Top 25 must-visit travel destinations

Croatia is over, Ibiza is overrated and Spain is packed during the summer. So, where to spend the last of your annual leave without feeling like you're holidaying with everyone and her Pug from back home? In a bid to find a peaceful place to lay our beach towels, we spoke to some of the UK's top travel websites and bloggers to discover where in the world we should be holidaying now. From hidden beaches and paradise islands, to sparkling cityscapes and hip harboursides, here are the top 25 must-visit holiday destinations...

Click on an image below to launch the gallery

Compiled by Sharon Forrester

  • Aitutaki, Cook Islands

    "Aitutaki (part of The Cook Islands in the South Pacific) is brimmed with blue water so clear it is almost glowing. It is the territory to stumble upon secluded beach after secluded beach. I love One Foot Island particularly, it’s just off the east coast of the main Aitutaki atoll, and with Mt. Maungapu shadowing over the island it’s got that real Robinson Crusoe (mixed with a bit of luxury) flare to it." - Kirsty Hathaway, editor,

    Image credit: Rex

  • Cefalù, Sicily

    "Cefalù is a charming fishing town with a fabulous beach on the northern coast of Sicily, only around a 45 minute drive from Palermo. Set against a dramatic backdrop of craggy mountains, the town is wonderfully rustic and unrefined. It doesn’t have the gloss or bright colours of the Amalfi Coast and Cinque Terre but that’s its beauty. It’s a lot more subtle with its white-washed and slightly crumbling buildings. You have a real sense of the town’s ancient origins as it has narrow, winding medieval streets, a cathedral and quaint seafood restaurants serving only the freshest local fish. One restaurant I loved was Lo Scoglio Ubriaco, which hangs on the cliffside of the town and amusingly translates to The Drunken Cliff." - Natacha Tonissoo,

    Image credit: Natacha Tonissoo

  • Crimea, Ukraine

    "Too many people in Spain, France and Croatia? Try the Black Sea for a retro Soviet beach experience. Fly to Kiev, a beautiful city to discover on your way to the beach towns of Crimea. For the next level of action, spend a few days partying at the Republic of Kazantip." - Alexis Kovalenko,

    Image credit: Alexis Kovalenko

  • Estonia

    "What do you get if you cross Europe’s most handsome people with endless hours of summer sun? A blond-haired, tanned-skin welcome, that’s what. Off limits to all but locals during the Cold War, Estonia’s Baltic islands remain beguilingly untouched. In high summer, the waters surrounding Saaremaa, the largest of these islands, are calm, clear and sun-kissed until after midnight. One can swim before breakfast, kayak after lunch, and cast a fishing line in preparation for an evening dinner." - Tristan Rutherford,

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  • Bhutan

    "Swiftly becoming the 'new' Nepal, Bhutan is a mecca for those searching for the deepest sense of heritage and some of the world's most challenging hikes. Vastly unknown to the western world, a trip to Bhutan harkens back to the explorations of old." - Tom Marchant, owner,

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  • Koh Samet, Thailand

    "Located between Bangkok and the Cambodian border, Koh Samet is far away from the touristy islands of the south. And yet it's cheap and beautiful with a lot of things to do. Find the Ao Nuan beach (pictured) for the most hidden gem of the island." - Alexis Kovalenko,

    Image credit: Alexis Kovalenko

  • Myanmar/Burma

    "Aung San Suu Kyi has said she is no longer opposed to tourism to this Southeast Asian country, bordered by Thailand, China, India, Bangladesh, and Laos. Located on the Bay of Bengal, and predominantly Buddhist, it’s one of Southeast Asia’s most beautiful countries. Ordinary people are actively welcoming tourism, and as long as you travel responsibly, now is a good time to go. It’s inevitable that you’ll be lining the pockets of the regime in some ways because of a 10% tax on most things, but it is possible to avoid government-owned hotels, and to spend the majority of your cash on private local enterprise. Jetsetter works with a great tour operator called Wild Frontiers, which offers trips to the region." - Kate Maxwell, editor-in-chief,

    Image credit: Rex

  • Minas Gerais, Brazil

    "If the Olympics have put Rio de Janeiro in your sights, combine a visit to the city with the best of rural Brazil. Reserva do Ibitipoca is a beautiful hotel set in a nature reserve 3.5 hours north of Rio, with guided rainforest tours and a spa. Parrots fly free in the rainforests, cool rivers run through green valleys and caves, and when the sun goes down, the sky is bright with stars. Few foreigners have discovered this 3,000 hectare private reserve and sustainability initiative 3.5 hours north of Rio, where nature rules; come here now, before they do." -

