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With changes to the UK travel rules, an overseas summer holiday is now a realistic prospect for Britons who have been fully vaccinated at least 14 days before departure.
British requirements will still mean, at a minimum, an antigen test before returning and a PCR test within two days of arrival back in the UK.
Some countries still require a test before leaving, or a passenger locator form (in addition to the UK’s own). In a normal year, choosing a destination might take months to mull over, with heated family debates through the winter, but not this time. Snap decisions are needed. Where to go? Here is a list of possible countries.
Entry requirements: no isolation for double-jabbed people on arrival, but you need to fill in an online form (at entercroatia.mup.hr/) before travelling and show proof of accommodation booking. Masks must be worn indoors and when social distancing cannot be maintained. Restaurants are open for indoor and outdoor dining. Cafes and bars open only outdoors.
Croatia has a stunning coastline and islands, but some spots can get crowded: Dubrovnik and Split are normally heaving in summer; popular islands like Rab and Hvar can also get busy. Instead head for the less well-known islands, places like Dubi Otok, Brijuni and Lastovo. Any island that requires a double ferry journey is likely to be a good choice. To really get away, try an activity holiday like kayaking or sailing.
Malik Adventures go out to the Kornati islands where you will be lucky to see another tourist. Alternatively head up into the mountains like Velebit where there is great hiking and wonderful villages and mountain huts. Croatian food and drink are superb and it’s often up in the mountains where you will find the real gems, like Drniš, home to the best dry-cured ham, pršut.
Entry requirements: Those who have had two vaccinations more than 14 days before travel still need to complete a Cyprus Flight Pass no more than 48 hours before departure (cyprusflightpass.gov.cy/en/vaccinated-fly-request.) Cafes, bars and restaurants are open at reduced indoor capacity. Nightclubs are open but dancefloors remain closed.
Crowds are normally easy to find in Cypriot cities such as Paphos and Ayia Napa. To get off the beaten trail, head for the Troodos Mountains in the south-west and bike around its villages or hike up to the Caledonia Falls. Finish with some grilled trout and a glass of the local dessert wine, commandaria, the world’s oldest named wine, still in production after 800 years.
Entry requirements: Fully vaccinated people do not need to quarantine but will need a negative PCR test performed within 72 hours before arrival, or an antigen test within 48 hours. Masks are obligatory indoors and on public transport.
There is no doubt that the mountains will be calling loudly this summer with fresh air and plenty of space. Fortunately France has many upland regions to offer: the Jura, Massif Central and Pyrenees all look like good bets. Where the traditional seaside hotels may lose out, the winner will be the traditional gites (gites-de-france.com/en) which give you self-catering and remote rural locations.
Entry requirements: Double-jabbed people are exempt from quarantine regulations but as the UK is currently classed high incidence area, you must complete a pre-departure form at einreiseanmeldung.de/#/. Entry by land involves different regulations which you should check. Music venues and nightclubs are closed, but the situation varies around the country according to federal regulations. Beer gardens and outdoor dining are generally open.
Germany is a country that British visitors had begun to visit in increasing numbers before the pandemic. With great mountain scenery, beautiful lakes and forests, plus a fine coastline, it has a lot to offer. Try the waterways and lakes in Meklenburg, a summer favourite for Berliners, or head down into Saxony for superb villages and scenery close to the Czech border. In the Baltic, islands such as Rugen offer a gentle relaxed pace of life perfect for a walking or cycling holiday.
Entry requirements: No isolation for those who have a vaccination certificate proving full vaccination at least 14 days before departure. You must fill out a passenger locator form (https://travel.gov.gr/#/) before arrival. Masks are obligatory indoors. Random tests are being performed at airports.
While some Greek islands attract crowds, others are tranquil havens even in high season. From Piraeus take a ferry out to spectacular mountainous places like Amorgo, Ikaria and Sifnos where long walks along mountain trails lead to stunning beaches and villages. On the mainland head for the gorges near the Albanian border from bases like Ioannina and Kastoria, or the wonderful green peninsula of Pelion. In August when the days can be hot, get up early and you will have the place to yourself.
Entry requirements: Proof of double vaccination more than 14 days before departure. You also need to present a completed Public Health Passenger form on arrival (onda.ma/form.php). Bars and restaurants are open but close at 11pm.
At 4,167m Mount Toubkal is the highest peak in north Africa and a worthy challenge for a first overseas trip in a long while. It’s usually climbed from Imlil, a small mountain village which is a taxi ride from Marrakech (the 67km is often cycled too). These Atlas mountain villages are wonderful to explore, but you might want to wait until September when the weather is cooler. From Imlil you could head for Ijoukak. Many UK tour operators do hiking trips out here. Another great peak is Mount Mgoun, 4,071m, a less visited peak that stands above the Ait Bougmez valley where terraced fields rise up the mountain sides.
Entry requirements: No isolation for fully vaccinated over-18s. Face masks are worn indoors and outdoors when social distancing cannot be guaranteed. Restrictions tend to be tighter than in UK. Bars, cafes and restaurants are open normally.
A hugely popular destination for the British, but Portugal still has many less-explored areas outside the hotspots of Lisbon, Porto and the Algarve. New walking and cycling routes in the mountains offer a great chance to get away from crowds. Saddle Skedaddle, for example, do a great mountain bike trip, Atlantic Trails, to the mountains near Sintra while walking specialists, Inntravel, offer a lovely trip through the country’s only national park, Peneda-Gerês, on the northern border with Spain where there are wild horses and a small population of ibex.
Entry requirements: No isolation needed for people who have been fully vaccinated, but must have negative PCR test within 72 hours of departure. Face masks not mandatory in public spaces. Bars open as normal.
Not so long ago tourist hotspots like Barcelona were calling for a curb on numbers lest their neighbourhoods be overrun. The situation now is very different, but it’s a chance to look at regions of the country that have never registered much on the visitor radar. Inland from places like Valencia and Benidorm are mountainous areas that have become depopulated in recent decades and yet boast magnificent traditional villages and ancient trails. Farther north in Catalonia, Wild Frontiers do a walking tour of the Montseny national park that also offers chance to discover Priorat – one of Spain’s best, but less well-known wines.