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As the New Year draws ever closer, the hip hideaway specialists at i-escape.com have revealed their boutique travel hotlist for 2015. From off-the-beaten-track retreats in South Africa’s Paternoster - where the Rand continues to give you real bang for your buck - to Portugal’s coolest city break, the team’s tips pinpoint the places to go for seriously stylish escapes during the year ahead.
Paternoster, South Africa - empty beaches and luxe for less
A favourable exchange rate means South Africa continues to provide excellent value for money, particularly in the unspoilt region around the town of Paternoster. Two hours north of Cape Town, it offers gloriously empty beaches, charming fishing villages, flower-filled nature reserves and a wealth of foodie haunts. i-escape has added two fantastic retreats in the area, including the spoiling Abalone House and Spa. Perfect for an indulgent holiday, this luxurious yet quirky adults-only hotel encompasses Reuben’s (a renowned restaurant from celebrity chef Reuben Riffel), as well as a rooftop Jacuzzi where you can enjoy glorious sea views and a glass of fizz.
Rooms from £178 per night, based on two sharing on a B&B basis.
Porto - Portugal’s new urban hotspot
Portugal’s second city is the latest go-to spot for great-value urban breaks, and easyJet is launching new direct routes from Bristol, Luton and Manchester in April 2015. It’s experiencing a real cultural renaissance, with galleries, restaurants and boho boutiques, as well as famous port lodges and striking Baroque architecture. Beautifully restored townhouse hotels are popping up across the city, too, including brand-new 1872 River House, a bijou 8-room B&B set on the banks of the Douro in the Unesco-listed Ribeira district. It follows hot on the heels of chic yet cheap hotel Rosa Et Al Townhouse, which epitomises Porto’s new creative buzz and has gained an excellent reputation since opening in late 2012.
Rooms at 1872 River House start at £126 per night, based on two sharing on a B&B basis. Rooms at Rosa Et Al Townhouse start from £77 per night, based on two sharing on an accommodation-only basis.
Menorca - a cluster of boutique openings inspires new collection
With a clutch of brand-new boutique hotels and villas, Menorca is shaking off its reputation as Ibiza and Mallorca’s sleepy little sister - so much so that i-escape is adding a chic Menorca collection for 2015. The island has plenty of gorgeous coves, together with sprawling beaches and renowned vineyards, and many of its gems are yet to be discovered by the UK press. These include cool converted townhouse Hotel Petit Mao (opened in July 2014), a discreet hideaway in the buzzing capital Mahon, with plenty of vintage touches, a small pool and a pretty walled garden. The collection also encompasses swish and secluded sea-view villa The Manor House (opened in 2013), which sleeps up to 14 and has a stunning infinity pool, a concierge service and private access to a beautiful white-sand beach.
Rooms at Hotel Petit Mao start from £63 per night, based on two sharing on a B&B basis. Rental of The Manor House starts at £812 per night, based on up to 14 sharing on an accommodation-only basis.
Naples, Italy - the alternative Italian city break
Naples hasn’t always enjoyed a sparkling reputation, but the gateway to the Amalfi Coast is cleaning up its act and fast becoming a destination in its own right. It’s packed with ornate palazzi and world-class galleries (even the metro stations now house art installations), and a new mayor has ushered in measures to tackle corruption, litter and traffic congestion. What’s more, easyJet has just introduced new flights to Naples from Luton and various other European airports, making it more accessible than ever before. i-escape will be adding two new boutique boltholes in the city for 2015: Attico Partenopeo, an affordable B&B with a gorgeous roof terrace, and Partenope Relais, a contemporary hotel with a cinematic theme and glorious views over the Bay of Naples.
Pelion - under-the-radar beachside bliss on the Greek mainland
For sun-seekers tired of the crowds in Greece’s traditional holiday haunts, unspoilt Pelion is the place to head in 2015. A 3-hour drive from Athens or Thessaloniki (both served by British Airways and easyJet), this mountainous peninsula boasts miles of gorgeous coastline - ideal for those who want to combine a beach holiday with outdoor adventures. Its historic stone villages are linked by a network of old mule paths that are perfect for hiking, and local operators offer mountain biking, horse riding, canyoning and kayaking. For 2015, i-escape has expanded its Pelion collection to encompass 5 fantastic hideaways, including Six Keys - a stylish seaside guesthouse set on its own beach, with 7 spacious suites and some of the best food in the area.
Suites start from £118 per night, based on two sharing on a B&B basis.
Southern Sri Lanka - an ever-popular tropical haven
Sri Lanka’s popularity shows no sign of waning and a number of brand-new boutique retreats are springing up along its beautiful south coast. Most luxurious is Cape Weligama, a clifftop resort near Galle that opened in October 2014. It has huge suites, private butlers, multiple pools and several restaurants, plus a dive centre and direct access to two sandy beaches. Best of all is its intelligent lay-out, with child-friendly and adults-only pools, meaning couples and families have plenty of space to themselves. For those seeking a more laid-back, purse-friendly take on the exotic holiday, there are also several new staffed villas in the region, including Mawella Beach Hideaways, a pair of barefoot-chic bungalows for 2-4 beside a fishing beach near Tangalle.
Suites at Cape Weligama start at £386 per night, based on two sharing on a half-board basis. Prices at Mawella Beach Hideaways start at £96 per bungalow per night, based on two sharing on an accommodation-only basis.