Since the government allowed international travel on the 7 May, we’ve been operating on a traffic light system, categorising each country as either red, amber or green depending on various factors such as case numbers and the threat of any emerging variants. The most significant data point, however, is the vaccine rollout and though progress is being made, many European countries have not yet fully vaccinated a large proportion of their population, leaving lots of popular holiday destinations on the amber lists.
Up until this point, the government has advised against all but essential travel to countries on the amber list, with a mandatory 10 day quarantine for any arrivals back in the UK. However, on July 8th, Grant Shapps announced that from 4am on July 19th Brits who are fully vaccinated will no-longer have to self-isolate on their return, opening up even more destinations for your summer holiday, though the PCR testing requirement remains in place. Due to the fluidity of the ongoing pandemic, the list will be reviewed every three weeks, meaning that some of the countries will move into the green list, or potentially, the red.
Here are some of our favourite destinations on the amber list, as it currently stands (19th July 2021)
There’s a reason that Spain is one of Britain’s favourite European holiday destinations. From sun-drenched beaches to charming to historic villages, there’s something for every traveller. Spain’s buzzing cities ensure those hoping to do some sightseeing are spoilt for choice, with Barcelona’s Gaudían architecture and Madrid’s exclusive shopping boulevards offering a wealth of culture. Holidaymakers can also indulge in the best of Spanish cuisine, from Michelin-starred restaurants to local and vibrant tapas bars, all complimented by a sangria or two. If a quieter, more rural setting is more your thing, you can soak up the breath-taking natural scenery that Spain has to offer, or visit one of the nation’s quaint villages located in the hills. Alternatively, venture to the beach for some much-needed relaxation and make the most of Spain’s 5,000 miles of coastline, myriad of beaches and soak up the sun (with around 300 days of sunshine a year, you’re bound to have the weather for it!). Best of all, the Balearics are on the amber list too, meaning that you can reap the benefits of a Mediterranean holiday without being on the mainland.
Here are some of our favourite properties in Spain
BLESS Hotel Ibiza
BLESS Hotel Ibiza (read our hotel review) brings together curated elements for a hedonistic white island experience. Think spectacular infinite pools; a breath-taking beach-club style roof-top bar; destination gourmet dining (including Etxeko Ibiza by 10 Michelin star chef Martín Berasategui); cool DJ sets, theatrical performers and live entertainment; a full-service spa; and indulgent guest rooms and suites that invite stylish selfies and envy-inducing instagrams. BLESS Hotel Ibiza is most certainly one of the best luxury hotels on the island!
Kempinski Hotel Bahia, Estepona
The Kempinski Hotel Bahia Estepona (read our hotel review) is considered to be one of the most stylish hotel resorts on Andalucía’s western Costa del Sol. Found west of Marbella’s Puerta Banús and close to Estepona, this 5-star resort is where Kempinski sophistication meets the casual elegance of the Mediterranean. Expect beautiful sea-view guest rooms, junior suites, as well as exclusive suites for VIPs. There’s a luxury spa; and striking pools set amongst the terraced gardens that reach down to the beach and sea. Kempinski Hotel Bahia Estepona has also become quite the foodie destination, with a wealth of dining options including the El Paseo del Mar leisure and dining which includes dining concepts well-suited to different times of time, moods, and occasions. These include the Black Rose the Bar, the hotel’s signature cocktail bar and lounge; Baltazar Bar & Grill, inspired by a Spanish bodega; and the super stylish Spiler Beach Club.
Jumeirah Port Soller Hotel And Spa
Built upon a high rock escarpment overlooking the fishing port village of Port Soller, with exceptional views out across the Mediterranean, Jumeirah Port Soller Hotel (read our hotel review) and Spa brings world-class levels of hospitality to Mallorca’s rural west coast. This is a captivating resort, with upscale dining; elegant and contemporary accommodation; as well as luxury wellness facilities including the Talise Spa – a destination for Balearic rejuvenation. This part of Mallorca is particularly picturesque, with a beautiful coastline; and the charming inland villages of Soller and Fornalutx close by. The Jumeirah Port Soller Hotel and Spa is made up of almost a dozen structures that climb the rock escarpment, and continue for about a kilometre. Each is linked by a scented garden walkway that leads guests up through the terraced hillside setting. There is a magnificent infinity pool with Mediterranean views, served by Infinite Pool Bar. On the upper level is Es Fanals by Javier Soriano, for signature Spanish cuisine. For relaxed terrace dining, Cap Roig Brasserie offers a locally-inspired menu. To end the day on a perfect note, The Sunset Lounge is where guests enjoy Asian specialities and superb cocktails, accompanied by life music and views of the Tramuntana Mountains and of course, the best sunsets on the island.
