September 2021

Island life

September 2021

In this issue

September 2021
In this issue

Read the latest issue of ABTA Magazine

Welcome

Editor’s letter; plus, how to get in touch

Map: 14 quarantine-free destinations

Double-jabbed Brits can travel to these holiday hotspots without the need to quarantine when they get there – or when they get home

News: TTC introduces mandatory vaccinations

Plus, read The ABTA Magazine Guide to Greece

Discover the Vipava Valley: a dream destination for cyclists and foodies

Gastronomy, nature and cycling are elevated in equal measure in Slovenia's verdant 'Paradise Valley'

News: More cruise lines set sail

Plus, we chat to Arvind Bundhun, director of the Mauritius Tourism Promotion Authority

Seven reasons to visit Slovenia this autumn

Autumn breaks to Slovenia are on now the country has been added to the green list

ABTA: News

Theme announced for Travel Convention which takes place on October 13

Five reasons The Seychelles Islands is a must-visit destination in 2022

Aspirational travel is back on the cards for UK travellers and there’s no better place to aspire to than the Seychelles

Video: welcome to The Seychelles

The Seychelles are islands like nowhere else - buzzing with culture and combining traditions to form something new

ABTA: Meet the Council of Regions

Richard Slater, owner of Henbury Travel and northwest chair

ABTA: Events

The latest virtual conferences and training

10 tranquil spots in Croatia

Some of the main destinations can get busy, so here are some that are a bit more off the beaten track

A beach for each day of the year

Antigua’s abundance of beaches, coupled with year-round sun, make it the perfect place to slow down the pace

Editor’s letter

The government needs to do more to open up travel

Welcome to the September issue of ABTA Magazine. At the end of last month, seven destinations, including Denmark and Canada, were added to the government’s green list in the latest update to the traffic light system – providing some much needed stability and reassurance for holidaymakers.

But as Mark Tanzer, chief executive of ABTA, said: “The government needs to focus its attention on correcting some of the structural issues that are stopping people travelling and delaying the industry’s recovery. The UK may be leading the way on the vaccine rollout, but it is lagging behind other countries when it comes to opening up international travel and making it easy for people to travel.”

In this issue, we reveal the most tranquil spots in Croatia, take you on a tour of Antigua, introduce you to the Mauritian tourist board, plus round-up a series of quarantine-free destinations with our interactive map feature. There’s also all the latest news, from both ABTA and the wider industry. We hope you enjoy reading.

Contact

Get in touch with the team

ABTA Magazine is produced by Waterfront Publishing on behalf of ABTA, The Travel Association.


Contacts

Editorial
Anthony Pearce, director
anthony@waterfront-publishing.com

info@abtamag.com
020 3865 9360

Design
DJMWeb, The Studio

Sub-editors
Nathaniel Cramp, Emily Eastman

Sales and partnerships

Sam Ballard, director
sam@waterfront-publishing.com

Bryan Johnson, senior sales manager
bryan@waterfront-publishing.com
0203 865 9338
075 3270 9734


About ABTA

Waterfront Publishing is an independent publisher based in central London. It has an in-house magazines, Cruise Adviser, which is aimed at the travel trade. It has also produced magazines on behalf of ABTATravelzoo; and Emerald Waterways. Its design agency The Studio by Waterfront offers copywriting, proofreading and design for print, digital, advertising and branding.

Get in touch

Waterfront Publishing
Hop Exchange,
Southwark Street,
London, SE1 1TY
info@waterfront-publishing.com
020 3865 9360

14 quarantine-free destinations

Double-jabbed Brits can travel to these holiday hotspots without the need to quarantine

Malta

Packed with treasures, British holiday favourite Malta is a sun-soaked archipelago brimming with UNESCO World Heritage sites, historical gems and glittering beaches.

Just a three-hour flight from the UK and boasting 300 sunny days a year, Malta’s year-round warmth is a big draw, along with the fact that you’re never more than a 15-minute drive from the sea.

Entry requirements for Malta
Only fully vaccinated travellers can travel to green-listed Malta from the UK and they must have been jabbed more than 14 days before travel.

Acceptable proof of vaccination status include the NHS Covid Pass letter and digital Covid passes, including the NHS app and the vaccination certificate in digital or downloaded PDF form.

Children aged from five to 11 can travel to Malta if they are accompanied by vaccinated adults with proof of a negative PCR test carried out within 72 hours from arrival in Malta. Children under five are not required to be tested. Anyone aged 12 and over will need proof of vaccination.

Everyone must complete a Public Health Travel Declaration Form and a Passenger Locator Form before departure.

Find out more here.

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Antigua and Barbuda

Boasting 365 heavenly beaches – one for each day of the year – Antigua is famed for its year-round sunshine and world-class sailing.

Don’t overlook under-the-radar sister island Barbuda: it’s a paradise for wildlife with the largest colony of frigate birds in the world.

Entry requirements for Antigua and Barbuda
Currently on the UK’s green list, the following entry rules apply to all travellers, regardless of vaccination status. No-one is permitted to enter the country who has been to Brazil or South Africa in the past 14 days.

Up to and including September 30, all arriving passengers aged five years and older must show evidence of a negative RT-PCR test taken within seven days of their flight. From October 1, all RT-PCR tests must be taken within four days of the flight.

Holidaymakers need to complete a Health Declaration Form upon arrival.

Visitors will receive medical screenings and have their temperature taken at the airport and may be asked to take a test on arrival or at their hotel as determined by the health authorities. This test costs $100 (£72). The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office warns of “long waiting times on arrival” at the airport.

Regardless of vaccination status, tourists can normally travel straight to certified tourism accommodation after screening and be allowed to move around the country freely. However, after October 1, only fully vaccinated visitors will be allowed to stay in Antigua and Barbuda’s hotels. Unvaccinated visitors will need to show proof of pre-booked accommodation at one of the approved facilities for 14 days and pay for a test on day 12.

Find out more here.

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Balearic Islands

Located off Spain’s east coast, the popular Balearic Islands include Majorca, Ibiza, Formentera and Menorca.

Majorca is the largest island with a clutch of hedonistic resorts in the south and luxury boutique resorts in the north. Hidden gem Formentera is known for its Caribbean-like beaches and hippy vibe, while Menorca is a hit with families who favour its quiet beaches and megalithic sites. Ibiza’s main resort San Antonio is famed for its club scene, but the island’s pretty north coast is awash with secluded beaches.

Entry requirements for the Balearic Islands
British travellers entering the Balearics will need to present a negative PCR or antigen test result taken within 72 hours of travel or show proof of vaccination (an NHS Covid Pass or NHS letter). Anyone using vaccination status needs to have received their second jab at least 14 days before travel. These rules apply to all Brits aged 12 and over.

