2014 Guest Awards

  • As 2014 draws to a close, find out which of our 1,500 handpicked hotels and boutique rentals got the biggest thumbs up from happy holidaymakers this year.
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    Unlike certain global sports bodies, nobody can buy these votes – they’re based purely on scores submitted by our verified guests. So extra kudos to those who got top marks all round…

    small crownBEST BEACH ESCAPE: Chumbe Island Coral Park, Zanzibar

    We say: A tiny coral-ringed island off Zanzibar, with beautifully designed thatch bungalows, genuinely ecological aims and some of the world’s best snorkelling

    Chumbe Island Coral Park

    “What’s not to like? An excellent place to spend a few days”

    You say: “Snorkelling was wonderful, and it was great to have the opportunity of a short dhow sailing trip.” Kirsten, Liechtenstein (28.07.14)

    “We had such a perfect stay. Lovely places on the island to see sunset, go for a walk, go snorkelling. The staff are awesome – all are so friendly and kind! Best food we had on Zanzibar. Thanks to all the team. You are doing a great job to save the corals!” Maria, Germany (20.06.14)

    Take a look at the review >>

    small crownBEST FOR WINTER SUN: Turtle Beach House, Sri Lanka

    We say: Secret hideaway for 4-6 on the beach near Galle, with luxe furnishings, a lovely garden and a dreamy pool

    Turtle Beach House

    “The place is perfectly positioned on the most beautiful beach in the area”

    You say: “Turtle Beach is a true gem amongst private villas anywhere in the world… The location is right on the beach, which is easily accessed after you walk around your private swimming pool.” Graham, Hong Kong (26.10.14)

    “Absolutely superb in all senses. Even hard to distinguish the best part of our experience – was it the villa itself, the delicious food made every evening by Ranaweera, the kindness of Santa, or the overall atmosphere?” Andra, Latvia (26.01.14)

    Take a look at the review >>

    small crownBEST ISLAND HIDEAWAY: Casa Los Geranios, Canary Islands

    We say: Gorgeous traditional Canarian house (sleeps 2-8) in La Palma’s sunny south, with gob-stopping views over volcanoes to the shimmering Atlantic

    Casa Los Geranios

    “A fantastic place with excellent service”

    You say: “This is a very special place – quite perfect. Located on the edge of a vineyard, with beautiful accommodations and gardens. It was spotless and very comfortable, and the owner Lourdes went to great pains to ensure everything met my expectations.” Jonathan, Canada (01.07.14)

    “A fantastic place with excellent service, a fabulous view and a wonderful garden. This is now one of my favourite places on earth.” Katharina, Switzerland (18.03.14)

    Take a look at the review >>

    small crownBEST BUDGET BOLTHOLE: Casa do Rio Vez, Portugal

    We say: An ancient millhouse with a contemporary slant offering B&B rooms and a self-catering loft, beside the crystalline waters of the Vez River

    Casa do Rio Vez

    “Very relaxing stay on the beautiful River Vez. Excellent hotel”

    You say: “We had a great time at Casa do Rio Vez and Valerie is an excellent hostess. Food was fresh and good quality, and always looked tempting as well as tasting good.” Sue, United Kingdom (01.09.14)

    “This is really heaven! So nice and peaceful and beautiful! Everything is perfect. I have never seen such a lovely breakfast and beautiful rooms. You do feel so wonderful. The owner tells you a lot of places where you can go and is very helpful. We recommend it to everybody!” Albert, Netherlands (11.09.13)

    Take a look at the review >>

    small crownBEST FAMILY ESCAPE: Ammos Hotel, Crete

    We say: Style with a big smile at this chic and superbly serviced family-minded hotel on the beach, 15 minutes from Chania

    Ammos Hotel

    “Loved this hotel. Incredibly welcoming & helpful staff”

    You say: “Absolutely wonderful place – fantastic staff, great food and beautiful hotel. It was the ideal place for a holiday with our one year old (who was treated like royalty by everyone there) and we all loved it.”  Julia, United Kingdom (21.06.14)

    “Faultless! A wonderful boutique hotel that really caters for small children. The service is fantastic and the staff are genuinely friendly and helpful; nothing is too much trouble. Excellent food – we didn’t eat anywhere else really, apart from the days we hired a car. Nikos and all his staff were amazing.” Colette, United Kingdom (17.06.14)

    Take a look at the review >>

    small crownBEST CITY PAD: Pedrera Boutique Apartment, Spain

    We say: A spacious, super-stylish apartment for 2-4 in the heart of the Eixample district, looking onto Gaudí’s La Pedrera building

    Pedrera Boutique Apartment

    “Sitting on the balcony listening to a jazz concert on the rooftop of neighbouring La Pedrera was a real treat”

    You say: “Fantastic location and a beautifully conserved and designed apartment. We cannot fault it and would love to go back before too long.” Duna, United Kingdom (02.09.14)

    “Our stay at the Pedrera Boutique Apartment met and exceeded our expectations – a thoroughly excellent experience all round! I loved that the apartment had all the best bits of staying in a luxurious hotel – extraordinary decor/furniture, AMAZING city centre location – and none of the things that can niggle about staying in an apartment.” Katie, United Kingdom (17.06.14)

    Take a look at the review >>

    small crownBEST HOTEL (UK): The Tide House, Cornwall

    We say: Relaxing retreat in a quiet backstreet of St Ives, with stunning seaside-chic décor and a warm welcome

    The Tide House

    “The Tide House is excellent; we could not fault it!”

