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Busy beach in Sardinia

These are the best short-haul holidays for a quick fix of sunshine

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Say no to long travel times and get to enjoying your holiday faster with our pick of the best short-haul destinations to book this summer

There’s a case to be made for choosing a short-haul destination for your summer holiday. Less jet lag, shorter travel times, often cheaper flights — all favourable for those travelling with families — plus it makes a quick weekend in the sun easy, saving on annual leave.

If you are looking for a short-haul destination for your next trip, you won’t be spoilt for choice either. From familiar favourites such as Italy and France to the newly instated Capital of Culture, there’s something for every kind of traveller out there. So without further ado, let us introduce you to the six short-haul destinations that are absolutely worth a spot on your bucket list.

1. Best for culture: Tartu, Estonia

Travel time: Four hours and 30 minutes. Non-direct flights from Heathrow with Finnair operate on a semi-regular schedule.

Estonia is having its moment, thanks to its diverse landscapes, comprising beaches, mountains and jaw-dropping national parks. Today, though, we’re talking about its second city and one of the named Capitals of Culture for 2024: Tartu. Visit the charming Old Town for historic streets and quaint cafes, and be sure to pay a visit to the Tartu Toy Museum if you’re travelling with children — here, you’ll find exhibitions displaying toys that Estonian children have played with throughout the years, as well as playrooms and puppet shows. This year, the city will see the launch of sticker-inspired street art festival Stencibility, as well as Unda Festival, an event that celebrates club culture, connection and the power of dance.

City centre of Tartu Estonia
Tartu, Estonia has been named one of the Capitals of Culture for 2024.
2. Best for hot temperatures: Marrakech, Morocco

Travel time: Three hours and 45 minutes. Direct flights from Heathrow with Ryanair and EasyJet operate on a regular schedule.

Thanks to its close proximity to the Sahara, Marrakech boasts warm temperatures year round. In winter, it rarely drops below 20 degrees, while the summer often sees temperatures exceeding 30 degrees. Although there’s no beaches within the city limits, you will find a range of luxurious pool clubs that bring the party vibe to life, our favourites being Nikki Beach and Beach Mama. When you’re not sunning it up, hunt for treasures at Souk Semmarine — dubbed ‘the Bond Street of souks’,  snap Insta pics at the stunning Jardin Majorelle and marvel at couture archives at the Musee Yves Saint Laurent.

Read more: Why Paris is an underrated spot for a wellness break
Riad in Marrakesh, Morroco
Marrakesh is a great travel destination for those looking to combine culture with down time.
3. Best for pristine beaches: Sardinia, Italy

Travel time: Two hours and 30 minutes. Direct flights from Stansted with Ryanair operate on a regular schedule.

There’s lots of options for breathtaking beaches available across Europe, including Croatia, Greece and Portugal. In our opinion, though, Sardinia wins first prize. Cala Goloritzé is one of Italy’s most famous beaches, and was actually made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995. This tiny slice of paradise is nestled at the bottom of a ravine, and boasts soft white sand and azure waters against a backdrop of limestone cliffs. To make the most of your time here, we recommend renting a boat — reputable rental companies include Daymar and Skipper Calagonone — and exploring the rest of the Gulf of Orosei and its stunning beaches. Remember to pack your bathing suit and snorkel to take advantage of swimming spots, and pack a cool bag filled with local produce to fuel your energy along the way.

Stunning, uncrowded beach in Sardinia, Italy
Sardinia is considered by many to be home to some of the best beaches in the world.
4. Best for culinary adventures: Paris, France

Travel time: Two hours and 16 minutes via EuroStar, or one hour 20 minutes flying from Heathrow. Both the EuroStar and flights with Ryanair depart on a daily basis.

Paris is undoubtedly one of the best city breaks in Europe, and a haven for foodies — as long as you know where to go. Avoid the tourist traps on the Champs-Élysées or along the Seine, and instead head to Le Marais to sample classic French dishes in abundance of charming bistrots; Bistrot des Vosges is an affordable spot with great French onion soup, and Camille is perfect for getting your steak-frites fix. Restaurants on the popular side that are worth a visit include Le Relais de l’Entrecôte and Café de Flore, so don’t let anyone shame you for visiting either. For bars, head up to Pigalle for tiki cocktails at Dirty Dick and elegant tipples at Les Justes, and don’t forget to visit a traditional bakery for pain au chocolat the morning after.

Pink buildings in Montmartre area in Paris, France
Paris is a culinary hotpot, home to upmarket, Michelin star restaurants to delicacies including snails and French onion soup.
5. Best for an adventure holiday: Interlaken, Switzerland

Travel time: One hour and 50 minutes to Zürich, then a two-hour train ride. Flights to Zürich with British Airways depart from Heathrow on a regular basis.

If you’re looking for an adrenaline-fueled trip, Interlaken is the place to visit. Located in the Alps between Lake Thun and Lake Brienz, here you’ll find glacial turquoise waters, sky-high mountain peaks and scenic parks. The list of activities available here is seemingly endless: those who like to keep their feet firmly on the ground can take advantage of a myriad of hiking routes, and white water rafting, kayaking, boating and swimming options are all available, too. Plus, if you visit between November to late April, there’s also the chance for some skiing at nearby resorts Beatenberg and Habkern.

Read more: 7 best London gardens, parks and green spaces
Blue lake in Interlaken, Switzerland
Interlaken is known as the adventure capital of Switzerland.
6. Best for R&R: Ibiza

Travel time: 2 hours and 30 minutes. Flights depart from Heathrow with British Airways on a regular basis.

There’s two sides to Ibiza: the hardcore, party-goers side with its late-night clubs and music events, and the yoga and wellness obsessed side. If you’re searching for the latter, we recommend staying at the Atzaro Ibiza hotel, with its Pilates, massage, hammam and ice bath facilities, or Hotel Torre del Mar, with direct beach access and the indulgent Sal Rossa Spa. Reconnect with nature with Ibiza Hike Station, a guided hike operator that will take you off the beaten track to explore some of the lesser known hidden gems of the White Island. For those that want to take their wellness experience to the next level, there’s also a range of dedicated wellness retreats available on the island: Ibiza Retreats has a number of slots left on retreats throughout 2024, each of which focuses on physical and emotional wellbeing.

Wooden bar in Ibiza
In recent years, Ibiza has became a wellness destination in its own right.

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