We hate to be the ones to break it to you, but annual leave doesn’t grow on trees (sigh) and we know your time out of the office is precious. It often feels like you can’t do a lot with a week’s holiday but we beg to differ – you’ll be surprised just how far you can get with our suggestions. *Immediately emails boss with holiday requests.*
1. Cape Town, South Africa – fly from £410
Yes, you read that right, the most southern tip of Africa is doable in a week, and here’s why. Although it’s an 11-hour flight, South Africa is only one hour ahead of the UK meaning you can land and crack on with the exploration without jet lag slowing you down. Use your time wisely and tick off our top picks along the way.
Spend a morning at The Old Biscuit Mill in the trendy Woodstock area where you’ll find local artisans, designers and plentiful food stalls huddled together. Then duck out away from the tourists and explore the surrounding neighbourhood where the locals have covered the walls in vibrant street art. After you’ve explored the city, spend a day in the Cape Peninsula meeting the inquisitive African penguins on Boulders Beach, where there are around 3,000, all desperate to make your acquaintance. No doubt the iconic Table Mountain is on your list so to save time, skip the two-hour hike and catch the cable car, which rotates as you ascend, and you’ll be in the clouds in less than 5 minutes. Arrive just before sunset (make sure you leave yourself enough time before the last cable car down) and you’ll be rewarded with a sunset like no other. While you take in the view and fill up your camera roll, keep an eye out for the dassie, a furry-looking fella native to South Africa, that looks part-possum, part-guinea pig and is bizarrely, closely related to the elephant…
Stay: at Daddy Long Legs Art Hotel. This boutique hotel has 13 rooms, each individually decorated with their own theme. Stay in ‘The Photo Booth’ room, designed by Anthony Smyth, for walls adorned with 3,240 images of people in and around Cape Town. Centrally located and very reasonable at only £57 a night or for a week’s holiday, it’ll cost a cool £319.
2. Boston – fly from £209
In just six and a half hours you can make it over to Beantown, home of America’s first subway, the country’s oldest public park, and of course the bar where everybody knows your name – the Bull & Finch Pub of Cheers fame. Cover as much ground as possible on your first day and take a tour of the Freedom Trail – a red-lined route which takes you to 16 historical sites. If you’d like a guided tour by one of the locals – dashingly dressed in 18th-century costumes – tours leave from the Visitor Information Centre on Tremont Street on the hour from 11am-3pm for just $12.
Once you’ve got your bearings and covered the main city streets, catch a ferry to George’s Island from the harbour, which welcomes visitors from May until October, to see Fort Warren, a star-shaped fortress built during the Civil War. Pack some snacks with you and picnic in the grounds, but dine at your own peril, as you may have a dinner guest joining you. Rumour has it that the resident ghost The Lady in Black still wanders the corridors mourning the loss of her husband who she helped escape from Fort Warren in 1862. If you’d prefer another, unaccompanied dinner option, head to ArtScience Culture Lab & Café, a 10-minute drive from Boston, founded by Harvard Professor David Edwards, who describes himself as a future-of-food inventor. It would seem Heston Blumenthal’s got some competition across the pond.
Stay: at Boston Hotel Buckminster. You’ll be right around the corner from Fenway Park so grab some tickets to see the Boston Red Sox play in their home stadium. Plus, there’s plenty of transport links to get you back into the city. Price for the week from £489.
3. Cape Verde – fly from £246
A six-hour flight to the volcanic islands on the western coast of North Africa, and you’ll still only be 2 hours ahead of the UK. It’s the best destination to give you a Caribbean-vibe holiday without the distance and the insane jetlag. And better yet, you’ll be greeted with a reliable 26°C temperature year-round and bath-like waters that sit around 25-27°C. Visit between November and June for the best temperatures, longest days of sunshine and to get the most out of your week off.
Fly into Sal, taking the time to visit Santa Maria and its 3km white sand beach where loggerhead sea turtles lay their eggs. Visit the Project Biodiversity hatchery on the beach to learn more about their conservation projects. While you’re on Sal, drive 20 mins to the north of the island to swim in the volcanic salt crater Pedra Lume for €5, where the water is 27 times saltier than the sea. Once your skin has soaked up the minerals, hop onto another island. Fly over to Boa Vista, known for its sand dunes and water sports, or São Vicente, for the port town Mindelo, the cultural hub of the islands. Or visit both – you’ll have time, even in seven days, but we suggest flying from Boa Vista or Sal back to the UK for the cheapest and most direct flights.
Stay: at Hotel Dunas de Sal when you’re in Santa Maria. It’s just a short walk from the town centre, the pier and the all-important beach. Once you’ve returned from a busy day bathing in the sea, it’s only right that you relax by the on-site pool and bar. Rooms from £81 a night, or pitch up for a full week for £415.
4. Jordan – fly from £93
Reach Jordan in around 5 hours, put your watch forward two and let the sightseeing begin, because there’s a lot to cover. As one of the new wonders of the world and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, you’ll want to spend a day visiting Petra, intricately carved into the red sandstone rock, in south Jordan. It’s a 3-hour drive from the city centre but this landmark more than lives up to the hype. Take your time walking through the narrow gorge of the Siq and see just why Hollywood has coming knocking at this location more than once. When you’ve come this far, it’s worth travelling an extra hour to the Wadi Rum desert, with its reddish, surface-of-Mars-like landscape. You can even spend a night under the stars and stay in one of the many Wadi Rum camps.
Once you return from space, get to know the capital of Amman and visit the endless historical sites on offer – Amman Citadel, the Roman Theatre, the Nymphaeum (a public fountain) and Rainbow Street (a promenade of shops and restaurants).
Stay: at La Locanda Boutique Hotel for £426 for a week’s stay. It’s near the Temple of Hercules and the Roman Theatre in the capital Amman, with light, bright rooms and a clean contemporary look.
5. Lake Garda, Italy – fly from £28
For something a little closer to home but with ample opportunities to explore, Lake Garda is unmissable. Surrounding Italy’s largest lake (it’s an impressive 55km in length) are a myriad of villages and quaint Italian towns which can all be reached by local bus around the perimeter or by ferry-boats straight across the water. Each one has something different to offer so plan your days carefully to get to as many as you can. Our favourites are Malcesine, where you can take the cable car up 1,500 metres to the top of Monte Altissimo, and Sirmione, directly opposite at the other end of the lake, known for its historic Old Town and castle. Wherever you end up visiting though, make sure you leave a day for sailing, kayaking or just swimming in the lake’s clear waters.
Then, if you’re craving a faster pace, take a day trip to Verona via train (30 minutes) or bus (around 1 hour 20 minutes) depending on where you’re staying on the lake, see Juliet’s balcony, the famous statue and write a love note on the walls that surround her home.
Stay: at Dependance Silvestro in the heart of the town Garda (previously known as Benaco) with its 13 rooms, impressive glass-domed swimming pool and bikes available to rent from reception. Airport transport can be arranged through the hotel (for a fee). A week’s stay will cost you £414.
Ready to find your ideal week-long escape?
All flight and prices mentioned in this article are estimates of the cheapest prices based on Skyscanner’s flight search tools. These are subject to change and were correct at time of writing on 7 May 2019.