The best places for Easter sun (without the long-haul flight)

Advice

This is the part of the year when we dream of simple pleasures. Specifically, the simple pleasures of a soft stretch of beach, ample hours of sunshine and the absolute essential that is a country that enjoys weather considerably better than anything Britain can offer amid the chilly gloom of February. In an ideal world, this splendid destination should also dot the map a reasonably short flight from home. No more than four hours; five at a push.

This, you might think, shouldn’t be too much to ask. And in ordinary times, it isn’t. But “ordinary” has been notable by its absence for the past two years, and as the pandemic continues to rattle the windows, it may remain a scarce commodity for a few months yet.

Unfortunately, this disclaimer still applies to travel – and to the search for a holiday in the golden weeks of spring and Easter. As recently as the autumn, Europe in particular seemed to be reopening its doors with minimal fuss. But the arrival of the omicron variant prompted a new wave of restrictions – including, frustratingly, in several of the countries we would normally consider for a blue-sky escape in March or April. At the time of writing, France, Italy and Greece are all asking even fully vaccinated Britons to take a PCR or antigen test before boarding the plane.

This doesn’t mean you can’t visit these countries, or that these must-jump-through hoops will definitely still be there when the Good Friday airport rush begins. But, for now, it makes them more complicated propositions. If you want to book sooner rather than later, with the fewest possible obstacles in your path, you may need to look elsewhere.

Where exactly? Perhaps to any of the following places. To Spain, Croatia, Turkey, Malta, Portugal and even Egypt – which, at present, may well be the most faff-free options for a short-haul suntan escape. This isn’t to say these six destinations don’t present minor hurdles to be leapt – and even with this helpful half-dozen, there are issues if your party includes teenagers who are unvaccinated, or only partly so.

But if you are looking at the rain and thinking you can’t wait any longer to set up a holiday, the time is now.

Spain

Faff-free rating: 7/10

Covid considerations

An online health form (spth.gob.es) must be submitted for all passengers prior to departure. Fully vaccinated tourists and children under 12 can enter the country without testing – but at present, unvaccinated tourists aren’t permitted to visit.

Can I take my teenagers? 

Only if they are fully vaccinated

Tenerife

April temperature: 20C

Flight time: 4.5 hours

Who should go? 

Families, couples, retirees – in fact anyone seeking heat and light in what is surely Europe’s most reliable option for good weather at almost any time of year.

What’s the attraction? 

Tenerife is an ocean giant that combines volcanic majesty with first-rate resorts – not least along the Costa Adeje, which shapes its south-west corner. From here, it’s an easy drive or day trip up to Teide National Park (volcanoteide.com), the protected zone that ring-fences what is Spain’s highest peak as well as the island’s caldera core. Pay a visit during Semana Santa, Spain’s Holy Week (April 10-17 this year), meanwhile, and you can witness all the pomp and procession of Tenerife in the midst of its pre-Easter rituals. Then again, parking yourself on a lounger – and staying there – is an equally sagacious strategy.



tenerife holiday summer


A sunny day on Tenerife


Credit: Getty

Perfect package 

A seven-night getaway for a family of four to the five-star Las Terrazas de Abama resort (which has four swimming pools), flying from Heathrow on April 9, starts at £4,151, via Destinology (01204 208425; destinology.co.uk).

Mallorca

April temperature: 18C

Flight time: 2.5 hours

Who should go? 

Multi-generational family groups seeking long overdue time together. 

What’s the attraction? 

The biggest of the Balearic islands is much more than Magaluf’s boozy strip of bars: it’s an idyll where sophisticated villas throng the interior or sit within close range of the seafront, offering escape zones where you can doze under the boughs of olive trees on warm afternoons. It performs this role ably at the height of summer, but can do so almost as persuasively, albeit at slightly lower temperatures, during the Easter window. 



Mallorca short-haul sun


Take the whole family to Mallorca, where sightseeing can combine with relaxation


Credit: Getty

Perfect package 

The stultifying effect of Covid on travel is visible in the sheer number of Mallorcan properties still available at Easter via specialist James Villas (01622 655900; jamesvillas.co.uk) and the prices currently being asked. For example, Es Mirador – a three-bedroom retreat with a pool near the pretty easterly town of Arta – can be hired for the week of April 9 from £906 in total, including flights (from Stansted), for a family group of six.

Valencia

April temperature: 20C

Flight time: 2.5 hours

Who should go? 

Couples and culture vultures chasing somewhere with more depth.

What’s the attraction? 

