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Travel experts on the first place they'll be heading to once the crisis is over

From Corsica to Cornwall, New Orleans to Namibia... our favourite globetrotters share the destinations they'll be making a beeline for when the world is open again

O

ne thing the pandemic has shown us is just how much we took travel for granted.

We thought nothing of booking a last-minute weekend escape to the coast; have come to expect sticky summers on the continent; and we don't so much as bat an eyelid at the prospect of a 13-hour flight to somewhere tropical for winter sun.

That's all changed.

That first trip after lockdown, when it's safe, is going to be special, meticulously planned with every minute savoured. But where to?

We've asked our favourite travel writers, photographers and jetsetters about their post-pandemic plans.

Cliveden House was the setting for the famous Profumo scandal (Cliveden House)

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Cliveden House, Berkshire

I think the lockdown will be lifted in stages. Once London opens up, I will be heading straight to The Connaught for a staycation (already booked). I will only be eating gluten-free scones for the duration of my stay there – in my opinion they are the best in London. Then I'll go somewhere in the UK countryside – I love Cliveden House for its amazing walks. Once we can travel internationally, I will be taking a longer trip – I will start in Canada at Nimmo Bay to see whales, bears, dolphins and do some hiking. I will then be taking the Rocky Mountaineer across to Banff before road tripping (hopefully in an electric car if there are enough charging points) down to Jackson Hole to stay at Amangani and finishing at Amangiri's incredible new tented camp in the desert, Sarika.

Serena Guen; founder of Suitcase magazine; suitcasemag.com/

La Plage Casadelmar hotel on the island of Corsica (Holly Rubenstein) / La plage Casadelmar Holly Rubenstein

Corsica, France

When lockdown has felt its most oppressive, I’ve found myself daydreaming of returning to the laid-back island of Corsica, off the coast of mainland France. First-timers will marvel at its natural beauty, discovering endless stretches of soft white sand beach, lapped by the clearest turquoise sea, all framed by rugged pine-covered mountains at the island’s centre. This is the Caribbean on our doorstep, you’ll think, marvelling that it’s only two hours from home as you snorkel its calm coastline, and take shade from the heat beneath tiki umbrellas. And several new flight routes mean that it will soon be more accessible to UK visitors. I’ll be returning to the south, flying to Figari, to stay at La Plage Casadelmar, a romantic Design Hotel on a private beach, across the bay from the historic hilltop town of Porto Vecchio and its lively marina. Further down the beach, Plage de Cala Rossa is home to Restaurant Ranch O’Plage, where freshly caught piles of shrimp and grilled buttery fish are served al fresco to sophisticated, albeit sandy, diners.

Holly Rubenstein, journalist and host of The Travel Diaries podcast; podcasts.apple.com

Zannier Hotels' Sonop in the heart of the Namib Desert / Sonop

Namibia, Africa

After months of mandatory solitude, an isolated desert might seem like an odd choice to aim for, but I can think of few things more thrilling than barrelling across a blank horizon behind the wheel of a Land Cruiser. The confines of a crowded London has brought my need for nature into focus, and Namibia’s speciality seems to be widescreen wilderness. As we enter a new era, grappling with sustainable travel, Namibia offers a glimpse of what the future might look like, with a commitment to locally-owned land and high-value, low-impact tourism. Spearheading the change is the Zannier Hotels group, with the newly-opened Sonop on the southern edge of the Namib Desert. A 1920’s style camp with its own stables is just the ticket for forgetting what year we’re in, and as the world reboots, I’m hoping I’ll find a quiet comfort in the dead trees of Sossusvlei, the haunted shipwrecks of the Skeleton Coast and the endlessly shifting sand dunes.

Louis A. W. Sheridan, creative editor at Mr & Mrs Smith; mrandmrssmith.com/

Rugged loveliness in County Galway (Ireland Tourism) / Tourism Ireland

Galway, Ireland

I can’t wait to return to my hometown of Galway in the west of Ireland. Primarily, it must be said, to see my family, but the doors will be flung wide open to welcome everybody. This year’s European Capital of Culture (alongside Rijeka in Croatia), the city was meant to be knee-deep in festivities right about now, so there'll be a surge of revelry when this virus is vanquished. My current quarantine fantasies include a Saturday night supping creamy Guinness at Áras na nGael pub’s (free) trad-music sessions, and a Sunday hangover placated by a homely brunch at Kai, an old florist turned into Galway’s loveliest restaurant. From there I’ll follow the sea on a drive along the Wild Atlantic Way to the rugged Aran Islands, and go on to the mountains, lakes and wild, open beauty of rural Connemara, a timelessly beautiful, enduringly tranquil place that always calms me.

