Whether you’re a wildlife fanatic, like trying different foods, are fascinated by exotic cultures and history, or are in need of a relaxing break with your loved ones, we have just the answer. The best bit is each break is easy to travel to from the UK, whether you are in the south, north or middle of the county. Just don’t forget to send us a postcard…
1. For foodies: India and Nepal
The setting of: A Mighty Heart (India), Slumdog Millionaire (India), Mission Impossible 4: Ghost Protocol (India), Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (India), Seven Years in Tibet (Nepal), Everest (shot in Nepal and to be released in 2015).
What you’ll experience: Intense flavours, spices and smells wafting through the streets. Most Indian restaurants around the world serve up Punjabi dishes, but a trip to India and Nepal will blow the lid off what you think you know about Asian cuisine. If you like experimenting with food, the colourful markets, street food stalls and holes in the walls are great places to start. In north India, find dishes such as Roti, tandoori chicken and aloo mutter; in Bengal, try the mutton biryani, the machcher jhol fish curry and the daab chingri coconut prawn curry; and in south of India, laze around on beaches and fill up on dosas and sweet Keralan curry. Meanwhile, over in Nepal, the restaurants in Kathmandu serve hearty grub including yummy momo dumplings, noodle soup and regional curries.
Where to stay: The Dwarika’s Hotel, is a beautiful heritage spot that hosts A-listers like Demi Moore (when she’s in town). The building is made from 15th-century carved wood and intricate details on the doors, pillars and in the courtyard. Littered with Nepalese artefacts, and dressed with crisp white linens and four poster beds, this abode really is a treat. From around £300 per night (+977 1447 9488).
Outdoorsy travellers will love the Himalayan Shangri-La Village Resort. This little spot is located on the Kathmandu-Lhasa trade route, and surrounded by ample hiking opportunities. Inside, floor-to-ceiling windows offer jaw-dropping views of the scenery outside. Regular deals start from £150 for a two-night stay (+977 6146 2222).
2. For adventurers: Petra, Jordan
The setting of: Lawrence of Arabia, Bruno, Prometheus, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
What you’ll experience: The nation’s incredible ancient Bedouin labyrinth, made famous by an Indiana Jones movie, is a World Wonder for good reason. This unfathomably old site (established around 312 BCE) was the capital city of the ancient Nabataean people, who dug out caves to live in from the rose-coloured rock. Today, these intricate pods could be an outdoor capsule hotel – some have windows, decorative art carved into the walls, and stone beds. Although no one lives here anymore, Bedouin descendants still hang around the site selling postcards and jewellery and offering horse rides to tourists with a sense of adventure. Hundreds of years later, when the Romans discovered this area, they had to do one better. Walk through the main stone pathway, until you reach The Treasury, and be astounded. This 810-metre structure, complete with columns, just sits there, unoccupied, in the beating sun. Bedouins with camels, and men dressed in Roman-style armour stand outside the façade, so tourists can get their obligatory snap.
Where to stay: Adventurous backpackers should try the Abbasi Palace Hotel in Amman; while the entrance may seem a bit doggy (it’s in a grotty lane), this no frills hotel is cheap, friendly and does a free Middle Eastern breakfast (falafel, boiled egg, cheese and pitta bread). Right in the centre of the old town, it’s a good base from which to explore the neighbouring ruins. Private rooms from £13 a night (+962 6 4616960).
Those looking for luxury should try the Kempinski Hotel Amman. Rooms are to business standard, are comfortable, and the building has everything you need on holiday (from bars and restaurants to a giant pool). Private rooms from £100 a night (+962 6 520 0200).
3. For a relaxing break: Canadian Rockies
The setting of: Klondike, How the West was Won with Ray Mears, Brokeback Mountain, Rocky Mountain, Cliff-hanger
What you’ll experience: With mighty, rugged mountains piercing the sky, miles of roads darting into the horizon, pine carpets that cradle bodies of water and air so fresh you want to bottle it, it’s easy to unwind in the spectacular Rockies. During the summer, walkers and horseback groups set off in these hills and vast canyons. There are plenty of tracks that follow the Gold Rush routes, hot mountain springs and lakes to take a dip in.
Where to stay: The Banff Rocky Mountain Resort has a real alpine cabin feel about it. Not far from downtown, it sits in front of a giant mountain and is surrounded by Canada’s oldest national park. Rooms from £120 a night (+1403 762-5531).