    You say: “Luxurious accommodation with lots of lovely additional touches such as free daily papers to read, a real fire, fresh flapjacks to eat in the room etc.” Martha, United Kingdom (29.11.13)

    “We had a wonderful stay at the Tide House. I would definitely say the best place to stay in St Ives. The staff and owners are incredibly helpful and welcoming, the rooms are stunning, and the food at breakfast was wonderful.” Melissa, United Kingdom (09.10.13)

    Take a look at the review >>

    small crownBEST HOTEL (OVERSEAS): Finca el Tossal, Spain

    We say: A traditional casa rural, 8km uphill from the Costa Blanca, with great views of the Marina Alta mountains and the Med

    Finca el Tossal

    “Absolutely beautiful guesthouse run and staffed by lovely people”

    You say: “Lovely secluded place. A place to enjoy the view and the calm atmosphere. Bring some good books and sit back and relax.” Jon, Denmark (24.09.14)

    “We had a wonderful stay at Finca el Tossal. The setting is stunning, in the middle of the quiet mountains though just 10 miles from the sea. The house is beautiful, with careful service, and the delicious dinners cooked by the Argentinian chef were perfect. We highly recommend this place.” Perquis, France (23.08.14)

    Take a look at the review >>

    small crownBEST RENTAL (OVERSEAS): Xaghra Farmhouse, Malta

    We say: A huge rustic townhouse in the charismatic small Gozitan town of Xaghra; ideal for families or friends and excellent value (sleeps 6-8)

    Xaghra Farmhouse

    “Really great location and house”

    You say: “We had a wonderful stay at the Xaghra Farmhouse. The house was beautiful, well equipped and relaxing. The Maltese stone interior when lit up at night was lovely, and we all enjoyed the pool. Our little girl also really enjoyed playing with the toys available at the house. We spent most days and evenings relaxing by the pool, but had a lovely meal at Ta’Frenc. We would thoroughly recommend the house, and Gozo itself.”
    Emma, United Kingdom (13.09.14)

    Take a look at the review >>

    small crownBEST RENTAL (UK): Dovecote View, Somerset

    We say: A spoiling self-catering cottage for 2-4, with envy-inducing interiors and a fantastic setting in a small but sophisticated country town

    Dovecote View

    “The cottage itself was the perfect blend of cosy historical charm and modern comfort”

    You say: “Dovecote View is gorgeous – beautifully decorated, and everything has been thought of. We had a wonderful time with our friends (lovely walks, cocktails and lunch At The Chapel) and would love to go back again. Lucy was a great host – super helpful, so many thanks!” Lucy, United Kingdom (22.09.14)

    “The cottage is absolutely gorgeous and it was spotlessly clean. We had a wonderful weekend. I’d love to know what scented oils were used in the rooms – they smelt amazing!” Hannah, United Kingdom (19.05.14)

    Take a look at the review >>

    Don’t forget you still have time to bag yourself a wonderful free gift (worth £100) when you book a 7-night holiday for 2015 before 31 December.

    Small print: only properties with at least 5 respondents were counted. ‘Verified guests’ means those who booked and paid their stay through Percentages shown are the average across all guests and all categories (Rooms, Eating, Service, Value).

    Posted in i-escape Awards. Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

Family Escape of the Month… The Farm

  • Despite its name, the feeling is far from rustic and the demands far from taxing down on The Farm, set near Jaipur in Rajasthan, India. Instead, guests are treated to a family-friendly oasis with a huge pool, welcoming hosts and pretty, sprawling grounds. The indulgence isn’t limited to the outside either: the rooms are spacious and eclectically designed, with eccentric but tasteful furnishings throughout.

    The Farm

    The fact that owners Ritu and Surya have their own son, Vihaan, is clear from the kid-friendly details: an abundance of games and toys, a shallow end to the pool, and plenty of safe gardens to run around in. Nearby Jaipur – the ‘pink city’ – is a great point of access to beautiful Rajasthan, and its impressive forts are an absolute must see for all ages.

    The Farm

    Rooms: There are 5 rooms and 2 suites, and families would be comfortable in either category. The large, themed suites sleep 4 and have their own private dip tub; they’re set in the garden and so  offer a little more privacy. The rooms can fit an extra bed for kids, and we’d recommend those adjacent to the lawns, pool and deck. Each is distinctively styled with its namesake colour  (Pink, White, Red, Green or Blue and White) in mind, and all have bright windows, atmospheric lighting and choice furnishings which reflect Jaipur’s culture and history.

    As well as the bedrooms, there’s also a fantastic communal room on the ground floor. Inside are mounds of photo-art cushions, plus a billiards table, books and games, and a widescreen TV with an eclectic range of DVDs (many suitable for kids),.

    The Farm

    Food: All the food is included in the price and is utterly delicious – let Rita and Surya know the ages of your kids and they’ll make sure suitable meals are available. Dinners can be served earlier to help with bedtimes, and parents have access to a blender and microwave if needed. The food is also increasingly home-grown and seasonal, giving a fresh and varied menu. You can expect exciting dishes such as pumpkin and pesto soup, Tandoori chicken legs with a hot salsa dip, and melon and cucumber with feta and a vinaigrette dressing. If you have older children with patience and/or a love of food, they’ll adore the sprawling 5-course dinners eaten beneath the stars. And if all this feasting inspires you to delve deeper into the local culinary scene, cooking classes are available and the hosts can direct you to some wonderful eateries in Jaipur.

    The Farm

    Kids’ activities: The hotel and its grounds are wonderfully child-friendly. You’ll find a swimming pool with a shallow end, an outdoor playground and plenty of space; there’s even a mini golf course in the planning. Inside is the usual supply of books, games, puzzles and DVDs, as well as fun pottery classes specifically for children – perfect for when you need to retire from the heat of the day. Beyond the hotel’s grounds, kids will enjoy the nearby waterpark (15 minutes’ drive), as well as jeep rides around the local village and the impressive forts around Jaipur (including the imposing Nahagrh, aka Tiger Fort).

