Take a break in Europe at these upmarket resorts offering the best in golf and skiing.
GOLF IN EUROPE
COSTA NAVARINO, GREECE
Best for: Family activity break
The golf: Located in Messinia in the south-west Peloponnese, Costa Navarino has two signature golf courses. The Dunes Course, designed by former US Masters Champion Bernhard Langer, in association with European Golf Design, takes its name from the large dunes that separate several holes from the beach. The Bay Course, designed by golf course architect firm Robert Trent Jones II, has sea and mountain views, and two holes are played alongside the historic Bay of Navarino.
Other attractions: The 4,000 sqm Anazoe spa and thalassotherapy centre, a conference centre – the House of Events, facilities for children, and a variety of restaurants, sports, outdoor and cultural activities.
Stay: As with many of these resorts, you can rent or buy the Navarino Residences (villas), or The Residences at The Westin Resort Costa Navarino, which are fully furnished resort apartments. It is also home to two five-star deluxe hotels, The Romanos, a Luxury Collection Resort (the-luxury-collection.marriott.com) and The Westin Resort Costa Navarino (westin.marriott.com). Next year, two new hotels will open along with two new golf courses designed by two-time Masters champion Jose Maria Olazabal, all at the adjacent Navarino Hills making four golf courses and four five-star hotels within a radius of 13km.
QUINTA DO LAGO, PORTUGAL
Best for: Sporting holiday
The golf: Quinta do Lago in the Algarve has three courses: the South Course, which just reopened after a £5.9 million renovation, with its backdrop of the Ria Formosa Natural Park; the North Course, which has a new layout focusing less on length than precision and strategy, with accuracy and course management key factors, and lastly, the Laranjal course, designed by Jorge Santana da Silva, is situated in an orange grove, with fairways sown with Bermuda grass.
Other attractions: As well as tennis, a fitness centre and spa, there is golf tuition at the Paul McGinley Golf Academy and southern Europe’s only Taylormade Performance Centre, which helps select the perfect clubs and irons for each golfer.
Stay: Accommodation is either an apartment or villa rental, of which there is a huge range, or staying at the boutique and unique Magnolia hotel (themagnoliahotelqdl.com) which pays homage to iconic 1950s motor-hotels and brings a taste of Palm Springs to the Algarve.
PGA CATALUNYA, SPAIN
Best for: Natural surroundings
The golf: PGA Catalunya Golf and Wellness is in Catalonia, a short drive from the beaches of the Costa Brava and set in mature forests about 20 minutes’ drive from Girona. The 300-hectare site was first conceived as a location for a future F1 track but instead two golf courses by Angel Gallardo and Neil Coles were created: the spectacular Stadium Course and the slightly less forbidding Tour Course. Both are surrounded by villas and apartments built in modernist style – clean white lines and lots of glass, a brand playbook developers follow even down to the type of gardens to be planted. (You can read a full review in our piece from 2017 – Homage to Catalunya).
Other attractions: The resort has a Golf Hub for tuition. A new wellness centre opened this year.
Stay: The resort now has two hotels – Hotel Camiral and the Lavida Hotel – as well as the possibility of holiday rentals.
LE TOUQUET GOLF RESORT, FRANCE
Best for: Golf aficionados
The golf: Le Touquet Golf Resort in northern France, about one hour’s drive from Calais, has a long history of welcoming visitors. Opened in 1904, the golf course was designed by architects Horace Hutchinson and Nick Lane Jackson, and inaugurated by British prime minister Lord Balfour, an enthusiastic golfer. It now has three courses in a forest and dune landscape: La Mer (18 holes), voted the first Links of France, La Forêt (18 holes) and Le Manoir (9 holes).
Other attractions: The seaside resort of Le Touquet-Paris-Plage is close by with its Anglo-Norman architectural heritage and beautiful 1920s buildings, as well as the stunning La Canche Bay nature reserve.
Stay: Accommodation is in the boutique, 41 bedroom Le Manoir Hotel.
