After a long winter our attention quickly turns to the Easter holidays. Here are nine of the best places for a dose of springtime sunshine recommended by our luxury travel experts.
What better way to banish any lingering winter blues than with a trip to the Maldives? Cliched it may be, but it’s hard to resist the appeal of a pristine tropical island complete with swaying palm trees, white-sand beaches, turquoise lagoons and abundant marine life.
For value for money, you can’t go far wrong with Constance Moofushi, whose all-inclusive rates include wonderfully varied meals and fantastic wines brought straight from the cellar. A quarter of the thatched villas are on the beach while the rest are over water, with stairways down to the Indian Ocean and bathtubs on decks that seem to defy gravity. Even the Asian-inspired spa is perched above the water with glass panels in the floor.
For families looking for a little more entertainment, LUX* South Ari Atoll is a really good bet. Besides the kids’ club and teens’ club that operate daily, you’ll find bicycles available to ride around the island, inflatable swans to drift around the lagoon on, an ice-cream parlour with 32 flavours of homemade ice-cream, a cinema on the beach, a newly expanded spa, live DJs in the evening, a choice of six restaurants, and a marine biologist ready to take you swimming with the whale sharks that come to visit.
A favourite winter home of writer, Ian Fleming, Jamaica has starred in four Bond films, including the latest, much-anticipated No Time To Die. Fleming first fell in love with Jamaica back in 1942 when he visited the island as a British naval intelligence officer during World War II. Four years later he bought 15 acres of undeveloped land and built himself the house in which he would write his spy novels. He named the house after the naval operation that first brought him to the island, GoldenEye.
The house was later bought by the founder of Island Records, Chris Blackwell, who turned it into the dreamy collection of beach and lagoon villas that are available to rent today. If you’re happy to splurge – as the likes of Jay-Z and Beyonce have splurged before – then opt for the flagship Fleming Villa, a three-bedroom hideaway with its own private beach, where you can sit at the actual desk where 007 was born.
Asked to imagine a safari in Botswana and you’ll probably think of the Okavango Delta. And why not? The world’s largest inland delta breathes life into the surrounding Kalahari – a network of floodplains, channels, islands and dappled woodland supporting creatures great and small, from wallowing hippopotamus to the tiniest reed frog. And Easter is an ideal time to see it, with the rains giving way to clearer, cooler days from the end of March onwards. For the ultimate in luxury, we recommend Xigera, a 12-suite lodge with top eco-credentials in a wild and remote corner of the Moremi Game Reserve.
But the Okavango Delta is not your only choice at Easter. For a crowd-free safari in March or April, try the Makgadikgadi Pans, the endless salt pans south of the delta on the eastern fringe of the Kalahari Desert. For much of the year this is an arid land, baked and cracked by the sun, where meerkats keep watch by day and brown hyena perform nightly patrols. But the rains arrive later to the Kalahari, and just as the delta is drying out, the pans fill up, fed by a slow underground seepage from the Okavango. Flamingos come to breed, painting the landscape a technicolour pink, and wildebeest and zebra appear in their thousands on the surrounding grasslands to feed on the lush new growth. Hippo and elephant gather at water holes, and carmine bee-eaters add flashes of colour to a myriad budding plants. Stay somewhere like San Camp and you may just feel you’ve got the whole lot to yourself.
Wedged between the Kalahari and the chilly South Atlantic, Namibia offers some of the most breathtaking scenery in all of Africa, from the windblown wilderness of the Skeleton Coast and the jaw-dropping depths of the Fish River Canyon (only the Grand Canyon is larger) to the rivers and wetlands of the Caprivi Strip and the towering dunes of Sossusvlei – apricot at sunrise, crimson at sunset and a thousand different shades in between. Throw in the big game on offer at Etosha National Park, the rhinos that range across desert-like Damaraland, and some of the largest collections of ancient rock art in the world, and it’s hard to find a box that Namibia doesn’t tick. Many consider the country to be at its most beautiful in April. Easter coincides roughly with the end of the rainy season and the start of the shoulder season, when the air is fresh, vegetation is at its greenest and temperatures are more moderate (an average 26 degrees in daytime). With plenty of water around, game viewing is good but not always as reliable as later in the year (when animals gather around the few remaining water holes), but lower rates, fewer crowds and stunning vistas are more than enough to compensate. It’s a particularly good time to explore the Skeleton Coast, famed for its ghostly shipwrecks and desert-adapted wildlife.
In Zimbabwe, the Victoria Falls rage after the rains, the landscape is lush and green, and migrant birds arrive and come into multicolour breeding plumage. April is also a good month for South Africa, although Cape Town can experience four seasons in a single day!
Not too long ago, Morocco meant Marrakech and little else. Today, however, there’s a veritable feast of options for travellers to explore. Follow your nose through Fez’s ancient medina to the city’s famous tanneries. Marvel at the size and intricate detail of the Hassan Il Mosque in Casablanca. Watch fishermen bring in their daily catch beneath the 18th century ramparts of delightful Essaouira. Soak up the solitude of the Moroccan Sahara. Surf world-class waves at Agadir and Taghazout. Or explore the roof of Africa on a guided trek through the mighty High Atlas, where Berber villages cling like limpets to the steep and terraced hillsides. Easter temperatures hover around the very pleasant mid-twenties.