    The Farm

    Baby equipment: If you’re travelling with a baby you can expect bottle warming, pushchairs, potties and a nightlight, though bear in mind that cots are not available so you’ll have to bring your own.

    Customer review: “We thoroughly enjoyed our stay at the Farm. Ritu in particular was an extremely affable and charming hostess and shared so much useful information and insight with us regarding Jaipur and India generally. Staying at the Farm is an intimate experience, akin to staying in a private home rather than an impersonal hotel.”

    Robert, United Kingdom (12.01.14)

    Read the full review and book  >>

    Posted in Family Escape of the Month, Kids. Tagged , , , , ,

Kids go free!

  • Adding up the extras can be a nasty shock when you’re booking a holiday, especially when you factor in the charges for kids. Nadine, i-escape’s Kids Collection Editor, has scoured our site for wonderful family-friendly places to stay which allow children under 12 to stay for free – you can see the full list here. Nadine has also chosen 10 of the best, below, which have something for everyone in terms of price, setting and location. Happy families!

    Monteverdi, Tuscany, Italy

    A welcome addition to the Kids Collection in 2014, this stylish rural retreat in a medieval hamlet is set high in the Tuscan hills (reopening for the season on 1 March 2015). We loved its sophisticated yet rustic rooms – most with double showers and tubs – the largest of which can take an extra bed or baby cot for free, and 2 Luxury Rooms can interconnect. Larger families may prefer to stay in one of the self-catering villas (2, 3 and 6 bedrooms). Children will consider the pool (with pool toys on request) and gardens to be their domain, and will enjoy the Wii consoles and kids’ DVDs after a hard day holidaying exploring the local countryside and historic towns such as Siena.

    Maya Villa, near Tangalle, Sri Lanka

    This 19th-century manor house, just a fun tuk-tuk ride inland from a boogie-boarding beach, has been given a striking makeover and can be booked either by the room or as a staffed villa rental for an extended family party. All 5 bedrooms can take an extra bed and a baby cot, and families will enjoy the 2-acre garden, the L-shaped indigo pool, and a host of games on site including petanque, cricket, volleyball and badminton. There are bikes to borrow and we thought you should know the chef is renowned for his homemade ice creams…

    Chalet Bibendum, near Chamonix, France

    If conjuring up the perfect Alpine hideaway, you’d no doubt include Mont Blanc vistas, a wood-fired hot tub and sauna, snuggly throws, an open-plan rustic-luxe vibe, board games and sledges for all, plus a copper bathtub with a view! There’s a kids’ ski school just up the valley, a rollaway bed, and baby cots can be added to the 4 bedrooms (2 of which can be made up as twins), plus there’s heaps of baby equipment to borrow. As you’re self-catering the rates are great value for the Alps. It’s terrific in the summer, too.

    The Mercer, Soho, New York City, USA

    I’ve never met a child who didn’t love New York City and this hip boutique hotel has a superb central location close to Broadway, shopping, subway stations, and the playground in Washington Square Park. Most of the rooms and suites have huge 2-person bathtubs, and the hotel caters for all age ranges, with oodles of baby and toddler paraphernalia, and DVDs and games consoles for kids and teens. Head out for the night, leaving the children with an experienced babysitter. All room categories from Deluxe Studio upwards can take a rollaway bed or baby cot; some Lofts and all Suites can take multiple extra beds and baby cots.

    Barsham Barns, Norfolk, UK

    Holidaying in self-catering barn conversions are great value: you get lots of space, bags of character, and kids love all the room inside and out to run around. Here, close to the spectacular North Norfolk coast, are 2 clusters of contemporary-styled barns, 7 in total, which sleep 4 to 14, so you’ll definitely find the right one for your family. Each can take a baby cot, some can take extra beds too; all have twin rooms and bathtubs. Five share a games room with ping pong, darts and table football, plus a steam room and spa pool. And each barn comes with a long list of family-friendly activities in the area.

    Riyad el Cadi, Marrakech, Morocco

    We think this would make a good tranquil base for exploring Marrakech, best suited for families with babies and older children. The historic riad is a warren of staircases and corridors across 7 original houses, which is fun for children to explore, there’s a plunge pool in the courtyard, and you’re only 5 minutes’ walk from the Djemaa el Fna, main square with its snake charmers and magicians. There’s all-day food available, smaller portions for kids and a kids’ menu. You can book the Blue House which has 2 bedrooms and a tub in one of the bathrooms; all Suites can take an extra bed or baby cot, and babysitting can be arranged.

    Vida Sol E Mar, Santa Catarina, Brazil

    Defining ‘off-the-beaten-track’ are these stylish beach villas, 2 hours’ south of Florianopolis, overlooking a freshwater lagoon and perfect surf beach. The eco-resort is set in a natural conservation area, and there’s whale-watching July-November, boat trips to see dolphins, birding, waterfalls, snorkelling, surfing and that stunning beach to wander along. There’s a restaurant on site, all villas regardless of size have good kitchens (the larger ones can sleep up to 10), and extra beds are free for any age of child. You’re set for a blissful family holiday.

