Freedom! Finally we can travel abroad freely(ish) again. Here we round up 12 fabulous summer getaways, including luxe A-list-worthy seaside resorts that kids will love too, Michelin star-spangled foodie retreats, and the ultimate boot camp to shed those lockdown pounds...
Where to go if you’re… FLYING SOLO
Best for… fitness fanatics
This upmarket fitness retreat, popular with celebrities, is set in 25 acres of stunning countryside, and we can’t think of anywhere we’d rather go to shed our lockdown pounds. Mornings involve a schedule of group outdoor exercise classes and hikes – our favourites were the Baywatch- and Gladiators-themed workouts – while afternoons can be spent at leisure, relaxing by the villa's pool or joining gong baths and yoga sessions. Three meals a day plus snacks are provided. The food is practically art: aubergine ragu, Thai coconut curries and millionaire's shortcake on an ever-rotating menu of delicious plant-based fare. All fitness levels are catered for. Just brace yourself for the 6.30am starts.
Stella loves: Going phone free. Lock away your mobile in Body Camp’s ‘phone prison’ for a full tech detox.
Out and about: The programme means there isn’t much time for solo exploring but at the end of a group coastal hike along Santanyi, we enjoyed cooling off with a well-earned dip in the turquoise waters of Cala s'Almunia, a beautiful sandy cove.
One week from £1,750 per person, full board, excluding flights and transfers, (programme runs Friday-Friday); thebodycamp.com
Costa Navarino, Greece
Best for… arts and culture lovers
Eco-credentials are at the heart of this resort, so everything – from the wine to the Kalamata olive oil at some of the 12 on-site restaurants – is grown on site. The bedrooms have emperor-size mattresses of soft memory foam and there’s a turn-down service whenever you go out, plus enormous windows to take in the spectacular sunsets. Our room came with a private infinity pool too, perfect for midnight dips under the stars. Though romantic, it’s also ideal for those travelling solo, as there’s a programme of events and experiences, including art and botanical tours, astronomy nights and a ‘diary of a monk’ experience where you tour a monastic complex and gain an insight into the everyday life of a 17th-century Greek Orthodox monk. During our stay, Madeline Miller, award-winning author of Circe and Song of Achilles, hosted a reading retreat. The 18-hole golf course is also a perfect place to recharge your batteries.
Stella loves: Book a private massage among the ancient olive trees, inspired by the ideas of Hippocrates, the ‘Father of Medicine’.
Out and about: Voidokilia Beach, a wave-free bay ideal for swimming, is three miles away (discovergreece.com). Head into the hills to find the Ancient City of Messene, a sprawling ancient Greek city filled with temples and theatres (ancientmessene.gr). You can also book a guided tour to see the ‘birthplace’ of Zeus and drink from the spring where the king of the gods gained his knowledge. Back at the hotel, the next retreat will be a Democracy and Spirituality Weekend (1-3 October), which includes book readings by several writers.
Rooms from £300 a night, b&b; costanavarino.com
Read the full expert review: The Romanos
Where to go for… FAMILY FUN
The Ritz-Carlton Abama
Guia de Isora, Tenerife
Best for… serious foodies
This sprawling beauty of a resort is set in lush tropical gardens (think palms, succulents, citrus groves and vibrant florals), right by a beach. The main pool is supersized with a fabulous waterfront vista but for a taste of uber luxury, book in as a Villa Club guest and stay in one of the boutique villa-style rooms. Decked out with earthy elegance, each room has access to a semi-private infinity pool, immaculately landscaped and dotted with wooden bridges. Poolside drinks, snacks and free digital newspapers and magazines are also included. The highlight, though, are the resort’s eight restaurants, two of which have Michelin stars. We loved the barbecue offering at the Beach Club while watching the waves. And be sure to try El Mirador, which serves elegant Canarian fare with sweeping cliff-top views.
Stella loves: The unforgettable tuna ‘entrecôte’ steak at tapas restaurant Txoko – melt-in-the-mouth deliciousness.
Out and about: There’s plenty to keep all ages occupied at the resort, from the kids club and teen zone to golf course and tennis courts. Try the wellness experience at the spa, which involves a heavenly circuit of massage jets, plunge pools and steam and sauna rooms (don’t miss the herbal steam). If you can tear yourself away, there’s plenty going on around the island, from surfing in Playa de las Americas to jet ski safaris from Puerto Colón (exojettenerife.com). Aqualand water park (aqualand.es) and Siam Mall (ccsiammall.com) are only 20 minutes away.
