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The best girls’ holidays


Do your own version of Thelma and Louise (“I AM NOT GOING TO TEXAS”) and take an American road trip. New England in autumn is twee and delightful, New Mexico is raw and ready, or head from San Francisco down Route 1 to Los Angeles. Beach towns with buff surfers, lazy strolls through giant redwood forests, and a chance to see if Monterey is anything like it looks in Big Little Lies… Red Savannah can arrange bespoke road trips, or plan your own with this clever tool from Hertz.

For a proper adventure but none of the niggly planning (you join a group and the tour leader does all that stuff), try a trip with Exodus. Their classic Discover Vietnam is a good place to start (friendly locals, amazing food, bit of culture and fabulous beaches – i.e. nothing TOO taxing, but still sounds very impressive – taking in the best of the country, and costing £1,769 for 16 days, including accommodation (mid-range hotels, plus a sleeper train and a BOAT #braggingrights).


Yes, two weeks is a commitment, especially when you’re basically going back to school. But hear us: this school is in Buenos Aires, and the lessons cover salsa (so you can dance with the locals) and Spanish (so you can flirt with the locals). Go Learn To (0208 144 5990) offers 14 days, including morning language and afternoon dance lessons, plus various sociable activities around the city. 14 days from £654, including all tuition but not flights or accommodation.


Borgo Egnazia, set in shimmery olive groves in southern Italy, has rooms straight out of a Elle Decoration cover shoot, a stonking spa, various pools, and a cooking school where you can learn how to make Apulian dishes – even Italians say Puglian food is the best in the country. Most fun: forming the little ear-shaped orecchiette pasta, then wolfing down an enormous bowl with tomato and oozingly rich local buffalo mozzarella. Avoid in school holidays when the place gets overrun with families from Fulham. From £835 for three nights.

Or head to San Sebastian, Spain, which has the world’s most Michelin stars per head, if that’s your thing. It’s a neat little city break, with plenty of staggeringly good pintxos joints (tapas bars to you and me) to stroll between, its own deliciously light sparkling wine to keep you on your toes (it’s called txakoli), a fabulous cooking school as well as one of the best restaurants in the Basque country famous for its 13-course tasting menu. Pack trousers with elasticated waistbands. The NH Aranzazu, a modern number near the beach, has doubles from £58.


If you’re going to do something wrong, do it right. There’s nowhere better for getting up to no good than Las Vegas (baby). The hilarious over-styled Venetian – complete with canals, piazzas and real-life gondoliers in stripy socks – is just the spot for some light gambling (learn Blackjack before you go – you’ll look dead cool), swanning around the pool and hitting the late-night mega-clubs. What happens in Vegas… Virgin Holidays offers £1899 for six nights, including flights and B&B.

Now let’s talk about Ibiza. There’s the grown-up version – all Orlebar Brown and Blue Marlin. And there’s the arms-in-the-air, dusk-till-dawn, full-body-glitter version. We say go wild, go for the latter, and book in for a bargain break with TUI. They’ve got three nights for £366, including flights and B&B at the Hard Rock Hotel, known for its ‘lively’ pool parties. BOOM-BOOM-BOOM (shake the room).


25,000 acres of crazy Scottish countryside are yours for the taking at Alladale. It’s being rewilded right now, which means there’ll be wolves roaming them thar hills before too long. But for now, you can join a seven-day fitness extravaganza with Wild Fitness (07415 884 312), headed up by the ludicrously energetic Nala. She’ll have you sprinting up hills, sloshing through streams barefoot, boxing, flinging frisbees, and stripping off for dips in icy lochs. Food is healthy and hearty and there’s a pleasingly buddyish vibe. From £970 for seven nights, including all meals and activities.

Or try Portugal – particular the cliff-top Epic Sana in the Algarve, with its pine forest setting, various pools and big beach, just down some steps. It offers various sweat-inducing, tailor-made fitness programmes covering anything from beach bootcamps and one-on-two training, to yoga and lovely massages in the airy spa. Rooms are pared-back and Scandi-style, with modern bathrooms and enormous egg baths. It’s easy. Health and Fitness Travel (0203 397 8891) offers 7 nights from £2,080 per person, including flights, all meals and fitness programmes and transfers.


