Welcome to Dominica, AKA 'rainbow town' 

Welcome to Dominica, AKA 'rainbow town' 

Sophie Goddard takes a trip to the Caribbean to ‘Nature’s Island’


“Drink rum and do what makes you happy!” This was the sage advice given to us by ‘Dr. Birdy’ (real name Bertrand Jno Baptiste) the leader of the bird-watching tour we joined on the sunny island of Dominica. He was (I think) joking, but it’s clearly advice worth heeding, since not only did he seem pretty content with his lot, but so did the other Dominicans we encountered. In fact, Dominica is home to an unusually high number of centenarians (their lifestyle is currently being researched by scientists) so it figures they’re doing something right.

The first thing to know about Dominica (not to be confused with the Dominican Republic) is that it’s pronounced ‘DominEEca’. An island found halfway between Guadeloupe and Martinique, it’s less popular than its Caribbean neighbours, perhaps in part because it has no international airport or direct flights (travellers from London come via Antigua, Barbados or St Lucia to one of the country’s two airports). There are also less white sandy beaches than, say, Barbados (you’ve got volcanic ash to thank for that). But once you’re there, those cramped plane seats and sleepy stopovers are soon forgotten.



Hurricane Maria

Known as ‘nature’s island’, Dominica’s rugged landscape is especially spectacular when you consider the mass devastation left by 2017’s Hurricane Maria. It struck September 18th, ravaging the island and wiping out homes, roads and entire forests. It’s estimated an incredible 90% of buildings were damaged or destroyed in the most powerful storm in Dominica’s history, with 31 losing their lives and thousands left homeless. The effects are visible wherever you go – in places, the landscape is completely barren with buildings still closed and businesses yet to reopen – and everybody we speak to seems to have been affected in some way, losing loved ones, homes or work. But despite the huge scale of the disaster, the island is doing an impressive job of getting back on its feet.

There are more active volcanoes in Dominica than anywhere else in the world, per square metre, and an enormous rainforest covers much of the land, along with rivers, waterfalls, pools, lakes and huge, high rugged mountains. The terrain was deemed so spectacular that scenes from the second and third Pirates of the Caribbean films were shot on the island. The lush vegetation has made it a mecca for bird-watchers too, which is why we found ourselves in the Morne Diablotin National Park, following the Syndicate Nature Trail. With Dr. Birdy leading the charge, my group and I hiked – well, more of a gentle amble – in search of local wildlife (which includes around 300 snakes, thankfully none poisonous). We learned plenty on our travels – for example, the Begonia plant, we discovered, tastes pleasantly like apple if you nibble a leaf. We spotted gray kingbirds, red–necked parrots, house wrens, bananaquits and hummingbirds – all happily cohabiting above us in the mango trees. After an hour of walking, we reached a leafy clearing, high up in the forest with nothing but impossibly tall, towering trees stretched out for miles beneath us. To our amazement, our guide sweeps his arm over the impressive landscape and tells us, “There wasn’t a single leaf after the hurricane, this was all completely empty”. The notion is almost too mind-boggling to compute. 


A whale of a time

If bird-watching isn’t your bag, whale-watching should be – it’s an absolute must in Dominica since it’s the only country in the world where the sperm whale – AKA the largest predator on the planet – resides all year round. We took an afternoon trip out with the excellent Dive Dominica (£55pp) who follow strict codes of conduct to minimise disturbance, never luring or baiting the whales towards the boats. After our first spot of dolphins, we clocked the famous sperm whales within an hour of setting sail, as the Dive Dominica shared their impressive knowledge and (very patiently) answered everybody’s burning questions about the magnificent mammals. A truly unforgettable experience, it’s something I’ve recommended to anyone and everyone since, so if you get the chance, do it. Hankering after more animal action? Rainforest Riding run excellent horse-riding trips through the Cabrits National Park from (£77pp) and if you’re feeling daring, you can even take a gentle ride on horseback in the waves. 


Sleep easy

When it comes to where you lay your head, options are steadily growing, since the Marriott and Kempinki chains have both announced plans to open hotels on the island in the very near future. Our first stop was The Fort Young Hotel, on the south of the island, which is just a minute’s walk from the ferry port and close to the nearby market and sites like the Roseau Cathedral and Dominica Museum. The location and views of the Caribbean are second-to-none and while rooms are simple and fairly no-frills, prices are reasonable and staff are friendly (they also serve a great poolside piña colada). We enjoyed dinner in the hotel’s restaurant and the seafood was raved about by all (Dominica, it transpires, isn’t great for vegetarians or vegans). For those keen to push the boat out, islanders told us that Secret Bay, near Portsmouth, is a suitably luxe alternative (there you’ll find high-end tree-houses with private pools and jaw-droppingly good views).