Portugal has long been popular with Brits searching for some sun and is one of the most family friendly destinations in Europe. Much like Spain, there’s a large variety of landscapes, with rugged coastlines and lush verdant hills. Reliably warm, you could travel to the coast for a week of sun and sea, or pop to Lisbon for a long weekend city break. As the second oldest city in Europe, it’s retained much of its historic authenticity and charm so travellers can expect to enjoy the best of Portuguese culture. Visitors can expect to sample a range of traditional Portuguese dishes, though bacalhau (salted cod) is a must. The whole country is family friendly, too, so for those who’d rather skip the sightseeing there are plenty resorts in the Algarve such as Albufeira or Praia da Luz. It’s also known for many high class golf courses, too.
Here are some of our favourite properties in Portugal
EPIC SANA Algarve
Secluded amongst landscaped gardens that lead onto the stunning Falesia beach one finds The EPIC SANA Algarve (read our hotel review). This 5-star resort offers an intimate guest experience, ensconced in nature, close to the sea and beaches, with elegant suites, upscale dining at the spectacular Al Quimia restaurant, and a wellness spa specialising in residential retreats. The resort has thoughtful design with families rooms and one bedroom apartments having access to dedicated all-day dining and pools, whilst couples looking for a more romantic and private experience can book sea-view suites with large terraces in quieter areas of the property. The EPIC SANA Algarve has 162 Rooms, 24 Garden Suites and 43 Resort Suites, as well as studios and family-friendly ‘Suite Home’ one bedroom apartments.
Memmo Príncipe Real Design Hotels
Named after the 19th century king D, this stylish hotel is located in one of Lisbon’s most prestigious neighbourhoods. The forty-one spacious rooms reflect the modern style of the rest of the hotel, while guests are treated to a large indoor swimming pool to splash around in. The view from the restaurant terrace is simply stunning and this is a great place to unwind in the early evening while sampling a number of traditional dishes that are given a new lease of life by the talented resident chef.
Pine Cliffs Resort Algarve
Pine Cliffs is Marriott International’s offering in Albufeira. It boasts an enviable location, overlooking the longest beach in Portugal, Praia da Falesia, and has a nine-hole golf course on site. There are 11 restaurants, and activities offered include a kids’ club, tennis, water sports, a fitness centre, a spa, swimming pools, and many more. The golf course may not be the longest, but there are some spectacular holes to enjoy. With all that this expansive and pretty resort has to offer it’s perfectly possible to enjoy a great holiday without venturing further afield.
Allegedly the place of Aphrodite’s birth, Cyprus is another gorgeous holiday destination in the Mediterranean with a rich culture and history, though it is equally suited for a beach holiday. For anyone wanting to do some sightseeing, the town of Paphos is a must. The entire town is a designated World Heritage Site, and is the home of an impressive archaeological site dating back to the 4th century BC, with the unique The Tombs of the Kings. If a more active holiday is on the cards, Cyprus is known for its fantastic diving, as it’s home to one of the world’s top 10 wreck diving sites – the wreck of Zenobia. Alternatively, visit one of the islands many beach resorts for a slower paced beach holiday and make the most of authentic Cypriot Haloumi, along with some other traditional Greek and Turkish dishes washed down with the dessert wine, Commandaria – the world’s oldest named wine.
Here are some of our favourite properties in Cyprus
Columbia Beach Resort
Located in the Bay of Pissouri, the Columbia Beach Resort is a home away from home. Relax in the lagoon style pool, while admiring the breath-taking views of the Mediterranean Sea. Revitalise your body and mind with award-winning spa treatments. And, wind down with gourmet cuisine that includes à la carte dishes and fine local dishes. The interior is filled with detailed designs, luxurious and majestic views, and breath-taking surroundings. This luxurious hotel offers several activities, including boat trips and swimming lessons. The Cub Life crèche and the Den Kids Club offer fun activities for the kids.
