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Finding the perfect summer holiday destination is no mean feat. The ideal location will strike a balance between a relaxing break and enough activity that you don’t melt into your sun lounger. Local culture should reign over tourist tat, while it goes without saying that food and wine must be exceptional. Nightlife should be an option should the urge dance until sunrise take hold, but we don’t want a strip full of vomit. Good weather must be a given. It must also not break the bank entirely. Feeling stumped? These summer holiday destinations tick all the boxes.
Sun-soaked and blissfully void of package holidays, this French island south-east of the Côte d’Azur weaves together the best parts of Italy and France. An incredible food and wine offering is a testimony to its mixed heritage. Catering to those seeking a golden glow is five miles of sandy stretch in upmarket Calvi, while the rugged scenery of Scandola Nature Reserve gives thrill-seekers the chance to dive off the red rocks and kayak through sparkling lagoons. Move away from expensive beachfront restaurants and follow winding country lanes to U Cantonu, just outside of the cliff-side town of Porto Vecchio. The rustic farmhouse is heavy on tradition, plating up hearty portions of Corsican lamb and cheese paired with velvety, local reds. Savour the tranquillity as you’ll dine largely undisturbed – bar the soundtrack of grazing cows.
Shaking off its cheap and not-so-cheerful image, Lanzarote is undergoing a transformation that is seeing a surge of sustainable, chic lodgings and health-centric nirvanas sprouting up across the volcanic isle. Wild, lush landscapes and independent wineries debunk the stereotype previously associated with this Canary Island. Artist and environmentalist César Manrique is largely responsible for its change in reputation, restoring its unique geological beauty with a string of impressive architectural projects. The ambitious Jameos Del Agua is a subterranean lair housed in natural caves that is unlike any other cultural centre on the planet; DJs spin out tunes from rock-hewn booths while goldfish-bowl skylights offer a peephole into the layer below. It also features a volcano research centre, three bars and a swimming pool reserved solely for the King of Spain.
People are quick to disregard the largest island in the Balearics, complaining of its crowded beaches and over-developed tourist towns. Sun-and-fun seekers should consider hiring a boat to uncover a treasure chest of emerald-green waters and hidden beaches. Become experts in the art of siesta as you float lazily from cove to cove, before stopping off in the trendy town of Deià. Established as an artist colony in the early 19th century, hoards of bougainvillea concealing ochre-coloured galleries and pilates studios have become a poster child for the “other Majorca”. Next, head south to Sant Elm where the balance between curious holidaymakers and animated locals has reached an enviable harmony. With no fast-food chains or franchises, expect a lot of traditional Spanish cuisine mixed in with a few modern offerings. Es Moli serves up just-caught monkfish beside towering cacti beneath a canopy of fairy lights.
Avoid the glitterati in Costa Smeralda and visit the archipelago of La Maddalena. Most of the uninhabited islands are only accessible by boat so use La Maddalena as your launch point to seek out a sea captain. From there, discover the turquoise lagoons and undisturbed beaches of Santa Maria. It’s less castaway than some of the neighbouring islands as it boasts ample bars and restaurants, plus a smattering of extortionately priced houses nestled into the pink, granite rockscapes. Home to Italy’s most famous beach, make a short trip to the blush-coloured sands of Spiaggia Rosa in the isle of Budelli. Finish your Sardinian sojourn with a stop at the strikingly attractive beach of Porto Giunco.
Benefitting from more than 300 days of sunshine a year, this Mediterranean archipelago combines a rich, ancient history with sandy beaches and warm waters. Senglea, on the southeastern part of the island, is an ideal base for those seeking a culture-rich holiday. Also known as “Isla”, it’s the smallest of the three cities in the Grand Harbour with a population of less than three thousand. With a backdrop of historic fortresses, Cugó Gran Macina Grand Harbour offers discreet luxury in the midst of the ancient land with bespoke Scandinavian furniture, heavenly Italian beds and surfaces carved from Carrara marble. Start the day with a rooftop yoga session, then idly wander the narrow streets before heading to Gnien il-Gardjola (the look-out garden) for a commanding view of the modern-day capital Valletta.
A less obvious choice for summer escapades, The Azores suit those who want something more than beaches and booze. Sâo Miguel is the easiest to access of the nine islands and fondly referred to as the “green island”. Discover the wild landscapes brimming with unique wildlife, looming volcanoes and pools of kaleidoscopic lakes. Take a break from the breathtaking scenery and relax at the design-centric Furnas Boutique hotel, where the world-class spa with geothermal waters will ease any explorer ailments. Visit neighbouring Terceira where locals estimate they spend 10 months a year celebrating various festivities.
Undoubtedly the most fashionable beach holiday for 2018, steer clear of the OTT yachts and flashy beach clubs in Budhva and choose instead to travel north to Herceg Novi, located at the entrance to the Bay of Kotor and at the foot of the towering Mount Orjen. Fondly called “the city of the sun” thanks to its abundance of ray-filled days, it is filled with bohemian, artist workshops and family-run kitchens serving up fresh octopus salads and carafes of icy white wine. For a slice of the Adriatic that is overflowing with beaches but absent of crowds opt to visit Ulcinj. This seaside, medieval town is as known for its adrenaline-pumping watersports as it is its craggy coastline.
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