IT’S SUNSHINE Saturday – one of the busiest days of the year for holiday bookings.
Travel association ABTA has marked the start of the year with its Destinations To Watch for 2024.
Its recent research found 47 per cent of holidaymakers plan to go to a resort or city for the first time, and 41 per cent will visit a country they have not been to before.
Lisa Minot takes a look at the places dubbed must-dos this year and shows you how to get there with an ATOL-protected package holiday.
GO Dutch and explore the beautiful Caribbean island of Aruba. Since last year, when British Airways launched flights there, it’s become more affordable to visit.
A former Dutch colony, the European country’s influence is everywhere, from the colourful colonial buildings in the capital Oranjestad to the windmill De Olde Molen in the resort of Palm Beach.
While Palm Beach has fabulous pink sands and lots of upmarket hotels and restaurants, head to Arashi beach and Eagle Bay for idyllic beaches.
GO: Seven nights’ room-only at Talk Of The Town Hotel & Beach Club is from £699pp, including BA flights from Gatwick on September 8.
For more info, see britishairways.com.
THE Spanish region is a largely undiscovered gem, home to three Unesco world heritage sites and some of the country’s most attractive, historic cities.
Next, go to Caceres, with its intact medieval centre and defensive walls, before heading to the historic city of Trujillo.
For natural beauty, visit the Monfrague National Park and the Jerte Valley, gorgeous in spring when the cherry trees are in bloom.
GO: Seven nights’ B&B at the Parador de Trujillo is from £818pp including flights from Newcastle on select dates in 2024.
For details, see sunvil.co.uk/holidays/spain/extremadura.
THIS island in the Indian ocean is a dream destination with a combination of perfect beaches and stunning natural landscapes.
The beaches in the north are sheltered and perfect for swimming, with Pereybere and Mont Choisy the most popular, while those in the south are dramatic and cliff-lined.
But some of the best are on the east coast at Belle Mare. For dramatic scenery, hike in the Black River Gorges national park and the Seven Coloured Earths – a unique geological phenomenon.
Keep your eyes peeled for the national bird, the Mauritius kestrel, with its speckled chest and broad, brown wings. You may even spot macaque monkeys too, if you’re lucky.
GO: Seven nights’ B&B at the adult-only 3H Tropical Attitude Hotel on Mauritius’s East Coast is from £939pp including BA flights from Gatwick on June 8. See britishairways.com.
THIS English county on the Welsh borders has some of the UK’s most beautiful landscapes, towns and villages.
It is also the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution. History lovers should head to Coalbrookdale in the Ironbridge Gorge with its elegant bridge and museums.
Ludlow is a must-visit for foodies with great restaurants and festivals. Bishop’s Castle is a great base to explore the Shropshire Hills and also features the oldest working brewery in the country.
Camping pitches from £10 per night, glamping pods from £50 per night. See hadleyparkwhitchurch.com.
THE Austrian Tyrol and its Italian neighbour the South Tyrol are rightly famous for their outstanding ski resorts – but for travellers outside of the winter months, this area of outstanding beauty has an equally bewitching side.
Ski lifts are put to use once the snow has departed, bringing holidaymakers to a land of lush meadows, lakes, waterfalls and sleepy hamlets.
Head to Lake Achen, Tyrol’s largest lake, with bright blue waters backed by tall, craggy mountains. It’s one of the most beautiful spots for swimming, but if you’re feeling more adventurous, you can also try surfing or sailing.
Across the Italian border, the Dolomite mountain ranges offer plenty of activities for summer fun.
GO: Seven nights’ B&B at the 3H Hotel Fischer in St Johann is from £670pp including flights from Gatwick on July 13 and transfers. See tui.co.uk.
THE east German region of Saxony is one of the most memorable parts of this amazing country, with historic, stunning cities including the baroque beauty Dresden and hip-and-happening Leipzig.
Castle lovers are in for a treat, as Saxony boasts some impressive examples, including Kriebstein and Schloss Moritzburg. Other must-visit towns include pretty medieval Gorlitz and Meissen with its famous porcelain factory and gothic cathedral.
GO: Seven nights’ room-only at the 4H Hyperion Hotel Leipzig is from £757pp, including flights from Gatwick on April 27. See thomascook.com.
Greece’s largest island is a paradise for nature lovers and sun worshippers alike.
The palace of Knossos is a reminder of the ancient Minoan civilisation, while the beach resorts of Agios Nikolaos and Elounda and the golden sands of Balos Lagoon, Falassarna and Elafonisi are perfect for sunbathing.
Hikers should head to Samaria Gorge and Mount Ida, mythical birthplace of Zeus, in spring and autumn when it is cooler.
GO: Seven nights’ half-board at the 4H Sunset Boutique Hotel & Spa is from £566p including flights from Luton on May 1. See olympicholidays.com.
SAVVY holidaymakers are discovering this stunning, great-value destination.
Saranda is a lovely resort on the Albanian Riviera from where you can take a boat out to some beautiful beaches.
Capital Tirana is cosmopolitan with fascinating museums while second-largest city Durres has a Roman amphitheatre.
GO: TUI’s seven-night Albanian Adventure takes in history-filled towns and cities as well as the North Macedonian lakeside town of Ohrid.
From £965pp, including B&B in 4H hotels, Heathrow flights, transfers, mini-bus transport, English-speaking guides and 16 experiences included. See tui.co.uk.
TRAVELLERS to Vietnam can now visit without a visa for up to 45 days, giving even more time to explore the country’s lively historic cities, stunning landscapes and idyllic beaches.
First-time visitors can join escorted tours to see the best of the country with an expert guide – from the main cities of Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi to the majesty of the Mekong Delta and historic cities of Hoi An and Hue.
For a spine-tingling experience, you can crawl through the Cu Chi Tunnels in Ho Chi Minh, a 75-mile long underground network that was used by soldiers during the Vietnam war.
GO: Intrepid’s eight-day Premium Vietnam trip from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh is from £1,663pp on select dates in February and March.
Wander the streets of Hanoi, cruise past limestone karsts of Ha Long Bay and discover Hoi An’s old-world charm.
Includes 4H accommodation, transport by boat, plane and mini bus and 13 experiences. Flights extra. See intrepidtravel.com.
THE southern African country offers nature at its finest, with a wealth of national parks teeming with wildlife, mighty waterfalls and friendly, vibrant cities.
For animal lovers, very few countries compare – with almost a third of the country set aside for wildlife.
Of the 20 national parks, South Luangwa, Kafue and Lower Zambezi are considered among the best in the world for the Big Five – lion, leopard, buffalo, rhino and elephant – as well as hundreds of other species.
The Victoria Falls is a must-see, as well as the Zambezi River.
GO: Expert Africa has an eight-day Best of South Luangwa Safari, a walking safari moving between three tiny camps.
Seven nights is from £4,720pp including full board, most drinks, all safari activities, all park fees and laundry. Flights extra from £1,130pp. See expertafrica.com or call 020 3405 6666.