Spain’s third largest city delivers a mix of food, scenery and seafront that rarely disappoints. The tapas bars of its Ruzafa district fill evenings and stomachs with equal aplomb, a walk in the Jardin del Turia is a spring-flower feast at Easter and Playa de la Malvarrosa – three miles east of the centre, but easily reached via the Metro – is among the country’s best beaches. Go next month for Las Fallas (March 3-19; visitvalencia.com), a festival that sees the streets crammed with elaborate papier-mâché sculptures, which are set alight on the final night.



valencia spring sunshine


Las Fallas festival is a colourful time to be in Valencia


Credit: Getty

Perfect package

A three-night getaway to the five-star Westin Valencia costs from £768 per person, including flights, with Kirker Holidays (020 7593 1899; kirkerholidays.com).


Malta

Gozo

Faff-free rating: 7/10

Covid considerations 

Entry to Malta is via proof of vaccination only. Children 5-11 accompanying vaccinated parents must take a PCR test before travel – a caveat some may baulk at (under-fives are exempt). Passenger Locator Form for all arrivals (app.euplf.eu).

Can I take my teenagers? 

Only if they are fully vaccinated.

April temperature: 19C

Flight time: Three hours

Who should go? 

Adults chasing a bargain: Malta tends to be cheap, cheerful and warm.

What’s the attraction? 

Malta is one of the Mediterranean’s best value options for a week in the sun – and while the requirement for pre-teen children to take a PCR test prior to departure may discourage families from visiting in the next few months, others will relish this as an assurance of peace and quiet. Gozo, the country’s smaller “second” island, is pretty much a guarantee of this anyway, with a scattering of quaint beach hotels.



Gozo short-haul sun


For peace and tranquility, head to Gozo, to explore its fishing villages such as Xlendi


Credit: Patricia Hamilton/Moment RF

Perfect package

A seven-night half-board stay at the four-star Grand Hotel, on the south coast of Gozo (at Mgarr), flying from Birmingham on April 23, costs from £570 per person (including checked bags), with On The Beach (0161 509 3700; onthebeach.co.uk).


Croatia

Faff-free rating: 8/10

Covid considerations

Entry is via full vaccination, a PCR or antigen test, or proof of recovery. Under 12s are exempt. All must submit an online health form (entercroatia.mup.hr).

Can I take my teenagers? 

Yes (with negative test or proof of jab).

Dubrovnik

April temperature: 16C

Flight time: Three hours

Who should go? 

Island hoppers, scenery seekers, those who like it hot – but not too hot.

What’s the attraction?

Croatia is likely to be one of the biggest tourism beneficiaries if Greece persists with its policy of making all travellers take a pre-departure PCR test. For a slight downgrade in temperature and a fair exchange in Sea (the Adriatic for the Ionian or Aegean), holidaymakers can slip into a country that has become one of the staples of the European getaway over the past decade. Dubrovnik has been the epicentre of this popularity, arguably to the point of over-tourism, but after two years of reduced visitor numbers, it will be happy to welcome guests this Easter. Its gleaming appeal – medieval walls, Game of Thrones references, nearby beach hotels, the chance to hop to islands like Lopud and Sipan – needs little explanation, but is no less alluring for its shiny familiarity.



Dubrovnik short-haul sun


In the before times, Dubrovnik was overwhelmed with tourists… now is a good time to visit while visitor numbers are reduced


Credit: www.plainpicture.com

Perfect package

A seven-night escape to the five-star Hotel Croatia in nearby Cavtat, flying direct from Edinburgh on April 24, costs from £565pp via Jet2 Holidays (0800 4080778; jet2holidays.com).

Split

April temperature: 16C

Flight time: Three hours

Who should go? 

Anyone who would visit Dubrovnik in April, yet wants something new.

What’s the attraction? 

The Split Riviera is the savvy choice for those who have fallen for the Croatian coast. The city in question may be the country’s second biggest (Dubrovnik is only the 12th), but it cooks up a calmer holiday experience with much the same historical and cultural ingredients. Its centre has all the orange-tiled beauty of its much-loved colleague, the 4th-century Diocletian’s Palace is Roman history in excelsis, and there are lovely hotels by the waves. 



Croatia short-haul sun


Klis Fortress near Split was a Games of Thrones filming location


Credit: Justin Foulkes/www.4cornersimages.com

Perfect package 

A seven-night stay at the four-star Le Meridien Lav resort, flying from London Gatwick on April 23, starts at £915 a head via Sovereign (01293 324464; sovereign.com).


Portugal

Madeira

Faff-free rating: 8/10

Covid considerations

Visitors can enter Madeira with proof of full vaccination or recovery, or an antigen test. Under-12s are exempt. All tourists must be registered in advance (madeirasafe.com).