Our next stop was Picard’s Beach Cottages, a row of beach-side ‘cottages’ found on the north of the island. Each ‘cottage’ (more of a beach hut, really) was named after a member of the Pirates of the Caribbean film crew (mine housed cinematographer Dariusz Wolski) as a nod to their stay during filming. Don’t expect high-end luxury – cottages are basic and not wonderfully secure (my door blew open in the night) so it would be sensible to ask reception to store valuables. Still, when you’re that close to the water, who cares? And if you wake to the sound of rain on the roof, hotfoot it to the pontoon ASAP – I saw the best rainbow of my life just before breakfast one morning.  

Island dining

When it comes to dining, many restaurants are still finding their feet post-Maria, and limits on imported produce bring about their own challenges – but that’s not to say there aren’t some hidden gems well worth seeking out. The first is The Great Old House, found in Roseau (just a stone’s throw from The Fort Young Hotel). The atmosphere is lively, service is excellent and the frozen daiquiris are next level (you’ll appreciate them in the heat, too). If there’s space, ask to sit on the balcony and order the red snapper, which was raved about by my fellow diners. The other is Secret Bay’s heavenly Zing Zing, where you can watch experimental chefs prepare seasonal tasting menus for around £60pp. After Hurricane Maria, one of the original Secret Bay villas was rebuilt, this time as a restaurant. ‘Building back better’ is a phrase I heard often during my stay in Dominica, but I’m pleased to report it seems to be true – Dominica’s future looks brighter than ever. 


Dominica’s do’s:

  1. Try Rainbow Yoga  – truly beautiful. Watch out for news of a yoga festival coming to the island soon, too. 
  2. Chill out at Bongo Baths – enjoy a drink and watch the stars in your own rock pool for just £10pp an hour. 
  3. Book onto the Indian River Tour – a must for ‘pirates’ fans (there’s a refreshment stop at a rum shack too), expect to pay £15pp for an hour and a half of river action.
  4. Visit Papa and Mama Falls – go before midday to avoid the crowds.
  5. Explore Fort Shirley in Cabrits National Park. If local historian Dr. Lennox Honychurch, who helped restore the building in the 1980s, is around, make the most of his excellent knowledge.  


Go there:

  • Return flights with BA via Antigua cost from £615pp
  • Fort Young Hotel: Rooms cost from £129 per night based on two people sharing a double room
  • Picard Beach Cottages: Cottages cost from £91 per night based on two people sharing a double cottage 
  • Airport Parking and Hotels offers a wide range of parking at all major airports in the UK. One week of Meet & Greet parking at London Gatwick Airport costs from £94. Visit www.aph.com or call 01342 859442
  • For more information visit discoverdominica.com

The post Welcome to Dominica, AKA ‘rainbow town’  appeared first on Marie Claire.

An Elf-inspired New York hotel room exists so that's our December getaway sorted

An Elf-inspired New York hotel room exists so that's our December getaway sorted

elf inspired hotel room
© Entertainment Film Distribution

Christmas is coming, and while for the most part it means cheese, Prosecco and the Harry Potter movies on repeat, it’s also the perfect time to book a last minute trip to Europe for a weekend of cute and festive markets.

But if you’re planning to go a little further afield, there’s something very interesting happening across the pond in New York city and we’re certain you won’t want to miss it.

One hotel has decided to deck out a room inspired by the Christmas classic, Elf, and it sounds like an absolute dream.

Club Wyndham has decorated the suite with things that would make Buddy’s heart sing, such as hundreds of hanging paper snowflakes, giant candy canes, a life-size toy soldier, a Christmas tree and presents according to Insider.

The kitchen is also stocked with special Elf goodies like spaghetti, chocolate sauce, Pop-Tarts, cookie-dough rolls and M&Ms (but you might not be so keen to mix them all together Buddy-style).

The couches are covered in comfy, furry blankets and cushions and it looks like a winter wonderland. Remember the ultimate festive beauty of Gimbels? Yep, it essentially looks just like it. Instagram at the ready.

