If you’re craving some long-haul sunshine this winter, the news is getting better. Last month, the government removed eight countries from the Red List, including the key travel destinations of Egypt, Sri Lanka, Oman, Kenya and the Maldives. From 4th October, the much-derided traffic light system will be replaced with a simple list of ‘no go’ countries on the Red List.
In the past few days, the Foreign Office has removed its advice against travel to the Maldives, Egypt and Sri Lanka. Kenya has lifted quarantine requirements for UK arrivals and South Africa is expected to be taken off the Red List in early October.
All these changes – plus a government pledge to allow fully-vaccinated travellers to replace day-two PCR tests with cheaper lateral flow tests from the end of October – have triggered a surge in holiday bookings. But where should you head for this winter? Mark Hodson, editor of 101 Holidays, is your guide.
The allure of a private island resort has never been stronger. If you’re not too fussed about sightseeing and you just want to lounge in the sun, splash in a warm sea and enjoy sunsets, cocktails, spa treatments and snorkelling trips, you really can’t beat the Maldives.
If you like sleek contemporary styling, gadgets and mod cons, head to Niyama Private Islands which caters both to couples and families on two separate islands named ‘Chill’ and ‘Play’ connected by a bridge. Details from Turquoise Holidays which is offering free half board until 22 December.
If you’re looking for a more traditional sense of place, Milaidhoo is a perfectly laid-back tiny island owned and operated by Maldivians and set in the heart of a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Dine on local specialities served on board three wood-built dhonis and relax in your own undhoali (hanging swing). Book with Abercrombie & Kent for savings of up to £969 pp and a free dolphin cruise.
For underwater exploration, Dhigali is a great choice. Located in the Raa Atoll, it is surrounded by coral with a beautiful and easily accessible house reef. The resort offers a Premium All-Inclusive dining plan that runs from the moment you arrive to the moment you depart. Tropical Sky has some attractive deals.
When you touch down in the Arabian Gulf, turn right for glitzy hotels, mega malls and indoor ski slopes. Turn left, to Oman, if you’re looking for culture, history, adventure and natural beauty.
There are two main ways to tackle Oman. You can head directly to a spectacular beach resort such as the ultra-luxe Six Senses Zighy Bay where you can stay in a villa with a private pool and the waves lapping at your bare feet. Find out more from the Inspiring Travel Company.
Alternatively, you can pull on your sun hat and hiking boots and explore mountain villages, ancient souks, military forts and frankincense trails. Transindus has some cracking tours including Oman: The Jewel of Arabia, visiting Muscat, Sur and Nizwa. Cox and Kings has an 11-day tour Oman in Style which includes a night at a Bedouin camp in Sharqiya Sands and a private catamaran cruise to the Daymaniyat islands, a marine nature reserve.
Sri Lanka is another destination that offers a whole lot more than winter sun. It’s easy to get around and packed with world-class attractions from caves and temples to wild elephant reserves and whale watching cruises. Most tours include a private car and driver but Experience Travel Group offers one better, Luxury Sri Lanka by Seaplane.
If you just want to recharge your batteries in a five-star retreat, the Anantara Kalutara Resort and Spa is a perfect hideaway with ocean views and lush tropical gardens just an hour’s drive from Colombo. More details from Tropical Sky.
Egypt is one country where it makes little sense to go off the beaten track. The tried and tested route – from Cairo through Luxor and up the Nile to Aswan – is so rich in antiquities and ancient sites that no matter how familiar it seems, it will still knock you for six every time.
Although most tour operators offer similar itineraries in Egypt, the devil is in the detail. Travel with a specialist high-end company and you’ll get the best rooms in the finest hotels, the most erudite and entertaining guides and the most lavish cruise boats. Arguably the best is Abercrombie and Kent which offers an 11-night itinerary, Egypt in Style.
Egypt has announced that fully-vaccinated travellers no longer need to take a PCR test on arrival.
If you’re looking for the ultimate safari experience, head to Richard Branson’s camp Mahali Mzuri which has just 12 luxury tents in the northern Maasai Mara and offers twice-daily game drives along with community tours to meet members of the Maasai tribe. There’s a spa and infinity pool to help you unwind and the food is pretty good too, which helped it take first place in Travel and Leisure’s 2021 World’s Best Hotel Awards.
If you get your skates on, you can enjoy some late autumn sun in Turkey, one of the eight countries recently released from the Red List. The so-called Turquoise Coast of Turkey in the south of the country has a long season with warm weather into early November. One of the loveliest places to stay is the small resort of Kalkan where the Kalkan Regency is a gorgeous little boutique hotel, available through Simpson Travel. For a luxury villa with private pool, try Oliver’s Travels or Vintage Travel.