As 2017 gets underway, thoughts turn to where one should head for sunnier climes. ABTA's Sean Tipton offers his selection of the best places to go this year.
THE AZORES: A new version of the Canary Islands?
Tour operators are always looking for new destinations; in 2017, they’ve hit the jackpot with these Portuguese islands in the Atlantic. The Azores have stunning black-sand beaches, with whales, dolphins and manta rays found not far from shore, plus a stunning and lushly volcanic landscape. It’ s an activity-lover’s paradise, but the food’ s not bad too – especially the excellent cheese from São Jorge. It’s like Canary Islands before mass tourism arrived – so get there now, before the rush starts.
ANDALUCIA: Year-round warmth in Spain’s most sophisticated corner
“Torremolinos, Torremolinos” – so the old mickey-taking song went. Not any more. If you’re thinking old-fashioned package holidays, think again. Andalucia has had a revamp in recent years with Seville, Malaga and Granada reinvented as sophisticated and stylish city-break destinations. Less well-known destinations such as Cordoba, Jerez and Cadiz are also well worth a visit, while Huelva is Spain’s Capital of Gastronomy in 2017. Southern Spain is a equally great in winter, with lower rates, good temperatures and regular sunshine. Don’t forget to try the region’s signature dish, rabo del toro (oxtail stew) –it’s truly delicious.
SOUTH AFRICA: Value for money in a country which has everything
Post-Brexit, the pound is suffering – but not in South Africa, where our sterling has risen against the local rand by almost 50 percent over the last five years. Not only is South Africa hugely affordable, but it’s also eye-catching thanks to diverse landscapes – desert here, jungle there; beaches left, mountains right – and some of world’s most iconic animals, including safari’s Big Five. My personal favourite area is Namaqualand, which is carpeted with multi-coloured wild flowers (fynbos) in spring. Also, as ‘SA’ is only two hours ahead of the UK, there’ ll be no jetlag to endure!
CROATIA: Go east, while everyone else heads west, to a well-managed wonderland
With the western Mediterranean getting increasingly busy, savvy travellers will head to the crystal-clear waters and pine-forested coves of Croatia in 2017. A series of new flights from various UK airports help matters. After its civil war, Croatia made a decision to keep numbers and new developments manageable, with a commitment to quality over quantity – and it shows. Alongside the main sites – Dubrovnik and the Dalmatian Coast – the cities of Zagreb, Zadar and Split are all well worth a couple of days and, for a lovely romantic break, Rovinj in Istria takes some beating.
BERMUDA: Beaches galore, and the chance to see Sir Ben go for glory
Football fans sing about 50 years of hurt since England last won the World Cup, but how about 166 years of hurt? Throughout the tournament’s long history, Great Britain has never won The America's Cup but, with the world’s greatest sailor Sir Ben Ainslie now at the helm, they stand a very good chance in Bermuda this June. Join the support on this idyllic chain of 180+ islands, soaking up the atmosphere over plates of the freshest-possible seafood. As a bonus, beautiful Bermuda has terrific beaches and some of the best dive spots in the world.