From the Mediterranean to the Arctic Circle, there are still plenty of unaffected (at the time of writing) escapes where excitement, adventure and indulgence await

Four short-haul options

1. Cruise the Turkish Riviera 

Swim, eat and drink aboard a gulet (a traditional sailing boat) on a Blue Cruise – a hedonistic tradition started by Bodrum literary dropout Cevat Sakir Kabaagacli (aka the Fisherman of Halicarnassus). Start from Bodrum and sail across the Aegean’s turquoise waters to the Datca Peninsula, one of Turkey’s best-kept secrets. There’s no better way to explore it than anchoring in remote coves backed by pine forest and limestone crags, or puttering along past olive groves, white cliffs and maquis-cloaked ravines. The city of Knidos, where a cult to goddess of love, Aphrodite, once held sway, dominates the westernmost point of the peninsula. The Bozburun peninsula, every bit as attractive as Datca, points to the Greek island of Symi, famed for its neoclassical houses. It’s an idyllic trip, more than proving the unwritten Blue Cruise maxim: “If you can’t relax on a blue cruise, you can’t relax.”

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2. Malta: culture and beaches

Valletta is one of Europe’s cutest capitals: a tiny, 16th-century citadel city with Unesco World Heritage status, surrounded by bastion walls and sparkling Mediterranean Sea. Flanked by its Grand Harbour, Valletta is packed with historic sights – the dazzling baroque interior of St John’s Co-Cathedral; Fort St Elmo; the Auberges of the Knights – but recently it has emerged dramatically into the 21st century. Its City Gate has been remodelled by Renzo Piano, and new boutique hotels, restaurants and bars are popping up all over the place. 

After a few days in Valletta, head to Mdina, another citadel city at the heart of the island, and check into the 17th-century Xara Palace. Wander its maze of tiny streets to see more palazzi, churches, museums, and a cracking view from bastion-top Fontanella Café. Once most visitors have left for the day, you get to see the so-called “Silent City” when it really is, and feel like one of Mdina’s noble residents.

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Valletta

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getty

3. Detox and retox in Ibiza

While Ibiza is still very much up-all-night clubbing heaven, it has also quietly become a top wellness destination for all ages. Breaks now focus on yoga, Pilates, dancing, hiking, swimming and fitness, staying at idyllic fincas in the countryside or cool hotels by the beach. You can also choose to focus more on spiritual enlightenment, with meditation and mindfulness sessions. While some retreats have you tucked up in bed while it’s still light, others encourage you to get out and let your hair down until the sun comes up again. This is Ibiza after all – there are no hard and fast rules.

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4. Sail to Svalbard 

People say they go to Svalbard for scenery and wildlife. But Dorset has both and you don’t hear awed eulogies to that. No, polar bears aside, we travel for the adventure and to feel humbled in an environment where nature has the whip-hand. So I recommend you visit aboard 160ft sailing ship Linden. You’ll hoist sails and climb rigging (optional) and go ashore in small groups with an on-board naturalist. More critically, you’ll experience the Arctic – blue-black seas, meringue whips of peaks glittering in luminous light – if not quite on equal terms then not cocooned from it by a powerful cruise ship. Where will you go? It’s hard to say – you travel at the whim of the weather. I docked at Pyramiden mining town, now abandoned to Arctic foxes, and Adolfbukta bay, where a glacier calved just beyond the bowsprit. In another wild bay, reindeer approached within touching distance. 

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Svalbard

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getty

Four long-haul options

5. Remote romance in the Maldives 

Just 40 miles from the equator, in the southern tail of the Maldives, Raffles Meradhoo feels deliciously remote. With just 37 villas, it’s a place for stealth luxury: cavernous beach villas are hidden behind high stone walls, a large swimming pool is enclosed by gardens and pearly white sands; overwater villas come with living rooms, four-poster beds, split-level decks and steps leading into the sea. There’s more overwater action at the spa, where couples’ treatment rooms overlook the ocean. Other amorous escapes include hopping on jet skis for a breakfast of champagne and caviar scrambled eggs on a sliver of a sandbank, sunset cruises skimming the equator, outdoor movie nights in your villa and private dining experiences. What’s not to love?

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Raffles Meradhoo

Credit:
JOHN W. MCDERMOTT

6. The safari of a lifetime in Zimbabwe

Spread across a wilderness the size of Yorkshire is an entire lexicon of mammals – everything from aardvarks to wild dogs – including the Big Five (elephant, rhino, buffalo, lion and leopard) and some of Africa’s noblest antelopes: kudu, roan and sable. The habitat, too, is immensely varied: sandveld scrub, ancient teak forest, open plains scattered with islands of terminalia and camelthorn acacia trees. Each vegetation zone attracts its own species, which makes for tremendous game viewing by 4WD or on foot in the company of Africa’s finest professional safari guides. To complete the picture, Hwange has an outstanding selection of authentic bush camps, including Somalisa.

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7. The paradise islands of Madagascar

The islands offer some of the Indian Ocean’s best snorkelling and diving sites, but life on land is equally captivating – clambering through tropical forests you encounter lemurs, chameleons, geckos – a marvellous contrast, found nowhere else on Earth. Having developed in complete isolation for millennia, most of its wildlife, plant life and marine life is found nowhere else. Head for the islands off the beautiful north-east coast, where there’s an essential, untouched wildness – an authentic, rustic castaway atmosphere that is entirely missing from the Indian Ocean’s more developed islands – and a combination of aquatic and terrestrial wildlife that is off-the-charts special. You can base yourself on Nosy Be or Sakatia and book day trips to the closest islands, but the most wonderful way to do this coast is to charter a catamaran, motorised and staffed with a skipper and a chef, to drop anchor alongside deserted beaches or at the best fishing sites. At night, jump off the back of the boat into the inky black ocean and float naked under the moon.

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Meet Madagascar’s lemurs

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getty

8. Ethiopia: land of legends

Myth and mystery shroud Ethiopia’s Tigray region, where the faithful believe the original Ark of the Covenant is locked away in a Christian church. Although the sacred tablets are hidden from view in the ancient city of Axum, it’s possible to have an Indiana Jones-style adventure learning about their significance, by hiking through Gheralta’s sandstone mountains. There are 28 fresco-decorated churches. Although popular sites Maryam Korkor and Abuna Yemata Guh can be combined in a day trek from Megab, a more enriching option is to travel by foot, camping along the way. Rest beneath the sprawling boughs of a sycamore tree in the Debre Zion Valley; pitch a tent in an overhang used by political rebels as a hideout in the Eighties; and share flatbread with local farmers in Agoza.

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