The most beautiful and relaxing place we have visited is Svolvaer in the Lofoten Islands set in Arctic Norway. We travelled there in comfort from Trondheim aboard the Hurtigruten coastal ship, and returned from Svolvaer’s small airport, where you can wander around birdwatching while awaiting the plane. The harbour is truly memorable. In May there were still a few piles of snow, but it was warm enough to have coffee outside our cosy, rented fisherman’s rorbu hut and sit watching the busy small boats and occasional birds framed by the reflections of the dark, wooden jetties and red huts.
• Lofoten: from sea safaris to the Northern Lights
Svolvaer’s intriguing museum tells the area’s wartime history, and a short bus ride leads to another museum, which includes ancient fishermen’s dwellings along a coastal path back to town. Go the opposite way to see the fascinating, pungent, high racks of drying cod, destined for Italy. Indeed the place to unwind.
We have been visiting Halki for 16 years. It is the perfect place for relaxing – a short ferry ride fromRhodes and you enter the picturesque harbour. There is only one village, around the harbour, and a collection of houses built on the hillside. We rent one of these, a villa with steps leading down into the clearest of blue seas. We spend our days strolling to one of the three beaches to read, snorkel and relax. Evenings are spent eating and drinking at one of the few excellent tavernas on the quayside. Like most of the regular visitors, we now feel part of the community. Three weeks of bliss – no cars, no music bars – and the very occasional evening of Greek dancing with friends. As the view of the island disappears into the haze, we know paradise will be there waiting for us again next year.
B Philpott, Hertfordshire
Halki, Greece Photo: Fotolia/AP
Escape to tranquil Nha Trang from hectic HCMC
Vietnam has everything you could wish for in a holiday: the history, an overload of culture and of course its stunning scenery. Escape hectic Ho Chi Minh City by visiting the turquoise bay of Nha Trang. Relax on the beach, have a drink or two at the numerous beach huts (some even have swings), or take a boat out to one of the numerous islands along the coast to go exploring the reef. At night, enjoy a fire show as well as music and dancing along the beach and partying into the night. It’s cheap, it’s luxurious, it’s fantastic.
Rachael Del Dot, Hampshire
• 36 Hours in Hanoi
Lost in the dunes of White Sands, New Mexico
My favourite place in the world is White Sands in New Mexico. Over thousands of years, weather has created a vast basin of white dunes where you completely forget the rest of the world as they envelop you.
• New Mexico: on the trail to Santa Fe
Emma Green, London
White Sands, New Mexico Photo: Fotolia/AP
People watching on the Promenade des Anglais
Where can you sit for free watching an ever-changing scene of colours, movement, style and grace? The Promenade des Anglais in Nice. You don’t need to pay to sit on an exclusive part of the beach – unless you really want to. Ahead of you the azure sea glimmers and shimmers, as life in all its glory passes by on the promenade. Watch out for the cycle lane. Stepping over it means you may have to dodge those practising for the Tour de France, or the skaters whizzing past and displaying skilful manoeuvres, especially on a Friday evening.
Enjoy the show: a decorated lady with handbag-sized pooch; perma-tanned octogenarian with his youthful “nurse”; wannabe actor showing off his bronzed physique; gorgeous girls in the shortest of shorts just parading… There are festivals practically every week in summer – all of life is there. To be watched and welcomed.
Marianne Roberts, Derbyshire
Promenade des Anglais, Nice Photo: Fotolia/AP
The pleasure and peace of pristine Harlech beach
I first saw Harlech beach as a child – a boardwalk through the dunes leading to a pristine stretch of sand, crashing jade waves and the Llyn peninsula across the bay. Years later it is still magical – the same soft sand and towering dunes offering peaceful hideaways, however full the car park. On the stroll through the dunes along the boardwalk, cares melt away. No matter if the tide is in or out, the first glimpse of the beach lifts the spirits and calms the soul – peace indeed. These days I drive 100 miles for the pleasure and peace of Harlech and it is worth every one of those miles.
Jane Byrne, Staffs
Letting our hair down in the Hawaiian islands
The most relaxing, romantic holiday I have ever experienced was in Hawaii, watching a volcano erupt, palm trees lining the streets, the beautiful sunsets and amazing beaches. Then there were the cocktails downed while watching the sunset, the beach parties and hula dancing, and the joy of being greeted by Hawaiian women putting the traditional lei of flowers around your neck.
• Hawaiian highs: what to do on Oahu, Big Island and Maui
I remember too the waft of the ocean as you step off the plane, and the friendly smiling people. It was an experience never to be forgotten. I can close my eyes and picture myself back there in a paradise.
Honolulu, Hawaii Photo: Fotolia/AP
Colleen Andrew, West Sussex
Mooching around Mykonos on a quad bike
My best place to unwind is the Greek island of Mykonos. Hire a quad bike and enjoy the thrill of driving on quiet roads to little beaches, stop off and get lunch from a baker’s (the orange cake, portokalopita, is to die for), then party on in Mykonos Town among the white buildings and windmills with the boys. After mooching around the shops, sip chilled drinks in Little Venice and watch the world go by.
Debs Allan, Isle of Wight
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