VERDURA RESORT, SICILY
Best for: Beach and golf combined
The golf: The Rocco Forte Verdura Resort in Sicily has three championship golf courses set in a 230-hectare park (two 18-hole courses and a 9-hole course, all designed by internationally renowned firm Kyle Phillips). The East Course was redesigned and reopened last month. It has a new ninth hole, which has water on the left and right, for the opening shot, and an undulating green guarded by two bunkers, water at the front and a backdrop of the beach at the back of the green. The West Course has challenging greens and a front nine winding its way up through the estate, while the back nine makes its way down to the Mediterranean with some exceptional views of the sea.
Other attractions: A 4,000 sqm convention centre. six clay tennis courts, a 60m infinity pool, a football pitch, a gym offering a full programme of activities, as well as jogging paths winding through olive and citrus groves, and a 1.8km stretch of private coast. The 4,000 sqm Verdura Spa has four thalassotherapy pools, two saunas and a hammam.
Stay: The hotel has 203 rooms and suites, and the resort also offers 20 new private villas.
SKIING IN EUROPE
ST MORITZ, SWITZERLAND
Best for: An A-lister experience
The skiing: This spa town located in the Upper Engadine is regarded as the oldest winter holiday resort in the world, and perhaps most exclusive. It dates back to 1864 when hotelier Johannes Badrutt promised four English guests that there would be sunny spells in mid-winter – the area is reputed to have 322 days of sunshine per year. Now, 154 years on, the resort has hosted the Winter Olympics twice and welcomed stars, including Coco Chanel, Jacques Cartier and Charlie Chaplin. While you could stick to the award-winning restaurants and extensive spa facilities, the resort offers plenty of skiing options with 360km of pistes and 87 runs. Getting here is also part of the charm, with the Glacier Express and Bernina Express travelling along a UNESCO World Heritage railway line.
Other attractions: Race down a bobsleigh track at 130 km/h at the St Moritz-Celerina Olympia bob run, or shop till you drop in the designer boutiques. Also check out the frozen lake, which hosts various activities, including the White Turf equestrian festival in February, one of Switzerland’s most prestigious events.
Stay: Visitors can be found sipping Champagne at the resort’s grand luxury hotels, which include the Kulm Hotel, the ski-in/ski-out Suvretta House, the glamorous Badrutt’s Palace (Europe’s first ever Palace Hotel) and the smaller (but no less luxurious) Carlton Hotel St Moritz.
Ski pass: There’s a flexible ten-day pass for the entire Engadine snow sports region, while select hotels offer passes as part of a stay package.
Best for: Adrenaline junkies
The skiing: Located at the foot of the imposing Mont-Blanc at 4,807m, and home to the first Winter Olympics in 1924, it should come as no surprise that the resort is better suited to the pros. The valley of Chamonix lies in the Haute-Savoie region of France, bordered by Switzerland and Italy, and boasts over 150km of pistes and 115 runs across the five areas of Vallorcine, Les Houches, Servoz, Argentière and Chamonix-Mont-Blanc. Brave souls may want to challenge themselves to the world-famous The Vallée Blanche, an off-piste glacier with a 23km descent down to the town from the 3,842m Aiguille du Midi. This year marks the 200th anniversary of the Compagnie des Guides de Chamonix – professional guides who lead climbing expeditions.
Other attractions: Step into the Void, a glass box suspended 1,000m at the Aiguille du Midi, or visit the Mer de Glace glacier on the northern slopes of the Mont Blanc massif. Alternatively, heal aches and pains at the 4,000 sqm QC Terme spa, or go shopping in the charming Alpine village.
Stay: The five-star Relais and Chateaux hamlet-style hotel Hameau Albert 1er has been a favourite since 1903, with a spa facing Mont Blanc and a Michelin-starred restaurant, or try the party-friendly ski-in/ski-out La Folie Douce.