    Trisara, Phuket, Thailand

    For the ultimate family holiday, perhaps to celebrate a landmark birthday, head to this luxury hotel. Its regal pool villas, positioned perfectly for ocean views, cascade down a jungly hillside to a private sandy beach. Everything is top-notch: the restaurant, the spa, the 45-m saltwater pool with shallow end (and lifeguards), the ambiance. Trisara Kids is a dedicated pavilion hidden away from the main hotel with craft classes and games, supervised by qualified staff. And it’s free! Nearly all bedrooms will take extra cots and beds without charge for kids under 12. Cooking classes, a kids’ menu, mocktails in the bar, a range of watersports, elephant rides, extensive baby and toddler equipment and babysitting are all laid on. Paradise!

    The Rosevine, Cornwall, UK

    Cornwall needs no introduction as a perfect setting for a memorable family holiday, and this seaside-chic apart-hotel was created for families. All studios and apartments have kitchenettes, can take baby cots and/or Z-beds, many have twin beds or bunks, and children will revel in the indoor heated pool or on the trampoline. There’s also a well-equipped playroom, outdoor mini-playground, children’s menus in the restaurant, and the beach is just at the end of the lane. If you can bear to venture forth, you’re a short drive from the Eden Project and National Maritime Museum.

    Villas Carrizalillo, Puerto Escondido, Pacific Coast, Mexico

    You’d be forgiven for thinking that a relaxed clifftop resort set above (with steps down to) a sandy cove of turquoise sea below, with superb sunsets, immaculate 1-3 bedroom villas, gardens with bubbling fountains plus restaurant on site would be pricey. But pleasingly, appearances can be deceptive! Not only is this Eden well-priced, most villas have full kitchens so you can self-cater, there’s a small pool, a selection of games and toys for kids, bikes to borrow, and snorkelling gear and surfboards to rent. Lovely.

    Take a look at the full ‘Kids go free’ selection >>

    Posted in Family Travel, Kids. Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Spotlight on… Patagonia

  • Everyone’s talking about Patagonia, whether it’s Lonely Planet highlighting El Chaltén’s 30th anniversary or Top Gear courting controversy over Christmas – but what’s the real story behind this expansive region?

    Torres del Paine National Park

    Torres del Paine National Park

    Why go?

    Stretching across southern Chile and Argentina, Patagonia remains utterly wild, windswept and so unimaginably vast that it could encompass several countries. It has attracted explorers (Darwin), outlaws (Butch and Sundance), revolutionaries (Che Guevara) and writers (Chatwin) and many are still drawn to the idea of escaping it all in this sprawling wilderness.

    Glacier excursions with Eolo

    Glacier excursions with Eolo


    There’s so much to see that it’s best to choose just one region and take time to really get under its skin.

    Let’s kick things off in Chilean Patagonia, where the famed granite towers of the Torres del Paine National Park loom large over the continent’s southernmost reaches. Widely regarded as one of the most beautiful, unspoilt and unique places on earth, it’s a trekking mecca with routes encompassing lagoons, glaciers (the vast Grey Glacier is particularly stunning), waterfalls and wildlife of all kinds. Most popular are the demanding El Circuito (5-6 days; 100km) and The W (4-5 days; 76km), both of which start at the main park entrance by Laguna Amarga and lead hikers around the Paine Massif.

    Awasi Patagonia

    Awasi Patagonia (granite towers in the distance)

    Tierra Patagonia

    Tierra Patagonia

    If you’re into architecture, you’ll be in hotel heaven. Shining examples include eco-friendly Tierra Patagonia, conceived by 3 of Chile’s leading architects to blend into its environment by using native lenga wood. Equally, modernist Remota hotel in Puerto Natels and the rustic-luxe Awasi Patagonia villas (with private 4x4s and tours) amplify their environment with conceptual design. For something more immersive, EcoCamp and Patagonia Camp offer comfortable domes or yurts with exceptional cuisine and breathtaking views.



    Patagonia Camp

    Patagonia Camp

    Across the border in Argentine Patagonia, at the tail-end of the Andes, there’s spectacular hiking around 3,405m Mount Fitz Roy, named after the captain of the ship that brought Charles Darwin to South America. Los Cerros sits just above El Chaltén, which celebrates the 30th anniversary of its founding next year and was named one of Lonely Planet’s must-see cities for 2015. From here, make forays into the Southern Ice Field, kayak down the meandering Río de las Vueltas, or boat across Lago del Desierto.

    Mount Fitz Roy and Perito Moreno glacier

    Mount Fitz Roy and Perito Moreno glacier

    Visitors also flock to the 19-mile long Perito Moreno glacier, one of the world’s few advancing glaciers. Put on crampons and hike the sculpted surface, take a boat under the towering glacier wall, or watch as gargantuan ice columns splinter into Lago Argentino. Skip a stay in touristy El Calafate (where the region’s main airport resides) by booking into Eolo. Feel the silence, hear the wind, and gaze at unparalleled views of the valley, and even Torres del Paine on a clear day.



    If you want something more unusual and off-the-beaten track, head a few hours north to the remote reaches of Patagonia. Spa lovers adore the unique Puyuhuapi Lodge, with its thalassotherapy centre, thermal pools and pampering seaweed treatments. And you can book a tour to the hanging glacier of Queulat National Park – a fantastic resting place along the stunning and little-travelled Camino Austral.

    Futaleufu River

    Futaleufu River

    Across the border, the turquoise Futaleufu River’s white-water rapids draw paddlers every December to April, plus there’s world-class fly-fishing (on both Futaleufu and Yelcho River), with large native populations of brown and rainbow trout. The Secret Ranchito is the ultimate hideaway cottage here; stunning views and absolute, uninterrupted peace.

    The Secret Ranchito

    The Secret Ranchito

    When to go

    Late November to early March is the best time for outdoor activities. The weather can be changeable and the winds fierce, but it can also be glorious with clear blue skies and warm sunshine. Lodgings and campsites are usually full during the peak months (January/February), so plan ahead or go just before or after. Winter (June-August) is extremely harsh and services are limited.

