Travel guide: where to find some winter sun and relaxation

Atzaro, Ibiza, offers a warm welcome

Atzaro, Ibiza, offers a warm welcome - Credit: Atzaro

Winter sun could well be a thing this year, after a summer of uncertainty and simply everywhere being all booked up. Here’s our pick of balmy, beguiling destinations this autumn…

Sicily 

Sicily

Enjoy the many delights of Sicily - Credit: Pixabay

Italophiles let out a collective cheer when the Italian government announced they were scrapping quarantine for us UK travellers at the end of the summer. Just in time for October: to escape the grim autumnal darkness and the fallen leaves gathering on roadsides; arriving on an island wrapped in that delicious Mediterranean heat that lingers well into November. In Palermo, with all its faded grandeur, grit and romance, late-night al fresco wine bars lure you in amongst its crumbly old palazzos, where Vespas buzz about by day as locals idle over coffees and cannolis. There are the architectural stamps of its occupiers to explore: the Moorish mosaics and formidable Spanish courtyards, and the quiet backstreets to stumble across hidden restaurant gardens and progressive art galleries.

Where to stay? Bed down in Palazzo Planeta – a series of airy, high-ceilinged apartments, pitched in a safe and central location, close to two of Palermo’s excellent food markets, Vucciria and Capo. palazzoplaneta.it 

Ibiza 

Soak up some Mediterranean warmth in Ibiza this autumn, at Atzaro Agroturismo

Soak up some Mediterranean warmth in Ibiza this autumn, at Atzaro Agroturismo - Credit: Atzaro

Those who truly grasp the allure of Ibiza, know that its infectious energy is found far beyond the trail of hedonists. Around the same time the revellers trickle out of clubs in the early hours, others seeking Ibiza’s rural spirit are waking for early morning swims in seas a glittering shade of turquoise, dusting their sand from their toes and sucking on giant oranges grown close to their whitewashed fincas. For all the neon lights, thumping drinking dens and claustrophobic queues, this is a destination whose bucolic soul is showing real dynamism – where farm-to-fork restaurants are springing up with their own kitchen garden, yoga retreats are starting to outnumber the superclubs, and clean living is being hailed the new thrill-of-the-moment. October is a dreamy time to visit offering a holy trinity: quiet beaches with sand the colour of flour, warms seas and mellow temperatures that buoy sunrise dips, hikes through olive groves and visits to agroturismo to pluck fresh figs and nibble slices of almond cake.

Where to stay? Choose the island’s wilder northern half where mass tourism has been kept at bay and book a room at the acclaimed Atzaro Agroturismo – a shining white finca that has become something of key player on the island’s hotel scene, with its Balinese-style spa, four poster beds with white breezy drapes, and gardens, blooming with fruit, veg and herbs used in its terrific La Verdana restaurant. atzaro.com 

Lisbon 

tram Lisbon

See the sights of Lisbon - Credit: Pixabay

Curl up in one of Lisbon’s cafés with a pastel de nata and all those pre-travel quibbles brought on by covid tests and passenger locator forms will instantly diminish. Then there’s the white-sand beaches of Costa da Caparica a short train ride away; independent concept stores to seek out led by Portuguese designers (We the Knot, Fora, La Paz); bike jaunts along the riverside path; and slow meanderings through the historic suburbs of Alfama and Mouraria during cooler afternoons. 

Where to stay? Make a beeline for Bairro Alto Hotel, where superchef Nuno Mendes steers the kitchens and takes charge of its in-house pastelaria, crafting some of the city’s finest. Whilst you’re here, you must of course also book a table at his BAHR restaurant, gazing over river views as you graze on his trademark riffs on traditional dishes. bairroaltohotel.com 

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UK 

Dine fine, and sustainably, at Birch

Dine fine, and sustainably, at Birch - Credit: Steve Wood

We’re playing it safe with this one given the ongoing swift changes in travel – plus the UK’s new hotel openings are crying out for some love. Take Birch in Hertfordshire – a new country pile with hidden depths. There’s a glittering lido, workspace and a whole roster of events — a bit like a permanent festival without the mud and tents. Bed down here and you can turn up to pottery classes, hone the art of bread-making, learn the ropes of beekeeping and sign up to wild yoga sessions. You might catch an artist installing their works in the rotating exhibition gallery or chance upon a workshop in nutrition, reiki or a New Moon ceremony. And this being what’s touted as the next generation escape, of course it’s got sustainability credentials too — with an on-site farm supplying produce for its restaurants, one of which is the talked-about rural outpost, The Zebra Riding Club, from Robin Gill of The Dairy and Darby’s in London. birchcommunity.com