21 May 2015 by Saija Kokkonen
If you're looking for an extra special five-star holiday, then head to Europe. It is diverse and exciting, with a wide-range of cultures, landscapes, climates and customs. Importantly, it also has some seriously top-end experiences and accommodation on offer. From Malta to Montenegro, Scandinavia to Sicily, there are plenty of exceptional places to visit.
Alongside fascinating history, culture and traditions, from Renaissance artwork to ancient Greek heritage, there are also exquisite beaches, exceptional diving spots, crumbling and beautiful architecture, as well as breath taking skiing and winter sports.
Then there are the places to stay. Highlights include the fantastic Grace Santorini in the Greek Islands, which has an infinity pool overlooking the crystal clear waters below, and the beautiful Art Deco Baglioni Hotel Regina in Rome, the perfect base from which to admire the city's beautiful art and Baroque architecture. So, whatever your interest and whatever your budget, Europe will have an exceptional experience for you.
Until recently, Montenegro has remained off-the-beaten-track. The destination is slowly coming to the world's attention though. Despite it only having about 100 km of coastline, it is extraordinarily beautiful. Mountains jut sharply from the crystalline waters of the Adriatic, while ancient walled towns cling to the rocks, and the delicate scent of wild herbs, conifers and Mediterranean blossoms fill the air.
Montenegro offers an excellent alternative to Croatia, as it has all of Croatia's beauty and warm weather but with less intense crowds. To really revel in space and discovering somewhere new, head up to the mountain areas of Durmitor and Prokletije, the forest of Biogradska Gora, or one of the country's many other little towns. There are also some fascinating Orthodox monasteries, ornate Catholic churches, and elegant mosque minarets to admire.
For the ultimate, five-star experience in Montenegro, you can't beat the Aman Sveti Stefan resort, which is spectacularly located on the beautiful island of Sveti Stefan, held to be one of Montenegro's most iconic locations. Attached to the coast by a narrow isthmus, the tiny islet boasts cobbled streets, quaint courtyards, and remarkable sea views.
Discover The Delights of Sveti Stefan
There's much more to Malta than meets the eye. Made up of seven small islands in the Mediterranean, it's got a dramatic past and an exciting present. Prehistoric temples and a rich history combine with fossil-studded cliffs, glittering hidden coves and thrilling diving opportunities to ensure that there's some truth to the old adage about good things and small packages.
The two main islands in the archipelago are Malta and Gozo, which are home to some very impressive prehistoric sites, including gigantic temples set atop sea cliffs and the famous Hal Saflieni Hypogeum, a 5,000-year-old underground necropolis carved into the rock. A staunchly Roman Catholic culture, Malta has a fascinating mix of influences that include Italian, English, French, Middle Eastern and Sicilian, all of which can be tasted in its food and seen in its architecture.
In terms of five-star experiences, there are many to choose from in Malta. Don't miss its impressive collection of paintings by Caravaggio, the controversial Renaissance artist who fled to the capital Valetta after fatally stabbing a man in Rome. For an extra special Maltese experience, stay at the fantastic Westin Dragonara on Malta, or the Hotel Ta Cenc on Gozo. In terms of five-star experiences and activities, you must go diving off one of the small satellite islands in a beautiful, secluded bay to see why Malta is held to be one of the wreck-diving capitals of the world.
Enjoy a Malta & Gozo twin-centre break
From Rome to Florence, Venice to the Amalfi Coast, Italy is a jewel in Europe's crown, and a perennial favourite among travellers. With cultural riches encompassing the Roman Empire to the Renaissance, Prada to ‘starcitect' Renzo Piano, art and life are truly intertwined in this fabulous country. What's more, each of its regions almost feels like an independent state, from imperial Rome to verdant Tuscany.
For a five-star experience, enjoy some of Italy's artistic wonders. From the awe-inspiring frescoes in the Vatican's Sistine Chapel to Florence's Duomo gallery and the magnificent Piccolomini Library in Siena, Italy is packed with breathtaking sights to behold. Stay in the beautiful Art Deco Baglioni Hotel Regina in Rome to enjoy the city in all its artistic glory. Alternatively, head to Tuscany, where you can really live the high life while staying at the splendid Relais & Chateaux hotel overlooking Punta Ala's picturesque marina.
Another gem is Sicily - the small island resembling a football being kicked by the boot of Italy. With Baroque architecture, Caravaggio's dramatic paintings, and azure waters, it's got some fantastic experiences on offer. Make sure to stay at the Verdura Golf & Spa Resort on its west coast for a truly luxurious experience.
With endless miles of aquamarine coastline and sun-bleached ancient ruins, the Greek landscape is thrilling. Couple that with mouth-watering cuisine and a rich and fascinating heritage that's responsible for democracy and the theatre among other inventions, and Greece is a destination that's second to none.
The mainland and Greek Islands combine to cover a vast range of landscapes, which are dotted with the remains of the splendours of ancient Greece. Visit the 2,400-year-old Parthenon, the theatre of Dionysus, and the Odeon of Herodes Atticus. The Doric Temple of Apollo at Delphi, and the monasteries of Meterora and Mount Olympus are also fascinating memorials to a time gone by.
For five-star style, look no further than Santorini, the beautiful little island off the Greek coast. The perfect place to stay on Santorini is the luxurious Grace Santorini, which is located up high, giving spectacular views across the sparkling Aegean and Cyclades Islands. The hotel was awarded ‘best location in Europe' by Conde Nast Traveller - a title rightly deserved when you take into consideration its beautiful views.
For five-star experiences, there are so many destinations in Scandinavia to choose from. From Iceland to Finland, Norway to the Faroe Islands, there are many sophisticated and stylish options.
One way of really getting the most from a Scandinavian holiday is to treat yourself to a once-in-a-lifetime Christmas under the Northern Lights in the heart of Norway's Arctic wilderness, at the Malangen Resort. Christmas here, at this charming fjord-side hotel set among the winter landscapes outside Tromso, is like no other. Experiences to try might include a husky ride, a snowmobile safari, and a chance to uncover the customs of the Sami people, or you could just relax in the sauna and keep an eye out for the Northern Lights.
Alternatively, for something more adventurous, consider a cruise to Spitsbergen with One Ocean Expeditions. Cruise through the spectacular Svalbard archipelago, where you might see polar bears and thousands of seabirds. You'll stay on the impressive Akademik Sergy Vavilov, where onboard guides will share their knowledge of the region's breathtaking wilderness and wildlife in order to bring this remote destination to life.
To experience five-star Scandinavia, take our Christmas at Malangen Resort tour