    Trekking Torres del Paine National Park

    Trekking Torres del Paine National Park

    Our top tip

    Although the Torres del Paine can be reached by air, boat or an arduous overland trip from Argentina, if you have the time and money we’d recommend taking the 3-night/4-day Navimag ferry trip from Puerto Montt to Puerto Natales town, which follows a spectacular route through fjords and channels.

    Torres de Paine National Park

    Torres de Paine National Park

    See full accommodation options in Chilean Patagonia and Argentine Patagonia.

    Posted in Spotlight on.... Tagged , , , , , , ,

Escape of the Week… Metairie Montplaisir

  • This foodie, family-friendly guesthouse is an idyllic bolthole near the fairytale medieval town of Carcassonne, deep in the Languedoc region of southern France. It’s intimate and cosy, yet each of the 5 rooms is large and groups can rent the stylishly renovated farmhouse in its entirety.

    Metairie Montplaisir

    Owner Amélie has poured love into the building’s transformation and her passion for the guesthouse and the local area is infectious. It’s easy to see how its beauty can get under your skin – it’s set in bucolic gardens complete with a pool and a babbling river, and the popular village of Conques sur Orbiel is nearby.

    Metairie Montplaisir

    Rooms: Wonderfully stylish and spacious, the 5 rooms in the main house are a triumph of colour and design. One of the largest, Carlota, is a beautiful light-filled space with a bioethanol fireplace (which opens out into both the bedroom and the lounge), plus a lovely wooden floor and sunny colours inspired by Mexico, Colombia and Brazil. The bathrooms are excellent, too: all have walk-in showers, and Carlota has a white oval bath. We also love the look of The Atelier, a 2-storey cottage blessed with a large workshop-style window; it’s big enough to accommodate 3 child beds and makes a great option for families.

    Metairie Montplaisir

    Food: Blissfully, breakfast is served whenever you like – and it’s a spread you certainly won’t want to miss. Croissants, warm brioche, local eggs, cured ham, coffee and jams made from the garden’s fruit all feature, and they taste even better when enjoyed under the chestnut trees in summer or in the charming dining room during winter. Lunch is also a culinary delight (homemade soups, carpaccio of scallops, chanterelle omelette), and the delicious dinners have led to cook and Amélie’s mother Françoise being awarded a Michelin fork. Expect the likes of homemade ravioli, stuffed courgette flowers and goats’ cheese terrine. If you decide to eat out, Amélie can recommend restaurants in the village and there are a host of options a short drive away in Carcassonne.

    Metairie Montplaisir

    Top Tip: Resist the temptation to stay here all day! The Languedoc is one of the most rewarding regions in France, so get out and explore. You’ll find wild hilltop castles, vineyards and the Canal du Midi all within easy reach.

    Metairie Montplaisir

    Customer review: “We had such a beautiful time. This is one of those rare and truly special places. The attention to detail is spectacular and Amélie and her mum created the best food we had on our gastronomic 3-week trip across Spain and France. The pictures can’t do this place justice. Highly recommended!”
    Lisa, United Kingdom (08.09.14)

    i-escape gift: a picnic basket or an aperitif with tapas (according to season)

    Read the full review and book  >>

    Posted in Escape of the Week. Tagged , ,

Top 10 Christmas gifts for the travel fanatic

  • Advent has arrived and the main event is just around the corner. We’ve consulted our Christmas lists to bring you a rundown of some perfect pressies for the traveller in your life  – or for yourself, for that matter. Whether you’re trying to charge your phone in Chile, keep the kids entertained on a long trip, or make a record of it all when you get back home, there’s something for you here. Happy present hunting!


    1. This nicely designed wall map lets you scratch off the countries you’ve ticked off of your bucket list (far better than putting post-its in an atlas). It will either leave you as smug as a travel bug, or become oddly addictive as you complete your i-escape booking and reach for a penny to scrape off the next destination. Luckily, unlike scratch cards, you’re guaranteed a win.

    Find one for £19.95 on

    2. Sadly, flights and baggage don’t always go hand in hand to their destination and you can end up being stuck with one set of clothes and no toothbrush. This lightweight gizmo keeps a tab on your possessions and alerts you to their location if they go awry. They may be hundreds of miles away, but at least you’ll know.

    Find one for $79.99 on


    3. However you travel, you often arrive feeling like a drained, less than radiant version of the excited individual who started the trip. This ‘elixir of youth’ is a good step towards a remedy: perfect for once you’ve stepped off the plane or spent the day exploring the local sights.

    Find one for £32.00 from

    4. This may look like a simple, lightweight portable solar charger, but in fact it’s 2. That’s because for every one you purchase, another is sent to the Philippines to assist with the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan. It’s a handy piece of kit for any traveller and indispensable to those in need of emergency relief, making it an obvious stocking-filler choice.

    Find one for $79.00 on


    5. Trunki is now synonymous with quirky and adorable luggage for kids (it encourages them to carry their own), but it also has other useful kit for travelling tots. We particularly like these ‘Snoozihedz’ – great for the plane, train or car, and popular with little ones thanks to the cute characters.

    Find one for £19.99 on

    6. Help bring the analogue fan into the world of moving pictures with these popular, hand-cranked movie makers. It’s a personal way to create stunning memories that are perhaps more thought-out than their digital counterparts – a perfect holiday keepsake.

    Find one for £65.00 from


    7. When travelling with children you need to be prepared for every possible eventuality (and more), as well as potential deficiencies in the kid-friendly kit at the other end. Of course, you can check our Kids pages for helpful advice on exactly what to expect, but you can also pack yourself one of these ‘bambinoz’ (which attach a babyseat to any chair) to help free up your hands at feeding time.