A health check form also needs to be completed by all visitors before travel.

Find out more here.

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Madeira and Porto Santo

The tiny volcanic island of Madeira is popular with Brits thanks to its perennial sunshine, tropical landscape and scenic mountains.

Must-do activities include hiking past waterfalls on the Levada do Caldeirão Verde trail; admiring Portuguese architecture in cosmopolitan capital Funchal; and taking the cable car to Monte Palace Madeira.

Entry requirements for Madeira and Porto Santo
Regardless of vaccination status, Brits don’t need to quarantine when visiting Madeira, which is on the UK’s green watchlist.

All travellers aged 12 and over need to complete a traveller questionnaire before visiting the Portuguese archipelago.

On arrival, visitors must either show proof of vaccination status or present a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours of arrival (if not uploaded to their passenger questionnaire) or obtain a Covid-19 recovery certificate. Anyone unable to show either of these certificates can take a Covid-19 test at the airport and remain in their accommodation for about 12 hours until the results are known.

Find out more here

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Greece

Greece’s mainland and islands are a magnet for Brits seeking sun-kissed beaches and mouth-watering cuisine.

Steeped in history, Greece is bursting with ancient treasures, including the Acropolis citadel in Athens and the spectacular mountaintop monasteries of Meteora.

Entry requirements for Greece
All visitors need to have completed a Passenger Locator Form no later than 11.56pm (local time in Greece) the day before arriving in Greece, which is on the UK’s amber list.

Travellers over the age of 12 also need to show proof of a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours of arrival, or proof of a negative rapid antigen test from an authorised laboratory taken within a 48-hour period before your arrival or Greece, or proof of being fully vaccinated at least 14 days before travel.

Greece will also accept proof of recovery from Covid-19; evidence of a positive Covid-19 PCR test result taken 30 to 180 days before your travel dates can be used.

Find out more here.

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Portugal

 

Year-round sunshine ensures Portugal’s enduring popularity with visitors from around the world, drawn by its heavenly beaches, expansive golf courses, gastronomy and wine.

Entry requirements for Portugal
To avoid quarantining on arrival, travellers need to show proof of being fully vaccinated at least 14 days before travel.

Anyone aged from 12 to 17 travelling with fully vaccinated parents do not need to quarantine, but must provide a negative test result.

Everyone aged 12 and over will need to complete a passenger locator card and have their temperature taken on arrival.

Kids aged 11 and under do not need to quarantine or take a test.

Find out more here.

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Canary Islands

The sun-baked Spanish archipelago off the coast of Africa has seven islands, with top draws including Tenerife, Gran Canaria and Lanzarote.

Just a four-hour flight from the UK, the volcanic islands have a winning formula for Brits with their comely beaches and year-round sunshine.

Tenerife attracts holidaymakers with its sandy beaches, luxury resorts, water parks and party scene; Lanzarote packs a punch with its dramatic lunar landscape; and Gran Canaria is famous for its charming mountain villages and sensational sand dunes.

Entry requirements for the Canary Islands
British travellers entering the Canary Islands will need to present a negative PCR or antigen test result taken within 72 hours of travel, or show proof of vaccination (an NHS Covid Pass or NHS letter).

Anyone using vaccination status needs to have received their second jab at least 14 days before travel. These rules apply to all Brits aged 12 and over.

A health check form also needs to be completed by all visitors before travel.

Find out more here.

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Cyprus

Ticking all the boxes for sun-starved Brits, balmy Cyprus is blessed with heavenly beaches, a rich history, awe-inspiring vistas and culinary treats.

As the birthplace of Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love, Cyprus provides the ideal setting for weddings thanks to its short flight and guaranteed sunshine.

Away from the coast, visitors can play golf on first-class courses, explore the wine routes, bliss out in a luxury spa, or trek one of the island’s numerous walking trails through shady pine forests and rugged mountains.

While Cyprus is on the UK’s amber list, Britain entered Cyprus’ red category on July 8.

Entry requirements for Cyprus
All visitors to Cyprus need to complete a Cyprus Flight Pass before their journey.

Travellers who can prove their double vaccination status do not need to take a PCR test before departure or on arrival.

Unvaccinated travellers must show proof of a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours before departure. They must then do another PCR test upon arrival at the airport. Test results should be available online within three hours. Unvaccinated visitors then need to take a PCR test on day seven following their arrival, and then every 72 hours.

Children who arrive in Cyprus before their 12th birthday are exempt from testing.

Find out more here.

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Gibraltar

The tiny nation state of Gibraltar is only 10 square kilometres in size, but packs a lot of personality into the small town and 426m high rock it calls home.

A British Overseas Territory since 1713, Gibraltar offers classic full English breakfasts, red post boxes, afternoon tea and pints of London Pride, all with a side helping of sun, sea and sangria.

Brits can feel at home while getting a taste of the exotic – boisterous macaque monkeys jostle for space on the famous rock, which also boasts views across the water to Morocco.

Entry requirements for Gibraltar
All fully vaccinated visitors to Gibraltar must upload their vaccination certificate onto the Passenger Locator Form. You must also book a lateral flow test before arriving in Gibraltar and this must be taken within 24 hours of arrival. If you’re staying for more than seven days, you must also take a second test on day five.

If you are unvaccinated, you must have a lateral flow test taken no more than 48 hours before your flight to Gibraltar. You must also book a lateral flow test to be taken within 24 hours of your arrival. If you’re staying for more than seven days, you must also take a second test on day five.

Find out more here.

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Iceland

Otherworldly Iceland is a hit with travellers seeking to revel in nature’s raw power. Explore spurting geysers, luminous glaciers and steaming hot springs, before wallowing in one of the country’s many soothing thermal pools.

One of the bucket-list experiences to be had here is snorkelling between tectonic plates at Silfra in Thingvellir National Park.

Aside from its photogenic scenery, the volcanic island is known for its friendliness and some of the freshest seafood on earth.

Entry requirements for Iceland
Brits are only allowed to enter green-listed Iceland if they have been fully vaccinated or have previously recovered from Covid-19. All travellers must pre-register here before visiting.

Travellers will also need to present a negative PCR or antigen (rapid) test no more than 72 hours before departing to Iceland.  Children born in 2005 or later are exempt from testing and quarantine.

Find out more here.

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Denmark

Christianshavn, Copenhagen. © Malin Poppy Darcy Mörner.

 

Recently added to the UK’s green list, Scandinavia’s smallest kingdom is famous for its cool capital Copenhagen, abuzz with hip cafes, boutiques and stellar restaurants, along with must-see spots like amusement park Tivoli Gardens and colourful neighbourhood Christiania.

Beyond the capital, visitors can set sail on a viking ship with the Viking Ship Museum; visit the home of Hans Christian Andersen in Odense; discover artist Thomas Dambo’s giant scrap wood giants and trolls; or spend the night in a treetop cabin in north Jutland.