April temperature: 16C

Flight time: Four hours

Who should go? 

Adventurers seeking to explore terrain that deals in epic peaks and troughs – and returnees who love the old-fashioned glamour of historic hotel Reid’s Palace (belmond.com). 

What’s the attraction? 

Portugal will soon scrap its pre-departure testing requirement, and its most enticing spot in spring is the island of Madeira. It will be some way short of the ideal 20C, but it offers myriad ways to keep warm: a hike to the 6,106ft summit Pico Ruivo; a cycle ride to the high plateau of Paul de Serra; afternoon tea on the terrace of its most feted hideaway, Reid’s Palace, which has basked on the seafront west of Funchal since 1891.



Madeira short-haul sun


The weather is pleasant in April for hiking in Madeira


Credit: www.robertharding.com

Perfect packages 

Freedom Treks (01273 977754; freedomtreks.co.uk) sells a self-guided Madeira Bike Tour that takes eight days to circle the island. From £897 a head in April, with bike hire (flights extra). A week at Reid’s Palace starts at £1,429 per person, with flights, through Inspiring Travel Co (01244 432419; inspiringtravelcompany.co.uk).


Turkey

Faff-free rating: 8/10

Covid considerations

Entry is available without testing for the fully vaccinated and under-12s; all others require a negative test or proof of recovery. An online form must be filled (register.health.gov.tr).

Can I take my teenagers? 

Yes (test or vaccination).

Marmaris

April temperature: 20C

Flight time: Four hours

Who should go? 

Sun-worshippers with blissfully empty to-do lists.

What’s the attraction? 

Turkey has taken a light-touch approach to travel restrictions for much of the past two years. This rendered it an easy holiday option in the summer of 2020 – then something of a pariah with the UK Government once the traffic-light system kicked in (an extended stay on the red list followed). The great sunshine bridge between Europe and Asia is back to being the former here in 2022. Marmaris is a neat encapsulation of what its seafront delivers: a resort hub where you can check in to sizeable beach hotels, drop your bags upstairs, head to the pool, and move not a muscle for the rest of the week.



Turkey short-haul sun


The coastline around Marmaris is some of the most beautiful in all Turkey


Credit: Izzet Keribar/Stone RF

Perfect package 

A seven-night all-inclusive holiday to the five-star Green Nature Resort & Spa (a family favourite with a sizeable pool complex), departing from Bristol on April 9, costs from £434 per person, through Thomas Cook (020 8016 3295; thomascook.com). 

Bodrum

April temperature: 20C

Flight time: Four hours

Who should go? 

Chic sunbathers with an appetite for a spot of gentle wandering.

What’s the attraction? 

If Marmaris is a fly-and-flop spot, its near-ish neighbour provides more reason to look beyond the sand. Bodrum was a key Mediterranean port in antiquity – back when it was Halicarnassus –  and even if its member of the Seven Ancient Wonders club (the Mausoleum of Mausolus) is now just a pile of chipped marble blocks, its castle is a 15th-century marvel. Stop off, too, at a café in the old town for Turkish coffee or a beer before you retreat to one of the many luxury resorts that increasingly bejewel the coast.



Turkey short-haul sun


Bodrum was a key Mediterranean port in antiquity


Credit: Moment RF

Perfect package 

A seven-night stay at the uber-elegant Amanruya resort costs from £3,700 per person, flights included, through Scott Dunn (020 3733 5048; scottdunn.com).


Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt

Faff-free rating: 8/10

Covid considerations 

Tourists can check into Egypt via full vaccination or a PCR test (children under 12 are exempt). However, those flying directly to a coastal area (Marsa Alam and Hurghada, as well as Sharm el-Sheikh) can take a test on arrival (US$30/£22).

Can I take my teenagers? 

Yes (vaccination or test).

April temperature: 28C

Flight time: Five hours

Who should go? 

Beach bunnies who can’t (won’t) wait any longer for a sure-fire suntan. 

What’s the attraction? 

Sharm el-Sheikh was off-limits to UK tourists between 2015 and 2019, due to Foreign Office concerns about the security of its airport, so there is a fair irony to the Egyptian coastal city being one of the spring-sun failsafes of 2022. But no-one will be worrying about irony as they snooze by the pool in this Red Sea hotspot. Sharm el-Sheikh delivers little beyond the obvious – luxury resorts, golden beaches, not even the vaguest chance of rain – but those who decide to fly there in the coming months may consider this quite enough.

Perfect package 

A one-week all-inclusive stay at the five-star Jaz Mirabel Beach Hotel, leaving Manchester on April 20, starts at £975 a head, via Tui (020 3451 2688; tui.co.uk). 

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