    Find one for $49.50 from

    8. We love these simple leather travel wallets from Aspinal. Well made in a range of colours, they’re the perfect place to stash your currency, tickets, cards and passport. Sometimes the classics are the best.

    Find one for £125 on


    9. If you struggle to sleep in new beds, or just crave a restorative night’s rest, this simple spray has proved to be a rather successful aid for accessing the land of nod. Infused with lavender and wild camomile, it’s a natural remedy to a restless night. It’s available in a travel size, too.

    Find one for £16.00 from

    10. Ideal for the person who has everything, these exquisite hand-painted globes would make an impressive centrepiece to the home. They’re a wonderful testament to patience and an artisan approach. The results are achingly beautiful.

    Find one from £999.00 from

    Christmas comes early: this year, we’re offering you the chance to bag yourself a great selection of gifts from Noble Isle or Balance Me if you book a 7-night 2015 stay.

    Posted in Our Favourite.... Tagged , , ,

Book early with the family

  • You know the drill: put off the heated debate about where and when to go for that precious summer holiday, then lose weeks deciding whether to invite another family or the grandparents along, and bingo! Your idyllic villa, dream hotel or perfect resort is already booked up. So for summer 2015, don’t delay! 

    We’ve picked out some popular family-friendly boltholes that fill up fast – book now to bag yourself a holiday that the whole family will be excited about. As an added bonus, we’re offering one of 2 free gifts worth £100 for all 2015 bookings of 7 nights or more made before the end of December.

    Le Castel, Normandy, France

    Le Castel

    Holidays here are what childhood summers should be like. You get a large 19th-century Normandy chateau to romp around, and the weekly all-inclusive rates include breakfast, dinner, drinks and, best of all, up to 4 hours of childcare a day for over 3s. There’s also a programme of activities, along with a splash pool, all-day food, a woodland den, swings and a sandpit, croquet, and a marquee in the grounds that’s stuffed full of toys and games. Bliss!

    Monaci delle Terre Nere, Sicily, Italy

    Monaci delle Terre Nere

    This unique hideaway, set amongst wooded terraces and fruit trees on 40 acres of rich black earth that slopes up towards Mount Etna, has a welcoming, back-to-the-land vibe. There’s a pool, a box of toys and swings for little ones, and you’re a short drive from the coast and Etna National Park. It’s only 40 minutes to Catania airport, too. The retreat also works perfectly for discerning adults (the food! the wine! the handsome interiors!), so all ages will love it. There’s a 3-night minimum stay in July and August, and a 2-night minimum in May and June.

    Esplendido Hotel, Puerto Soller, Mallorca

    Esplendido Hotel

    This is a sure winner with families – a funky seaside hotel set on a safe, sandy beach, with not one but two swimming pools. Parents will appreciate the bistro-restaurant and spa, as will their offspring (there’s a kids’ menus, and tailored treatments such as mani-pedis are on offer). You can catch the tram into Soller for an ice-cream, enjoy a picnic in the mountains, take a boat trip, or relax on your sea-view terrace and admire the vista across the bay.

    Finca Malvasia, Lanzarote, Canary Islands

    Finca Malvasia

    It’s no surprise that these four 1- and 2-bedroom stone cottages are popular for relaxed family holidays. They’re well-priced and have a delightful pool area surrounded by palms and bougainvillea, plus a kids’ splash pool. The beach is just 10km away, too. The owners are knowledgeable and welcoming, and can provide oodles of kit for smaller fry, including beach toys. You can self-cater or arrange for breakfast hampers and lunch platters. There’s a 7-night minimum stay all year.

    Azur Hotel, near Antalya, Turkey

    Azur Hotel

    The winner of the ‘Best Value’ category in our 2013 Best for Kids Awards, Azur Hotel ticks all the boxes for a splendid family vacation. It’s set by the beach, with fabulous gardens, a small playground and a super pool. The staff couldn’t be nicer and half-portions are available in the restaurant. We recommend the stone bungalows for families as they’re a bit larger and closer to the restaurant for monitors to work. Note there’s a minimum stay of 1 week in the summer months.

    Marine Villa, Cornwall, UK

    Marine Villa

    West Country properties always book up fast in the summer, and this smart 3-bedroom Grade II-listed holiday house is no exception. With a contemporary makeover, an excellent kitchen and lots of thoughtful details (especially for younger kids), families adore staying here. There are swashbuckling activities aplenty on your doorstep (the house is set on a historic quay and tall ships are moored in the harbour), and the Eden Project is just a 10-minute drive. Note there’s a 7-night minimum stay in July and August.

    Monte da Vilarinha, Algarve, Portugal

    Monte da Vilarinha

    We think this is a perfect family escape: rural bliss in a national park, just a short distance from the Atlantic coast and its beaches. There’s a choice of contemporary-styled apartments and studios with snazzy kitchens, yet a substantial buffet breakfast is included in the rates. Kids will be in their element with a playground, a playroom, a pool, mountain bikes, a rope walkway, toys and an enchanted valley on offer. There’s a 7-night minimum stay from mid-June to August.

    Ammos Hotel, Chania, Crete

    Ammos Hotel

    Just 15 minutes outside Chania is this Scandi-chic seaside hotel, which delivers both style and service in spades. Younger folk will appreciate the shallow sandy beach, the kids’ pool and the toy-filled playroom, as well as local boat cruises. And all the studios and suites have kitchenettes for those evenings when the kids won’t sit quietly in the restaurant.