Rooms from £238 a night, b&b; ritzcarlton.com
Read the full expert review: The Ritz-Carlton Abama
Gros Islet, St Lucia
Best for… active families
This sprawling beachside hotel is more of a mini town than a resort, with villas and suites scattered all over a hillside around a curved, palm tree-studded sandy beach. It’s worth visiting for the jam-packed activities programme alone, chalked up each morning on a blackboard in reception: there’s morning Pilates in a glass air-conditioned studio (with a superlative instructor), volleyball, tennis lessons, bingo and a very good kids club. There is a beautiful spa too but the watersports offering is the highlight. Paddleboarding, kayaking and sailing are free for all-inclusive guests – the instructors are fun but helpful and we whiled away days paddling around the calm (jellyfish-free) bay – the best place to take in the enormity of the resort. Families should plump for the two-bedroom villas – ours had a good sized infinity pool. (Whitney Houston is said to have once stayed in the one next door.) It comes with a full kitchen too, not that you need it. There are plenty of restaurants, including a buzzy Italian diner which serves big bowls of pasta and has a warm, informal atmosphere.
Stella loves: The two hammocks slung in between posts in the sea. Wade out with a book and read for an afternoon under the clear blue skies.
Out and about: Plenty of excursions on offer from the hotel including dolphin watching trips, sunset cruises and zip wires in the rainforest (bookable through the hotel). Further afield, the natural mud baths at Sulphur Springs is worth stopping by – it’s said to detoxify the body and help heal sunburn and various ailments (sulphurspringstlucia.com). And you can’t leave St Lucia without seeing the Pitons, two volcanic plugs on the southwest of the island, the tallest of which is 2,530ft – they inspired the creation of the eponymous local beer. For more things to do on the island visit stlucia.org
Villas from £207 a night (based on a family of four sharing). All-inclusive family packages are also available from £809 a night (based on two adults and two children); windjammer-landing.com Return flights with BA from £428; ba.com
Read the full expert review: Windjammer Landing
Park Hotel and Spa Cala di Lepre
Best for... entertaining the kids
Set on a hillside of scented herbs and granite rocks, the coastal vistas here over the Costa Smeralda sea are downright spectacular. There’s plenty to entertain children, including Leprottoland kids' club, as well as pony trekking and horse riding lessons. The buffet dinner at L’Arcipelago restaurant evokes a Roman banquet - think platter after platter of ceviche-style fish, a rainbow of antipasti, wood-fired pizza, and every variation of vegetable imaginable. Local ingredients are used where possible. For those of an active persuasion, beach volleyball, floodlit tennis courts and archery are on offer.
Stella loves: The thalassotherapy circuit at the spa, with hot and cold seawater pools. Bliss!
Out and about: Hop over to the La Maddalena archipelago on the car ferry from Palau – its picturesque town centre is not to be missed and there are some utterly stunning Caribbean-like beaches. Crossing the road bridge from here to the neighbouring island of Caprera is also well worth the time for its untrampled slivers of sand, turquoise waters and tranquility. Excursions can also be booked through the hotel, including sea safaris, island tours and motorboat rides aboard the Delphina Express.
From £84 per person per night, half board; hotelcaladilepre.com
Where to go for… GLITZ, GLAMOUR AND NIGHTLIFE
Nobu Hotel Ibiza Bay
Talamanca Bay, Ibiza
Best for… poolside posing
This is the ultimate blow-the-budget Ibiza hotel, with some serious A-list vibes. Start at the pool, surrounded by white minimalist cabanas – everyone looks straight from a runway in their Melissa Odabash bikinis with ice buckets of champagne. The poolside menu is fabulous – we had the delicious bento box served straight to our sunbed. After a hard day of sunbathing, head back to your beautifully appointed room (all hand-crafted ceramics and woven lamps) and take dinner at the hotel’s eponymous Japanese restaurant before a night out. Book in for a blow dry at the hotel’s John Frieda salon and a mani-pedi at the resort’s nail bar before you go.
Stella loves: Those Instagrammable cabanas dotted around the swimming pool – off-the-scale levels of glamour.