As the name suggests, Anassa Hotel is a true queen of the island of Cyprus. This 5-star luxurious hotel displays the charm of a traditional Cypriot village. The hotel is set tumbling down a secluded hillside with outstanding natural beauty, and the facilities are designed to blend in with the surrounding landscape. You can also see the crystal clear waters of the blue lagoon by taking a short boat ride. The hotel offers a self-contained experience as it houses facilities such as a neo-classical spa that offers tranquillity, Ultra-glamorous Kult Boutique, excellent restaurants, swimming pools, and much more. Anassa has an outstanding level of cuisine, which includes huge buffets, infused Asian and Mediterranean dishes, and barbecue. From friendly kids clubs to beach activities, the hotel offers something for everyone to keep in their memories.
Located on the coastline with unhindered views of the Mediterranean Sea, the Four Seasons Hotel has everything you need to relax, have fun, and rejuvenate your body and mind. The attention to detail at this 5-star hotel is next to none. The exquisite guest rooms, unique luxurious spa, a grand foyer and atrium with dazzling grey marble décor, water sports facilities, are just but a few of the facilities that set the scene for a destination that’s lavish in the extreme. From the Mediterranean inspired dishes to Chinese cuisine, dining at the Four Seasons Hotel is simply exquisite. This luxurious hotel is perfect for romantic gateways, family holidays, business trips, and anyone looking to just relax.
If a sun-soaked beach holiday isn’t your thing, Estonia might be the place for you. Known for it’s rustic forests and home to a plethora of wildlife, a holiday in Estonia is both a beautiful and relaxing nature-filled getaway. Around half the country is covered with forest, and has one of the highest wildlife densities in the Europe, meaning that lots of hikes, walking along nature trails and birdwatching is on the cards. As well as the mainland Estonia comprises an additional 2,222 islands, most of which are small and uninhabited giving you a real sense of freedom, calm and being at one with nature. The capital city, Tallinn, is a little more fast paced with rich cultural and historical offerings as well as a more traditional nightlife, too. It would be an oversight to spend time in Estonia without trying a traditional Estonian sauna, which boasts benefits such as stress relief and weight loss, or sample a mud bath in Haapsalu.
Here are some of our favourite properties in Estonia
Schlössle Hotel Tallinn
Set in one of the quieter areas of the Old Town, Schlössle Hotel Tallinn is a magnificent 13th-century merchant’s house. This luxurious establishment has seen its fair share of Royal visitors over the years including Queen Elizabeth II, who stayed here back in 2006. The tasteful and sumptuous interiors boast lush furnishings in shades of grey, beige and gold with a contemporary take on chandeliers and lavish bed linen. There are just 23 rooms for guests to choose from, with the most luxurious by far being the Presidential Suite. Guests are treated to a spacious sauna and spa to unwind in, while those who have a feeling for history will want to relax after dinner in the basement cigar lounge next to the huge open-fire hearth.
Boasting five-star romance, elegance and charm in the very heart of the Estonian capital’s Old Town, Hotel Telegraaf is famous for its large and very luxurious spa. The elegant building started life in the 19th century as a bank and features an unusual and inspiring design that guests will want to pause for a while to truly appreciate. There are 84 rooms in total that are set in two wings, with one wing representing the new and the other the historical. Both rooms feature all the luxurious touches that guests would expect from a hotel of this calibre, while the impressive swimming pool and spa are just waiting to welcome guests after a busy day of seeing all that Tallinn has to offer.
With its imperial cities brimming with history and culture, gorgeous beaches and stunning mountain ranges, Morocco has long been known as the perfect getaway spot. For those looking for a faster paced city break style holiday, Marrakesh is the place for you. One of the nation’s four ancient imperial cities, it is vibrant and thriving. With great shopping to be done in the souks, a superb choice of luxury hotels or riads (many of which are located within the Medina) and a plethora of museums to soak up Morocco’s rich history, it’s a real winner. Alternatively, travel to the Atlas Mountains for a slightly cooler climate and a more active break. 90 minutes from Marrakesh with hiking, cycling and more challenging trekking trails all in abundance. Or, visit a beach resort such as Essaouira. More relaxed than any of Morocco’s more bustling cities, there’s shopping, beautiful ocean views and lots of restaurants and bars to indulge in the best of Moroccan cuisine – not least the fresh fish.
