You’ve probably had enough time indoors and, though you might want to get out and re-explore London after so long, a getaway might be the perfect thing for your health. The problem is, many places are still closed, especially to visitors from the United Kingdom, so your go-to travel destination might be off the cards. The good news is, there are plenty of options for you, so if you’ve got a bit of time and want to get away from the city, now might be the perfect time to travel to somewhere new.
Portugal started a three-stage de-escalation strategy on the 4th of May, and from June they announced that tourists are welcome and will not be forced to quarantine. If you’re looking to enjoy that opportunity, why not start in Madeira? It’s a subtropical island system in Portugal that has found appeal as a haven for warmth in winter and summer alike. It has lovely beaches, you can go island hopping and enjoy the lack of restrictions. It has delicious food and has a nice wine museum and even a museum dedicated to Cristiano Ronaldo. After Madeira, you might want to enjoy some city culture in Porto, Portugal’s second-largest city and one with beautiful characterful old buildings. Even the railway stations in Porto are full of iconic art (azulejos tiles), and you can explore gardens, churches and palaces as you get to know the city. In the evenings, you can relax with some delicious Portuguese food like Tripas a Moda do Porto (for fans of tripe), Bolinhos de Bacalhau (fried codfish cakes) or Tarte de Amendoa (a delicious dessert). Don’t forget to have a glass of port!
Tourists from the UK aren’t allowed to visit Cyprus until the 15th of July, but that gives you enough time to plan a fantastic getaway: a road trip through Cyprus. Cyprus is home to blue skies and bluer water with gorgeous beaches and a lot of history. You can rent a car at the airport with a company like Avis (2 weeks in a large saloon will cost you about £2,200), or you can take your own car – Autoshippers offers Cyprus car shipping for £509 for a saloon. Once you leave Larnaca, you can get on the road to explore the towns of Limassol, Agia Napa, Paphos and Nicosia, which each have an incredible amount of individual charm. The best thing about a Cyprus road trip is the freedom and the relaxation – you can drive across the whole of Cyprus in a few hours, so with every destination, you know you have time to get lost, explore and act on a whim. Whether it’s staying a bit too long in Agai Napa to enjoy its famed nightlife or having a delicious meal with wine in the wine regions and villages peppering the mountains. The sense of timelessness that Cyprus gives you will make the past few months of lockdown seem far behind you.
Iceland is a beautiful country, and it is now open to tourists. Any passenger going to Iceland can choose to either be tested for COVID-19 for £90 per test or to self-isolate for two weeks. Before leaving, you will need to fill out a pre-registration form. Note that children who were born in 2005 are exempt from needing tests. Iceland is another fantastic place for a road trip; gazing through the windscreen will reward you with alien-like black rocky landscapes, gorgeous glaciers, houses made especially for elves and if you’re lucky, some northern lights. Reykjavík is a town where you can relax in one of their lovely boutique hotels and explore the nightlife and world-class food before hitting the road. When you’re on the road, you’ll be able to park your car almost wherever and whenever you feel the desire to explore your surroundings, which is why Iceland gives you a sense of freedom that few places can.
Ireland was never closed to British travellers, but ferries and flights have a reduced service. Once you get to Ireland, you will have to self-quarantine for two weeks Whether you’re exploring Dublin’s finest public houses to the sounds of the fiddle, relaxing in a County Kerry Cottage or looking for the Dingle Dolphin, there’s a lot to do in The Republic of Ireland. If you’re in Dublin, be sure to check out the Chester Beatty Museum, an excellent curation of artefacts that Chester Beatty, Ireland’s first honorary Irishman, donated to the city. The Post Office is another great museum, essential for anybody looking for an understanding of the 1916 Easter Uprising, the significance of Britain’s response and why the leaders of ’16 are so highly revered to this day.
Italy is now open for tourists with no quarantine on the condition that you avoid public transport, so you’ll need to rent a car at the airport. If you do, it’ll be well worth it. If lockdown was particularly stressful, the undulating hills of the Tuscan wine country would be sure to relax you as you walk through vineyards before an evening sausage and tomato pasta. If you go to Italy frequently, why not try somewhere new? If you’ve never been to Sicily, it’s worth it just to taste rich, but fruity wine from grapes ripened in the hot southern sun. If you felt in need of stimulation during lockdown, Florence, Venice or Rome will have all the culture you could ask for incredible monuments like the Coliseum or Circus Maximums; beautiful world-class art at the Uffizi gallery; the flooded square of St. Marks – you will never be able to do everything that Italy has on offer.
Belarus is completely open to visitors from the UK, but you need a medical certificate signifying a negative test that was not issued later than 48 hours before entry. You will not need to self-isolate either. Belarus has a great art and café scene, with beautiful places like the Nyasvizh Castle Palace, the Mir Castle Palace and museums like the Museum of the Great Patriotic War in Minsk. If you love nature, be sure to check out Belarus’ beautiful national parks like Belavezhskaya Pushcha or Pripyatsky National Park. The architecture of Belarus is dotted with Roman Catholic churches like the double-towered Holy Spirit Cathedral in Minsk’s old town, or the Red Church (pl Nezalezhnastsi), which is incredibly eye-catching and built with bricks brought from a holy pilgrimage site in Poland.
Croatia is open to visitors from the UK, but on arrival, you will have to have proof that you have reserved accommodation. Once you arrive, you will be welcomed with delicious food (make sure you try Croatian sausage), as well as friendly people and stunning beaches. Croatia is a great place to go island hopping, and if clubs are open, it will be worth trying out Croatia’s legendary nightlife. If you’re into history, you will fall in love with some of Croatia’s historical sites, like Diocletian’s Palace, one of the most striking ancient Roman buildings still around today, or the Roman Amphitheatre from the 1st century in Pula. Croatia is also great for nature, with Paklenica National park offering beautiful mountain scenery, ripe for treks and even rock-climbing or abseiling.
Even though the world feels closed, you have plenty of destinations just around the corner to help you get away from London for a few weeks. For many people, lockdown was anything but a holiday, so if you have some time after it ends, why not treat yourself before returning to the new normal?