Best bank holiday breaks to green and amber-list countries

There are still several weeks ahead for holidaymakers in search of sunshine.

And while the next traffic-light update falls just before the bank holiday weekend, big upsets now look unlikely in the final weeks of summer season.

For those prepared to pile through the paperwork and tick off the tests, a bank holiday break could mean sipping coffee in a European square with fewer crowds, or basking on a beach as families begin to return home before the new school year.

Green and green watchlist destinations should offer inspiration for the risk-averse, with Slovenia, Croatia, Gibraltar, Madeira and Latvia even open to non-vaccinated visitors from the UK.

Fully vaccinated travellers considering amber countries should be mindful that, as with Mexico, they can swiftly turn red.

But with the notion of an amber watchlist scrapped before it was even introduced, this looks unlikely for popular holiday destinations Spain and Portugal, where infection rates are falling again.

While rates continue to rise in France, our neighbour has been promoted from amber-plus to amber, while in Greece rates are rising but are still well below the UK, as well as Spain and France.

Green-list destinations: Unvaccinated

Go cycling in Slovenia

Tour de France winner Tadej Pogačar was born in the village of Klanec, which means “slopes” in Slovenian – and there are plenty on the country’s new Juliana Bike touring trail, which twists and turns through the verdant landscapes of the Julian Alps. Over 290km and seven stages, it ascends 8,500m – but e-bikes make it easier if you’re not a pro. Many of the stages hug the region’s emerald-green lakes and valleys, including Bled and Soča.

Life Adventures offers a four-day tour of Triglav National Park for €398pp (£337) that takes in the Soča river and Lake Bohinj. Arrive on 30 August to set off from Lesce the following day. Half-board, equipment rental and luggage transfers included, but not flights (selfguidedlife.com). BA and easyJet operate flights to Ljubljana.

Entry requirements: PCR test (72 hours), rapid antigen test (lateral flow, 48 hours), proof of antibodies (between 10 days and six months), or proof of full vaccination (requirements vary according to vaccine); children under-15s exempt.

Glamping on the Adriatic in Croatia

Best bank holiday breaks to green and amber-list countries

Camp at Arena One 99, Croatia’s original glamping resort, on the tip of the Istrian peninsula. Pitched among the pines outside the peaceful village of Pomer are air-conditioned tents with Egyptian cotton linen, Elemis toiletries and decked terraces. Forest-bathe on the wellbeing deck, where yoga, meditation and Pilates classes are held daily, before a trip to the sauna and hot tubs. Or get kayaking, biking, windsurfing and paddle-boarding at the site’s activity centre.

Nine nights’ room-only in two-bed tent from £416pp based on four arriving on 28 August (arenaglamping.com). EasyJet and British Airways both fly to Pula.

Entry requirements: PCR test (72 hours) or rapid antigen test (48 hours), or proof of vaccination or antibodies; under-12s exempt.

Caving in Gibraltar

Lower St Michael’s Cave, below the Rock of Gibraltar, was sealed for more than 20,000 years before it was discovered by chance during the Second World War. Explorers can now clamber among the stalactites and stalagmites of its ancient chambers.

A tour of the cool caverns is ideal after exploring the old town. Cave tours from £43 plus £25 entry fee (victorytoursgibraltar.com). Eight nights’ B&B at the Holiday Inn Express Gibraltar including Gatwick flights departing on 28 August from £718pp (easyjetholidays.com).

Entry requirements: PCR or rapid antigen test (48 hours), or proof of vaccination (14 days); under-12s exempt. Rapid test for all arrivals (free of charge) and another on day five if staying for more than seven days.

Bog-walk in Latvia

Riga, Latvia’s coastal capital, is not only a stunning city for a getaway, it is also a great base to explore nearby Kemeri National Park and the Baltic coast.

Navigate elevated boardwalks through bogs and visit the best of Latvia’s seaside attractions on a private day tour.

