Summer’s longer days and warmer weather encourages us to get up from our desks and out into the sunshine. But instead of just taking a longer lunch break, why not cash in some of those vacation days and take off to your ideal destination?
After weighing factors such as weather, activities, affordability, accessibility and lodging options, plus reader votes and industry advice, we created a comprehensive ranking of the top 10 summer destinations. Take a look…
Holidays in Barbados serve up the Caribbean with a twist. Expect sweet-but-spicy cuisine, free-flowing rum, and a British-style love for cricket
At first glance, Barbados appears to play by all the tropical island laws, following the book to the letter when it comes to its coastline. The island is home to more than 92 kilometres of long blonde beaches, which are backed by palm trees and lapped by luminous blue waters. The western coast is especially popular for holidays to Barbados. It’s where you’ll find the resorts of St James and St Peter and has even earned itself the nickname of the Platinum Coast, thanks to the purity of its sand.
Beyond the sand, Barbados doesn’t always tow the Robinson Crusoe line. The island does have a few quieter resorts, like Maxwell Beach, which is pin-drop peaceful, but on the whole it can be a bit of a firecracker. Bajan food blurs the line between sweet and savoury, and the rum shops make it easier to order punch than coffee. St Lawrence Gap leads the nightlife pack. This resort is a hub for reggae bars, calypso clubs and, some of the best restaurants in the Caribbean.
The capital city, Bridgetown, shows off the quirkier side to holidays in Barbados. It’s here the Caribbean influence collides head on with the heritage left over from British rule. You can watch a game of cricket on the green and stand in the shadow of the admiral Nelson statue, before heading to the harbour to watch live reggae or dance to calypso.
2. Bali, Indonesia
With the British pound growing stronger against the Indonesian rupiah, Bali is a great value long-haul option. It’s just one of Indonesia’s stunning islands, packed with glittering temples, walkable volcanoes and a surfer’s paradise around the sugary coastline. You’ll also find private accommodation from $5 a night, as well as affordable ‘genuine fake’ designer goods for the tightest traveller’s budget in the local markets.
What’s the best place to visit in Bali?
Cultural centre Ubud, for art on every street corner, and the best place to see traditional Balinese dancing (shows most evenings at Ubud Palace, 7.30pm).
What’s the best beach?
Uluwatu beach, for sand, surf and a stunning temple perched right on the cliffs.
Top things to do in Bali?
Surf. If you’re a newbie, try Kuta for cheap board rentals, lessons and a backpacker’s party heaven. Go further south on the Bukit peninsula to find quieter spots for improvers, like Balangan.
Thailand, the Land of Smiles, continues its meteoric rise from backpackers’ haven to mainstream holiday favourite. The appeal is obvious: beautiful countryside and beaches, great food, friendly people and low prices. But Thailand also has a fascinating unique cultural heritage, enfused by Buddhist ideals. And Bangkok, the capital, fizzes with energy.
It’s the islands that attract the most attention, however, with Phuket bringing in most visitors. Most of its hotels are world class. Not far away, in the Gulf of Siam, the idyllic island of Koh Samui has some delightful small luxury hotels, and its neighbour Koh Phangan is on the up.
4. The Bahamas
While there is a risk of getting rained on during hurricane season, June generally sees mild weather, fewer crowds and significantly lower prices. While some resorts in the Out Islands close through November, New Providence and Paradise Island remain open year-round.
Best for: Families looking for a taste of laid-back island living.
5. Bora Bora
If you conjure up images of the perfect island paradise in your head, it probably looks like Bora Bora’s stilted bungalows jetting out into the turquoise lagoon. A volcanic atoll, Bora Bora is surrounded by a circular coral reef, which makes it ideal for snorkeling and scuba diving.
Best for: Romance. It truly is a honeymooner’s dream or special-occasion getaway.
Spain has long been a favourite of British holidaymakers, and it remains the UK’s number one holiday destination. In particular, the Balearic islands of Mallorca, Ibiza and Menorca are perennial big-hitters, along with Canary Islands such as Tenerife and the beautiful lesser-known La Gomera and La Palma. Other great beach destinations on the mainland include the Costa de la Luz and Catalonia.
Northern Spain is overlooked by most tourists, even though it combines magnificent empty beaches with rolling countryside, mountains, medieval towns and buzzing cities. It’s authentic, great value and the food is superb.
There’s a lot more to Spain than beaches. There are great walking holidays and cycling in Catalonia. The rise of low-cost airlines has made it easy to enjoy city breaks in the likes of Palma and Seville – both of which are rich in culture.
Lakes, mountains, cities and beaches, Italy has something to offer all holiday makers. Lake Garda is becoming more and more popular with families as there are numerous self catering and camping options. The Amalfi Coast is always a popular honeymoon destination and the islands will attract couples looking for an upmarket holiday.
8. Puerto Rico
With the sun all year round, countless miles of sandy beaches, and designer malls, Puerto Rico can be your perfect Caribbean destination. Now you have direct flights from Gatwick to San Juan, its capital, where you can join the locals for a game of dominoes while drinking rum. Its tropical rainforest of El Yunque is worth exploring, while countless caverns and cave are waiting to be discovered in the Rio Camuy Cave Park. Don’t forget to plunge in one of the bioluminescent bays with emerald green glow at night!
9. Nice, France
Fancy a few nights riding around in fast cars, sipping champagne, and eating some of the finest cuisine in the world? Even if you’re on a budget in the French Riviera, you can swap Lamborghinis for a local Lignes d’Azur bus and expensive fizz for prosecco and still have a great holiday!
Stock up on food at the daily market in Cours Saleya or Vieux Nice to take on a picnic atop Mont Boron or one of the many vantage points. Other local delicacies include pissaladiere (a sort of pizza topped with onions, olives and anchovies), socca (chickpea flatbread) and, of course, salade Nicoise (tuna salad).
Since France is famous for its wine, it would be rude not to give it a go while you’re there. Take a trip to the Château de Bellet for an educational opportunity to learn more about the wine making process, before sampling the goods of course.
Always fancied a trip to Cuba? You might want to get there before it becomes too ‘Americanised’. The United States and Cuba have reopened their embassies in Havana and Washington DC respectively after more than half a century, while John Kerry becomes the first US Secretary of State to travel to Cuba since 1945.
Non-stop flights to Cuba are readily available from a number of American cities and cruise lines have started getting permission to offer holidays to Cuba from as early as spring 2016.