Out and about: Book lunch at Aiyanna Ibiza, a breezy, bohemian outdoor restaurant with brightly coloured parasols and a gorgeous menu serving super-fresh seafood, plus some of the best fresh smoothies we’ve tried. It’s a 35-minute drive across the island but worth it (aiyannaibiza.com). Make a day of it – there’s a small pretty beach just in front of it… and a tiny nudist beach on its doorstep too. Nobu is also a short drive from some of Ibiza’s best nightlife – many of the club lineups had yet to be announced when this went to press (opening dates remained to be confirmed) but when they reopen, our picks for grown-up holidaymakers include Ushuaia, a huge open-air club with breathtaking light shows and top DJs including Calvin Harris, a 15-minute taxi-ride away (theushuaiaexperience.com/en/club) as well as Hii, a glamorous sprawling indoor superclub, which also has hosted some high-profile guest DJs including David Guetta and Idris Elba (hiiibiza.com).
Rooms from £644 a night; nobuhotelibizabay.com
Read the full expert review: Nobu Hotel Ibiza Bay
Monte Carlo, Monaco
Best for… private club vibes
This glamorous Art Deco seaside hotel, found on a long private beach, is near Monte-Carlo without being in the thick of it. Designed by French architect India Mahdavi, every room exudes elegance. There are two fantastic restaurants, including a Michelin-starred offering, Elsa, with striking mediterranean decor and an all-organic menu. A highlight is the hotel’s Olympic-size outdoor swimming pool. There’s also a small spa, Le Tigre, which offers seriously good massages – hands down, the best I’ve had.
Stella loves: The fresh locally sourced figs in our room on arrival
Out and about: Start by visiting the Royal Palace, which is 15 minutes by taxi from the hotel (palais.mc). Wander around the harbour to see the world's most luxurious yachts. Hotel Hermitage is utterly spectacular and worth visiting to see the lobby, courtesy of Gustave Eiffel, of Eiffel Tower fame, (it’s a short walk from the hotel). And if you like football, head to Louis II Stadium to watch AS Monaco. Be sure to swing by Casino de Monte Carlo – and there are plenty of places to splash your winnings around Place du Casino, including a Cartier boutique.
Rooms from £313 a night; montecarlosbm.com
Read the full expert review: Monte-Carlo Beach
Where to go for… ROMANCE
Lake Como, Italy
Best for… old-school romance
Alfred Hitchock fell so in love with this villa that he spent every summer there and rarely left its grounds. Frank Sinatra, Clark Gable and Elizabeth Taylor have all stayed here. Set in 26 acres, it has fountains, grand terraces and mock fortifications and a prime position over Lake Como. Despite its size (152 rooms) and its sumptuous grandeur – long antique-filled corridors, Murano-crystal chandeliers, and acres of marble – it feels like a home, and the service is unshowy. The more formal restaurant La Veranda (jacket and tie are required for men) serves exquisite, refined Italian and international cuisine in an elegant setting overlooking the lake. The relaxed Grill restaurant is where Amal and George Clooney (whose villa is a boat ride away) have been known to drop in. In the summer, the loungers surrounding the glamorous floating swimming pool, jutting out onto Lake Como, are the place to be seen.
Stella loves: The signature cocktail, Hollywood On The Lake: grapefruit juice, lime juice, tequila, campari.
Out and about: Hire a private boat and tour the lake and its villas that have attracted everyone from Byron and Shelley to Verdi and Versace. Take one of the hotel’s regular boat excursions to Bellagio and visit the 19th-century villa Villa Melzi and its spectacular gardens. You can take a public ferry to Como, to see one of the country’s most impressive cathedrals.
Rooms from £830 a night, b&b; villadeste.com
Read the full expert review: Villa D'Este
La Réserve Eden au Lac Zurich
Best for… jaw-dropping views
Located right by Lake Zurich, this romantic lakeside hotel has beautiful views of both the water and the Alps. For the ultimate hideaway a deux, book the Eden Suite, which has four balconies and a vast living room, from which to take in the landscapes. (In our room, the views were also visible from the bathtub.) Although housed in a historic building, the hotel has a contemporary design edge, courtesy of designer Philippe Starck, who has reinvented it. It’s a short stroll to the Bürkliplatz boat dock, from where you can take a lake cruise – which the concierge can organise for you. For dinner, try Eden Kitchen & Bar, a beautiful restaurant with an open kitchen and large bay windows opening on to the lake. Be sure to sample their tiramisu.
Stella loves: The live DJ sets at Eden Kitchen and Bar – it’s a hotspot for music lovers.
Out and about: Hire a tour guide to take you around the Old Town to get your bearings. Take a walk to Lindenhof, the highest point in the city and a tranquil spot that overlooks much of Zurich. Lindenhof Park and its nearby forests are home to deer. And it’s worth visiting the Zurich Opera House (operahouse.ch), as well as Fraumünster church, known for its stained- glass windows.