Entry requirements for Denmark
Fully vaccinated Brits or those previously infected with Covid-19 can visit Denmark without needing to take a test or self-isolate. They will need to present proof of vaccination or previous infection. Children under the age of 18 who are visiting Denmark with a fully vaccinated parent do not need to self-isolate upon entry.

But visitors aged 16 or above who are not fully vaccinated will need to present a negative Covid-19 test before entry.

Find out more here.

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Finland

 

Recently added to the UK’s green list and a hit with Brits seeking back-to-nature holidays, Finland is famous for its huge green forests, shimmering blue lakes (there are 188,000 of them!) and saunas.

The country boasts incredible natural phenomena: visitors can see the northern lights in winter, and experience the full midnight sun in summer. There’s also wildlife in abundance: enjoy bear-watching trips from April to September, and see the world’s rarest seal in Lake Saimaa.

Visit snowy Lapland in winter to meet Santa and to enjoy husky and reindeer rides, skiing, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling.

Entry requirements for Finland
Brits must show proof of being fully vaccinated at least 14 days prior to arrival, or a certificate of recovery from within the past six months.

Find out more here.

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Switzerland

Switzerland. Image credit: Switzerland Tourism / Jan Geerk.

Famous for its chocolate, clocks and cheese fondue, Switzerland is popular with adventure-loving Brits with cash to splash.

Now on the UK’s travel green list, Switzerland is one of Europe’s top ski and snowboard destinations thanks to its knockout Alpine scenery. Top resorts include Verbier, Davos, Klosters and St Moritz.

Beyond winter sports, the country’s epic landscape of mountains, glaciers, gorges and rivers is perfect for bungee-jumping, canyoning, hiking, climbing, paragliding and more.

Swiss city Zürich is also worth exploring for its vibrant nightlife, pretty old town and atmospheric café scene.

Entry requirements for Switzerland
Only fully vaccinated Brits are allowed to visit Switzerland. Unvaccinated children under the age of 18 are allowed to enter Switzerland if they are accompanied by fully vaccinated adults.

All travellers must complete a passenger locator form.

Find out more here.

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Azores

Hyped as the “Hawaii of Europe”, the Azores are volcanic islands that lie 1,600km west of Portugal in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.

Recently added to the UK’s green list, the autonomous archipelago boasts knockout scenery with black sand beaches, rugged lava coastlines and crater lakes.

Popular with wildlife lovers, the Azores are known for whale and dolphin watching. Visitors can spot sperm whales, common dolphins and bottlenose dolphins all year round.

It’s also a hit with divers thanks to its clear waters which home loggerhead turtles, slipper lobsters, yellowmouth barracuda, manta rays, blue sharks and more.

Entry requirements for Portugal, including the Azores
To avoid quarantining on arrival, travellers need to show proof of being fully vaccinated at least 14 days before travel.

Anyone aged from 12 to 17 travelling with fully vaccinated parents does not need to quarantine, but must provide a negative test result.

Everyone aged 12 and over will need to complete a passenger locator card and have their temperature taken on arrival.

Children aged 11 and under do not need to quarantine or take a test.

Find out more here.

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More

Read the ABTA Magazine Guide to Greece

News

TTC makes vaccinations mandatory

All adult guests travelling with the company’s escorted touring brands must be double-jabbed


The Travel Corporation has introduced a new policy urging travellers under the guided brands to be fully vaccinated

All adult guests travelling with escorted touring brands under the Travel Corporation (TTC) must be fully vaccinated against Covid, under the company’s new policy.

Those travelling with AAT Kings, Contiki, Costsaver, Insight Vacations, Luxury Gold and Trafalgar must have received both shots of their vaccine 14 days prior to travel, with the policy being put into place until at least December 31.

Meanwhile, G Adventures has introduced a “Vaccinated Tours” programme on which tour guides and travellers must be double-jabbed to join the trips.

The small group adventure travel operator is also introducing Travel-Ready tours where all travellers and guides must have either been fully vaccinated or have a negative PCR test within 96 hours prior to day one of the tour’s departure.

Travel-Ready tours were introduced to provide fair access to tourism employment opportunities for tour guides in destinations with slow vaccine roll-outs.

The operator is also helping tour guides to access vaccines in their home countries.

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Discover the Vipava Valley: a dream destination for cyclists and foodies

Gastronomy, nature and cycling are elevated in equal measure in Slovenia’s verdant ‘Paradise Valley’


Idyllically located between the Adriatic’s twinkling waters and the towering Julian Alps, the epicentre of Slovenia’s breathtaking wine country is attracting lycra-clad UK gastronomes in increasing numbers, aided by direct services from operators such as British Airways and easyJet to the Slovenian capital, Ljubljana, around 80km away by road.

Bike travel tallies nicely with the valley’s focus on sustainability, and foodies will certainly appreciate the new Bike Slovenia Green Gourmet Route that passes by en route. With so many great trails in the valley itself, however, they’d be forgiven for not looking beyond the lush green confines of this pedalling paradise.

E-bikes take the slog out of the slopes on wine tours, the wineries that offer wine tastings being connected by a ‘wine trail’, while the valley’s inclusion on previous editions of the Tour of Slovenia, and Italy’s Giro d’Italia, highlights the serious potential for road bike warriors. Plus, there’s no shortage of options for those looking to hit the rougher stuff on gravel or mountain bikes.

The stronger legged will relish powering up through the forest and vineyard-covered valley slopes towards the panoramic high plateaus, no visit being complete without a hike to Otlica Natural Window. The Instagrammable opening in the rockface is the star of the Otlica Natural Window Trail and the stuff of legend, apparently owing its origins to the devil tripping and piercing a hole in the rock with his horn – one of many myths alive and well in this lyrical landscape.

Alternatively, trace the Vipava River as it carves up the valley, the plains affording easier terrain. Tick off pretty old villages, towns and bridges as you go, from ancient Vipava and mediaeval Vipavski Križ to Ajdovščina, with its impressive Roman-era fortress.

Ajdovščina is the start and end point of the 35km easy rolling, family-friendly Upper Vipava Valley Trail. Other easy rolling, leisurely loops include the Branica Valley ride out of Vipava town, featuring a few gentle climbs along its 47km, and the 45km Lower Vipava Valley Trail out of Nova Gorica, whose highlights include the Franciscan monastery at Kostanjevica, final resting place of French monarchs such as Charles X. Plus, a new 40km hiking and biking nature trail from Vipava to Miren will launch for summer 2022.

As befits Vipava’s ‘Paradise Valley’ moniker, the landscape, replete with fresh air and healthy produce, is the perfect spot to rest both your mind and your head. Local accommodation options include farm stays, backed by heartwarming comfort food, while sustainably-minded glamping businesses make the most of their natural surroundings and others celebrate the local viticulture.