4. For culture enthusiasts: Istanbul, Turkey
The setting of: Two Faces of January, Skyfall, The World is Not Enough, Midnight Express
What you’ll experience: Straddling both Europe and Asia, this magnificent city is the fifth most populated in the world. It’s previously been the capital of the Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire, the Latin Empire and the Ottoman Empire – all of which have left their stamp on the vista. The Basilica Cistern’s eerie underground structure is quite a sight as are the Hagia Sophia and the Topkapi Palace – the primary residence of the Ottoman Sultans for around 400 years of their 624-year reign. Art lovers should make a beeline for the Istanbul Museum of Modern Art, which offers sculpture, photography and film exhibitions all year round.
Where to stay: The elegant hotel Sumahan sits on the edge of the Bosphorous and offers calming views out onto the water. In the mid-19th century, this building produced ‘suma’, the spirit used to make local tipple raki. The hotel offers a shuttle ferry to downtown along the river. Rooms from £230 in the summer months (+90 216 422 8000).
5. For beach lovers: Sardinia, Italy
The setting of: The Spy Who Loved Me and Swept Away (Guy Ritchie)
What you’ll experience: The second largest island in the Mediterranean Sea is seductive. Clear skies, see-through waters and acres of sand await. In the villages, the houses are pastel-splashed, and local restaurants serve delicious seafood in abundance. There are historical treats to be found too; the old ruins and Unesco site of Barumini dates back to the Bronze Age, and includes fascinating circular defensive towers. Sardinia also has a big sailing scene – those wanting to stretch their sea legs should take a boat trip around the coastline to the Asinara National Park (known for its Albino Donkeys). Scuba divers and day-trippers can explore Neptune’s Grotto – a cave covered in stalactite near the town of Alghero.
Where to stay: The typically Mediterranean Grand Hotel in Porto Cervo is set right on the beach and has beautiful cabanas in which to laze around in under the sun and watch the boats go by. Rooms from £100 a night (+39 0789 91533).
6. For wildlife lovers: Sri Lanka
The setting of: Indian Jones and the Temple of Doom, Tarzan the Ape Man, A Common Man, Natural World and Planet Earth
What you’ll experience: Tea plantations, jungles, untamed beaches, colonial heritage and wildlife – everywhere. No matter where you find yourself on this teardrop-shaped island, you will see wild things, whether that be elephants stomping down the road, monkeys swinging from trees, turtles making their way along the beach or whales swimming off shore. This verdant land has 20 national parks and is big on eco-tourism. Dozens of guides take groups into the wilderness on safari, and the lucky ones get to spot leopards in their natural habitat. Tours from £12.50 with Rainforest Rescue International (+94 77 453 5746). Of an evening, try cooking your own Sri Lankan curry, with chicken, fresh ginger, spicy curry powder and coconut milk. After the lesson you can tuck into your creations at a hilltop restaurant overlooking the jungle. Lessons run daily in Angulugaha; £8 per person for a two-hour session (+94 11 494 3700, www.kahandakanda.com).
Where to stay: The Cinnamon Citadel, in Kandy, sits in the wild. This pretty riverside spot is surrounded by rainforest, and makes for a great base from which to visit the nearby sacred Temple of the Tooth. Rates from £95 per room per night (+94 81 223 4365).
7. For a luxury break: Bali, Indonesia
The setting of: Eat, Pray, Love, David Attenborough’s The Miracle of Bail
What you’ll experience: Although this island gets bad press, mainly due to the flocks of badly-behaved Aussie tourists, if you avoid the Kuta bar strips and head for the jungle, northern beaches and paddy fields, you’ll discover temple ceremonies, sensational massages and misty volcanoes. Delicious food, world class diving, an abundance of wildlife and super friendly locals are just a few things that will ensure you return time and time again.
Where to stay: Swanky L Hotel Seminyak is modern, slick and stylish. It could be in Tokyo rather than on this tropical island, yet the rooftop bar reminds you of the staggering beauty of the surrounds. The best part? Rooms can be cheaper than a Travellodge – they start from £75 per night, (+44 203 308 9005). Alternatively, for a real blowout, it has to be the Bulgari Resort in Uluwatu. Hovering 150 metres above sea level, it is a sight to behold. The resort is dressed with traditional island-style coconut thatched roofs, and luxury extras – such as the infinity pool darting off into the horizon and a lift that transports guests to the private beach below. There’s an arts and crafts store, selling sculptures, hand-woven fabrics and traditional Balinese jewelry. Each private villa comes with its own garden, pool, outdoor living space and view over the Indian Ocean. Rooms from £795 a night, (+ 62 361 8471000).