    Image credit: Getty

  • Porto Montenegro, Montenegro

    "With the pound holding up well against the Euro, you don’t have to be billionaire to enjoy the brand new resort of Porto Montenegro. This über-chic marina has been described as “the Mediterranean’s most glittering playground”, and the shocking pink portside chairs of Al Posto Giusto host the Adriatic’s beautiful people. Around the corner, holiday stores stock essential Missoni and Moschino. Summertime pop-up stores complete the mix, with modern art from Belgrade’s Supermarket, and leisurewear from Lapo Elkann’s Italia Independent. Summer 2012 saw the launch of Puro Montenegro, a beach club with a Balearic buzz. Expect sunrise yoga, nightly DJ sessions, plus a 64m-long swimming pool cantilevered over the sea." - Tristan Rutherford,

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  • Panama

    "Panama is transforming at warp speed: the brand new Punta Pacifica neighborhood along Panama Bay is being hailed as “the Dubai of the Americas” thanks to big-bang openings like the Trump Ocean Club (pictured) and the Hard Rock. Dozens of boutique hotels are in the works in the old town of Casco Viejo, where more than half of the historic buildings will get a facelift by 2013. The Frank Gehry-designed BioMuseo, which will focus on natural history, is slated to open at the end of 2013 but, in the meantime, hard-hat tours are on offer; and in 2014, the canal will be expanded to make room for China’s supertankers and to mark its 100-year anniversary. Phew." - Kate Maxwell, editor-in-chief,

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  • Margate, UK

    "There’s more to this place than arcades and fish ‘n’ chip shops you know. In fact, Slap-bang on Margate’s seafront is the Turner Contemporary, where a free exhibition by Margate local, Tracey Emin opened to rave reviews." - Rebecca Holloway, head of PR,

    Image credit: Rex

  • Elbow Beach, Bermuda

    "I love to kick back on the peachy pink shores of Elbow Beach on Bermuda’s Paget Parish. This hidden gem brings seclusion to a whole new level, but is actually easily found. Zoom down South Road by bus, (or adventurous souls, by moped, so much fun) to Tribe Road number 4, a short amble down the road and hey presto! This coast of calmness has the most awe-inspiring sunset, thoroughly enjoyed with a beverage (Bermuda’s famed Rum Swizzle is always a winning choice) and don’t miss the chance to explore the shipwreck deeper into the see-through blue water." - Kirsty Hathaway, editor,

    Image credit: Rex

  • Durres, Albania

    "Durres, Albania is few and far between when it comes to tourists but that's what makes this city so special. The Adriatic coast of Durres is a true getaway with some of the most unspoiled beaches and beautiful sunsets of Eastern Europe." - Cristina Cantarelli, editorial assistant,

    Image credit: Cristina Cantarelli

  • Dream Beach, Bali

    "Dream Beach caters for those looking for the most paradise-like ideal. Found on Nusa Lembongan Island (a 30-min speedboat across from Sanur Beach on Bali’s east coast), Nusa Lembongan is like Bali but much less crowded, with no cars and world-class sunsets. The sparkling blue waters prove to be the ultimate snorkel and surfing playground, or if you’re like me, it is just as good for sunbathing on the buttery shortbread sands and lapping up the fabulously warm Balinese sunshine." - Kirsty Hathaway, editor,

    Image credit: Rex

  • Kastellorizo, Greece

    "Kastellorizo is a tiny Greek island (actually just off the coast of Turkey), and one of the few remaining truly unspoilt islands in the Med. Reached by boat (daily from June-Sept) from the lovely port of Kaş in Turkey just a few kilometres away or by air via Rhodes, the extra effort to get there is well worth it. If you know Greece, think Symi without the day-trippers or Hydra without the attitude! We recommend a stay at the Caretta guesthouse." -

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  • Red Hook, NY, America

    "Too often assimilated into the hip neighborhoods of Williamsburg and Bushwick, Brooklyn has a lot more to offer. Take Red Hook for instance, the docks area of NY, not easily accessible (no subway stop) but very picturesque. A burger at the Hope & Anchor and a cocktail at Fort Defiance will convince you for sure." - Alexis Kovalenko,

