It’s an enduring human trait to desire to top up our reserves with a good dose of nature; to escape, even for a short time, into the embrace of something bigger than our own busy lives. There’s nothing that rejuvenates the spirit quite like an invigorating stroll through a national park, a deserted beach or along a trail that hugs a dramatic coastline. Surely it’s not just me…?
So many of my clients come to me with the desire to spend a week or two in a destination where they can “get away from it all”. While “it” means different things to everyone, without exception the proposition of being able to get back to nature without forfeiting any of the luxury accoutrements ticks all the right boxes. Prestige Holidays’ handpicked portfolio of luxury accommodation in Gozo, Madeira and La Gomera allows us to create the quintessential natural getaway from “it” in all its guises.
The sheer unbridled beauty of Madeira has seen it poetically described as being at “the end of the world”. Indeed, there is something quite Utopian about this tropical island paradise and, for nature lovers, I can’t help but include it in my top recommendations.
There are myriad nature walks and trails that follow its famous levadas, and the profusion of nature on display has earned Madeira the moniker of the “Garden Island”. The beauty of the blooms on display in the man-made gardens bursts forth in an ordered chaos of vibrant jacaranda, bougainvillea and poinsettia, interspersed with delicate orchids, wisteria, frangipani and fruit trees.
The Ribeiro Frio walk, on the eastern side of the island, is one of my favourite spots. As you stroll along the lush wooded trails that wind through the Laurisilva Forest, you’ll pass through tunnels and by countless little waterfalls. Along with the astounding flora and fauna you can’t help but be struck by the ambience of the dappled light that filters through the canopy.
A destination as beautiful as Madeira almost speaks for itself, but finding the perfect accommodation to enhance your experience is really important. I’m so delighted to have the wonderful Hotel Quinta da Serra as part of our portfolio. It offers luxury rooms and suites with superb views and wellness facilities that provide the perfect complement to the nurturing natural surrounds.
Set within magnificent gardens, the hotel offers breathtaking views down the valley and puts guests within easy reach of a host of relaxing, easy walks. Its eco-credentials are impeccable, with an enduring commitment to preserving and enhancing the natural resources of the island.
Many of my clients love the idea of visiting the Canary Islands but are looking for somewhere away from the more crowded resorts. For anyone looking for true R & R, I recommend La Gomera – the quieter little member of the Canary family. With a diameter of less than 25 kilometres, La Gomera offers a far slower pace and some absolutely top-notch opportunities to get out into nature under your own steam, without having to work up a sweat.
I recommend anyone staying on the island makes a point to visit the UNESCO-listed Garajonay National Park, which encompasses the region surrounding the island’s highest mountain (its namesake). This picturesque pocket of dense sub-tropical forest invites exploration of an enigmatic landscape that feels like it’s been forgotten by time. There are numerous well-maintained paths that network through the laurel forest (some of these ancient trees grow up to 15 metres high), and an ever-present misty haze that hangs over the landscape like gauze adds an ethereal effect that’s hard to forget. But, then again, why would you try?
Top Tip: Once you’ve rambled through the forests of the National Park, I suggest a visit to the excellent visitor’s centre, Juego De Bola, which includes a wonderful ethnology museum.
Set on the cliff tops overlooking San Sebastian, with breathtaking views over the Atlantic, there’s no better base from which to explore the natural beauty of La Gomera than Parador Conde de la Gomera. The hotel’s elegant, old-world rooms and suites offer a front row seat to the views, and the luxury accommodation is complemented by the superb onsite wellness centre. There’s something very special about indulging in a sauna, Jacuzzi or massage in these beautiful surroundings that makes you feel utterly and totally relaxed.
In the hotel’s restaurant you’ll be able to sample the showcase of local produce, presented on the plate in the most delectable and creative way by their talented chefs. If the weather permits (and when doesn’t it in the Canaries?), you may be fortunate, as I was, to be treated to one of the special outside dinners on the terrace.
Don’t let a funny name detract you from the delightful destination that is the Maltese island of Gozo. Lesser-known than the main island of the archipelago, Gozo is a rural jewel in the Mediterranean with all the charm of Malta at a far more unhurried pace.
This diminutive island (it’s only about 67 kilometres-squared in total) punches well above its weight when it comes to its natural beauty. I’ve discovered some of the true off-the-beaten-path locations and they rank up there among my favourite places in the world. For history buffs, the opportunity to pay homage to Homer at Calypso’s cave (from the Odyssey) is too hard to refuse, and this picturesque site is easy to access, overlooking one of the island’s best-known beaches.
I’d also recommend taking a stroll along the Marsalforn promenade up to Xwejni, which will furnish you with some remote and dramatic coastal views. For those with the energy and fitness (alt. 320ft.) the walk up to Tas-Salvatur is well worth the panoramic vista with which you’ll be rewarded.
Top Tip: If you’ve got time for a leisurely but long walk, head to the secluded valley of Wied I-Ghasri, through the town of Ghasri and down to the sea at Zebbug.
Ta Cenc, located in a delightful rural setting in its own 150-acre estate, offers the perfect self-contained retreat, complete with wellness facilities. The superb appointments of the rooms and suites provide a laidback, luxurious ambience that’s at once elegant, homely and completely calming.
The wellness facilities include a Jacuzzi as well as beauty and massage rooms – so there’s no excuse for not getting out to enjoy a brisk hike in nature with this sort of pampering to come back to. Prestige Holidays has had a long association with Ta Cenc and, to my mind, after multiple stays here the place just keeps getting better.