7 incredible (quarantine-free) holidays to book this summer

Greg Dickinson
·12-min read
Grand Harbour, Valletta - Getty
Grand Harbour, Valletta - Getty

The USA, Malta, Israel, Iceland, Gibraltar and Ireland are likely to be on the ‘green list’ for safe travel this summer, according to new modelling.

The analysis, carried out by Robert Boyle – former strategy chief of British Airways and its owner IAG – confirms that, according to the Government's “risk” criteria, only eight destinations will make the cut when the green list is unveiled on May 10.

New Zealand and Australia will also be categorised as green, the analysis shows, although both countries are currently closed to foreign arrivals outside of their ‘Tasman Bubble’, which opens today.

Most of Europe – including holiday favourites Spain and Greece – is expected to fall on the “amber” list, while many more countries could be categorised as “red” by the summer based on the current modelling.

So what does this mean for your summer holiday hopes? Here, Telegraph Travel’s team of experts mine their worldly knowledge to pick out seven once-in-a-lifetime holidays that will be possible this summer, without any quarantine on arrival or return.

Since Australia and New Zealand are unlikely to welcome Britons this summer, we have focused our attention on the more viable green-list potentials of USA, Malta, Israel, Iceland, Gibraltar and Ireland.

For a tropical island escape: Kauai, Hawaii

Simon and Susan Veness

Remote, rugged, impossibly picturesque – Kauai, the northern outlier of Hawaii’s archipelago, has stolen almost all its sister islands’ share of big, bold and dramatic. Take a small-boat cruise along the north-west coast to discover the looming Na Pali cliffs, the razor-like peaks towering almost 4,000ft high; soothe your soul in Hanalei Bay, where the gorgeous two-mile, crescent-shaped beach is backed by verdant mountains; marvel at Waimea Canyon, a breathtaking rift through the island’s core, 10 miles long and 3,000ft deep, fully justifying its nickname as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific.

Hanalei Bay, Hawaii - Getty
Hanalei Bay, Hawaii - Getty

This is also the place to go hiking, biking and kayaking, notably on the breathtaking Kalalau Trail along Na Pali’s cliffs and through the lush Wailua River Valley, with its waterfalls and jungle. From November to March, take a whale-watching tour to see humpback whales breaching off the coast.

You can read more about our Dream Trip to Hawaii, here, and our guide to the best hotels in Hawaii.

For a road trip: Yellowstone National Park

Laura Chubb

Yellowstone National Park is a hell of a place – encompassing everything from whooshing geysers to bubbling mud pots, steaming rivers to bears and bison – but there’s even more to explore in the three states it sprawls across (Idaho, Wyoming, Montana). So, don’t make Yellowstone the focus of a road trip. Instead, make it a blockbuster stop in the middle, with plenty of time to delve into some equally compelling curiosities en route.

In Idaho, that might be Craters of the Moon National Monument, an eerily beautiful sea of lava fields the size of Rhode Island; or Hemingway’s whiskey-bottle-strewn grave in celebrity ski town, Ketchum. Wyoming brings dazzling contrasts: Grand Teton’s snow-topped peaks mirrored in glassy lakes; red-rock cowboy country leading to Old West town Cody (named for “Buffalo Bill” Cody); and Smith Mansion, a fantastical log cabin built by a modern-day mountain man that’s found its way into local lore.

A geyser at Yellowstone National Park - Getty
A geyser at Yellowstone National Park - Getty

A two-week trip also gives enough leeway to see a good bit of Montana’s “Big Sky Country”. Don’t miss the sculptures spread across remote ranchlands at Tippet Rise Art Centre, where grand works — ranging from Patrick Dougherty’s willow-strangled schoolhouse, to a playable, stainless steel musical structure by Mark di Suvero — rise against an epic mountain backdrop. Also essential: driving the mountain-hemmed bends of the Beartooth Highway, and rangers’ dramatic retellings at the Little Bighorn battlefield.

You can find out more about our Dream Trip to road tripping Yellowstone, here. For ideas on where to stay, see our complete guide to the best hotels in Wyoming.

For culture and history: Israel

Chris Moss

Some notions of travel are so obvious we think we know exactly how a trip might be – and, consequently, don’t bother ever doing it. A visit to the Holy Land, a journey undertaken by Africans, Europeans, Jews and Arabs since at least the fourth century, has evolved into a kind of mega-cliché: a humourless ‘Life of Brian’ perhaps, or a church outing, bound to be too sober, too straight, too mobbed. But a trip to Israel and the West Bank – the part of Palestine that borders the River Jordan and is open to ordinary tourists – is, actually, still a wonderful travel experience, whether or not you’re a person of faith, and in ways that might surprise some people. For one thing, Tel Aviv, the natural stopover when landing at Ben Gurion airport, is a very cool city, with a great bar and restaurant scene.