Grape varieties such as Zelen, Klarnica and Pinela thrive among the sheltered valley’s microclimate, as visitors will discover on visits to local treasures such as Goče, the beguiling village’s quaint stone buildings as impressive beneath ground as above thanks to the abundance of historic wine cellars. Valley visitors can even become a winemaker for the day!

The rich culinary offering equally excels, not least at the high end. At Dam, in Nova Gorica, for example, the nine boutique guest rooms are backed by a fine dining restaurant helmed by Michelin-starred chef Uroš Fakuč. And riders on the Branica Valley Trail will struggle to make it past Gostilna pri Lojzetu, set in the exquisite Zemono Manor House, where Michelin-starred Tomaž Kavčič serves up gastronomic love letters to his beloved Vipava Valley.

Thankfully, any newly acquired calories can be readily burned off yearround, aided by the shielded valley’s special climate, with kayaking and hiking among the other popular activities. Spring and autumn may be the cycling sweetspots but winter is equally enticing, especially away from the higher plateaus. Besides, if you were to wake to find the Bora, or Burja, wind blowing along the valley, well surely that’s just the excuse you need to hole up and explore some more of the fabled local hospitality.

Click here to find out more

 

News

More cruise lines set sail

River and ocean lines are gradually restarting operations after 18 months


Riviera Travel has completed its first river cruises in 18 months with two eight-day sailings to Porto and Salamanca. 

A total of 120 passengers were on board for the voyages, which featured excursions to a Porto vineyard and the old city of Salamanca, an official UNESCO World Heritage Site, as well as guided tours of local landmarks, including Castelo Rodrigo and Mateus Palace gardens.

Riviera will now operate a series of river cruises across Europe until early November.

Katja Hildebrandt, head of product river & ocean cruise at Riviera Travel, said: “Our Douro cruises were the perfect first sailings back, as our guests really did feel they were away from it all as they visited some of Iberia’s most beautiful towns, gardens and vineyards.

“We can’t wait to welcome more people back on board, as our European river cruises return to some of the most beautiful destinations along the likes of the Seine, Rhone and Danube.”

Cruise passenger Sally Harper said: “The organisation that Riviera have put into this has been absolutely second to none; I can’t fault it. This is the second trip we’ve done with Riviera, the first one was Croatia, but this is the first river cruise I’ve ever done and it’s gone beyond my expectations.

“The river is spectacular. Everybody told us to expect a beautiful river and this has just blown me away. The food is great and the staff are so friendly, everywhere is so immaculately clean. We’ve felt really safe and secure at all times.”

Emerald Cruises resumed sailings on the Douro on July 31, while Emerald Destiny is due to set sail from Nuremberg on September 6 for the eight-day Danube Delights river cruise.

Oceania Cruises has also resumed sailing, with Marina becoming the first ship to welcome guests back on board after a pause of 524 days. It was also the first cruise ship to sail from the port of Copenhagen since 2019.

Princess Cruises’ ship Sky Princess became the third in its fleet to resume sailings – after starting a series of UK domestic sailings from Southampton. Crystal River Cruises has also resumed sailing in Europe.

Fred Olsen became the first UK cruise line to complete an international voyage since the resumption of cruising in the UK. Borealis, one of the line’s new vessels, returned to the UK from Iceland with around 800 guests on board.

interview

Meet the tourist board: Mauritius

We chat to Arvind Bundhun, director of the Mauritius Tourism Promotion Authority


ABTA Magazine: What are you focusing on within tourism at the moment?
Arvind Bundhun: In line with our sustainable island strategy, Mauritius has a green-focused tourism approach in place to promote the interior of the island, including outdoors soft adventure activities and sports such as golf. We expect to see an increasing demand for wilderness exploration and getting back to nature, so we will further pursue this angle in our marketing and consumer approach. We believe that our wide open spaces, national parks and outdoor activity offerings provide the perfect post-lockdown remedy.

Responsible tourism will be a key focus as travellers have a heightened sense of awareness around preserving both the environment and the local culture for future generations. Our Mauritius Unwavering campaign recognised the importance of nature, and our current Mauritius Now campaign gives recognition to our locals and their talents. Mauritius Now portrays an authentic tourism message that includes ‘live like a local’ activities, thus enabling immersive experiences and allowing visitors to give back to our communities.

Mauritius has a fantastic array of ‘beyond the beach’ experiences which support local businesses and venture deeper into the local life of the island. These experiences are perfectly aligned with travellers who have been re-discovering themselves during the lockdown and are interested in learning a new skill and travelling more slowly to fully immerse themselves in the life of a destination.

What should agents and travellers be aware of when planning a trip to Mauritius over the next 12 months?
Mauritius is an island known for its stunning beaches, wealth of nature and wildlife and diverse range of class-leading hotel resorts. Over the next 12 months the destination will continue to offer a wide range of experiences appealing to all audience demographics and ages, including couples finally taking their overseas honeymoon, solo travellers seeking a serene wellness retreat and multi-generational families looking to reconnect with one another. With a wide range of outdoors experiences, including hiking, water sports and high adrenaline activities, it is a great place for sportspeople, being particularly popular with golfers.  

We can see there is a great desire to travel again, and Mauritius is the perfect destination to visit once restrictions ease. It is a destination known for its high levels of service and quality, so is well-placed to provide British travellers with what they’re looking for in holiday after a challenging time. Mauritius has always been known for its safety and security, so visitors can rest assured that hygiene and health will be the utmost priority on a trip to the island. The UK is one of our most important and valued markets and we are greatly looking forward to working with the UK trade to invite holidaymakers back to our island with a warm welcome.

What safety measures are in place in relation to Covid?
The country’s response to the pandemic has ranked among one of the best in the world. Due to the precautionary measures put in place by our government, we have been successful in containing the spread of the virus. The acceleration of the country’s vaccination campaign and the progress made towards herd immunity by the end of September has enabled a prompt and safe restart of the Mauritius tourism industry. Tourism employees were prioritised during the vaccine rollout, including hotel employees, Air Mauritius staff, airport staff and other frontline tourism workers.

The local community really banded together to respect the rules, follow guidelines and forward plans for the destination to reopen and we are very proud of how we have, and continue to, overcome this challenging period in our history. 

What’s new on the island?
The highly anticipated five-star LUX* Grand Baie Resort & Residences will open on November 1, unveiling a new generation of boutique-style resort in the north of Mauritius, known for its lively beachside cafes, bars and artisanal local crafts. The property will become the flagship for LUX* Resorts & Hotels and the brand’s first greenfield project in Mauritius. We’re also looking forward to welcoming the new four-star adults-only Sunrise Attitude to Belle Mare on the preserved east coast of the island in October 2021.