    Agro Can Gall, Ibiza, Spain

    Agro Can Gall

    This tranquil, welcoming finca is one of the most popular places to stay on i-escape. Set inland, away from the bustle yet within easy reach of the coast, the former farmhouse comes with a 25m heated pool with a shallow end, plus bikes to ride and a huge garden to play in. There are comfy white-on-white Family Suites and Deluxe Rooms with terraces to choose from, and local produce is deployed expertly in the kitchen. There’s a 4-night minimum stay, and summer bookings open in January.

    Merlin Farm Eco Cottages, Cornwall, UK

    Merlin Farm Eco Cottages

    Created from a former barn, with big picture windows and sleek décor, are these four cottages, all of which can host families. This is a super spot for children to frolic: there’s a pirate-ship sandpit, a slide and a grassy picnic area, and in the summer there are rabbits, guinea pigs and donkeys to pet. Parents are handed a useful welcome pack listing kid-friendly restaurants and sights, as well as local babysitters. Only breaks of 3, 4 or 7 nights are permitted.

    Here are a few top tips from our bookings team to help you secure a reservation at your chosen property:

    – When enquiring state the ages of your children and provide as much information as possible such as your preference for how you need the room/s set up, ask about any particular requirements for example a half-board option.

    – Don’t forget to mention that you are bringing your family – a surprising number of people do!

    – Every review on i-escape has a dedicated kids page so you know exactly what facilities and extras are available – be sure to take a look.

    Take a look at our full family collection or our fantastic book early giveaway.

    Posted in Kids, Top 10. Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Escape of the Week… 4 Rivers Floating Lodge

  • Here at i-escape we pride ourselves on discovering the hard to find and reaching the hard to access. However, rarely are they quite as secluded as this 12-tent lodge, which  floats on the crook of southwest Cambodia’s Tatai River. The isolation is part of the magic. with nothing but wild rainforest, waterfalls and the meandering river to keep you occupied.

    4 Rivers Floating Lodge

    After a 20-minute boat ride (the only way to access the lodge), guests alight onto the central terrace, surrounded by the green of the rainforest and the glass-like calm of the largest freshwater pool in the world. From here on, kayaks are the main form of transportation, and you  can use them to explore the mangroves and spot the wonderful abundance of wildlife in the area.

    4 Rivers Floating Lodge

    Rooms: The 12 luxury tents arch out in 2 flanks from the central restaurant and communal area. They’re far from simplistic: an elegant rattan bed, wardrobe, chaise longue and other furniture all fit into the spacious, circular rooms, which are nicely designed and equipped with rain showers and wooden tub-style baths. There’s even a flat-screen TV and DVD player for lazy days. The main attraction, however, lies beyond the tent walls (which you can roll up for panoramic views) – a,  private deck with lounge beds and a ladder down into the clear waters of the river below.

    4 Rivers Floating Lodge

    Food: Since the 800 sq.m resort is floating, dining options are unsurprisingly limited. However, the restaurant offers a fantastically fresh menu which changes daily to protect guests from boredom. Most of the dishes are international or provide a twist on Cambodian favourites, with snacks available all day. For lunch we enjoyed green mango salad and fresh shrimp, eggplant piccata with tomato-sauce pasta,  and green-bean soup with coconut milk; for dinner,  we tucked into more substantial dishes like banana-flower salad with chicken, followed by chicken, beef or fish curry with rice.

    Alternatively, you can spend the day fishing with locals and catch a snapper to bring back for the staff to cook up for you.

    4 Rivers Floating Lodge

    Top Tip: This resort is best for couples who are happy wallow in seclusion and commune with everything nature has to offer, away from outside civilisation.

    4 Rivers Floating Lodge

    Customer review: “An amazing, unique and magical place to stay in a stunning area of Cambodia. All the staff were so wonderful and friendly, and the tents were unbelievably luxurious and comfortable. We could not recommend it more highly and were so sad that we were not able to stay longer.”
    Daisy, United Kingdom (24.12.13)

    i-escape gift: a 4 Rivers cap

    Read the full review and book  >>

    Posted in Escape of the Week. Tagged , , ,

Just back from… Lanzarote

  • Desperate for some sunshine, our Assistant Rates Manager Olivia decided to head to Lanzarote for guaranteed good weather, volcanic landscapes and plenty of cocktail-fuelled down time, roping in her mum and sister for a girly getaway.

    Playa Blanca

    Playa Blanca

    I had always been wary of “Lanzagrotty” – that was until a couple of years ago, when a last-minute family holiday completely altered my opinion. The easternmost island in the Canaries is affordable and has something for everyone – even the Camerons holidayed there in 2014!

    White-washed villages, coloured shutters and impressive sculptures are dotted around the island, which is blissfully devoid of high-rise buildings thanks to the influence of native architect César Manrique – a welcome omission in a tourist hotspot!

    César Manrique's cactus garden

    César Manrique’s cactus garden

    Our trip began in the bustling Marina Rubicon, just east of Playa Blanca. Less touristy than its popular neighbour, with stylish bars and restaurants overlooking the water, it’s the perfect spot for tapas washed down by the local digestif, honey rum (a sickly sweet liquor that’s something of an acquired taste! ).

    We loved the busy Saturday market which runs along the length of the marina. Here you can pick out local products, handmade soaps and jewellery from amongst the usual jumble of souvenir stands.

