We know what you’re thinking; Club 18-30 holidays, lager-swilling expats and tacky resorts. These preconceptions are not entirely unfounded – Tenerife was a pioneer of the “pile them high, sell them cheap” approach to package holidays – but the island has strived to shake off this reputation and attract a more salubrious clientele.
Posh new resorts, a burgeoning restaurant scene and spiritual retreats are helping Tenerife recast itself as a destination for the discerning holidaymaker, while its sandy beaches, volcanic landscapes and warm weather sell themselves. Flight time from Britain? Four hours.
Dubbed the “smiling coast of West Africa”, Gambia has long been Europe’s shortcut to the tropics. This former British colony might be the smallest nation in mainland Africa, but it punches well above its weight as a holiday destination… and it’s just five hours from London.
Most come to imbibe sunshine on sandy beaches, others to marvel at the world-renowned birdlife (Chris Packham is a regular). The more adventurous traveller can don hiking boots and trek through the jungle or cruise up the Gambia River in search of pygmy hippos and crocs.
Cape crusader: Cape Verde
Tourism is on the rise in Cape Verde, but you won’t be jostling for space on the beaches just yet. That will change, however, as holidaymakers arrive at this African archipelago in increasing numbers. Floating off the coast of Senegal, this former Portuguese colony boasts a surprising diversity of landscapes for such a small nation; sweeping sandy beaches, luscious mountain ranges and frozen lava fields are just part of the picture.
The golden beaches and limpid waters are the main draws, but the archipelago also offers excellent trekking, world-class windsurfing and a rich fusion of Portuguese and Cape Verdean culture – all within five hours of Britain.
Arabian allure: Oman
The jewel of Arabia, Oman is seven hours from London and this sunny sultanate is perfect for a midwinter getaway. With 1,700km (1,056 miles) of coastline, the country has no shortage of sandy beaches, which are glorious gateways to some of the best dive sites in the Middle East.
But sea, sun and sand are just part of the story; head inland and you can hike through verdant rainforests, camp with Bedouins and share epic vistas with mountain-dwelling shepherds. And spare a day for Muscat, the historic capital, where ancient palaces, grandiose mosques and bustling souks abound.