Here are some of our favourite properties in Morocco
Hotel La Sultana
A luxurious romantic hideaway within a walled medina of Marrakech, La Sultana (read our review here) is moments away from the royals palaces, museums and souks of this magical city. This is a small, luxury hotel that knows how to spoil its guests, especially in the spa. From almonds to dates, prickly pears to Damask roses, the alchemist-like therapists make the most of Morocco’s natural treasures. There’s a Jacuzzi, two hammams and sauna here too – not to mention candlelit pools. Each of La Sultana’s evocatively named Riad houses retains their own identity, but share an attention to outstanding craftsmanship that is a celebration of Moroccan artisan creativity. Think intricately carved cedar wood ceilings and beams, ornamental plasterwork, striking tiles and extravagant lamps – but without the pastiche or cliché of themed interiors.
Whether it’s enjoying the exquisite Quiet Pool and nearby poolside under shady palm trees or enjoying the delights of the Moroccan spa where you can bathe and enjoy the best exfoliating treatments and exotic oils, the Four Seasons is the perfect place to base yourself while exploring Marrakech and beyond. Rooms come with garden and pool views and offer the ultimate in relaxation, replete with Moroccan decor, delightful handcrafts and marble bathrooms. Rooms also offer a recessed balcony presenting the perfect way to unwind with a good book during the heat of the day. Others have large terraces enabling you to enjoy the ultimate in al fresco dining.
La Sultana Oualidia Hotel
Overlooking a protected lagoon on Morocco’s Atlantic coast, a few hours’ drive west of Marrakech, one finds La Sultana’s Oualidia Hotel (read our review here). It’s a beautiful stone built property, a member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World, presented in the style of a large, exclusive villa, with terraces that run down to the tidal lagoon. There’s a spa with indoor pool, stunning outside infinity pool, intimate gourmet restaurant and 12 very special guest rooms and suites, including a treehouse. Expect exceptional service from a well-trained and elegant staff; and a relaxing atmosphere where peace and tranquillity washes over you in calming waves.
Due to its small size, the Netherlands really is the perfect destination for those wanting to do a bit of everything while they’re away. From vibrant cities brimming with history and nightlife, to a slower-paced eco-retreat, the Netherlands really does have something for everyone. Admire the best of Dutch art and history in Amsterdam’s many museums or enjoy the hidden gem of Groene Hart (Green Heart), a peaceful haven perfect for cycling, hiking or boating. A visit wouldn’t be complete without a cruise along the canals, hiring a bike to get around.
Here are some of our favourite properties in the Netherlands
Although the Hotel W franchise is an international chain, visitors can expect a top-of-the-line personalised experience during their stay. The W Amsterdam is actually comprised of two separate buildings; offering a bespoke taste of the traditional and the modern. There are no fewer than 238 rooms and this has allowed Hotel W to be one of the largest properties within Amsterdam. 23 of these are suites; offering up a superior sense of luxury and privacy. Management is primarily concerned with the personal experiences of their guests. You can therefore access amenities including (but not limited to) 24-hour room service, professional spa treatments, a high-end fitness room, a fully equipped business centre. and a pet-friendly atmosphere. The W Lounge and the exclusive X Bar are other possibilities which should never be taken for granted.
Located on the Herengracht, the Walfdorf Astoria (read our hotel review) is a premier location for luxury accommodation in Amsterdam. This 93 room hotel was once 6 canal townhouses that were home to Amsterdam’s super rich and have subsequently been converted into one hotel. Rooms range from standard up to lofts and penthouses with views over the Herengracht canal and the beautiful gardens at the back. The Waldorf Astoria is truly stunning and the painstaking attention to detail in the refurbishment has retained all the buildings historic features, while still keeping it contemporary and with all the latest features any luxury travel expects. Rooms are spacious and airy, and include gigantic bathrooms finished in marble with bath and television, separate shower and twin sinks. The hotel features a Guerlain spa with 3 treatment rooms, pool, steam room and sauna. The pool overlooks the gardens at the back and is an oasis of calm to relax in after a day exploring the city. The aptly named Vault bar was once the safe room in the building and it maintains a nod to the past with the safety deposit boxes still visible at the back of the bar. The hotel restaurant is run in collaboration with 3-star Michelin restaurant De Librije & the Goldfinch Brasserie.