lanzarote-town

What’s that cliché phrase? “Travel is the only thing money can buy that makes you richer.” Erm, last time we checked our bank balances were dwindling much faster than our air miles were climbing. Exotic escapades may rank high on our life fulfilment lists, but they aren’t always the most purse-friendly pursuits. Thankfully, these affordable European summer breaks give you a warm glow, a bellyful of regional cuisine and will leave your credit rating intact.

1. Sozopol, Bulgaria

There’s a reason package holidayers still flock to Bulgaria to fulfil their sun, sea and sand holiday needs – the country is incredibly good value for money. Avoid Sunny Beach like the plague and head instead to the ancient seaside town of Sozopol. Located on the southern Bulgarian Black Sea Coast, the quiet seaside town is a maze of cobbled streets where long stretches of blonde sand frame huddled rows of wooden houses. Drawing culinary influences from Turkey and Greece, expect dishes to be grilled rather than friend and accompanied by mounds of fresh veg. Cool off with a bowl of tarator (a yoghurt-based cold soup of cucumber, garlic, dill and walnuts) at harbour-side restaurant Biju, then head to Gold Fish for a frolic in the surf. Less-populated than Central or Harmani beach, there’s ample room to shake off your towel without giving someone an eyeful of sand.

2. Istanbul, Turkey

Straddling two continents, the former gateway to Europe is one of the most affordable room-per-night destinations. With returns to London often coming in at less than £150, the pound spiking against the lira and the country slowly reaching a period of political stability after recent turmoil, now’s the perfect time to explore IstanbulGeorges Hotel Galata heads up the recent wave in hip boutique offerings; the former apartment building has retained all its period features, while adding some Parisian flair. Take the glass elevator up to the rooftop bar with views across the Golden Horn to orientate yourself. On the Asian side of the shore, a half-hour tram ride away from the chaotic centre sits A’jia. The waterside mansion cosies up to the majestic Bosporus with Ottoman grandeur and sits atop a private mahogany pier that is ideal for intimate dining. Despite it’s opulence, you won’t need a dynasty hesitance to fund your stay.

3. Lanzarote, Canary Islands

In recent years, Lanzarote has experienced somewhat of a revolution. A plethora of eco-friendly boutique hotels and converted farm houses have popped up across the centre of the island, giving this Canary Island an edge of cool. Independently minded travellers will be keen to explore the miles of wild shoreline and swathes of volcanic lava. The influence of local artist (and local superstar) César Manrique is scattered across the island, most notably in the surreal Jardím de Cactus at Guatiza. Famara on the north coast boasts 3km of sandy shores and is dubbed “the European Hawaii” thanks to big swells and racy waves, while inland you’ll find Lanzarote’s rural heart. The scenic villages Yaiza, Mozaga and Uga are protected by strict laws ensuring they’ll never become package holiday paradises – lobbied for by César Manrique. Settle in to a stay at Caserio de Mozaga, a converted farmhouse that has been in the same family for over 200 years. Rattan sofas line the whitewashed walls and rooms are filled with family antiques and cast iron beds. Outside, the pretty courtyard is framed by dark green wooden shutters and creeping bougainvillea. Casa de Hilario in neighbouring Yaiza is also of the same ilk.

4. Dębki, Poland

Fair, fine sand and bejewelled waters are far from the usual stereotype associated with Poland, yet the north is home to quaint coastal towns still unknown to most. A strip of tranquil meadows and verdant forest divide the beach in Dębki, with countless cycle paths criss-crossing the Landscape National Park all the way to the shore. Active travellers will want to kayak along the river from the Baltic Sea to Lake Żarnowieckie, while those keen to unwind can take it easy with a boat trip the Hel peninsula – a 35km crescent-shaped sand bar separating the Bay of Puck from the Baltic Sea. Flashy hotels have no place here, rent out a coastal cabin from Airbnb. Forage for wild mushrooms in the verdant forests before retreating to your terrace for a sundowner barbecue.

5. Norfolk , UK

Staycations are one of the hottest trends this year with many forgoing far-flung destinations in favour of homegrown turf. Norfolk’s beaches are its biggest draws (especially as temperatures are currently equalling those in the Costa del Sol). “Sunny Hunny” (Hunstanton) and Cromer are quintessential seaside towns that get packed in high season (often attracting caravan holidaymakers) but it’s Scolt Head Island that steals the accolade for most beautiful beach. Make the extra effort to catch the ferry that operates either side of high tide to be rewarded with secluded dunes, fluttering marram glass and near empty sands. Pepper days spent lying horizontal with gentle cycles through flint-built villages, medieval ruins and through lively Georgian market towns such as Holt – where you’ll also find treasure-trove antique shops.

6. Menorca, Spain

So close to home and often compared to the Caribbean, don’t overlook Menorca when planning a spontaneous summer getaway. Piercing blue waters and fine white sands are a dime a dozen, but it’s the craggy coves you should head for. Cala Macarella is often hailed as the poster-child, but with fame brings crowds. Ditch it in favour of Caló Blanc. Although absent of sand, laying your towel on the rocks is a fair substitute for cliff-jumping into sapphire coloured waters. Worth the 30-minute walk (hike), Cala del Pilar is a heavenly escape from beaches cluttered with parasols. Red sand brushes against the twinkling sea and the mud from the headlands make for an impromptu spa treatment. Pack a picnic to enjoy, but be careful not to overfill your hamper – the decline is rather rocky and the ascent can be testing. Some of the best boltholes can be found in the capital Mahón, Petit Mao occupies a design-centric townhouse that combines original sash windows and exposed-beam ceilings with funky armchairs and retro furnishings. Stays can be combined with sister Hostel Ses Sucrerer (located in sleepy Ferreries) to explore more of the island.

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