On the aviation front, Air Mauritius will resume direct flights from London Heathrow to Mauritius from October 2, and British Airways currently offers multiple direct flights each week from London Gatwick.

What are your plans for trade engagement?
Communication with the UK travel trade is key, and we have been engaging closely with the trade through our online strategy over the past year. We are currently confirming plans for our marketing activity to promote travel to Mauritius to UK trade and consumers as we work towards the full reopening of our tourism industry in October. Our trade activity will include joint promotions with key tour operators, educational webinars and incentive promotions on platforms such as Hablo. We invite the trade to sign up to the Mauritius global travel trade community via this link: join.myhablo.com/mauritius

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Seven reasons to visit Slovenia this autumn

Autumn breaks to Slovenia’s verdant heartlands are now even greener following its addition to the UK’s ‘green list’


From active tours amid its breathtaking mountains, valleys and lakes to gastronomic winelands getaways and cultural city breaks, Slovenia’s world-class tourism rewards the adventurous. 

Thanks to its relatively compact size and strong transport infrastructure, it’s also super simple to get around and make the most of your time, with the capital Ljubljana served by affordable direct services from British Airways and easyJet.

Following the country’s recent addition to the UK’s green list for travel, and with Covid rates remaining relatively low, now is the perfect time for Brits to be booking post-lockdown breaks. Still need convincing? Here are seven more reasons to tempt you. 

Explore a green and pleasant land
The move to green status on the UK’s travel list is particularly apt for Slovenia whose strong focus on sustainability, coupled with its biodiverse natural landscapes, has not gone unnoticed. Not only has the country been hailed as the first Global Green Destination by the Green Destinations Standard organisation, the World Travel and Tourism Council has assigned it their coveted Green & Safe standard.

It’s an adventure lover’s paradise
From exploring the 10,000km of well-maintained trails to canyoning around Lake Bled, Slovenia’s great outdoors is the perfect setting for active adventures, its sheltered valleys and ski resorts such as Vogel delivering year-round appeal.

Hotspots include Soca Valley, where everything from white water rafting and kayaking to ziplining and paragliding can be had, and Triglav National Park. Don’t miss the towering Julian Alps, an area that’s increasingly accessible thanks to the new 280km Juliana MTB Bike Trail, with the circular Juliana Hiking Trail opening late September.

Pedalling gastronomes, meanwhile, will relish the new Bike Slovenia Green Gourmet Route from Ljubljana to Maribor. 

It’s a gastronomic powerhouse
Speaking of food, it’s not for nothing that Slovenia was named European Region of Gastronomy for 2021.

Slovenian cuisine is a heartfelt fusion of flavours, from Italian and Balkan to Austro-Hungarian, the local culinary talent leveraging the bountiful fresh produce in classic local dishes such as bograč soup, stuffed idrijski žlikrofi dumplings and Kranjska klobasa sausages.

The list of Michelin stars currently stands at six, with Vipava Valley among the culinary epicentres, home to luminary chefs such as Uroš Fakuč, at Dam, and Tomaž Kavčič, at Gostilna pri Lojzetu, with a charming ‘wine road’ linking the valley’s 38 wineries.

It has plenty of historical charm
Mediaeval and Roman architecture effortlessly rubs shoulders with styles such as Art Nouveau and Baroque in Slovenia’s picturesque towns. As with the oft-photographed Lake Bled, and its idyllic island castle, such scenes often come framed by raw, natural beauty, and exploring unassuming treasures such as Ptuj, Slovenia’s oldest town, is a treat.

Proudly overlooking the city, Ljubljana Castle is another must-see, while Vipava Valley scores big with attractions such as Goče, an historic stone wine village, and the Franciscan monastery Kostanjevica pri Novi Gorici. 

It’s a land of natural wonders
UNESCO recently awarded Slovenia its latest World Heritage status, in recognition of local architect Jože Plečnik’s efforts that transformed Ljubljana into the stately capital we see today. 

The global authority also lauds Slovenia’s natural wonders such as Škocjan Caves; the ancient mines of Idrija; and Postojna Cave Park, where the underground labyrinths, explorable by train, vie for attention with the spellbinding Predjama Castle, built out from the mountainside. 

Taking the stunning Vršič Pass in Triglav National Park, meanwhile, elevates any Slovenian road trip from epic to legendary status.

And unique experiences
Cultural occasions such as Maribor’s Lent Festival make memorable trips. More entertaining still are the ancient rituals heralding springtime, when Ptuj locals get their mardi gras face on during Kurentovanje, and western villages erupt in wild celebrations of Pust.

More sedate visitor experiences include becoming a Vipava Valley wine grower for the day, learning about local grape varieties such as zelen and klarnica, and don’t forget to look underground.  If exploring the Postojna Caves or kayaking through Mount Peca’s flooded, abandoned mines isn’t your thing, the Velenje Underground dining experience takes place 160m below ground, in an old coal mine shaft. 

Or you could always try sleeping in a former prison cell at Ljubljana’s Celica Hostel.

It’s home to beautiful places to stay
Ljublana’s more intimate boltholes, ripe for city breaks, range from the old town boutique-y Lesar Hotel Angel and cosy Grand Union Hotel, with its art nouveau stylings, to the modern design leanings of Hotel Nox.  

In the countryside, a sustainable surge in glamping sites such as Herbal Glamping Resort, in Ljubno, is broadening visitors’ horizons. Luxurious boltholes such as Vila Planinka, in Zgornje Jezersko, and Bohinj Hotel, in Triglav National Park, also make the most of their pristine surroundings. And families will love Garden Village Bled’s atmospheric treehouses. 

Spa stays are a particular speciality. With treatments informed by the therapeutic thermal waters and enervating local ingredients, from wine, beer and salt to glacier water and mineral-rich peat, you’ll return rejuvenated, if not reborn.

Click here to find out more

News

Theme announced for Travel Convention

The one-day event will be held in London’s Canary Wharf and will also be streamed online


ABTA has released details of its ‘leading the way’ theme for the upcoming Travel Convention on October 13

The event is set to take place both in-person and as a virtual event for the first time this year. 

Chris Ship, royal editor at ITV News, will be returning to moderate for the sixth year. Industry leaders and external experts will share thought-provoking material to help attendees envisage the future and be inspired during challenging times. 

Organisers of the ABTA event have said: “Since our last in-person Travel Convention in Tokyo, business has been anything but normal.  

“As the industry’s leaders, we need to think about the world in which we now find ourselves, as well as the industry we want to build as we emerge from the pandemic and from the many challenges it has created for the travel sector.  