A full-day excursion includes a trip to the Lake Kaņieris trail and bird-watching tower, a stop at a small fishing village, the sulphur water springs, and time in Jūrmala seaside resort, known for its art nouveau villas.

Eight nights’ B&B in the 4-star Monika Centrum Hotels in old-town Riga from £437.50pp, including Gatwick flights, departing 28 August (ba.com). Tour from £130.42pp (getyourguide.co.uk).

Entry requirements: PCR test (72 hours) or rapid antigen test (48 hours), or proof of vaccination; under-12s exempt.

Golf in Madeira

Best bank holiday breaks to green and amber-list countries

Swing into summer with a golfing getaway in Madeira. Palheiro Village’s 18 holes offer commanding views over the Atlantic.

The resort, on the grounds of a 19th-century hunting lodge, has high-end apartments and villas, an outdoor pool and spa.

The clubhouse has a bar and restaurant, there is Casa Velha for high-end dining, while restaurants in the lively capital Funchal are four miles away.

Four nights’ self-catering in a one bed apartment from £360pp based on two arriving on 27 August (pierreetvacances.com). EasyJet, British Airways, Jet2 and Wizzair fly to Funchal.

Entry requirements: PCR (72 hours) or proof of vaccination (14 days) for those aged 12 and over. 

Green list destinations: Vaccinated

Sail historic waterways in Germany

Best bank holiday breaks to green and amber-list countries

Navigate the pretty rivers of Mecklenburg and Brandenburg aboard your own boat. Germany’s north-east is carved with waterways and lakes. Sail past picturesque forests, meadows and historic castles perched in medieval villages in your own floating bubble on a waterborne holiday offered by Le Boat.

Three nights’ self-catering aboard the ‘Cirrus B’ on a round trip departing on 27 August at Marina Wolfsbruch from £305pp, based on four sharing (leboat.co.uk). Several airlines fly to Berlin.

Entry requirements 16 and over: proof of full vaccination or recovery. 12- to 15-year-olds: proof of recovery. Children under 12 travelling with vaccinated parents: proof of recovery or PCR test (72 hours) or rapid antigen (48 hours).

Twin-island break in Malta and Gozo

Best bank holiday breaks to green and amber-list countries

A fast ferry service now connects Malta and sister island Gozo, so you can combine an exploration of the honey-stone history of Valletta – where 16th-century architectural splendour meets Renzo Piano’s contemporary flourishes – with day trips to the golden sands of Ramla Bay or the crystalline waters of Mgarr ix-Xini on Gozo (gozofastferry.com). 

BA offers a four-night break at The Saint John boutique hotel in Valletta for £768pp with flights, departing Heathrow on 27 August (ba.com).

Entry requirements: Proof of full vaccination (14 days). Children aged five to 11 accompanying vaccinated parents must present a negative PCR test (72 hours).

Trek the Tatras in Slovakia

Find yourself surrounded by Slovak Paradise – this national park is a tapestry of forest, ravines, waterfalls, meadows and hiking trails that can been accessed from Kosice. Wizzair has flex-fare flights from Luton that allow changes up to three hours prior to departure.

The Natural Adventure Company offers a five-day High Tatras and Slovak Paradise self-guided walking holiday, departing on 28 August for £588pp, (thenaturaladventure.com)

Entry requirements: Proof of vaccination (14 days). Children aged 12-18 must present a negative PCR test (72 hours).

Soak in a sky lagoon in Iceland

Sip an ice-cold beer while floating above the Atlantic Ocean at Iceland’s newest geothermal pool. Both the infinity pool and saunas at the Sky Lagoon, whose design is inspired by traditional Icelandic turf houses, offer expansive sea views. Conveniently close to Reykjavik city centre, it’s a great spot to unwind in during a long weekend in the capital.

Three nights’ B&B at the Eyja Guldsmeden hotel in Reykjavik from £770pp arriving on 28 August, including minibus transfers, a Golden Circle tour and Sky Lagoon with transfer (wherethewildis.co.uk). Icelandair, Play, easyJet and British Airways all fly to Reykjavik.

