Five Southern European Destinations for a 2023 Summer Holiday

Five Southern European Destinations for a 2023 Summer Holiday

Start planning your 2023 summer holiday with our pick of five uncrowded southern European destinations, from a secluded Greek island to a French town having a restaurant renaissance

blues, be gone: we’re warding off the sub-zero
temperatures this week with dreams of sun-bleached Mediterranean
beaches, candy cane-striped parasols and plates
piled with seafood on crisp, white taverna tablecloths. Summer
can’t come quick enough – but while we wait, you bet we’re plotting
our warm-weather escapes to southern Europe’s less-frequented
fringes, dreaming of elegant Italian architecture, Greek cuisine
and a slow-paced Spanish lifestyle.

Pick up your notepad and start planning your holidays with these
five recommended summer destinations to have on radar for 2023 –
all within walking distance of a beach.

Five sun-soaked destinations in southern Europe for a summer

Vila Nova de Milfontes, Portugal

Vila Nova de Milfontes


Bohemian Comporta lost its cool credentials when Jeff Bezos was
papped in town last year; this summer, we’re skipping the
star-studded spot and making tracks to sea-gazing Vila Nova de
Milfontes instead – a relaxed Alentejo town an hour-and-a-half’s
drive down the coast. Other than in August, when in-the-know
Portuguese urbanites descend on the town for a holiday, swelling
the population to around 50,000, Vila Nova de Milfontes is
dramatically quiet compared to its regional neighbours, and has all
the trappings of a typical fishing town, with a little-changed
historic centre of jumbled whitewashed homes and narrow cobblestone
streets, plus a distinctive (and dinky) ivy-clad castle.
Powder-soft beaches are within walking distance – the dramatic
dunes of Praia do Carreiro das Fazendas make it our top pick –
while in the town centre, you’ll find typically Portuguese
restaurants and bars. Head to Choupana, an Atlantic-facing beach shack
restaurant near the Farol de Milfontes viewpoint, for grilled fish,
steamed clams and ruby-red carabineros.

Where to stay: Selina Milfontes

Symi, Greece
Photo credit: Debbie Galbraith /



Overshadowed by the neighbouring Dodecanese Islands of Kos and
Rhodes, the Greek island of Symi has managed to slip under the
radar of most island-hopping summer visitors. Closer to Turkey than
to the Greek mainland, this diminutive isle offers guaranteed warm
weather from spring onwards. Hotels are rustic; tavernas, low-key.
Start your explorations with a wander through the elegant
architecture of the main harbour town, skirting colourful
neoclassical mansions, ornate Orthodox churches and fragrant fig
trees as you descend marble street staircases towards the
harbourfront. From there, rent a boat to visit the white-pebbled
Nanou Beach, an isolated cove surrounded by cypress woods and
crumbling cliffs that is only accessible via the sea, or by an
hour-long hike across difficult terrain. The beach is one of the
island’s most peaceful, and with nearby taverna Spitiko on hand to
serve straight-from-the-waves seafood, it’s a dreamy day-trip
option. Just don’t leave snacks in your beach bag – the curious
local mountain goats are famed for their appetite-induced

Where to stay: 1900 Hotel

Nardó, Italy
Photo credit: Milosk50 /



Nardò is like any of Italy’s picture-perfect coastal villages –
minus the crowds. Tucked into the heel of Italy, in the southern
extremes of the less-visited Italian region of Salento, this sun-baked
borgo has existed in some shape or form since Mesopotamian times,
but its current iteration was styled in the 17th century, when
dramatic baroque architecture spread across the region from Lecce.
The dazzling designs and historically important buildings are
crumbling away, with historic edifices like the Palazzo
dell’Università and the Palazzo de Pandi in need of urgent
restoration, but if you’re seeking that typically Italian ambience
of romantic ruin, you’ll enjoy the weather-worn patina of the town.
Take in the history, explore the rolling olive groves, protected
pine forests and surrounding wild beaches, make a day trip to the
ceramic workshops of Grottaglie, then book into wine bar Schola
for an introduction to Salento cuisine come

Where to stay: Nardòsalento Boutique Apartments

Embalses Guadalhorce-Guadalteba, Spain

Embalses Guadalhorce-Guadalteba


Sidestep Malaga’s parasol-spiked beaches for the glinting
emerald waters of these three vast reservoirs in rural Andalucia.
Unlike the crowd-thronged province’s coastal enclaves, these
serpentine manmade bodies of water are a well-kept Spanish secret,
offering rare seclusion in an otherwise frenetic holiday region.
Feeling adventurous? Fragrant with pine trees, the rocky surrounds
are dotted with low-key finca stays and criss-crossed by hiking
routes, including the spectacular Caminito del Rey gorge trail,
which runs across the northeastern tip of one of the lakes, El
Chorro, via a suspended walkway. There are also over 1,000 climbing
routes to satisfy climbers of all skill levels. Visit in early
summer and rent a mountain bike for a leisurely circumnavigation of
one of the lakes, seeking out quiet swim spots and shady
pine-fringed beaches from which to watch the sleepy water traffic
(paddleboards, pedalos, and kayaks) slip by.

Where to stay: Finca Gran Cerros

Nimes, France



Whispers on the grapevine suggest that a new Gallic gastronomic
star is rising. The southern French city of Nîmes is turning up the
heat. Located between the Mediterranean and the Cévennes hills, it
previously relied on the history crowd to keep its coffers healthy,
being dubbed the most Roman city outside of Italy in a nod to its
well-preserved ancient amphitheatre, but recent Michelin attention
and a trickle of modern bistro openings are enticing hungry
travellers. Weave between the picholine barrels, a local green
olive, at covered food market Les Halles de Nîmes to join the noon
scrums fighting for seats at two counter restaurants sitting
cheek-by-jowl to the stalls: La Pie qui Couette and Halles Auberge work on a first-come, first-served
basis. Elsewhere, Benin-born Georgiana Viou is stirring up a buzz
at Rouge. Book a table to try stylised plates of
Afro-Provençal cuisine.

Where to stay: Margaret – Hôtel Chouleur

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