Sadly, it doesn’t include a visit from Will Ferrell or Zooey Deschanel, but you’ll definitely have a rollicking good time.

The room accommodates up to four people, with the sofa folding out into a bed, and it will be available from 2nd – 20th December 2019. But if you want to reserve a stay you’d better be quick as this is certain to book up in no time.

If you’re keen to stay in this unique hotel room, it’ll set you back $399 a night (£307) so grab three friends and get ready to book the stay of your Christmas dreams.

What are you waiting for? Happy holidays!

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The world's first guitar-shaped hotel has opened in Florida

The world's first guitar-shaped hotel has opened in Florida

The Hard Rock Hotel brand must have pulled some strings to get this venue approved

guitar hotel
Getty Images

A Hard Rock Hotel shaped like an absolutely enormous guitar has opened in Florida, bringing a distinct silhouette to the city skyline of Hollywood.

The world’s first guitar-shaped hotel soars 450 feet in the air and pays homage to the brand’s musical heritage. Appropriately and unsurprisingly named The Guitar Hotel, the resort features 638 guest rooms and suites that are outfitted with floor-to-ceiling glass panes.

The venue – which cost of $1.2 billion to create – also boasts a 13.5-acre pool (that’s the size of nine football pitches) and a lagoon where guests can swim, kayak and paddle board. A Hard Rock Live performance venue has a seating capacity for 7,000 spectators, and it will be used to host awards shows, A-List concerts, sporting events and nationally televised programmes.

Let’s move on to the property’s casino. It features 3,000 slot machines, a 46-table poker room, 193 games tables and 30 (yes, really) bars, lounges and restaurants. Also on site is a retail promenade and nightclub. Casual.

guitar hotel

Getty Images

The hotel’s website states: ‘Boasting the sun-filled and sunset-laden South Florida skies, the Guitar Hotel is truly an architectural marvel that redefines the South Florida skyline.’

Jim Allen, chairman of Hard Rock International revealed details about the new guitar hotel at a press event in New York City’s Hard Rock Cafe.

He gushed, ‘The Hard Rock brand is stronger today than it ever has been…It now represents more than food, beverage and a place to stay.’

The new space – opened by Maroon 5 on 25 October – has been designed to dazzle those not staying by way of a flashy light show that can be orchestrated to outdoor music, thanks to LED lights built into the hotel and high-powered beams that can project 20,000 feet into the night sky. The beams are designed to mimic guitar strings.

The resort is located 15 minutes from Fort Lauderdale’s beaches and 30 minutes from Miami. Innovative design or dreaded eyesore? That’s up to you to decide.

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We've found the most Instagrammable hotel in Santorini

We've found the most Instagrammable hotel in Santorini

Why go?

Quite apart from anything else (we’ll come to the stunning interiors, unbeatable sunsets and food later), the location of the newly opened Andronis Arcodia is everything. Just a half hour from the airport, it is a little slice of calmness a five-minute walk away from the picture perfect town of Oia. Explore the bustling clifftop streets and take in the traditional whitewashed buildings, tavernas and shops selling local crafts, then head back to the hotel to experience the famous sunsets from the peace of your terrace, it’ll be much less crowded.

The vibe

The hotel is luxurious, and offers a modern and minimalist take on traditional Greek villages. Basically, every corner is Instagram gold. The exteriors are all terracotta and white plaster walls that calm the mind, with rock gardens filled with sea glass, cacti and succulents.

In the two restaurants, you’ll experience a chilled beach club vibe, where you can sip cocktails under the crochet parasols by the infinity pool, which is the longest on the island. The entire hotel, be it the rooms, spa or restaurant, is west-facing, so that wherever you are, you don’t miss out on the sunsets the island is known for.

The rooms

As with the outside decor, the bedrooms have been well thought out. Clean white walls blend in tastefully with wooden furniture and rugs and art in neutral shades of beige and cream. The bathrooms are equally paired-back yet luxurious, in caramel tones with dark marble double sinks and a rainwater shower. The natural local toiletries are a welcome addition.

Each room has its own private pool and terrace for you to enjoy the sunset from, so it’ll honestly be a drag to tear yourself away from it.

The food

If you thought the interiors were great, then just WAIT until you try the food. For a special occasion, head straight to Opson Restaurant, which offers a dining experience unlike anything you’ll have tried before. Head chef Stefanos Kolimadis, in consultation with a classical scholar, has created a tasting menu based on the dishes enjoyed by philosophers such as Aristotle, Plato and Omiros, with a modern twist (a running theme).