The Fellah, near the Atlas mountains outside Marrakech, has groovy villas – polished stone, cool art, mid-century furniture – and lots of diversions like an open-to-the-elements gym, a spa, BIG library and bookshop and the most gorgeous pool, set in rambling desert gardens. It’s a good 20 minute drive from town, so not really the place to explore – but JUST the place to lounge by the pool with a book all the live-long day. Doubles from £80.

If you want long-haul and have the cash, we can think of no lovelier place to bask than Esencia, a dreamy Mexican bolthole on the Riviera Maya. The flight is easy enough – straight to Cancun – and then it’s a short drive south to this private estate. A long, caster-sugar beach, white-washed, smooth-lined bedrooms, a lovely pool and spa, and a chilled-out barefoot vibe. And the odd highly-strung New York couple for you to observe and gossip about. Twin rooms from £481, B&B.


You want space and air and VIEWS, so pick a villa with plenty of all three. Think Sicily (020 7377 8518) has all sorts of ravishingly lovely crash pads around the island, some just right for two – like Ballata, tucked away in the scrubby hills of the north-west. Lovely bedrooms, a shady terrace for chatty/boozy lunches and a pretty pool and loungers if you want to ignore each other for a bit.


Head into the mountains for lungfuls of sparkly fresh air, hikes in buttercup meadows and evenings of wine and cheese and more wine on your balcony. Simply Chalets has a big choice of self-catering chalets and apartments in places like central Verbier (so you can walk everywhere and be sociable, but only if you want to).

You need to know each other extremely well for this one (and have no issues with personal space). But get over yourself, because this one is FUN. Hire a VW Campervan (they’ve changed: the swanked up VW California Beach has swivel seats, two double beds, and all sorts of extras like BBQs, awnings and surf racks) and hit the road, roaring around Cornwall, say, for a long weekend and being QUITE the coolest kids you know. After-party at yours? From £475 for three nights from


Hidden in the pine-shaded hills about Pampelonne, just outside St Tropez, Villa Marie is the kind of place where you’ll want to do nothing but lie on a sun lounger by the free-form pool all day, picking up a book for a bit perhaps, padding over to the bar for a snack, maybe a quick dip or an afternoon snooze, then more sun in the late afternoon, with a glass of beading rose in your hand. You’ll return brown as a berry and as floppy as a newborn lamb. Double from £312, B&B.


You don’t want to get sozzled, you want to LEARN something (and ok, get a bit sozzled on the way). Join a cleverly crafted group tour with Grape Escapes, which covers all the best regions on long weekend or week-long trips. The four-night Champagne jaunt costs from £1153, including fully-led tours to six champagne houses (such as Ruinart and Dom Perignon), four nights in Riems (bit of a culture for good measure) with accommodation in a choice of 4- and 5-star hotels, and some meals.

Further afield, a self-drive holiday in South Africa takes in everything from whale-watching in Hermanus (from the coast – you don’t even need to get out of your car), to the glorious estates of the Winelands. There are 400 wineries around Stellenbosch and Franschhoek (best to just do a few, though), with various self-guided routes to take you round the best ones. See here for ideas. And – FYI – South Africa is a STEAL right now.


There is no shopping holiday that is more fun than New York. Big brands on Fifth Avenue, smaller boutiques in SoHo, vintage stores in Brooklyn. In fact, stay over the bridge – it’s cheaper and you’ll feel hip as anything. Brand new 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge has hip, breezy rooms, a fun restaurant and epic views of Manhattan.

Lisbon is having a moment, and quite right too, with its walkable, shabby-chic centre, divine food (hourly pasteis de nata – custard tarts – are obligatory) and cool shopping scene. First stop should be the A Vida Portuguesa  concept stores – there are three around the city – selling top local goodies like soaps and ceramics. Or go haggle at the Feira da Ladra, the huge flea market dating back to the 12th century, with everything from vintage clothes and old stamps to pricey antiques and gorgeous old azuelos tiles. Stay at the new Memmo Principe Real, a trendy boutiquey place with wall-to-wall glass and a happening restaurant. Rooms from 215 euros.


Crete is lovely, in a craggy, mountainy sort of way, but waaaaay too hot in summer. Opt for late May or September instead, and head out into the hills on a walking tour of the prettiest valleys. Sunvil (020 8758 4758) chucks in a local guide, so you don’t need to bother with annoying things like a sense of direction, or maps, squirrelling you up into the hills in the western part of the island, with four painting workshops so you can get down with your long-forgotten creative side. Seven nights from £1,250 per person, including flights, B&B, excursions and local guide.

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