It's a lovely village on the northern coast of Kos. Only 15 minutes from the airport and decades away from the tourist resorts in other parts of Kos. The beach is long and gets a constant breeze - good for watersports but equally good to keep cool. Water doesn't get deep quickly so ideal swimming for all. Village is full of fantastic real Greek restaurants serving great value very fresh meals. Sunsets here can rival anywhere in the world. Ferry from the village goes over to Kalymnos if you fancy a change of scene and also easy to get around the area on bike or by car. Tourist operators don't go here (thank goodness) but plenty of independent great value accommodation right on the beach.
South Pelion has everything to offer at all seasons. Walk on ancient stone paths under plane and olive trees with glorious views of the Pagasitikos gulf or the Aegean. Swim at deserted pebbled coves or beaches with swathes of fine sand. Select from a range of reasonably priced places to stay and enjoy food in fish restaurants, small tavernas that offer regional cuisine, or more international eateries such as Casablanca in Horton. Visit traditional hill top villages with quiet, plane tree shaded cobbled squares, little fishing harbours, historical sites, tiny fresoed churches or the market in Argalasti for local produce including home brewed local spirit tsipouro. In addition you can take a trip to nearby Skiathos on board the Africana from Platania for a day or two of partying. You will certainly be glad to return to the peace and beauty of South Pelion.
Campsites include Louisa at Platanias (www.camplouisa.gr/en/draseis.html), hotels include Kima and Des Roses in Platanias and accommodation includes Katerina in Pelion and Valtoudi in Milina.
Cheaper flights to Corfu now make organising your own bespoke holiday easy on an island that still has miles of unspoilt coastline. And with rooms and apartments to rent from £300 a week it’s a great way to enjoy the Greek experience on a budget. Just 15 miles south of Corfu airport is the village of Messonghi. A picture hanging in a local taverna shows a large group of the villagers socialising on the beach and is titled “1974 BT – before tourism”. Eating in local tavernas is part of what make this type of holiday special. Great affordable food and an authentic Greek experience. There is a small coast road that follows the contours of the many bays going south in the direction of Boukari, Petriti and Notos. It’s only 10 miles long and with hardly any traffic it is a beautiful walk or bike ride. Bikes can be hired for just five euro a day in Messonghi. With a taverna roughly every mile you can stop to refresh yourself and sample the delicious seafood before wallowing in the clear warm water. Spiros Taverna in Boukari is renowned for the fish it serves. Petriti has a small fishing fleet and is a stop-over for flotilla holidaymakers. Stamatis Taverna right on the beach is straight out of Zorba the Greek and little has changed since the film was made. Ask for the local wine, its wonderful. If you want to sample the real Greece and not just sit around a pool, then this could be the holiday for you.
Accommodation in Messonghi:
Google map: bit.ly/11QZMjc
Spiros Taverna Boukari
Finnish countryside with endless summer nights in summer cottages by the lake. Dipping into a lake at night after sauna. Relaxing time without hurry to anywhere just listening the birds and wind.
This enormous park is my favourite place to relax on a sunny Seville day. It’s a bit of a way from the main attractions – if you’re in a rush then head to the more central María Luisa park. With Alamillo Park’s wide boulevards, lakes and lawns there’s loads of space for cycling, rollerblading or just lazing peacefully with a book. There is also a large bar/restaurant. Families gather there for parties, setting up camp all day with picnics, games and wine flowing freely. There are often fairs and free concerts, and on my first trip I even happened upon a dog show taking place in one corner. The children will love the miniature railway and, if you fancy it, you can even try out cableskiing.
Google map: bit.ly/10i7fQG
*Eloise is our Been there local for Seville. You can read her bio here: www.ivebeenthere.co.uk/articles/seville-local-eloise-horsfield and follow her tips here: www.ivebeenthere.co.uk/travellers/EloiseHorsfield You can also catch her on Twitter at @EloiseHorsefield
Found down the end of a very bumpy lane and past a small clutch of gorgeous waterfront houses, Roundwood Quay is a little visited spot on the edge of the Carrick Roads. It's perfectly tranquil and the perfect spot to watch boats pass up and down the river, whilst there’s a pebbly, muddy beach for swimming and birdwatching, as well as a formal pathway that trails around the edges of the water and forms part of the Trelissick/Roundwood loop walk.