The tasting menus include such dishes as Poseidon’s Trident (a fish trio highlighting ancient Aegean food preservation techniques with smoked), Fresh White almond soup with sea urchin, grapes, mint & flowers, and Sunset of Santorini (marinated egg yolk rests in the middle of sweet peas & surrounded by a light sauce with morel mushrooms). You’ll be coming back for more.

Pacman restaurant has a slightly less formal atmosphere and is great for more traditional Greek dishes, as well as an extensive food menu.

If you feel like a stroll, then head to Oia and walk all the way down to sister hotel Andronis Luxury Suites’s restaurant, Lycabettus (just don’t think of all those steps on the way back up). It overlooks the Aegan Sea so offers another perspective of the aforementioned sunset, and the elegant food is another elegant take on local cuisine.

While you’re there

If you’re sick of all the sightseeing, then you’ll be pleased to hear the hotel’s spa is there to relax you into oblivion. The signature treatment is the water path, which involves a deep lymph-drainage massage, an application of cold cold bandages with curative property, walks in the Kneipp pool (hot and cold) and natural foot reflexology, finished off with a special herbal tea.

How to book

Arcadia Andronis rooms start at 660euros per night. Book here.

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The really easy ways to guarantee a hotel room upgrade

The really easy ways to guarantee a hotel room upgrade

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Credit: Matteo Colombo / Getty

Whether you’re heading for the beach, a wellness retreat or a big adventure, there’s nothing quite like hopping on a plane and jetting off on holiday.

And the feeling you get when you check into a nice hotel? Priceless. The fluffy towels, the plumped up pillows, the slippers – what more could you ask for?

Well, actually, you could ask for a hotel room upgrade. However, just asking might not be enough to get you from a standard to a suite.

But there are ways to improve your chances if you’re willing to go the extra mile.

Spa Seekers spoke to travel experts and hotel managers to find out the secrets to getting a hotel room upgrade…

Dress like an influencer

Apparently, looking as though you might be plastering the whole experience all over social media is the key to getting a hotel room upgrade. Hotel managers say that being an influencer (or looking like you could be one) may get you an upgrade, however they’re also ‘trained to spot someone with influence’ so you’ll have to be convincing. Don’t forget to pack the Balenciaga trainers.

Use a fancy name

According to the experts, a moniker that sounds a bit posh will suggest to hotel managers that you’ve got money and that you’ll ‘potentially be extra respectful of a more luxurious room’. Might be worth switching the ‘Miss’ for ‘Princess’ on the drop down menu when you book.

Tweet or email the hotel the day before

Sending a friendly email or tweeting to tell your followers how excited you are to be staying at the hotel is an easy way of sweet-talking them – and it might just give your chances a boost when you get to the check-in desk.

Stay for one night

If you’re city hopping or planning a short trip, staying for one night only might be the key to a hotel room upgrade. It’ll cost them less to upgrade you compared to if you had a long stay booked and they’ll be more inclined to offer it to you.

Shine your wedding ring

Honeymooners are more likely to be upgraded as a token gesture, so apparently if you’re not a newlywed but your wedding ring looks extra shiny it’ll catch the attention of the hotel manager. How does this work exactly? Who knows.

Check in late

This one sounds a little odd, but apparently if you wait around for a bit there is the chance that standard rooms will already be occupied by the punctual travellers who have checked in first. This is your opportunity to swoop in and nab a better room. Easy.

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Looking for a cheap January getaway? There's a hack for that

Looking for a cheap January getaway? There's a hack for that

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Credit: John Su / Getty

Christmas is just around the corner, and this year it’s all about the countdown – think beauty advent calendars and cheese advent calendars (yep, it’s a thing). As temperatures drop, it’s time to tuck yourself up in a blanket on the sofa, pour yourself a glass of mulled wine and enjoy the Harry Potter movies playing every weekend.

However, once all the festive fun is over there’s that weird block of time between Christmas and New Years where you’re sick of eating turkey sandwiches and Celebrations, and no one knows what day it is.

It’s tempting to book in a nice little getaway to distract yourself from the fact that you’ll be back at work before you know it. But if you are thinking of going away after Christmas there’s one thing you can do that will save you a lot of money. And by a lot, we mean almost £1,000.