Rooms from £393 a night; lareserve-zurich.com
Read the full expert review: La Réserve Eden au Lac Zurich
Where to go for… SPECTACULAR SEA VIEWS
The Albatroz Hotel
Best for… pure glamour
Head straight to the terrace when you arrive at this chic beachside hotel, once a ducal palace, that dates back to 1873. Built right on the rocky coastline, it has unparalleled views of the bay, best taken in over drinks at dusk. A highlight is the beautiful swimming pool with views out to the ocean, surrounded by elegant, curved wooden loungers. Wine tastings can be arranged in the hotel’s wine cellar, and private sailing trips can be arranged on the hotel yacht – all very A-list.
Stella loves: The bay views at sunset – take them in from the bar.
Out and about: There’s plenty to do at the hotel including private cooking classes, which are highly recommended. But be sure to visit nearby Sintra, a town in the foothills of the Sintra Mountains, home to enchanting fairy-tale palaces (a 20-minute drive). The coastal town of Cascais itself is a joy to explore: narrow streets, tiled murals, boutique shops and restaurants and a bustling marina. Have lunch at Panorama Guincho in the sand dunes, famous for its whole baked fish in bread (villacollection.pt/panoramaguincho)
Rooms from £240 a night, b&b; albatrozcollection.com
Read the full expert review: The Albatroz Hotel
Best for… sea swimming
Situated on the picture-perfect Dalmatian Coast, a 20-minute walk from Dubrovnik Old Town, this 300-plus room hotel has everything you would want for a 'hop and flop' seaside holiday. Many of the rooms have stupendous sea views and balconies, there’s a knockout spa (the massage was one of the best I've ever had), and an enormous freshwater pool, as well as a kid’s pool. The service is fantastic but what we loved most of all was the direct access to the Adriatic Sea from ladders, jutting out from the rocks, for early morning swimming.
Stella loves: The original-recipe handmade oils used in the spa treatments. They come from The Old Pharmacy of the Franciscan Monastery in Dubrovnik – at around 700 years old, it’s believed to be one of the oldest pharmacies in Europe.
Out and about: Bowa restaurant, a short boat ride away from the hotel on a paradise island, is an unforgettable experience (bowa-dubrovnik.com). A tour of the Old Town also comes highly recommended; the city has much more to offer than just Game of Thrones memorabilia – it has been a Unesco World Heritage site since 1979 (visitdubrovnik.hr).
Rooms from £300 a night, b&b; rixos.com
Polis Chrysochous, Cyprus
Best for… stealth wealth
This utterly tranquil oceanfront resort, found on the westernmost tip of Cyprus near a pretty fishing village and with a secluded beach, is home to olive trees, fragrant botanicals and some rare orchids. One of the best hotels on the island, its luxurious spa is regularly voted as one of the top in the world – with a stunning indoor pool flanked by Grecian pillars and a varied and interesting treatments menu. (Try the thalasso bath infused with lavender to ease into the holiday mood.) Children – and well-behaved dogs – are welcome but it’s beautifully romantic too, especially candlelit dinners at the sunken, mood-lit terrace restaurant Basiliko. For bigger families there are villas with pools - our suite, overlooking the ocean, also had a stunning plunge pool with comfy loungers. Despite being full when we visited, the resort felt soothing and calm throughout. Celebrities and footballers have been known to stop by – though the staff (who offer impeccable service) are too discreet to namedrop.
Stella loves: A glass of rose in Meltemi, the hotel’s swim-up bar.
Out and about: The hotel can arrange Jeep excursions to monasteries, vineyards and turtle-breeding stations. Akamas Peninsula National Park is worth visiting – it’s home to spectacular wild-flower carpets, plunging gorges and pools that Aphrodite is said to have bathed in (a 10-minute drive from the hotel). Meanwhile the Archaeological Museum of Marion-Arsinoe, home to artefacts dating back to the Neolithic period and found locally, is a 10-minute drive away (visitcyprus.com).
Rooms from £400 a night, b&b; anassa.com
Read the full expert review: Anassa
Edited by: Laura Powell. Reviews by: Naomi Greenaway, Francesca Ryan, Laura Powell, Kuchar Swara, Rosa Silverman, Charlotte Lytton, Jack Rear, Amy Bryant, Sophie Warburton and Precious Adesina.