering Guerlain treatments designed especially for Cheval Blanc. Easily reached from Chambery Airport, it’s an intoxicating combination of adrenaline and absolute relaxation.
Best for adrenaline junkies: Interlaken, Switzerland
Under two hours by road from both Basel and Zurich Airports, Interlaken is a thrilling adventure playground nestled in the heart of Switzerland. In summer, it’s brilliant for trekking and biking, while in winter it becomes a snowboarding mecca. By far the best way to get your heart racing is a free-fall skydive from a helicopter. The drop zone is nestled between two alpine lakes, snowy mountains and a blinding glacier, making the scenery nothing short of epic. Do it in style by staying at the glamorous Victoria-Jungfrau Grand Hotel and Spa. Flanked by dramatic snow-capped peaks, it’s the epitome of old-school elegance.
Best for golfers: Terre Blanche, Provence, France
Just 45 minutes from Nice Airport, Terre Blanche is one of the most prestigious golf resorts in Europe, with two 18-hole championship courses that blend perfectly into the dreamy landscape of Provence. The all-suite and villa hotel is a luxury haven, with four heated pools and four restaurants, each offering a gourmet twist on traditional Mediterranean flavours. The spa is an absolute delight, buried amidst the bright flowers of a Provencal garden, and a full body massage is the perfect way to top off a day on the driving range.
Best for art lovers: Florence, Italy
When it comes to art, nowhere beats Florence, ‘The Cradle of the Renaissance’. The past lingers in the cobblestones and piazzas dotted across the city, heaving with history and packed with museums. The Uffizi Gallery is crammed with artistic riches, including The Birth of Venus by Botticelli. Private tours can be arranged, giving you a personal window into the world of art. Don’t forget the 500 Renaissance paintings of the Palatina Gallery, Michelangelo’s David or the statues in the Palazzo Vecchio. For the best of both worlds, stay at Il Salviatino, a perfectly restored 15th-century villa on a sweeping Tuscan hillside just 15 minutes from the city centre.
Best for romantics: Granada, Spain
Paris and Venice might steal the limelight when it comes to romance, but Granada is a gorgeous alternative, high on daydreamy atmosphere and a feeling of far-off mystery. The Alhambra palace towers above the cobbled streets and tapas bars, while the city’s Moorish past and flamenco roots echo through the plazas. It’s an enchanting place that keeps visitors coming back time and time again. Stepping off the plane, you’ll soon see why. For added romance, stay at the Palacio de los Patos, a small palace tucked away in the heart of town with a covered pool and Arabian gardens.
Best for foodies: Casa Ombuto, Tuscany, Italy
Perched between rolling Tuscan vineyards just 50 kilometres south of Florence Airport, Casa Ombuto is the definitive place to pick up some serious culinary skills. The villa itself sits on a secluded hilltop with spectacular views, close to the village of Poppi, considered one of the most beautiful villages in Italy. The cookery school here is second to none, offering three-day courses that make for perfect mini breaks. Between lessons, you’ll visit a traditional Formageria, an olive oil mill and wine estate, getting a taste of all things Tuscan. This is pure foodie heaven set in a peaceful paradise.