Travel expert Ian Crawford from Holiday Hypermarket explains that if you’re after some sun over the festive season it’s best to wait until New Years Day or slightly after.

He told The Sun: ‘Christmas is a peak period for the travel industry and even breaks that depart on Christmas Day can be expensive, but if you can wait for a few more days prices drop considerably.’

‘With this tip, couples can save hundreds of pounds per person – often more than £1,000 for two travelling. In fact, you could save up to £1,000 per person if you travel after New Years Eve.’

According to Crawford, holiday prices to places like Dubai, Tenerife, Cyprus and Gran Canaria could drop by £1,000 if you decide to jet off in the days after NYE as opposed to the week before.

So before you whip your credit card out and splash the cash on a pricey holiday at the very end of the year, wait until the first few days of 2020 if you want to nab yourself a nice bargain. Of course, it does mean you’ll have to use up some of your holiday allowance – but who doesn’t want to start the new year on a nice beach sipping a strawberry daiquiri?

Happy holidays.

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Harry Potter's 'real life' childhood home is on Airbnb (and apparently it's haunted)

Harry Potter's 'real life' childhood home is on Airbnb (and apparently it's haunted)

harry potter real life house
Credit: De Vere House, Airbnb

If you’re heading on holiday and want to stay somewhere that’s unique/lavish/weird and wonderful, there are so many offerings on Airbnb – from the dog shaped Airbnb in the US to Sophie Turner and Joe Jonas’ wedding venue in France.

And if you’re a big Harry Potter fan, you’ll be thrilled to know that you can stay in the Boy Who Lived’s ‘real life’ childhood home as it has been listed here on Airbnb. The De Vere House is thought to be the inspiration for his Godric’s Hollow abode (pre his Privet Drive days) as seen in Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Part One. 

The property in the medieval village of Lavenham, Suffolk is a 14th century building owned by Jane and Tony Ranzetta who have lived there for 20 years. They have no turned their home into an award-winning bed and breakfast and a room will set you back £110 a night.

harry potter real life house airbnb

Credit: De Vere House, Airbnb

The house includes two four poster bedrooms both with en suite bathrooms, TV, wifi internet access, private guest sitting room with log fire and courtyard garden. Plus, a full English breakfast.

However, if you’re easily spooked it might not be the accommodation for you.

Tony said: ‘JK Rowling was well acquainted with the village and we know her friend stayed here while she was in the process of writing the books, it was surely in her mind when she created Godric’s Hollow.

‘The house is often referred to as ‘The Harry Potter House’ by locals and in the media, and a huge picture of our front door can be seen at the Warner Bros’ exhibition on the making of Harry Potter.

‘In fact, one of the property’s resident ghosts, Sir Francis De Vere, is inspiration for the character of Nearly Headless Nick – Gryffindor’s house ghost who was subject to a botched execution while he was alive – and John Cleese’s outfit in the films is remarkably similar to the portrait of Francis’ costume in his portrait.’

harry potter real life house airbnb

Credit: De Vere House, Airbnb

He continued: ‘The whole story is quite peculiar really. Just after we first moved into the house, Jane saw a uniquely dressed man walk through the kitchen wall and into the garden beyond.’


The property is currently on the market with estate agent Carter Jonas for £950,000 and also houses a poltergeist called Becky, apparently.

‘She’s taken wedding rings and other keepsakes before now – but she’ll usually return them if we ask her nicely,’ Tony shared. ‘She has to be treated like a child. We’re quite lucky, usually poltergeists are malign, but Becky doesn’t seem to be.’

Erm – terrifying.

But worth it if you’re the ultimate HP fan? We’ll leave that up to you to decide.

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What to do if you can't sweet talk your way to a flight upgrade

What to do if you can't sweet talk your way to a flight upgrade

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Credit: Buena Vista Images / Getty

With the new year just around the corner, you’ll no doubt be working out how to double your holiday allowance to make the most of 2020 getaways.

And why not? We need something to look forward to while the weather’s miserable, wet and windy.

Whether you’re heading to the mountains on a wellness retreat or checking in to this must-visit Omani hotel, you’ll want to make sure that when you land on the other side you’re well rested (and your skin is benefiting from these travel beauty tips, too).

Obviously, getting upgraded is the dream. Who doesn’t want to find themselves turning left when they board the plane? Surely everyone wants to settle into a nice cosy seat and enjoy a glass of bubbly without a screaming toddler kicking the back of your chair – right?