You are truly spoilt for choice when it comes to where to stay in Marrakech. In the city itself, perhaps opt for a traditional riad within easy reach of the Jemaa El Fnaa and the bustling souks. Riad Farnatchi is one of the most charming, located in the heart of the Medina and run by one of the best teams in Marrakech. Riad Kniza is equally chic - this 18th century house was completely restored by a renowned antique dealer to create a sanctuary in the city. Just outside town, The Oberoi Marrakech is one of Morocco's newest additions. There's oodles of space, both inside and out, with 28 acres of stunning landscaped gardens with views extending to the snowy peaks of the Atlas Mountains. For the ultimate privacy, opt for a private villa with your own gardens and pool. Cobalt Blue is just a stone's throw from Marrakech and offers seven bedrooms and a team of staff to call on, including a chef to prepare delicious Moroccan feasts.
The Caribbean island with 365 beaches to its name – one for each day of the year. Antigua’s tourist board has been promoting this fact for as long as we remember, but it doesn’t make it any less remarkable. On the beaches you’ll find everything from kite-surfing lessons to sunrise yoga sessions, while in the waters that lap them you can snorkel with stingrays and swim alongside turtles. When you tire of the sand there’s history to explore in the form of Nelson’s Dockyard – still much as it was in the 18th century – and Betty’s Hope, a charming restored sugar mill. Away from the coast is a verdant interior scattered with churches and colourful villages, where activities range from ziplining through the rainforest to hiking the gentle foothills.
Easter is gorgeous in Antigua, with plenty of sunshine, minimal rainfall and temperatures hovering in the upper twenties. With plenty of wind, kite flying is understandably popular on the island, and Easter Monday sees hundreds of flyers converge on Devil’s Bridge National Park with their colourful homemade kites as part of the Antigua & Barbuda International Kite Festival.
Blending romance and history, The Inn At English Harbour is a great boutique option five minutes by water taxi from Nelson’s Dockyard. Further from the action, on a sweeping crescent beach, long-standing favourite Carlisle Bay is a good choice for couples and families seeking downtime. While if you’re looking for a villa in Antigua, both The Hill Club and Harbour Heights are excellently located for exploring the beaches, shops and wonderful restaurants of nearby English Harbour.
Relax by the beach, explore some of the world’s best dive sites or dive instead into the world of ancient Egypt without the crowds, all under sunny skies. Now is a great time to visit Egypt. The ancient sites at Cairo and Luxor are crowd free and you can wander the temples and great pyramids virtually queue-free.
A visit to Sicily in spring rewards you with blooms of wild flowers and a more peaceful, truly Sicilian experience. Temperatures meanwhile are typically pleasantly warm as opposed to blisteringly hot, making exploring the ancient sites of Agrigento and Piazza Armerina as well as the bustling city of Palermo much more enjoyable. Easter is a time for celebration, too, and the whole island has a convivial feel.
Easter is the most important religious festival for the Cypriots, meaning April is a time of celebration and feasting across the island. It’s a lovely time to visit, with warm weather and villages and towns alive with candle-lit processions, fireworks, music and singing to herald the end of Lent. Perhaps the most beautiful spot is the north-western corner where the Akamas Peninsula is a peaceful sanctuary of secluded sandy bays, dramatic peaks and deep valleys. Though a world away from the busy resorts, it is easily reached from one of the best hotels on the island, the Anassa.
April is lovely in Latin America. In Ecuador, throngs of people in colourful costumes line the streets of Quito for Easter celebrations on Good Friday, while the easily accessible Galapagos Islands are alive and kicking. Peru meanwhile is ideal for trekking as the mountains are a vibrant green, visitor numbers are low, and the days are clear and the air fresh. Argentina is another good option as the climate is pleasantly cool. This is the perfect time for visiting the Iguazu Falls or a self-drive journey through the beautiful northern region along spectacular the Rutas de Vino (wine route).
From coast to coast, Costa Rica is a nature lover’s paradise, offering everything from spectacular volcanoes and beautiful beaches to humid cloud forests, coffee plantations and tropical jungle. April marks the end of the dry season and is a wonderful time to explore, with fewer visitors than January and February, but without the rains that herald the summer months.
Whether riding zip-lines through the rainforest canopy or riding waves at classic surf spots like Tamarindo and Witch’s Rock, there’s no shortage of adventures to keep families entertained over Easter. Imagine checking in for a few nights at Pacuare Lodge, one of National Geographic’s Unique Lodges of the World, where it’s customary to arrive by white-water rafting down the Pacuare River. Or staying at Lapa Rios in a 1,000-acre rainforest reserve on the Osa Peninsula, one of the most biologically dense places in the world, and one of the best for spotting wildlife in the whole of Latin America.