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Looking for some summer holiday destination inspiration? Nothing beats a European summer break. Whether it’s a road tripping through Italy or discovering Portugal’s lesser-known west coast, these are some of our favourite summer holiday spots.
The summer spot for those in the know, Comporta’s laid-back, beach-shack vibe boasts 12,500 hectares of protected nature reserve where rice fields meet with unspoiled coastlines. Often described Ibiza 20 years ago thanks to the A-listers and creatives who flock to there, at only an hour’s drive from Lisbon you’ll beat the crowds and get under the skin of Portugal’s largely untouched west coast. Rent a villa and rest up, feeling smug in the knowledge that you’ve got there before all your friends.
The jewel of the Istrian coast, the tower of St Euphemia Church rises from the highest point in this picturesque town where old-world meets cosmopolitan chic in Croatia’s answer to the French Riviera. A surprising art scene threads through the winding cobblestone streets, where galleries are scattered among local restaurants and candlelit bars. Stroll through the centuries as you get lost among changing architecture of the old town, before heading south to Zlatni rt Park where Cyprus tree-lined pathways lead you to small pebbled coves beckoning you for a dip in Adriatic Sea. For the more adventurous, the lack of beaches leaves great spots for cliff jumping.
Ile de Ré, France
The favoured holiday spot among affluent Parisians, this charming island off the west coast of France couldn’t be more different than the flashiness of the Côte d’Azur. Lacking any hint of glitz or celebrity glamour (though its chilled out holiday vibes attracts them), you’re more likely to bump into local fisherman delivering produce to port-side restaurants than P Diddy popping bottles on his gin palace. Wander leafy, shuttered streets, lounge on a golden beach, or visit a local market and stock up on French cheese, bread and wine before hitting one of the many cycle paths, stopping for a picnic along the way and spending the afternoon getting giddy on rosé.
According to D H Lawrence, “Sardinia is different” – and it’s difficult to think of a better way to describe the rugged interior and breathtaking beaches of this Italian island. The surprising landscape will take you from alpine-like woods to powder-white beaches, before introducing you to the wild horses which roam Giara di Gesturi and the blue-eyed albino donkeys of Isola dell’Asinara. History buffs will delight in the Bronze Age ruins which dot the island, but the real draw are the beaches, which are some of the best in the Med (and relatively quiet).
Spain’s Balearic Islands are known for their unique personalities; while Ibiza jostles between rowdy partygoers of San Antonio and Euro jet-setters of Ushuaïa, Mallorca ushers in old-world glamour and celebrity status. In contrast, white-washed Menorca has grown up in the shadow its larger-than-life neighbours, making it the perfect spot for party graduates still looking for a taste of Balearic sunshine. Great for a holiday with friends, spend hazy days exploring rocky coves and diving into azure waters before kicking back among fuchsia-pink bougainvillea at your stone-built villa with a refreshing “pomade” – a local drink of gin and lemon Fanta.
Goethe declared Sicily to be, “the key to Italy” – and he’s not wrong. The largest island in the Mediterranean, Sicily is situated off the southwest coast of mainland Italy and has garnered a reputation for its lush landscapes, year-round mild climate and historic cities where Greek temples mix with romantic churches and palazzos. Most popular are the historic cities of Palermo, Catania, and Siracusa – but we suggest heading to the Etna region where the volcanic landscape provides fertile ground for some truly excellent wine. Head on a tour across the region and be sure to stop by enchanting Taormina, a 4th-century cliff-side town where you’re sure to get a taste of the Sicilian dolce vita.
There’s something about Formentera. The end-of-the-world destination in a Jules Verne novel, a mecca for musicians of the 1960s and 70s (think Bob Dylan, Pink Floyd and Joni Mitchell) and once deserted due to pirate raids, the island channels its own special kind of summer magic. Reachable only by boat from Ibiza – it’s often described as its “hippy sister” – the island vibe was largely shaped by the creativity of its artist-filled past. Though slightly more developed nowadays, with beach clubs and chic restaurants scattered along the coast, the island is still a place for the free-spirited and offers welcome refuge from “Beefa” disco heads.
The remote heel of the Italian peninsula, a combination of baroque architecture and fairytale farmhouses have given this region a reputation of quiet modesty, steeped in a history palpable from countryside to coast. Hire a car and village hop your way through the region, filling days with long, boozy lunches (don’t drink and drive), clandestine roadside swims and befriending locals. Don’t miss the sleepy seafaring town of Savelletri, while Gallipolo is home to Europe’s largest colony of pink flamingos. A surprising region of natural and architectural beauty, Puglia oozes romance and makes for the ultimate summer Italian getaway.
Drawing vast numbers of package holidaymakers thanks to year-round sunshine, you may think you have Tenerife all figured out. But don’t write it off too soon. Beyond the sunburn and revelry of its resort-lined coast, the largest of the Canary Islands boasts many summery surprises. It’s home to Spain’s tallest peak, Mount Teide, which is set amid a lunar landscape in a National Park that is a protected Starlight Reserve. Free from light pollution, you’ll bear witness to some of the most spectacular stretches of night sky in the world. Those still after a typical seaside holiday can head to Santa Cruz de Tenerife, a port situated in the northeast of the island where you’ll get all the benefits of the beach but without the bums.
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