However, getting a flight upgrade isn’t as easy as just asking the check in staff for one when you’re dropping your bags off (and there’s one thing you definitely don’t shouldn’t do if you want to be in with a chance).

Former flight attendant Lee Cobaj spoke to Skyscanner about what to do if you just can’t get that flight upgrade.

‘It is a bit easier to bag an economy row to yourself. Chit-chat to the check-in staff and ask if the flight is full. If the answer is no, then request a seat in an empty row.

‘You can also ask the cabin crew when you get onboard but wait until the flight is almost full, when they should know if and where the spare seats are.’

While it’s not quite the same as first class luxury, the extra space is very welcome – especially if you’re on a long haul flight and you find yourself wedged into a variety of uncomfortable positions whilst trying to watch Finding Nemo.

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Could #VANLIFE be the right life for you?

Could #VANLIFE be the right life for you?

Instagram is full of life hacks and #goals, but there is one particular hashtag redefining the idea of a home and inspiring a new generation of nomads

Getty Images

Words by Claire McCrory

With over six million tags #VANLIFE sees people sharing images of their kitted-out vans- think a VSCO version of ‘Pimp My Ride’.

There are also many YouTube channels dedicated to documenting the van lifestyle, one of the most notable is Jennelle Eliana, a twenty-year-old boasting nearly two million subscribers, despite having only posted her first video three months ago. Jennelle posts van tours and everyday life, such as the practicalities of showering whilst living in a van.

Although a house on wheels is not a foreign concept for Brits, with VW camper vans  and caravans being a traditional summertime favourite for many- with 550,000 touring caravans in use in the UK. Moving a step beyond holiday home and taking up permanent residence in a converted van is becoming an ever-growing trend.

The Office of National Statistics suspects that half the UK workforce will be working remotely by 2020, so by that logic, it makes sense that one might choose the added flexibility that comes with #vanlife.

Simon Doran, 29 and Dee Barber, 28, from Hampshire hit headlines recently with their #VANLIFE . They spent £14,000 transforming a builder’s van into their home. They say living in the van full time saves them £900 a month and have subsequently started a business converting vans for other people. In fact, Simon claims he’ll never go back to a 9-5 job,’ I wouldn’t give up the freedom this gives us’.


In the age of ‘insta-envy’  some people are constantly inspired to break out of their daily routine online. Maybe the modern nomadic, #VANLIFE is the most practical way to get out of the rut of a daily routine, and get a few good Insta pics along the way.


Getty Images


story by Claire McCrory



The post Could #VANLIFE be the right life for you? appeared first on Marie Claire.

Hit Gran Canaria for sun, sea and heavenly spa treatments

Hit Gran Canaria for sun, sea and heavenly spa treatments

In search of a wellness boost, Tracey Nightingale travels to Gran Canaria and discovers delicious food, heavenly spas and beautiful landscapes

There’s more to Gran Canaria than year-round sunshine. This balmy isle in the Canary Islands, off Africa’s north-west coast, is also becoming a wellness hotspot, thanks to an abundance of spas offering treatments from massages to thalassotherapy (based on the benefits of seawater), and some of the world’s purest aloe vera. And it’s just a four-hour flight from the UK, which makes it the ideal destination for a long weekend of pampering and autumn sun.

Within an hour of touchdown, my sister and I have checked into the Seaside Palm Beach in Maspalomas on the south coast and are sipping chilled cava on a sunny terrace while admiring the view. Beyond the sweeping staircase and al fresco restaurant below is a large, shimmering lagoon-style pool surrounded by towering palms where guests are lounging on sunbeds under neat white parasols catching the last of the day’s rays.

An uplifting kaleidoscope of colour in the lobby

Set within a verdant palm grove, this five-star Design Hotel with three swimming pools, a superb spa and bold, uplifting interiors is clearly the perfect place to recharge the batteries. Beyond the curved concrete exterior, the hotel, which first opened in 1975 and was redesigned in 2002, is a celebration of 70s style with funky multicoloured striped sofas in the lobby, kitsch bright purple and red interiors in the bar and jazzy zigzag patterned carpets and vintage furniture in the 328 bedrooms. Our room also has a balcony with a gorgeous view of Maspalomas’s famous giant sand dunes and wide, breathtaking beach that stretches as far as the eye can see. It’s tempting to take a stroll along the shoreline, but we shelve the idea for another day and head downstairs instead to La Bodega tapas restaurant where we order sundowners and dine on tasty Canarian wrinkly potatoes, dates with bacon and honey and stuffed peppers with king prawns.