“Extraordinary times have called for a different kind of leadership and at this year’s Travel Convention, we will hear from those who have been at the frontline of this crisis, share valuable insights, recognise our achievements in the face of adversity, and be inspired by those with the vision to lead the way forward.  

“We will cover topics from new innovations and environmental developments, to changing consumer behaviours and the future world of work – with each session designed to help leaders and their teams to envisage the future and to move on from this time of unprecedented turbulence.”

The one-day event will be held at the East Wintergarden in London’s Canary Wharf while also being streamed online – recognising that the travel and tourism sector is still dealing with the impact of Covid for this year’s convention. Last year’s convention was an entirely virtual event and ABTA will be using the same format for this year. 

The event will include a full day of business sessions with a post-event reception in the evening. 

The online package, meanwhile, will include live access to all the main stage sessions as well as a digital library of extra content and online networking. 

The ABTA Travel Convention 2022 will be taking place in Marrakech, Morocco next spring.

New ABTA guidance on merchant acquirers and card issues

ABTA has produced new guidance to help members understand the role of merchant acquirers and their approach to risk in our industry and assist members with liaising with merchant acquirers on topics including chargebacks and requests for additional security.

The new webpage is available in the Member Zone in the Running your business area. See more here.

Paid partnership

Five reasons The Seychelles Islands is a must-visit destination in 2022

Aspirational travel is back on the cards for UK travellers and there’s no better place to aspire to than the Seychelles


Long a magnet for weddings, honeymoons and romantic breaks, the Indian Ocean hotspot ticks the winter sun and active family holiday boxes too, with excellent island hopping to be had amid its 115 islands, especially among the ‘Inner Islands’ such as Praslin, Mahé and La Digue.

Plus, having begun its vaccination programme back in January 2021, the Seychelles offers a safe haven from the ongoing Covid pandemic, with digital nomads attracted by the Workcation Retreat Programme.

Here are five very good reasons to head to the tropical paradise in 2022.

Loll on idyllic beaches
Let’s face it, the dreamy beaches provide the initial attraction for many. Images of forest-flanked, bone-white sands accented by smooth granite boulders and caressed by gentle turquoise waters are etched into travellers’ minds, gracing many a luxury travel brochure or magazine.

Stunning sandy stretches as Anse Georgette, on Praslin, or Petite Anse, on Mahé, offer picture-perfect romantic backdrops, while La Digue scores big with the delightfully secluded Anse Cocos and the boulder-backed dream that is Anse Source D’Argent.

Relax in the lap of luxury
Exclusivity and high-end service are Seychellois hallmarks, ensuring the islands top the wishlists of many a honeymooner or loved-up couple, with North Island having been the choice of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

Five-star offerings of international hotel brands such as Raffles, Hilton and Four Seasons rub shoulders with private island resorts such as Denis Island, Six Senses Felicite and Fregate Island Private.

Yet trips needn’t break the bank. Affordable options on the main islands include beach chalets/bungalows on Praslin’s Cote D’or beach, perfect for those on a budget, while the Seychelles Secrets programme governs the sustainable self-catering proposition.

Enjoy active options aplenty
The calm Indian Ocean waters deliver excellent kayaking, snorkelling and sailing, with new entrant L’Escale Resort, on Mahé, even featuring a superyacht marina. Surfers will appreciate the wilder waters off Anse Intendance, in southern Mahé, while the excellent visibility and biodiverse marine life beneath the waves makes for world-class diving.

Top picks for active couples and families include Club Med Seychelles, on Saint Anne, and Hilton Seychelles Labriz Resort & Spa. Set on its own island, Silhouette, the latter offers everything from a dive centre and kayaking to tennis courts and an excellent Kids Club.

Silhouette’s Grand Barbe Trail is also one of the best bets for hikers, another being Salazie Nature Trail, on Mahé.

Discover natural wonders
Some of the Seychelles’ most iconic features stem from its rich flora and fauna. One is the towering coco de mer palms that flavour forest hikes in Praslin’s Vallée de Mai Nature Reserve. Another is the giant tortoises which thrive in the outlying Aldabra Archipelago – and enthral visitors at the Botanical Gardens in the capital, Victoria.

Birdlife is another strength, their conservation having long been a local preoccupation. Indeed, sustainable practices underpin the business models of local operators such as Cosmoledo Eco Camp on Wizard Island, the solar-powered Alphonse Island, and the conservation-minded Denis Island, while the nation itself sits within an extensive marine biosphere reserve.

Click here to find out more

 

Video: Welcome to The Seychelles

Read More

The Seychelles are islands like nowhere else – buzzing with culture and combining traditions to form something new

ABTA

Ask the experts

Have a burning question you can’t find the answer to? Be it travel trends, a regulatory riddle or destination dilemmas, send us your query for an expert response


The pandemic has been incredibly tough financially, but I am also very aware of the emotional impact it has had on myself and also my staff. What signs should I be looking out for if someone is struggling emotionally and what can I then do to help them? Anon

It’s firstly important to recognise that we all need to look after our mental health as much as we do our physical health. The pandemic has really taken a toll on people for many reasons: isolation, caring for relatives, trying to work and home school, domestic abuse, relationship breakdown and bereavement.

If you see signs such as being late to work, missing deadlines, lack of care over appearance and losing confidence, they may well be struggling. One of the most important things is to start a conversation and, more importantly, listen.  Ask someone if they are OK, and then ask again.

Listening and understanding the situation is so important as you can then best assess what support you can put in place to help them through this period. It might be more flexibility around work and childcare, encouraging a walk at lunchtime, or simply making them aware that you are there for them.

You could also consider training someone in your team as a mental health first aider, so your staff know they have a designated support, someone they can go to who they trust and can talk openly to.

Many issues can trigger poor mental health. Financial security is currently a huge issue for staff on reduced hours or on furlough. If they need help with debt or general financial advice you can point them in the direction of Citizens Advice, National Debt Advice Line, StepChange or ABTA LifeLine.

If you feel they need more expert support, charities such as Mind and the Mental Health Foundation have lots of information. The NHS also has a list of organisations that can help with specific mental health issues, such as eating disorders and depression support groups.

If someone is clearly in crisis encourage them to speak to their GP or local mental health care provider or to talk to the Samaritans.

Don’t forget, ABTA LifeLine is an important part of ABTA membership, providing practical, financial and emotional support to travel colleagues in a time of need. LifeLine can help your staff with financial advice through their partner Citizens Advice Manchester (it will not affect credit ratings and is non-judgemental) and can offer 24/7 telephone counselling support through their partner The Centre for Crisis Psychology. LifeLine can also help with crisis grants, essential appliances and living costs, among other things.