Jaffa, set right beside it, is one of the oldest ports in the world and has an Arab rather than Jewish feel; the big draws are the flea market under the landmark clock tower, the hilltop Old City and the atmospheric dining around the port. From here, the options of sites with historical heft are near countless: Nazareth, an Arab city, has an ancient bath house, multi-layered, weirdly affecting Church of the Annunciation and some great cafes and restaurants; Jericho, across in the Palestine, is where Jesus was supposedly tempted by the devil; Masada, where Sicarii rebels committed mass suicide following a long siege by Roman troops in AD73-4, is dramatic and evocative; the caves at Qumran, where the Dead Sea scrolls were discovered in the mid-Forties, occupy a lunar-looking clifftop. The Dead Sea is a place to linger awhile, perhaps in one of the lovely chalets that dot its sloping banks.

The Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem - iStock
The Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem - iStock

In the end, all roads lead to Jerusalem – the holiest of cities, with those legendary stations of the cross on the Via Dolorosa, and the Dome of the Rock, where Islam, Judaism and Christianity merge, collide, faceoff, speak to one another in prayers. But Jerusalem is also a modern city, with fascinating updates of its old buildings around the edges of the walled old city. Art-quarter Musrara, the enticing Machane Yehuda Market and funky, cosmopolitan Nahalat Shiva all challenge the notion that Jerusalem is all about politics and religion.

Discover the allure of Israel here, and the best hotels in Jerusalem.

For ‘Home from Home’ comforts: Gibraltar

Lottie Gross

Aside from the fact it’s a sunny home-from-home for Brits, with London Pride on tap and English-style pubs along its main thoroughfare, Gibraltar is an excellent place for watersports, hiking or learning about military history – the country has been fought over by the British, Spanish and Dutch for centuries.

There’s the quirky, colourful little beachside town of Catalan Bay, where an enclave of Genoese fishermen have lived for hundreds of years and a large beach beckons for lazy days on the sand. You can spend an afternoon on the only gin distillery on the island sipping their unusual concoctions made with the country’s endemic flower. And then there are those pesky Barbary macaques. They’ve got a bit of a reputation for snatching snacks from cruise passengers on the top of the rock, but spend some real time with them alongside primatologist Brian Gomila on his dusk Monkey Talk tours and you’ll see an entirely different, rather fascinating side to them.

Watch out for Barbary macaques in Gibraltar - Getty
Watch out for Barbary macaques in Gibraltar - Getty

After the year we’ve had in Britain and the exceptional success of Gibraltar’s vaccine roll out, this little Overseas Territory with a somewhat drab reputation in the past, is starting to look a lot like paradise.

Read the full article on why Gibraltar is your best bet for summer sun, here. Discover the best hotels in Gibraltar.

For a city break (all to yourself): Valletta

Juliet Rix

This summer Valletta may well live up to its nickname, “the silent city”. There will be far fewer cruise groups crowding its atmospheric labyrinth of tiny medieval alleys, flanked by the honey-stone palazzi of the Maltese aristocracy. The capital since Roman times, Mdina became a living museum after the bustle of administration moved to Valletta, a new capital built from scratch by the Knights of St John (the Knights of Malta) in the 16th century.

At this point in history, the Knights had just (and only just) held Malta against the Turks in the Great Siege of 1565, so they created their state-of-the-art fortified city on the banks of the Grand Harbour to ensure they were well prepared for a possible rematch. For the perfect tour of the Grand Harbour, hop into a traditional dghajsa: originally rowed gondola-style with a single oar, these brightly striped water taxis now putter, engine-powered, in and out of the harbour’s creeks and beneath the sturdy creamy-stone bulk of Fort St Angelo. Defender of these waters for more than 800 years, this was the HQ of the Knights during the Great Siege, and of the Royal Navy in Malta’s second great siege in 1942.

Dghajsas in Valletta's Grand Harbour - Getty
Dghajsas in Valletta's Grand Harbour - Getty

On the Valletta side of the water, as you stare up at the colossal walls drawn protectively around this peninsula city, it isn’t hard to see why there was no rematch and no other invader tried their luck for 200 years. Atop these walls – on St Barbara Bastion, Valletta’s chicest street – you may also spot a new luxury boutique hotel with an open-air restaurant on its roof. Iniala Harbour House will be fully open in June, with 23 rooms and spacious suites, an indoor pool and spa. Its rooftop restaurant, ION - The Harbour, is one of the recipients of a Michelin star, despite having opened late last year. Like several of the hotel’s designer beds, baths and balconies, it boasts the Valletta view, 180 degrees of the Grand Harbour (suites from €350, inialamalta.com).

