casablanca

As soon as the temperature in the UK becomes cool enough to dig out your aviator jacket, some of our favourite summer holiday destinations become free of crowds, making it an ideal time squeeze in a bit of sun. We know you know that Cyprus and Egypt benefit from almost year-round sunshine, but we’ve picked out a handful of destinations your next door neighbour hasn’t yet discovered.

1. Kas, Turkey

The laid-back fishing village of Kas on southern Turkey’s Lycian coast enchants with whitewashed buildings smothered in bougainvillea cascading down the mountainside. Waterfront coffee houses line the shore while the Lycian Way (an ancient coastal footpath) snakes around the edge of the town via the ruins of Antiphellos. Snuggled in a cove, Kaptus beach is an ideal place to soak up the last of the summer sun; the water resembles a Van Gogh palette as fresh mountain streams battle the azure saltwater, creating a striking contrast of piercing aquamarines and bold cobalts. Also worth a visit is the pine-backed Pnar Kuru, which is home to a single (and often deserted) jetty, renowned for fish sightings. Be sure to slip beneath the ocean surface too, as locals say the best time to dive is after the first autumnal rain. Giant sea turtles are known for their playful interactions with snorkellers, while experienced divers can explore a bomber plane that was shot down during WWII and now lies eerily on the seabed.

2. Casablanca, Morocco

Much more than the backdrop for 1942 film starring Ingrid Bergman and Humphrey Bogart (which was was actually filmed in Hollywood), in recent years this former  pirate lair has been given an update which fuses the old-world Moroccan with modern flair. Catering to those who have already mastered the medina in Marrakech and surfed the shores of Agadir, it’s a heady mix of grit and grace. Palm-lined boulevards denote a French Riviera feel while art-deco buildings have been repurposed as progressive galleries and museums. La Fabrique Culturelle des Anciens Abattoirs de Casablanca is a former slaughterhouse that now houses urban dance and music workshops, while La Villa des Artes is a space that has hosted everything from  graffiti artists to vintage jewellery exhibitions. We can’t help but draw comparisons between here and Venice Beach. Numerous surf schools are littered around La Corniche – the breaks are so good that Quicksilver host their world-renowned surf competition here every September.

3. Lanzarote, Canary Islands

Sunny but not scorching, the Canary Islands should be a year-round favourite but have been somewhat marred due to their package holiday reputation. If you can put preconceptions aside, Lanzarote is undergoing a transformation that has seen a surge of independent wineries, sustainable lodgings and wellness retreats springing up across this wild, volcanic isle. The cultural influence of the iconic César Manrique can be found scattered across the island as the architect, environmental and political activist worked tirelessly to preserve the barren but beautiful landscape. One of his most ambitious projects was the subterranean Jameos Del Agua, an eccentric cultural centre featuring a rock-hewn DJ booth, bubble skylights in the bar, a swimming pool reserved for the King of Spain and a rare breed of blind, albino crabs. Famara is the best beach on the island, boasting 3km of sweeping sandy shores, pot-marked with coves that cry out for a beach towel and a good book. Those who find sunbathing a bore will be pleased to know it’s also a world-class spot for kitesurfing.

4. Queensland, Australia

With names like Rainbow Beach, Nudey Beach and Surfers’ Paradise, it’s easy to see why Queensland is David Attenborough’s favourite place on earth. Mother Nature’s kaleidoscopic fish tank, the Great Barrier Reef, collides with thousand-year-old rainforests and a coastline measuring 7,000km. As northern Europe begins to feel sun-starved, Australia is just getting warmed up. It doesn’t get much better than Queensland and we’re all about beach hopping from Palm Cove to Port Douglas, for a trip that’s about relaxed vibes, palm trees, flat whites and sunsets. Pass through the Daintree Rainforest for koala and croc sightings and be sure to head to the Sunday market in bohemian Port Douglas for freshly harvested sugarcane juice, homemade falafel and local papaya. The town is also an excellent launch pad for a reef excursion or a hair-rising white water raft ride down the Mossman Gorge, followed by a seafront feast washed down with wine from the little-known Granite Belt region.

5. Muscat, Oman

Miles apart from its flashy neighbours Dubai and Abu Dhabi, Muscat is an intoxicating combination of souks, seafood and sandscapes. The Gulf of Oman is sheltered by the Hjar Mountains, creating a sprawling desert playground to be trekked through at dawn or soared down in a buggy at dusk. The less active can head to Qantab Beach, a small bay minutes away from Muscat’s centre where long sweeps of sand are littered with rows of traditional fishing boats and sun-bleached houses frame gin-clear waters. Pepper beach days with mornings bartering at Muscat’s Muttrah Souk; a mecca for fashionistas, pick-up buttery soft wool pashminas, supple leatherwear and gold jewellery (you pay by the weight so haggle carefully). Be sure to accept the array of cardamom-scented sugary treats that will be bestowed on you by traders too – the slightly tart Farth dates should be brought home in barrels.

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