Entry requirements: Proof of vaccination (14 days) or antibodies, plus PCR or rapid antigen test (72 hours). Under-16s exempt.

Amber-list destinations: Vaccinated

The natural choice for Paris

A 15-minute drive from Disneyland Paris, Les Villages Nature Paris is a holiday park that embraces greenery. Children can learn about animals at the on-site farm, plants in the Extraordinary Gardens or take part in activities such as beekeeping, bread-baking and den-building.

There are also lakeside and woodland trails and a geothermally heated waterpark with flumes and a climbing wall. It is just over an hour by train to Gare du Nord, making it a great base for exploring Paris as well as Disneyland.One week for £1,991 for two adults and two children sharing a luxury cottage from 24 August (lesvillagesnature.com/gb-en). Marne-La-Vallee (Eurostar) is 10 minutes away.

Entry requirements: Proof of vaccination (14 days). Children aged 12 or over travelling with vaccinated parents must provide a negative PCR (72 hours) or antigen test (48 hours).

Bairro Alto bolthole in Lisbon

The luxurious Lumiares hotel, in the hip Bairro Alto neighbourhood of the Portuguese capital, features design by local artists and marries hotel services with apartment-style space and privacy.

There is a rooftop bar and restaurant, for captivating views of the capital at sundown, a spa and gym. Rooms all feature kitchens and living areas. Guests staying three nights or more also have access to a free PCR or antigen test (results in 24 hours). And the beaches of Cascais and the Portuguese Riviera are just half-an-hour away by train.

Three nights in a one-bedroom apartment at The Lumiares for £610pp departing on 27 August, including flights from Heathrow (ba.com).

Entry requirements: Proof of full vaccination (14 days), plus PCR test (72 hours) or antigen test (48 hours); under-12s exempt.

Get back to nature in Grenada

This southerly Caribbean island is rarely hit by seasonal hurricanes and while some rain is likely, so too are blue skies. The family-owned Blue Horizons Garden Resort is a self-catering haven close to the white sand expanse of Grand Anse Beach, its lush tropical grounds home to 27 species of indigenous birds.

There are ocean views from La Belle Creole Restaurant, too. The island’s waterfalls, forest trails, diving and cocoa producers are all easily accessible.

Seven nights’ self-catering from £1,121pp departing 27 August, with Heathrow flights, virginholidays.co.uk.

Entry requirements: Proof of vaccination (14 days; under-14s exempt), plus PCR test (72 hours and on arrival with hotel quarantine while waiting for results); under-sixes exempt.

Amber-list destinations: Unvaccinated

(10-day self-isolation applies on return to UK unless fully vaccinated)

Make yourself at home on Menorca

Tranquil Menorca flaunts beaches and coves no less ravishing than its Balearic neighbours, and its diminutive size makes it easy to explore. On the north coast, Fornells is backed by marsh and dunes and is the location of a cluster of villas with patios and private pools. The beaches are popular with families, divers and kayakers and water taxis will ferry you to nearby bays.

A week’s self-catering at Villas Playas de Fornells for £724pp, based on two adults and two children sharing a three-bedroom villa, with flights from Leeds Bradford on 29 August and a week’s car hire (jet2holidays.com).

Entry requirements: Negative PCR test (72 hours) or proof of vaccination (14 days). Under-12s exempt. 

Ionian adventure

The biggest of Greece’s Ionian islands, Kefalonia is all goat-roamed limestone cliffs, small sandy coves, mountainous interior, hillside fishing villages, hidden caves and turtle-speckled waters. It also has an Italian-influenced cuisine. Each day there presents a new adventure.

A week’s self-catering at the Lourdas Beach Apartments on the island’s south coast for £502pp, based on two sharing  a one-bedroom apartment, with flights from Manchester on 28 August and transfers (sunvil.co.uk).

Entry requirements: Proof of vaccination (14 days) or PCR test (72 hours) or rapid antigen test (48 hours) or proof of antibodies (30 to 180 days). Under-12s exempt.