Trudie Clements, director ABTA LifeLine

ABTA

Meet the Council of Regions

Each issue, we’ll be introducing you to the Council of Regions. This time, it’s Richard Slater, owner of Henbury Travel


I’m managing director of Henbury travel in Macclesfield and also northwest chair. I’ve been a travel agent for 36 years and have had my own business since 2011. I do a lot of work representing ABTA on a day-to-day basis – that can be within the press and media, or assisting travel agents with queries, so it’s quite an interesting role. 

I’ve picked it up at a really interesting time. I was voted in in October 2019 – well before we ever knew about Covid. Since then, I’ve probably done about 60 hours of radio interviews on behalf of ABTA and Henbury Travel throughout the pandemic, and about 25 TV appearances. But it’s been very enjoyable – I actually prefer doing live television than recorded because you’re focused on it. 

Business at the moment is quite busy, with new bookings mainly for 2022, while doing the odd booking for 2021. We’re also still doing lots of amendments and rebookings, plus a few cancellations, but that’s come down a little bit. Generally, I think we’re on the right side of things. It’s certainly moving in the right direction.

The main issue at the moment is passport validity – we get lots of queries about that. We are also having queries about the tests for travel, but I think we’re building confidence in holidaymakers. We did have a lot of customers who said they weren’t going to travel in 2021, but we’ve been generating some posts on social media, asking clients to send us photos when they’re on holiday, writing a little postcard of sorts about their experience travelling. People are looking at those and booking from that, and so these people that didn’t previously want to book are now getting the confidence. And, of course, we’re here all the way through for their tests or paperwork and ensuring that they’ve got the right documentation.

A lot of stuff has been put on one side, as far as the region is concerned at the moment. We’re focusing very much on ensuring that members in the region are getting the grants that they deserve from the councils and ensuring councils are paying out. I think the biggest issue has been for members in the northwest actually getting the grants, but also the agents have had very little time to do this because they’re busy sorting out rebookings, cancellations and amendments.

At the moment, we’re certainly seeing that, customer-wise, there’s a slight peak on over 50s booking. People are still hesitant, but are waiting to see what things are like month-by-month. For 2022, we’re seeing a lot more bucket list bookings to the Maldives, Barbados and Mauritius. People are also going for very high quality hotels. But, generally, we’re certainly seeing a far greater number of bookings for 2022 than we would usually see for the next year – in August, we’d done roughly double the usual bookings. 

There are also one or two booking inquiries for 2023, but people are also doing cheap and cheerful stuff. That’s also positive. We’re not all about big expensive bookings. It’s still generating income and of course you don’t know what the next booking is going to be from them – it could be a £50,000 holiday. You’ve got to give the same quality of service to everybody.

We’re seeing one in three bookings from new customers. We’re also seeing people who’ve previously booked online who now want guidance. People are realising that, actually, the cost is no greater, but the service is far greater. That’s really good for us. Some of the regulars are slow, but they will come back. They’re just a bit nervous, but confidence is growing.

ABTA’s virtual conferences, training and webinars

ABTA offers a high quality and diverse events programme designed to offer practical guidance for travel businesses of all sizes to stay up-to-date on the most important issues.

In the current climate, we are pleased to offer a range of events and formats. From free webinars for ABTA members and partners, to practical training days online, and hybrid conferences which give you the flexibility to attend virtually or in person.

Visit abta.com/abtaevents to find out more and register.


 

Virtual training days

ABTA’s virtual training days offer practical guidance in key areas for travel businesses of all sizes on a range of topics. ABTA members and partners benefit from discounted rates.

Digital Marketing Training for Travel

September 28
10:00-15:45

This new training day will provide the latest guidance on digital marketing strategies including SEO, paid advertising, social media, email marketing and online content strategies for travel businesses of all sizes. Hear from marketing experts and other travel businesses about how to maximise your spend and increase the effectiveness of your campaigns. Get practical guidance on paid search and PPC campaigns, video, website optimisation and tracking and measuring your online impact. Find out more

 

Travel VAT Training

October 19
10:00-15:00

This virtual training day offers practical guidance on VAT in travel and a comprehensive update on travel VAT post-Brexit, including changes to TOMS. Understand the potential VAT registration requirements in the member states, learn about the EU VAT reform, the One-Stop-Shop EU VAT return and EU commerce package OSS. Benefit from interactive sessions and put your questions to tax experts. Find out more

Introduction to Health and Safety Risk Management and Auditing for Travel

October 21
10:00-16:00

This virtual training day will give practical guidance on supplier health and safety risk assessments and auditing. Understand how to carry out risk assessments of the products and services you offer and how to effectively manage the auditing process across accommodation, transportation and excursions. Find out more

Consumer Law in the Marketing and Selling of Holidays

December 8
10:00-15:30

ABTA’s updated virtual training provides practical guidance for travel businesses on the latest consumer protection legislation surrounding the marketing and selling of holidays. Understand the existing regulations – what the law says, how it applies to the travel industry and examples of compliant selling and marketing practices, as well as advice for a post-pandemic industry. Find out more


 

NEW Hybrid Conferences

Save the date for ABTA’s practical one-day hybrid conferences, giving you the choice to attend with industry peers in-person, or virtually, where the live content will be streamed through a custom platform. Both audiences will watch the content live and be able to ask questions to expert speakers.

Travel Trends

November 24
10:00-17:00

ABTA’s new Travel Trends conference will provide insight on the latest industry and product trends, popular destinations, customer sentiment and marketing strategies to support the continued resurgence of your travel business. Get specific insight on luxury, cruise, youth and over 50s travel, explore changes in consumer behaviour and learn how to adapt your marketing strategies to build trust among consumers.

Registration will be open shortly, keep an eye out for updates on abta.com/abtaevents

The Travel Regulations Conference

November 30
10:00-16:00

ABTA’s practical one-day conference will consider the impact that industry regulations have on your businesses model. With the ATOL reform consultation underway, explore what the future of financial protection could hold for travel business and how to prepare for possible changes. Consider the impacts of FCDO and other advice on the PTRs, and get practical advice on chargebacks, supplier risk management, refunds and cancellations, and customer information obligations. Hear the latest case law update and the impact on tour operator liabilities.

Registration will be open shortly, keep an eye out for updates on abta.com/abtaevents


 

Free webinars

ABTA’s webinars are delivered in collaboration with trusted ABTA Partners and offer business support, advice and guidance to help travel businesses through the coronavirus crisis. They are free for ABTA members and partners.

ABTA’s new webinars will be announced shortly. You can access recordings of our previous webinars here.


 

Feature

10 tranquil spots in Croatia

Brela, Croatia

Croatia is known for its beautiful scenery, but some of the main destinations can get busy. Tamsin Wressell looks at some that are a bit more off the beaten track


Pelješac

This scenic peninsula in southern Dalmatia has tranquil towns, beaches and lush mountains, plus sweeping valleys, tree-fringed bays and idyllic coves – its terrain is greatly varied. The area is now becoming more known for its food scene, with oyster beds nearby and vineyards dotted in the hills.

