Whether you’re a thrill-seeker, sun-worshiper or stargazer, Sarah Marshall reveals this year’s must-go destinations

By Sarah Marshall |

Nature

  • Sark, Channel Islands

One of only two Dark Sky Islands in the world (the other is Coll in the Inner Hebrides), this peaceful refuge nine miles east of Guernsey is set to be a key player in the rise of astro-tourism. With the exception of a few tractors, motorized vehicles are banned here, meaning air pollution is low, and there’s very little public street lighting. Conditions are therefore excellent for stargazing, particularly from a new observatory, which opened at the end of last year.

Stocks Hotel (sark.co.uk/stocks-hotel-103) offers rooms from £118.50pp per night. Flights from Gatwick to Guernsey start from £96 return with Aurigny (aurigny.com) then take a 50-minute ferry (sarkshippingcompany.com). 

Visit sastros.sark.gg

  • Svalbard, Norway

Last year 195 nations made a historic agreement to combat climate change, and one of the key species to potentially benefit is the vulnerable polar bear. See these creatures in their icy habitat of the Svalbard archipelago, the most accessible polar destination for UK travellers. This summer, award-winning photographer Paul Goldstein and zoologist Mark Carwardine will lead expedition tours onboard Russian research vessel the Akademik Sergey Vavilov. Explore the frozen wilderness in 24-hour daylight, searching for bears, seabirds and Arctic foxes.

Exodus (exodus.co.uk) offers 12-day departures on 22 June and 3 July from £3,899pp excluding flights.

  • Ethiopia

Cast aside Band Aid images of poverty and famine; this East African country is one of the fastest-growing economies on the continent. The landscapes are equally flourishing, ranging from mountain peaks and sweeping plateaus to dense forest.

In March, the new Limalimo Lodge will open in the UNESCO-classified Simien Mountains, enhancing Ethiopia’s luxury accommodation options. Activities at the conservation-focused 14-room property will include treks through Africa’s answer to the Grand Canyon and a chance to observe endemic Gelada monkeys. Combine with a stay at the equally-desirable Bale Mountain Lodge, set in another area of outstanding beauty.

The Ultimate Travel Company (theultimatetravelcompany.co.uk) offers a 12-day tailor-made Treasures of Ethiopia tour from £3,825pp, including all meals, activities and flights. 

Beach

  • Sri Lanka

Improved infrastructure and new hotel openings make this great-value Indian Ocean island even easier to visit in 2016. Golden beaches backed by rice paddies and tea plantations can be found along the south coast, with the most wild and tropical swathes lying west of Galle. Combine wildlife watching with sun seeking by staying at the new Uga Escapes Chena Huts on the beaches of Yala National Park, or head further along the coast to Sri Lanka’s first sustainable design hotel, Tri Lanka, set on a lake.

Ampersand Travel (ampersandtravel.com) offers 7 nights half board at Tri Lanka from £1,533pp including flights. 

  • Santa Cruz, USA

California’s original surf city oozes cool, laidback charm, with residents championing a counterculture lifestyle. Even more people can embrace the city’s liberal leanings when British Airways launch a direct flight from Heathrow to San Jose on 4 May. Join world-class surfers in the crashing waves, stroll along the pier where eighties classic Lost Boys was filmed or hike beneath a canopy of giant trees in the Big Basin Redwood State Park. Spring also sees the reopening of the Brookdale Hotel, visited by the likes of James Dean and Marilyn Monroe.

America As You Like It (americaasyoulikeit.com) offers a 7-night Californian fly-drive, including flights, car hire, room-only accommodation and surf lessons from £1769pp.

Family

  • South Africa

Although long haul, the strength of the Sterling against the SA Rand makes South Africa a great-value option for families. Enjoy a safari in the game-rich Kruger National Park, spot whales from November to March in St Lucia and visit historical battlefields in the KwaZulu-Natal region. 2016 marks the 200th anniversary of the formation of Zululand, with celebrations taking place throughout the year.

Explore (explore.co.uk) offer an escorted 12-day Kruger, KwaZulu and Coast trip to South Africa and Swaziland from £2,139 per adult and £1,999 per child (minimum age 5).

Source: London Evening Standard
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