Find out why Malta should be your first holiday after lockdown, here. Read more on the best hotels in Valletta.

For a rugged adventure: Ireland’s south west

Neil Hegarty

The Iveragh is the largest of the series of long peninsulas that reach into the Atlantic in furthest south-west Ireland – and is home to the Ring of Kerry, a 180-km circular driving route that offers one stupendous view of mountain and ocean after another. The road is dotted with pleasant villages: pause at Portmagee, where the rocky islets of the Skelligs rise on the far horizon; at pretty Kenmare, with its neat triangle of shopping streets; and at Derrynane House (heritageireland.ie), the atmospheric family home of the Irish nationalist leader Daniel O’Connell, where the lush, subtropical gardens are well worth exploring.

Ring of Kerry, Ireland  - Getty
Ring of Kerry, Ireland - Getty

Killarney has been a visitor centre since Victorian times: and today, much of the surrounding landscape and scenic lakelands is protected as the Killarney National Park (killarneynationalpark.ie), with its views up to the summit of Carrantouhill, at 1,038 metres Ireland’s highest peak. At the centre of the park, Muckross House offers characterful Victorian design, together with splendid gardens, a lovely café, working farms, and gentle walking.

Find out more about Ireland’s rugged south west here, and for ideas on where to stay, see our guide to the best hotels in Ireland.

For spectacular wildlife: Iceland’s Arctic Coast Way

Phoebe Smith

Seeing a whale breach for the first time as its massive torpedo-like body leaps from the water, cascading rivulets down its side, is a moment that sees ‘normal’ people transform from reserved travellers into excitable, delirious extroverts suddenly happy to hug strangers and yelp excitedly in a way that would put a gaggle of teenagers to shame. So imagine how that feeling can be increased when you’re doing it in one of the most beautiful places in the world – in complete silence.

Often linked to the term ‘overtourism’, prior to the pandemic Iceland saw its popularity soar, which meant that the very things that drew us there – the isolation, the crowd-free beauty and the peace – were beginning to be compromised. That’s why a new route was launched in 2019 called the Arctic Coast Way, a 900km drive across the often-neglected top end of the country.

iceland whale watching - iStock
iceland whale watching - iStock

Taking in 21 fishing villages from Hvammstangi to Bakkafjörður (pictured), six peninsulas and islands, black sand beaches (minus the hordes of photographers), glacial rivers, a flirtation with the Arctic Circle itself, steep mountains and 18 geothermal pools – the real highlight comes at Husavik, home of whale-watching in the country. Here, one pioneering operator (the first in Iceland to adopt the concept of watching rather than eating cetaceans 25 years ago), North Sailing, has launched a carbon-neutral electric boat, so that you can head out with a green conscience to see humpbacks, minkes and blue whales. And because the vessel emits virtually no noise – barring, of course, your delighted yelps – they seem to come much closer.

Find out more about the experience, here. Read our guide to the best hotels in Iceland.

For stupendous diving: Gozo

Juliet Rix

Red-sand Ramla Bay, possibly the best beach in all Malta, is overlooked by ‘Calypso’s Cave’ where Homer’s Ulysses is said to have stayed with the eponymous sea nymph. Ancient salt pans and strange natural sculptures adorn the shore west of Marsalforn, and then there are the dramatic cliffs of Ta Cenc. It’s no wonder that ‘pomskizillious and gromphiberous’ was Edward Lear’s verdict on the coast of Gozo, ‘being as no words can describe its magnificence' (the artist and author loved to walk and paint on this little island).

Ggantija Temples - iStock
Ggantija Temples - iStock

Gozo is a perfect place to kick back and relax. Extremely friendly, quieter and more rural than the main island of Malta, with some great restaurants, it makes for a genuinely regenerating holiday. The azure waters are warm and clear – perfect for swimming, snorkelling, and scuba diving (many sites are reachable from the shore, offering dramatic underwater landscapes and sunken wrecks). And let’s not forget the sights, which include the towering Gozo citadel, ornate churches, and some of the oldest stone buildings in the world. The Ggantija Temples – compete with monumental doorways and curved side rooms – were built earlier even than Stonehenge.

Read about the full experience, here.