8. For a mini break: Paris, France
The setting of: Amelie, The Da Vinci Code, The Red Balloon, Moulin Rouge, Before Sunset and countless others
What you’ll experience: One of the best cities in the world sits on our doorstep. In less than an hour you can plonk yourself in the centre of art, culture, food, late night jazz clubs and fashion. Spend hours walking through Paris’ quaint streets, shopping at the upmarket Champs-Élysées or exploring the city’s expressive graffiti spots. Our favourite way to experience Paris? Find a cafe (there are usually several on each street), such as Le Petit Château d’Eau (34 rue du Château d’eau, 10th) near the Place de la République, and people watch for hours. Le Petit Château d’Eau is a typically Parisian café with original features including leather booths, flowery tiles, and espressos galore.
Where to stay: Set in the happening Latin Quarter, Hotel La Belle Juliette was created by home couture designer Anne Gelbard, who’s splashed the walls of the property with different shades of pink. It may sound like a Barbie-wonderland, but somehow she’s managed to achieve a funky and classic, if somewhat feminine, feel. Each room is unique; some come with designer chairs, tasteful dressers and stand-alone roll-top tubs. Rates from £220 per night.
9. For solo travellers: Beijing and Shanghai, China
The setting of: The Last Emperor (Beijing), Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon (Beijing), Empire of the Sun (Shanghai), Fist of Fury (Shanghai), Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (Shanghai), Looper (Shanghai), Skyfall (Shanghai)
What you’ll experience: This exotic far eastern land is the place to find yourself. Beijing and Shanghai are polar opposites when it comes to city breaks. Beijing is the cultural capital of China, and the place to tick off traditional architecture and staggering world-famous sites, including the Great Wall and the Forbidden City. Locals from all over China will be there to see their nation’s sites too, many may have never seen a westerner, some foreigners will be stared at like a superstar (especially if you have blond or red hair). Try some traditional Peking duck in the city’s hundreds of regional restaurants, or dare yourself to venture to the Donghuamen Night Market, where they serve starfish, snakes, silk worms, beetles and seahorses on sticks.
Meanwhile, Shanghai offers an architectural explosion. Bizarre-shaped skyscrapers with futuristic LED screens line one side of the Pudong River, while grand colonial buildings line the other side – stand at the river bank and it’s like you’re in-between the future and the past. It’s easy to spend hours walking through the city, along the French Concession past patisseries and galleries, through traditional lanes like Taikang Lu, where visitors will find Chinese arts and crafts, or downtown People’s Square – a sprawling mass of people buzzing around the centre of town, from trendy businessmen in suits to rural folk wearing traditional farmers hats and balancing baskets on shoulder poles.
Where to stay: Commune by the Great Wall is a great spot if you intend to do a day trip to the wall. Set in the wilderness, this boutique has 35 inventive villas created by 12 different Asian designers. Rooms from £200 per night, (+86 10 811 81888). In Shanghai, the coolest spot in town is the Waterhouse at South Bund. The warehouse-style interiors have exposed brick walls and chandeliers, rusty design features and a terrace with a stunning view over the Huangpu River. Rooms from £105 per night (+86 21 6080 2988).
10. For a romantic getaway: Lake Como, Italy
The setting of: A Month by the Lake, Star Wars: Attack of the Clones, Casino Royale, Ocean’s Twelve
What you’ll experience: The Italian Lake district is not only scenically stunning, it’s a second home to a number of well-known celebrities like George Clooney, Sir Richard Branson and Ronaldinho, and if it’s good enough for them… it’s the perfect place to woo your loved one. Ancient Roman writers such as Pliny the Younger came here and affectionately wrote about the scenery, and, despite the thousands of visitors each year, it is as magical a place today as it was then. This 120km body of water is dotted with villages to explore via boat, and mountainous hinterlands to discover by foot.
Where to stay: For rustic romance, try the Relais Villa Vittoria in Laglio, complete with infinity swimming pool in the garden, marvellous views onto the lake from the terrace and rooms with old world charm. Rooms from £220 per night (+39 031 400859).