John O’Ceallaigh​, luxury travel journalist and consultant; @luxury_travel_editor

La Dolce Vita: Capri's La Fontelina, Italy  / Stuart Cantor Photography

Amalfi Coast, Italy

One thing we have come to realise, thanks to COVID-19, is that life is for living and not to be taken for granted. In celebration of this, the polite thing to do, is to make a beeline for the masters of La Dolce Vita and enjoy some of the Amalfi Coast’s finest hospitality. Embracing the 'life-is-short' motto, let's start with checking in at the extraordinary Il San Pietro di Positano for the week. With the best position looking back to Positano town, Il San Pietro and its private beach club are the perfect place to reconnect with the sweet life. Followed by a different beach restaurant each day to discover who makes the best Spaghetti Vongole and Aperol Spritzs. Starting with Da Adolfo in Positano, then La Conca del Sogno in Nerano and finishing with La Fontelina in Capri. All topped off with some dancing with the locals at One Fire beach club in Praiano, because life is too short.

Stuart Cantor, travel photographer; stuartcantorphotography.com

Cap Ferret on the west coast of France / Shutterstock

Le Cap Ferret, France

I’ll be heading straight to Cap Ferret, an hour’s drive from Bordeaux on France’s wild west coast – and not to be confused with glitzy Cap Ferrat. Quite simply, it’s heaven and just the place to soothe any post-Corona anxieties. Like a Gallic Cape Cod or Cornwall, this low-key but chic village is all soft white sand dunes, Atlantic surf, endless oyster shacks and obscenely good-looking Parisians. I usually go once a year with my best friend and her family – and their house is one of my favourite places on earth, where the days each follow a languorous and familiar pattern. I’d wake up early with the sun pouring in, and take myself for (depending on the tide) a solo swim on the calm side: the Bassin du Arachon. Fuelled by a breakfast of croissant aux amandes from the market, I’d lounge by the courtyard pool, or go for a gentle paddle board. For lunch, we’d bicycle (you don’t need a car here) to one of the little cabanes for a dozen of the freshest oysters and crisp Bordeaux white. Then more swimming, maybe some surfing or reading and definitely some rosé. For dinner, we’ll barbecue some fish or go to Chez Hortense. It’s my favourite restaurant in Cap Ferret: open to the stars and a menu defined by its famous moules and chocolate mousse. We have flights booked for July – and I’m still clinging onto the hope that we will make it.

Kate Lough, freelance travel writer and consultant; @kateloughtravel

Wild and expansive Iceland / Ed Norton

Iceland

There’s not much travel photography you can do from the confines of your own home, so it’s safe to say I’ve had itchy feet since day one of lockdown. I knew I needed something to look forward to so optimistically booked flights to my all-time favourite country, Iceland. I’ve been making yearly trips there for the last decade, so I know that after a few months of being cooped up, it’s the one place that will help satisfy the wanderlust. For me it’s the place of ultimate inspiration; giant diamond-shaped icebergs scattered on black volcanic sands, deafening waterfalls and blissful geothermal lagoons are all dotted along the South Coast, and the expansive open spaces mean you have a never-ending, uninterrupted view of the horizon - the perfect antidote to cabin fever. This trip also coincides with the brilliant Iceland Airwaves music festival, so being that all fun is cancelled until further notice, I’m really looking forward to shouting skál over a few frosty Fjalars. Also, Braud & Co for their fresh, warm cinnamon buns. Thank me later.

Ed Norton, travel photographer; @ed_norton

Bondi Icebergs Club, Sydney / Unsplash

Sydney and northern Italy

It will be one trip but two destinations, each close to my heart: Australia and northern Italy. I am Aussie by birth, Italian by education and seeing what has happened in both those places in the past six months (the fires and COVID-19) has made me feel my DNA more than I have before. I want to stand at a bar in Torino, Milan, Venice or Trieste and banter over an espresso with a bunch of old Italians and similarly I want to dive into a Rockpool in Sydney and watch all those kids without a care in the world scurry on the beach like little crabs. It is simply bad luck that the two regions I am connected to so deeply have also been so badly affected because regardless of that I know it is my responsibility to travel to places that may suffer a stigma first. So that is my intention.

