22 February 2018

The Sunchasers' Guide: Where's hot this holiday season?

At last, there's some light at the end of winter's tunnel. Holiday season is in sight – especially for canny travellers thinking about saving money and booking a sunny spring or summer break before the crowds.

New flights and attractions are bringing some thrilling under-the-radar holiday spots this year. And if you can think outside the school-holiday box, you're even more likely to snag a holiday bargain.

From Corsica to Georgia and Italy's last undiscovered islands, here are some getaway destinations to grab while they're hot.

Island hop: Corsica

It's a mystery why this wild and beautiful French isle hasn't had more Brits raving about it. We call it 'French' but many islanders proclaim they're Corsican, fiercely protective of their land of herb-scented hills, deliciously distinctive cuisine and gorgeous, tucked-away beaches.

You could fly to gleaming golden stretches of sand at Calvi or, even better, Plage de Mare e Sole – and new, three-times-a-week Air Corsica flights from Stansted launching this May will make it easier to do just that. But the island's untamed interior – the maquis scrubland where bandits once roamed – is just as alluring to holidaymakers, offering soul-cleansing walks and flavoursome country cooking. Try Bastia or Calvi for coastal accommodation bargains.

  • Approximate flight time from UK*: 2.5hrs to Bastia
  • Max temperature in June: 25C
  • Cost of 3-star hotel room in June (approx)**: £70 a night
Corsica photo of the bay

Cultural hotspot: Tbilisi

Plucky Georgia (the Eurasian one, not American) shows off what it's got in its arty and jivey capital, Tbilisi. Long reserved for more intrepid travellers who'd tolerate a red-eye flight via Istanbul or Kiev, this seductive city became a lot more accessible last year, with direct Georgian Airlines flights from Gatwick.

For good reasons, too: this is a cultured but still slightly exotic place where locals love to chat in retro-themed 'art cafes' drinking buckthorn juice cocktails and dreaming up the next fashion revolution. Stylish Tbilisi has two fashion weeks, and young designers show off their skills in boutiques such as those in the post-industrial Fabrika complex.

For now, Tbilisi is still gratifyingly cheap: expect to pay about £3 for a taxi fare, and you'd struggle to pay more than £10 a head for a meal.

  • Approximate flight time from UK*: 5hrs
  • Max temperature in June: 25C
  • Cost of 3-star hotel room in June (approx)**: £40 a night
  • Tbilisi town photo

    Nature lovers: Aeolian Islands

    If your mobile suddenly stopped working on the Aeolian Islands, it might just be because it didn't fit in. These seven pebbles of land kicked from the toe of Italy's boot into the Tyrrhenian Sea are all about reconnecting with nature as your stress slips away.

    Dramatic landscapes here cry out to be explored: black-sand beaches and volcanic slopes mark some of Europe's best walks. Diving is top-notch, too – over a Roman port and shipwrecks patrolled by giant grouper fish.

    These last outposts of remote Italy are perfect for a low-key, value holiday. But get your boots on: with Basilicata and Puglia gone, visitor numbers show this once off-the-beaten-track destination will soon be getting firmly established.

    • Approximate flight time from UK*: 3hrs to Catania, on Sicily (and then a bus to Milazzo port and a ferry ride to the islands)
    • Max temperature in June: 28C
    • Cost of 3-star hotel room in June (approx)**: £70
    Aeolian street photo

    Adventure seekers: Jordan

    An oasis of calm in the Middle East, Jordan offers both Indiana Jones-esque archaeological fantasies and Dead Sea-side resorts where you can be slathered with mineral-rich mud. A visit to Petra's extraordinary 2,000-year-old porticoed buildings carved into rose-red mountain rock deserves to be on every travellers' bucket list.

    But don't stop at Petra. There's Jerash, Jordan's best-preserved Roman site, with Hadrian's Arch and a vast forum with still-standing Ionic columns. Or there's the Wadi Rum desert, littered with mysterious prehistoric rock carvings.

    The Dead Sea really is the ideal spot to relax after all that adventurous slogging. You don't even have to swim: the salty water's so buoyant, you can only float.

    • Approximate flight time from UK*: 5hrs to Amman (then get a bus or drive for four hours to Petra)
    • Max temperature in June: 30C (go in April or May for max temperatures in the mid-20s)
    • Cost of 3-star hotel room in May (approx)**: £45
    Jordan ruins and town photo

    Romantic types: Solta

    You no longer need your own yacht to find a decent Croatian island paradise. UberBOAT, a service from the taxi app, now lets you hail a speedboat, James Bond-like, to zip from cities on the Croatian coast to the country's jewel-like islands.

    One such luscious spot that's thus opened up is the islet of Solta. (You can also just get a ferry there from Split.) With its aquamarine waters and pebble beaches, olive oil farms, open-air restaurants and snappable sunset-watching at Maslinica Bay, this secret retreat is begging to be booked for a romantic getaway.

    • Approximate flight time from UK*: 3.5hrs to Split
    • Max temperature in June: 25C
    • Cost 3-star hotel room in June (approx)**: £50
    Solta photo of the bay

    So, you've been savvy and booked early, and you can't wait for your break. But is there something missing? Travel insurance, like sunscreen, is essential but easy to forget. If you have Nationwide's FlexPlus Current Account Worldwide Family Travel Insurance comes included as part of the package.

    Other benefits include 3% AER (2.96% gross p.a.) variable in-credit interest on balances up to £2,500, commission-free cash withdrawals abroad, Worldwide Family Mobile Phone Insurance and UK & European Breakdown and Recovery Assistance - all for £13 a month.

    As with all insurance, there are some excesses, exclusions and limitations which may apply to the policies, so please read these carefully.

    Here's wishing you happy trails wherever you're off to this summer!

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    *All flights calculated from London
    **Source: Hotel room cost calculated as an average of Expedia search results in February 2018

    Nationwide acts as an intermediary for the insurance products provided with the Nationwide FlexPlus Current Account.

    FlexPlus Worldwide Family Travel Insurance policies are underwritten by U K Insurance Limited. Registered office: The Wharf, Neville Street, Leeds LS1 4AZ. Registered in England & Wales No. 1179980. U K Insurance Limited is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority, registration No. 202810.

    FlexPlus Worldwide Family Mobile Phone Insurance has been arranged for Nationwide Building Society by Lifestyle Services Group Limited with a single provider Assurant General Insurance Limited. Assurant General Insurance Limited is registered in England, No. 2341082. Authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority, No. 202735. Lifestyle Services Group Limited is registered in England, No. 5114385. Authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority in respect of insurance mediation activity only, No. 315245.

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