    Timanfaya National Park

    Timanfaya National Park

    The beauty of this little island is that nothing is more than an hour’s drive away along mostly deserted roads, and from the southern tip we then moved on to Tiagua 81, a converted 19th-century country home which now houses self-catering apartments clustered around a communal pool. Set within 5km of Timanfaya National Park, it’s perfect for active holidays, with a store room for sports equipment, a wetsuit shower, and four popular cycle routes on the doorstep. But if, like us, you don’t like to stray too far from your sun lounger, then don’t be put off! We enjoyed a lazy day by the pool and made the most of the handy little kitchen – perfect for preparing light meals and keeping wine cool.

    Tiagua 81

    Tiagua 81

    From this central location you’re within easy reach of some of the island’s best beaches, too. Surfers’ paradise La Santa is a 10-minute drive away and sunset hotspot Famara beach is only 15 minutes further up the coast.

    Famara Beach

    Famara Beach

    After our stay at Tiagua 81, we couldn’t resist popping to see the yurts, cottages and donkeys at its sister property, eco retreat Finca de Arrieta. It’s a great choice for families and we were overwhelmed by the on-site facilities for kids – we only wished we were still young enough to bounce on the trampoline!

    Finca de Arrieta

    Finca de Arrieta

    Our final stop was the idyllic and stylish Villa Guatiza. Set in the northern village of Guatiza, this 200-year–old, two-bedroom farmhouse has been beautifully restored and is the perfect base for a laid-back self-catering stay on the island. Best of all, with the beaches and seafood restaurants of Arrieta less than 10 minutes’ drive away, you can do as much or as little as you please.  We struggled to drag ourselves away from the lovely gardens, the heated pool and the panoramic views from the front terrace.

    Villa Guatiza

    Villa Guatiza

    So, far from being grotty, our visit confirmed what we already knew about Lanzarote – this is an island worth visiting.  Apart from the year-round good weather and lovely beaches, it has plenty to do for people of all ages, whether you fancy cycling across the moonlike landscape, exploring one of the busy markets, admiring César Manrique’s legacy or just sitting back and sipping cocktails at sunset.

    Take a look at our full collection of Lanzarote hotels or explore the other Canary islands

    Posted in Our Trips.... Tagged , , ,

Easy Escapes for December

  • December is the one month a year when it’s genuinely delightful (even desirable!) to wake up to frosty mornings, wrap up in layers, and warm your evenings with a roaring fire. Festive decorations and delicious eggnog just don’t work in the blazing sunshine, so why fight the wintry weather?!

    We’ve scoured the globe for great prices, so all you have to do is book*. Secure your accommodation through i-escape, then follow our recommendations for travel, and voila! It’s time to start packing…

    A British break – £130 per person (2 nights, 14-16 December)

    The Seven Sisters

    The Seven Sisters

    Escape hectic Christmas preparations with a romantic weekend in rural Sussex. Bring your Hunters for walks on the South Downs or stroll the coastal path by the Seven Sisters. The area is rich with traffic-free cycle routes and cosy pubs for restorative lunches.

    Blue Door Barns

    Blue Door Barns

    Stay: at enchanting Blue Door Barns, a great couples’ hideaway with fresh flowers and candles galore. Two nights in the The Sailor’s House comes to £130 per person, plus you’ll get a £60 gift voucher to spend in ‘The Snug’ (their onsite treatment room).

    Travel: the barns are just outside Lewes, a 2-hour drive south of London.

    Total cost: £130 per person B&B, including all taxes.

    More info: Getting there and other accommodation options

    Escape to Iceland – £391.15 per person (3 nights, 6-9 December)



    Viewing the Aurora Borealis is a completely magical winter experience, so gift yourself an early once-in-a-lifetime treat this Christmas, and head north to Iceland.

    Hotel Ranga

    Hotel Ranga

    Stay: at Hotel Ranga, a remote and quirky lodge where staff can even wake you at night if the Northern Lights appear. The food is fabulous and it’s a dizzyingly romantic setting; most rooms have Jacuzzis and volcano views. Their 3-for-2 offer makes a 3-night stay just £187.50 per person, plus you’ll have a surprise gift waiting in your room!

    Fly: from London Heathrow to Reykjavik with Icelandair for £170 per person, departing Saturday 6 December and returning Tuesday 9 December.

    From the airport: car hire through Rhino starts from £67.31 and this will allow you to explore this beautiful country more freely.

    Total cost: £391.15 per person B&B, including all taxes.

    More info: Getting to Iceland and other accommodation options

    ‘Tis the skison – £2,437 per person (7 nights, 20-27 December)

    French Alps

    French Alps

    Want a guaranteed White Christmas? Then head to the French Alps. The blue skies and snowy peaks of the Trois Vallees are awe-inspiring – and the ski season is in full swing. Spend your days on Courchevel’s slopes and your evenings drinking steaming vin chaud around a firepit. Festive heaven!

    Le Portetta

    Le Portetta

    Stay: at ski-in, ski-out Le Portetta. This luxe hotel is pure Alpine chic, with a lavish spa, flexible meal arrangements and rooms to suit families, friends and couples. Plus a fabulous sunny terrace for that all-important apres-ski! Amazingly, it still has availability for the Christmas period, with a 7-night stay in a Valley-View Family Room coming to £2,045 per person.

    Fly: from East Midlands Airport to Geneva with jet2 for £107 per person, departing Saturday 20 December and returning Saturday 27 December.

    From the airport: the hotel offer transfers from Geneva airport for £285 (one way).

    Total cost: £2,437 per person half board, including all taxes.

    More info: Getting to the French Alps and other accommodation options

    *Please note that only the accommodation may be booked through The information on travel is provided as a service to you, and must be booked through other websites, as indicated. All prices and availability are correct at the time of publishing. The per person prices are based on 2 people in a double/twin room or an apartment for 2. Published on 26th November 2014.

    Posted in Easy Escapes. Tagged , , , , , , , , ,