David Prior, co-founder of Prior; prior.club

Island life in Tasmania / Unsplash

Tasmania, Australia

When all of this is said and done, I think I will be staying local to begin with. My dear Australia has had a bit of a rough trot so far this year, first, with the most horrific bushfire season, and now, COVID-19. As such, I am extremely keen to support and promote local tourism wherever possible. My first stop will be the incredibly magical Whale Song Shack in the tiny rugged beach town of Falmouth on the North-East Coast of Tasmania. I was lucky enough to visit this very off-the-beaten track spot back in November last year at a time when I needed a place to rest and heal, and it did absolute wonders. Ingrid Daniell, the shack's darling owner, is also a renowned Australian artist and a couple of her works are featured throughout. It is an incredibly special place; a simple shack filled with love and warmth, right on the edge of the ocean. When European summer rolls around, I will be jumping on a plane bound for Menorca. I have still never been and I am dying to check out the new Menorca Experimental in Alaior.

Georgia Hopkins, travel writer; @_itsbeautifulhere

Wes Anderson details in New Orleans (Maisen de la Luz) / Maisen de Luz

New Orleans, USA

I have just had to cancel a trip to New Orleans so this sassy American city will be first on my list when normal life resumes. I am incredibly excited to experience the street jazz scene, photograph the colourful architecture of the French Quarter and try some local foodie delicacies - sugary beignets in particular! Maison de la Luz is the hotel I have bookmarked, full of Wes Anderson-esque deco details and an exotic luxury that we will all crave post isolation. On the way back from Louisiana, I am planning to do a stopover in Washington DC where the new Riggs Hotel has found a home. With master mixologist Ryan Chetiyawardana’s first international cocktail bar Silver Lyan on site, it promises to be an unmissable destination in the city.

Milly Kenny-Ryder, travel writer; @millykr

Surf's up: Mirissa, Sri Lanka / Unsplash

Sri Lanka

First place I’m off to as soon as it’s safe and responsible to do so is Sri Lanka. I plan to find a homestay near Mirissa Beach on the southern coast, eat fresh fruit for breakfast and surf in the late afternoon at nearby Weligama Bay. A safari trip to Udawalawe National Park Safari is also in order once I could use a break from the sun. For my last few days, I'll also be spending some time in my favourite homestay at The Residence Hakkaduwa and grabbing a spicy crab curry at Bohdi Cafe. Sri Lanka is beautiful, peaceful and the people there are incredibly kind, so it's lovely to know that my spending will be supporting the local economy.

Jack Sheldon, Founder of Jack's Flight Club; jacksflightclub.com

The sun sets on another perfect day in Sicily / Unsplash

The Aeolian Islands

I'll be heading straight to Europe. There are so many beautiful places in Italy and Greece I would like to visit. Since Italy was so hard it I would love to go there and support their tourism industry, especially the Aeolian islands which I have visited but not for a long time. I love the blueberry blue of the water - cool on hot days - fresh fish and wine with lunch, gelato, walking on warm streets worn down with thousands of years of wear.

Emily Nathan, founder of @tinyatlasquarterly; tinyatlasquarterly.com

Boutique hotel Chapel House in Penzance / Chapel House

Cornwall, UK

When the world finds its feet again and we have the luxury of travelling again (oh, how we took it for granted), Cornwall is at the very top of my list. I've never been but we had a week's trip there meticulously planned out for June, but that's looking very unlikely to be going ahead. I'm dying to eat at Hidden Hut, stay at Chapel House, and spend a leisurely week beach-hopping and drinking wine on the sand. I've also been looking wistfully through my camera roll, back at some incredible trips, and Menorca's blissed-out beaches would be a good place to recover from the anxiety of these past few months.

Alice Tate, travel writer; @alice_tate

Aman's ornate hotel in Venice / Aman Venice

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Venice, Italy

I will never tire of Venice. It’s undeniably a feat of human engineering with its maze of canals, bridges and architecture never failing to impress. From the moment you step onto a water taxi and speed through the lagoon, there’s a sense of grandeur, excitement and other worldliness. My trip there would retrace the steps of our honeymoon and we’d head straight to the Aman Venice, a 16th-Century palace where traditional Venetian opulence meets the very best of modern design. My first day would be spent beating the crowds with a sunrise walk through a deserted St Mark's Square followed by a pit stop at the local Rialto market on the cusp of the Grand Canal. For the ultimate journey home I’d take the Belmond’s Venice Simplon-Orient-Express in a bid to soak up every last drop off Venetian culture that I can.

Anna Barnett, food and travel writer; @annabarnettcooks