Athens, and Greece as a whole, has had a tough few years, dealing with everything from forest fires to high unemployment and a nationwide economic crisis. Now however, the long-ignored Athens Riviera is undergoing a revival, with new developments springing up and old gems being restored (including the Astir Palace resort, which has recently reopened as the Four Seasons Astir Palace Hotel) all along the 50km coastline. Head here for five-star resorts, beach clubs and a bit of glamour.
See This: The Riviera is removed from the city itself by a few miles, but you’re still within easy reach of Athens’ most iconic attractions. Explore the Acropolis Museum (and climb to the monument itself) before taking a walk through the narrow, cobbled streets of Plaka, where you’ll find pavement cafés and late-night tavernas, as well as tiny shops selling jewellery, clothes and ceramics. Back at the coast, the port of Piraeus is your jumping-off point for exploring the Greek islands.
Eat Here: The Malabar is a chic day-to-night poolside bar and restaurant at The Margi Hotel, which serves the local catch of the day and traditional Greek and Mediterranean dishes. For cocktails, Holy Spirit in Glyfada is the Riviera’s go-to – think live music and innovative drinks.
Stay Here: The aforementioned Four Seasons Astir Palace Hotel once hosted presidents and world leaders, and sits on a pine-clad peninsula. Their bungalows offer a seriously-secluded beachside retreat – choose one with a private infinity pool and views across the Aegean. With four hotels across Greece already, Santikos Collection’s newest opening is The Alex – a modern boutique hotel with unrivalled views over the Riviera, and an unmissable rooftop bar.
With the country having hosted 2019’s hugely successful (and almost glorious) Rugby World Cup, Japan is now busy gearing up to play host to the summer Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo in 2020. Much has been made of the warm welcome rugby fans received, meaning hopes are extremely high for a fabulous sporting summer. Alongside the sport, there’s a cultural festival planned – the Tokyo 2020 Nippon Festival – which will welcome people and cultures from Japan and the world in a celebration of the games, and the power and wonder of diversity.
See This: Tokyo Skytree is the tallest tower in the world – and the view from the highest observation deck will allow you to appreciate the scale of the city. At the Samurai Museum, you can discover the history of the samurai, and learn how the samurai spirit still affects the lives of Japanese people today, as well as seeing a live sword show. When you need to escape the hustle of the city, take a stroll around Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden, an oasis of meandering paths, ponds and pavilions.
Eat Here: Recently named among the best restaurants in the world, Den has elevated Japanese home cooking into the stratosphere with its innovative dishes and outstanding service. Sushiryori Inose is booked up months in advance – not just for the quality of its sushi, but for the welcome offered by its owner and its unpretentious atmosphere. Obviously you’re going to want to do karaoke while you’re here – try Karaoke-kan in Shibuya (which was immortalised on film in Lost in Translation) where you’ll find a warm welcome and a rack of costumes – so you can really get into character.
Stay Here: The Palace Hotel Tokyo underwent a complete rebuild a decade ago, and its moat-side setting opposite the Imperial Palace Gardens adds an air of refinement to an already luxurious destination. The recent addition of a fine-dining restaurant (Esterre) in partnership with Ducasse Paris mean it’s also top of plenty of Tokyo foodies’ wishlists. The ultra zeitgeist-y Trunk Hotel, meanwhile, features up-cycled furnishings, organic toiletries and local beers in the mini bar, while the interiors offer a fusion of Japanese and Western styles. Their Trunk (Bar) is a great meeting place too.
This coastal city is planning a year of ‘extraordinary creativity and disruption’ to celebrate its position as European Capital of Culture 2020. Structured around the old Celtic calendar, and running from February 2020 until January 2021, there are hundreds of events to discover, exploring the quintessentially Irish themes of language, landscape and migration. The opening ceremony in February promises to be particularly fiery and festive.
See This: Explore Galway’s lively Latin Quarter, where you’ll find pubs, restaurants and culture in abundance – think street musicians, artists and craftspeople. For a quiet alternative, get out of the city and explore Connemara National Park (keeping an eye out for its eponymous ponies).
Eat Here: Visit The Dough Bros for authentic wood-fired pizza and an informal, friendly vibe, or try The Pie Maker – a local favourite which serves handmade sweet and savoury pies. Ard Bia at Nimmos is one the city’s most long-standing restaurants, and with good reason. Their seasonal menus have their roots firmly in Irish soil, while taking inspiration from all over the world.
Stay Here: For contemporary glamour and sophistication, head to The g Hotel & Spa. Designed by Philip Treacy, the hotel’s iconic public areas include the stunning Grand Salon and the Pink Ladies Lounge. Their guest rooms are filled with light, and ESPA at The g is the only five-star spa in Galway. Slightly outside the city, the traditional Glenlo Abbey is a five-star manor house with roaring fires and an acclaimed restaurant on the shore of Lough Corrib.
Every region of India offers something new to explore, and Kerala, India’s southernmost state, offers an extraordinary range of experiences within just a few hours drive of each other. Discover magnificent ancient monuments, beautiful palaces and abundant wildlife whilst travelling through rolling tea plantations to deserted palm-fringed beaches. It is one of India’s more prosperous and educated regions, thus providing a gentle introduction for first timers to India – and if you’re unsure, you can take a comprehensive tour with No News No Shoes.
See This: Cruise the idyllic backwaters on a converted rice barge, visit spice and tea plantations, go trekking in the national parks or rejuvenate with an Ayurvedic massage treatment. No News No Shoes’ comprehensive tour of Kerala includes time to explore the historical fort town of Kochi, the unique backwaters region, a journey through the Western Ghats to the spice capital of Thekkady and tea capital of Munnar, before heading to the rainforest in Wayanad and the undeveloped beaches of northern Kerala.
Eat Here: Lots of the tour is full or half-board, so you won’t have to worry about where you’re going to eat. In Kochi, make sure you try Rasoi Fort Kochi for flavourful dishes and a friendly welcome, or The Rice Boat for excellent local seafood.
Stay Here: You’ll start with a two-night cruise on the idyllic backwaters aboard your very own houseboat, and have the chance to take part in a local Homestay – a unique opportunity to gain a closer understanding of local life. In the colonial capital of Kochi, you’ll stay in the charming boutique Old Harbour Hotel, before an unforgettable stay in a Vythiri Resort treehouse deep in the forest canopy of Wayanad. Round off the tour at a fabulous beachfront property in the coastal region of Kasaragod.