Ston

If you’re staying in Dubrovnik and feel like a respite from some of the crowds, Ston is a great option that’s easy to reach. The stray cat population in this coastal village is high, but it’s mostly famed for its preserved stone walls and oyster restaurants. It’s a little difficult to reach by public transport, but is an hour’s drive from the city.

Rastoke

The Slunjčica River runs through this village, located in the town of Slunj. With its cascading waterfalls and fewer crowds than some of the country’s more popular destinations, this is a great spot for some tranquility. It is reachable in two hours from Zagreb and is a good stopping point on the way to the Plitvice Lakes National Park.

Lastovo

Almost entirely devoid of tourists, the island of Lastovo is a nature park, where the only activity is agriculture. It takes almost three hours to get there by ferry from Dubrovnik or Split, and there’s just one hotel. As such, it remains mostly verdant and unspoilt, holding up a more traditional way of life. This is a great destination for moving at a slower pace, taking long walks, swimming and scuba diving.

Kopački Rit

Close to Croatia’s border with Serbia, Kopački Rit is a nature park and one of Europe’s largest wetlands. The Danube and Drava rivers meet here, creating a vast floodplain that’s home to nearly 300 species of birds. There’s a huge array of lakes, backwaters and ponds that weave between grasslands and oak forests, creating an incredible scene of tranquility.

Lovran

In eastern Istria, near the Slovenian border, Lovran is a village that’s held onto its historic origins while maintaining fewer crowds. One of the best things to do is stroll through the narrow alleyways of the Old Town, by the 14th century Church of St George. The coastal promenade, Lungomare, stretches for 12km from Lovran to Preluka, with beaches nearby on pebbly stretches.

Učka

Lovran is the gateway to Učka nature park – a great spot for hiking amid pine-covered hills. The park is spread out across 160 square kilometres and, because of its location, includes an interesting blend of continental and mediterranean flora – different from other coastal mountain ranges in Croatia. The hilly plateaus provide panoramic views with mostly quiet hiking trails.

Brela

Wedged in between Split and the seaside resort of Makarska, Brela is a great alternative for the same beautiful beaches and crystal clear waters, just with fewer crowds than its famed neighbours. The hotels are more affordable and its beaches are award-winning. The municipality includes rocky outcrops, natural springs and Biokovo Mountain, which is home to an abundance of wildlife including wolves and eagles.

Nin

In the Zadar region, this compact town was where Croatia’s king resided in medieval times. Now, it has a residual fairytale element and while it remains lesser-known, is slowly becoming more popular for its romantic scenery. Its old town juts out on a tiny outlet with saltpans and beaches surrounding the little town. Swimming and kitesurfing are recommended activities here.

Fažana

While Fažana is actually a pretty popular spot on the tourist route, it tends to be seen more as a departure point for boat trips to the Brijuni National Park and is often overlooked as a destination in its own right. This fishing port has a more relaxed approach and a calm atmosphere, with wonderfully fresh seafood, pebbly beaches and a medieval centre.

A beach for each day of the year

Antigua’s abundance of beaches, coupled with year-round sun, rolling hills, lush rainforests and fresh seafood, make it the perfect place to slow down the pace. By Tamsin Wressell


There are a total of 365 beaches on Antigua – one for each day of the year. Dickenson Bay, in the northwest, is one of the most popular beaches for families and children, with its powdery sand and calm waters. Ffryes Beach in the west has barbecue facilities and a beach bar and restaurant, but being cut off from the mainland by a lagoon, tends to draw in fewer crowds. Rendezvous Beach, meanwhile, on the south side is the most isolated of the beaches, accessible by boat or foot along a track. 

Given its number of beaches and with the island encircled by coral reefs, snorkelling and diving are great activities to try out here. The waters are typically calm with no current in the shallow waters, making it ideal for beginners. Cades Reef, off the south coast, is one of the most popular places to dive. 

On land, a nature trail from English Harbour takes you up through forest to Shirley Heights Lookout, giving panoramic views over the harbour below. On Thursday and Sunday evenings, rum punch is served alongside live steel and reggae music. 

In late April, the annual Antigua Sailing Week takes place, bringing a carnival-like atmosphere to the capital, St John’s – visit during this time for live music and views of the world-famous regatta. St John’s is a pretty and vibrant capital, with brightly hued houses – head here for the Heritage Market, shops, bars and restaurants. 

Where to eat
Traditional cuisine in Antigua tends to be centred around Creole dishes – conch fritters, roti, ducana and jerk chicken are some of the most popular foods. There’s also places to eat offering international cuisine that tend to have European influences. St John’s has a bunch of harbourside restaurants, plus the Heritage Market, selling fresh produce such as sweet black pineapples, custard apples, mangoes and avocados. Try Commissioner Grill on Redcliffe Street for Antiguan dishes, The Admiral’s Inn at Nelson’s Dockyard for harbour views or Papa Zouk for the island’s biggest selection of rums. 

On the coastal road from St John’s to English Harbour, there are raw bars along the beaches that serve up freshly-caught seafood including spiny lobster and oysters. Beachlimerz by Fort James has a mix of seafood dishes, served up to a soundtrack of steel drum, and is a popular choice. Elsewhere, between the rainforest, farmland and groves of bananas, coconut and mango, there are small villages that tend to have their own fruit stands. 

The Shirley Heights Lookout is a great option for combining views of the island with a local breakfast of mackerel, okra and johnny cakes, while Sheer Rocks at Cocobay Resort on Ffryes Beach has a beautiful cliffside setting overlooking the sea. 

Where to stay
Much like other destinations, accommodation in Antigua varies – there are family-friendly resorts, all-inclusive hotels, smaller, boutique places and cottages. The beachfront hotels tend to be the most popular choice, with options ranging from lively, large resorts with a schedule of activities, to smaller intimate lodges. However, the shorelines aren’t entirely stacked with places to stay, giving some breathing room in between. Verandah Resort & Spa in Long Bay is an all-inclusive option sprawled along the coastline, with a focus on sustainability. The wooden villas have sea views and there’s a mix of watersports available. Cocobay Resort at Johnsons Point is an adults-only option, with infinity pools overlooking the sea. Dian Bay Resort & Spa, meanwhile, is one of the few upmarket options owned and run by local people. 

Beyond the beach locations, you can find a scattering of eco lodges and resorts in the surrounding lush hills and rainforests that provide an entirely different experience and landscape. The accommodation inland tends to be cheaper and more stripped back. The Inn at English Harbour has its own sand beach, but is also set amid 10 acres of woodland. The self-catered Tropical Garden Cottage is one of the most inland accommodation options, set in All Saints.