    Image credit: Getty

  • Birmingham, UK

    "Scratch beneath the surface of England’s underdog city and you’ll discover glorious architecture, a cool yet unpretentious arts scene, hoards of chic restaurants and a vibrant atmosphere that’s unique to this part of the world." - Sarah Long, head of corporate communications,

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  • Hamburg, Germany

    "If you’ve done Berlin, make Hamburg your next stop. This port city, beloved of the Beatles, is undergoing an exciting transformation thanks to the new Hafencity waterfront area that’s in the process of being constructed. This summer, the port’s first hotel, 25 Hours Hafencity opened - it’s a modern take on a sailor’s club with 170 cabin-style suites - and the area is also becoming a magnet for 'starchitecture'. The most significant project being the Elbphilharmonie building by Herzog & de Meuron, slated to open in 2013." - Kate Maxwell, editor-in-chief,

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  • South China

    "Including Kunming, Dali, Yuanyang Rice Terraces and Yangshou. An exciting contrast to western culture, whilst at the same time maintaining a very welcoming feeling. This part of the world offers something very different, with less travellers - sometimes you feel as if you have the whole place to yourself and taking a sleeper train is a must-do experience. The climate is warmer, the locals are a little more chilled out and the food gets better the further south you travel. You can hike, bike, learn about the local cuisine, take some Tai-Chi or simply meet other travellers in the excellent hostels." - Helen and David,

    Image credit: Helen Roscoe/David Rutter

  • Somerset Levels, UK

    "The Somerset Levels are situated just a few miles off the M5 and less than 45 minutes from Bristol. From the flat landscape Glastonbury’s Tor rises, and the area is perfect for cycling and wonderful sunsets. This is proper rolling countryside with bird-filled wetlands, fantastic food markets and cider orchards. If you want some more challenging walks you’re at the base of The Mendips, another underrated area in Somerset which is great for mountain biking too." -

    Image credit: Getty

  • Thrihnukagigur Volcano, Iceland

    "Go where no human was ever meant to go, until now. Journey into the heart of an extinct volcano, its vast magma chamber, in the depths of an Icelandic winter. There are a lot of 'unforgettable' trips out there, but this is one that holds true to the promise of being an experience of a lifetime." - Tom Marchant, owner,

    Image credit: K.Maack/

  • Glasgow, UK

    "Often associated with its gritty, working class past, the vibrant culture that has always been at the heart of Scotland’s largest city in now more recognisable on the surface. Vast green parks, free museums, a rocking music scene and great restaurants and bars are the highlights. Host city of the 2014 Commonwealth Games, urban redevelopment projects have integrated well with the historical architecture that characterises the city’s core." - Daniel C. Bach,

    Image credit: Daniel C.Bach

  • Gili Air Island, Indonesia

    "Part of the Gili Isles, Lombok, this place is a chill-out haven. Get there by boat from Lombok or Bali, and if you go in the off-season (Feb-May or Sep-Nov) you can get some amazing deals. Gili Air offers fantastic diving and snorkelling with turtles only a few metres out from the beach. Fresh fish barbecues every night; nightlife is pretty chilled but there is always something going on in the bars dotted along the shoreline. Oh to be back on Gili Air!" - Helen and David,

    Image credit: Helen Roscoe/David Rutter

  • Vientiane, Laos

    "Described by Paul Theroux in 1975 as a city where “the brothels are cleaner than the hotels, marijuana is cheaper than pipe tobacco and opium easier to find than a cold glass of beer,” Laos’capital would certainly be unrecognizable to the famed travel writer today. Travellers enjoy combing the local market alongside monks, artisans and locals before relaxing at hip cafes, open air bars and affordable boutique hotels along the Mekong. The handful of French restaurants are as good as anywhere outside France." - Daniel C. Bach,

    Image credit: Daniel C.Bach

  • Kaş, Turkey

    "Kaş is Turkey as it used to be. This elegant resort rolls the best of the Mediterranean into one cosmopolitan package. It’s back-dropped by Roman ruins, set with Italianate piazzas, and dotted with Turkish sheesha cafés. The town’s position – two hours in either direction from both Antalya and Dalaman airports – keeps all but the hardiest of hipsters away, and the bucolic coastline is frequented only by the odd fishing boat and superyacht. With zero development for tens of miles around, an undersea aquarium awaits." - Tristan Rutherford,

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