Ski pass: The Mont Blanc Unlimited lift pass provides access to the resort, as well as slopes in St Gervais, Megève and Courmayeur. en.chamonix.com
CORTINA D’AMPEZZO, ITALY
Best for: An Olympic heritage
The skiing: The ‘Queen of the Dolomites’ in the northern Italian province of Belluno, just two hours from Venice, welcomes skiers of various levels with its 120km of pistes and 83 runs. Its rich racing history includes hosting the 1956 Winter Olympics and most recently the 2021 Alpine Ski World Championships, and the Olympic flame will return to the 1,000-year-old town in 2026. The picturesque resort is also part of the Dolomites UNESCO World Heritage Site, and skiers can take part in cross-country tours through the Ampezzo Dolomites Nature Reserve, while Bond fans can spot locations used in the film For Your Eyes Only.
Other attractions: Activities include snowkiting (yes, surfing on snow with skis), and ice skating or curling in the Olympic Ice Stadium. Alternatively, guests can retreat to the Rifugio Lagazuoi sauna at 2,700m above sea level, or have a very interesting history lesson in the town’s involvement in the First World War at The Great War Open Air Museum.
Stay: Cortina is home to more than 50 hotels, which include the five-star Cristallo, A Luxury Collection Resort and Spa, which celebrated its 120th anniversary this year, and The Grand Hotel Savoia, A Radisson Collection hotel. It also has three luxury chalets – the ten-room Chalet Serge Dolomiti Lodge Alverà, and the LV01 Dolce Vita and LV02 Perla (both of which sleep 12 people) – and a selection of mountain lodges such as the Rifugio Lagazuoi at 2,752 metres.
Ski pass: The Dolomiti Superski pass gives access to 1,200 km of slopes including the neighbouring valleys.
BAQUEIRA BERET, SPAIN
Best for: Family-friendly skiing
The skiing: Spain’s largest ski resort lies in the Aran Valley in the Lleida province of the Pyrenees, and is formed of four zones: Baqueira, Beret, Bonaigua, Baciver. It’s great for a variety of levels, featuring 167km of pistes and 111 slopes. It’s great for a variety of levels, with pros able to tackle the challenging pistes in Baqueira while beginners can feel at ease in the more laid-back Beret – plus it has four snowparks for children.
Other attractions: Visitors can learn to make artisan cheese, practise tai chi in the clouds, or discover the valley’s 30 Romanesque churches. Après-ski comes in the form of tapas bars in the valley.
Stay: At the foot of the slopes lie the five-star properties Hotel Val de Neu, Hotel AC Baqueira Ski Resort, Autograph Collection, and Rafaelhoteles by La Pleta, all of which include spas and are metres from the chairlift. Bigger groups can rent rustic houses or apartments in the valleys.
Ski pass: The Baqueira pass can be topped up either by the day or for the whole season, allowing you to bypass the ski lifts.
ST ANTON, AUSTRIA
Best for: Après-ski revellers
The skiing: The Tyrolean mountain village resort of St Anton is Austria’s largest inter-linked ski area, covering 50 square km and encompassing the villages of St Anton am Arlberg, St Christoph, Stuben, Lech, Zurs, Warth and Schrocken. It’s considered the birthplace of modern skiing thanks to the pioneering technique developed by Hannes Schneider in 1907. Visitors can find out more about the town’s history on the 85-km-long Run of Fame ski circuit which features signposts honouring local skiing legends. The resort offers 305km of ski runs and is designed for more advanced skiers with 200km of off-piste trails. It’s an après-ski paradise, with DJ sets and steins at the Mooserwirt, a lively bar on the slopes. Alternatively, enjoy award-winning cuisine at the Verwallstube mountain restaurant in Galzig.
Other attractions: Activities include snowboard parks, husky sleigh rides, 80km of winter walking trails, plus there’s wellness facilities at the Arlberg WellCom centre.
Stay: In town, there’s the family-owned five-star Raffl’s St Antoner Hof, or stay on the slopes at the 17-room ski-in/ski-out Mooser Hotel next door to the party destination.
Ski pass: The Ski Arlberg Pass can be used for the various skiing regions.
Tom Otley and Hannah Brandler