Palm groves surround the lagoon-style pool at Seaside Palm Beach, Gran Canaria

The following morning, breakfast – a bountiful buffet of freshly squeezed juices, fruit, eggs cooked to order, cured meats, cereals and pancakes – is served on the main restaurant’s sprawling terrace. We fill up on omelette and local fruit, then follow a winding stone path through beautiful landscaped gardens past a giant chessboard and tennis courts to the spa area, an oasis of calm with a sea-salt wellness pool including underwater jets, swan neck fountains and massage seats. If that’s not relaxing enough, there are also saunas and a salt cave – and if you’re feeling energetic, an outdoor gym. Yoga, meditation and tai chi classes are also available. I arrive at the spa for my Diamond Roses ritual, a nourishing treatment involving energising exfoliation followed by a heavenly massage, then float to my sunbed for a snooze under an umbrella.

We could easily spend the entire weekend lying horizontal on a sunlounger under the palms, cooling off with an occasional dip in the pool, but we’re eager to explore, so we take a 25-minute drive up the coast to the Gloria Palace Amadores Thalasso & Hotel to check out its thalassotherapy centre.

Take the plunge in Gloria Palace Amadores Thalasso & Hotel’s fitness pool

Located between lively Puerto Rico and quieter Amadores beach, this large hotel built into a mountainside and modelled on a cruise ship features two pools and an outdoor glass elevator to transport you to the seafront. We stop for a lazy lunch in the hotel’s restaurant at a table with a magnificent ocean view before heading to the fitness pool. After being handed white robes, plastic Croc-like shoes and shower caps (not my most stylish look), we hit the changing rooms. Swimsuits on and ready to go, we lower ourselves in. The circuit consists of 29 hydromassage stations from thundering waterfalls and water jets to crosscurrent swimming and cold plunge pools. Following an exhilarating circuit, we dry off on a microbubble sunbed overlooking the sea, then return to Seaside Palm Beach feeling refreshed, invigorated and ready for the barbecue buffet.

The next day, we’re looking forward to our trip to Puerto de Mogán. The 18-mile journey takes us along the island’s main road, which twists through a series of tunnels cut into the dramatic, arid landscape. Flanked by sun-scorched mountains, this picturesque fishing village is home to a sandy, crescent-shaped cove and a buzzy little harbour full of bars and restaurants where boats ferry tourists to nearby beaches. We’ve missed the Friday morning market, but there are plenty of boutiques to explore as we wander the pretty, narrow streets past traditional whitewashed houses adorned with colourful, cascading bougainvillea.

Hotel Cordial Mogan Playa is home to 450 species of sub-tropical plants

If you decide to stay in Puerto de Mogán, Hotel Cordial Mogan Playa, five minutes’ walk from the village, has typical Canarian architecture and is set in tranquil botanical gardens. Stepping inside, the lobby has an atrium with waterfalls and wooden bridges over streams. Outside, guest rooms overlook the two swimming pools or pretty courtyards bursting with tropical plants and cacti. There’s also a cute church and a fascinating archaeological site, as well as the gorgeous Inagua spa with serene garden and mountain views.

Chill out in the Inagua spa at Hotel Cordial Mogan Playa

We spend a blissful couple of hours here, hopping from thermo pool to steam room, Jacuzzi and daybed before indulging in the best head, neck and shoulder massage I’ve ever had. Feeling thoroughly de-stressed, we take a leisurely late lunch at the poolside restaurant, where we feast on papaya, prawn and avocado salad, patatas bravas, fried squid, and seafood ravioli.

Dine al fresco at Seaside Grand Hotel Residencia

On our way back to Maspalomas, our driver tells us about Gran Canaria’s lush interior full of pine forests, mountains and valleys, and I wish I could stay longer to explore more of the island. Our final evening is spent dining under the stars at the luxurious Seaside Grand Hotel Residencia. We tuck into delicious fresh fish and vow to visit the sand dunes before we fly home. The following morning, we keep to our word. As I scramble to the top of a dune and look out across this epic desertscape to the Atlantic’s roaring surf, I make a promise to myself to return.

To book a wellness break in Gran Canaria, visit Gran Canaria Spa, Wellness & Health

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