Corliss Group Travel: Travel Tips: La Graciosa, 2014 Hotspots and the Cotswolds
The Canary Island that tourism forgot, Greece and Portugal set to be this year's star destinations and Cotswolds villages.
Take me there: La Graciosa, Canary Islands
Why go? A half-hour ferry hop from Lanzarote, this is the Canary isle that tourism forgot. There's just one village, sleepy little Caleta del Sebo, with a smattering of whitewashed houses and sandy lanes (there are no surfaced roads on the island) and in winter the glorious beaches, volcanic peaks and dive sites are virtually empty.
What to do There are no "sights" as such: people come here for the sunshine, silence and sense of escape. Take a water taxi or Jeep to the white-sand beaches of Playa de las Conchas or Playa de la Cocina – among the most beautiful in the Canaries – or explore Europe's largest marine reserve on a dive trip (buceolagraciosa.es).
Where to stay There are no hotels – just a handful of private apartments and simple pensions. Casa Rio in Caleta del Sebo is a bright, well-equipped two-bedroom apartment with sea views from the roof terrace (from €560 per week, graciosagetaways.com).
Where to eat Cafe Mesón de La Tierra has the best views of the harbour and the menu del día is great value at €7 (00 34 679 955 969). El Girasol (Calle la Popa 2) is the place to go for fresh seafood – the "vieja", or parrotfish, is a local speciality.
Insider tip Adrian Fisk, owner of Casa Rio, recommends taking a boat to Playa del Risco on Lanzarote – a long stretch of fine, golden sand that lies under the spectacular cliffs of Famara. "The only access is by boat or walking down the cliffs," says Fisk, "and most days you will have the beach to yourselves. Take a picnic and spend all day there. The old salt fields are great to explore."
Hotspots for 2014: Portugal and Greece to be this year's top destinations
Having waded through the annual glut of Where's Hot for 2014 lists, one could be forgiven for assuming we'll all be spending our summer holidays cheering on England in Brazil or taking advantage of Burma's more relaxed political situation to take a river boat cruise up the Irrawaddy. A far better indication of where we'll actually be going on holiday this year comes from a peek at the Post Office's annual Holiday Money report.
Based on a combination of factors including currency performance, new flights and cost of living, the Post Office is predicting that the star short-haul holiday destinations in 2014 will be Portugal – prices in the Algarve have dropped by 18%, making it Europe's cheapest holiday destination – and Croatia, whose star continues to rise thanks to new low-cost flights, investment in its hotels and the increasing popularity of its music festivals.
But the news I found most cheering was the remarkable recovery of Greece, after its "annus horribilis" in 2012. My first proper experience of "abroad" was an island-hopping trip around the Cyclades 25 years ago and I've had a soft spot for the place ever since.
The launch of British Airways' first direct flights from Heathrow to the islands of Santorini and Mykonos in May (ba.com), and the introduction of a network of seaplanes connecting mainland cities such as Athens, Thessaloniki and Patras with Crete, Santorini, Kos and Mylos in April (hellenic-seaplanes.com) look set to further the country's comeback.
For rolling hills and sleepy villages, head for... The Cotswolds
Westley Farm, near Chalford This collection of traditional stone holiday cottages on a working hill farm represents great value in an area not exactly known for its choice of budget accommodation. No fuss, no gimmicks, just simple country-style with flagstone floors, woodburners and uplifting views across Gloucestershire's Golden Valley. Cottages sleep between two and six. From £300 a week (westleyfarm.co.uk)
The Five Alls, Filkins, near Lechlade The food is the major draw at this 18th-century village pub. The earthy but intriguing menu, best described as modern British with a nod to Italy, ensures the cosy restaurant is packed with locals and guests on a Saturday night. Sleep it off in one of the four snug bedrooms upstairs and try to leave room for the full English breakfast next morning. Doubles from £90 (thefiveallsfilkins.co.uk)
The Porch House, Stow-on-the-Wold This ancient Cotswold inn reopened last autumn after a complete overhaul and early indications are that it's hitting all the right spots. Cosseting bedrooms, a cosy low-beamed bar with roaring fires, a crowd-pleasing menu and a selection of local ales - what more do you need for a romantic winter break? Standard doubles from £99 (porch-house.co.uk)
131 The Promenade, Cheltenham This brand-new bolthole from the owners of the wonderful Wheatsheaf Inn in Northleach looks set to become the spa town's sexiest hangout. Expect a strong emphasis on local, seasonal produce in the Crazy Eights restaurant and bar, while upstairs 11 light-filled bedrooms have been kitted out with contemporary art, antique furnishings and hi-tech gadgetry. From £170.