* Sian is our Been there local for Cornwall. You can check out her page here: www.ivebeenthere.co.uk/articles/been-there-local-cornwall.jsp and her own blog about Cornish living: www.adventureswiththeblackdog.co.uk/
Portinho is a tiny village hugging a white sandy beach. There is a calm sheltered bay with turquoise waters- great for snorkelling. Behind Portinho rise steep limestone mountains, all part of the Arrábida nature reserve. Unspoilt, undeveloped and natural, the park is a wonderful area to explore- by car or on foot. Reminiscent of the scenery in Monaco, there are curving mountain roads, Mediterranean forest and views from on high over the bay. There are monasteries to visit as well as the village of Azeitão, with its vineyards and renowned wineries: José Maria da Fonseca and Bacalhôa. Great as a day trip from Lisbon, it takes about 45 minutes to get here, by car over the iconic 25 de Abril bridge. Otherwise, you could easily spend a week's holiday in Arrábida.
A couple of charming little B&Bs on the seafront in Portinho, great as a base for the area, and very reasonable, can be found here: www.hideawayportugal.com/modules/property/city-200.htm
Google map: bit.ly/ZURuD4
Syros is an undiscovered gem of an island. Off the beaten track for mass tourism, this lovely town has so much to offer. Within easy reach of Athens via ferry, and a faster hydrofoil in the summer, it even has its own airport with a daily flight to Athens taking 30 minutes. The main town of Ermoupolis has an attractive harbour with many tavernas on the waterfront. Wander through the little backstreets, see the huge marble square and town hall, walk up the narrow streets and many steps to Ano Syros. Visit the impressive Venetian style houses in Vaporia, built for sea captains. Several beaches are just a bus ride away or hire a moped for the day. The sandy beach at Kini has beachside tavernas, as does Azolimnos, the nearest beach to Ermoupolis. Even in the winter, the island is a buzzing, lively place to visit, as it is the capital of the Cyclades. Well worth a stop over if you are island hopping, sailing, or for a day trip.
Google map: bit.ly/12SImQt
Why leave one crowded tourist honeypot to spend 24 hours in another? Because San Gimignano offers more than towers and tourist tat. It sits amid some of the most beautiful landscapes this planet has to offer, so if you need a break from masterpiece-bagging, lose yourself among the rolling olive groves and vineyards where the hills are dotted with fabulous, tranquil, rustic places to stay: agriturismi. Clusters of ancient farm buildings seemingly assembled by the god of aesthetically pleasing structures-in-stone have been arranged artfully throughout the San Gimignano area. Take your pick from one of the 90 or so near the 'Medieval Manhattan' and you will see this town's best angle - from afar on your poolside veranda with glass of Vernaccia in hand.
An hour by road, San Gimignano is an easy day trip away from Florence. Great website with everything you need to arrange to stay at an Agriturismo in this stunning area: www.sangimignano.com/en/services-and-facilities/accommodation/farmhouses/
Google map: bit.ly/YFa2nc
A broad wooded valley north of Lucca, the Garfagnana is a ruggedly beautiful area of Tuscany hidden between the Apuan Alps and the Apennines, often overlooked in the stampede for the art-laden cities further south. If you are tired of galleries, museums and crowds or simply prefer nature to culture, a 24 hour escape to Barga, one of the 'Borghi piu Belli d'Italia' with its twisting lanes, artistic residents and incredible panoramic views will refresh your crowd-weary soul and renew your appetite for all that Florentine art. Among the elegant medieval merchant's houses are several flower filled stairways leading to the cathedral which surveys the town from above. The vista over the tiles and verdant valley towards the Apuan Alps is ample reward for the climb. There are plenty of trattorie for the obligatory sampling of delicious regional fare.
Barga can be reached from Florence by train but it is not a straightforward journey as you must leave the train on the valley floor. Simpler and quicker to drive - around two hours from Florence. Stay in the impressive and serene Villa Moorings in the town or in one of the many nearby agriturismi.
Villa Moorings: www.villamoorings.it
Via Roma 18, Barga (LU) 55051.
+39 0583 711538
Google map: bit.ly/Zg84hR
Situated metres from the Prada is Madrid’s Atocha station. While it seems a shame to leave the shops and cafés of the station, you won’t regret getting the train to Toledo. Walk up from Toledo’s little station, high over the river Tagus winding its way to Lisbon and into the ancient capital. Get way from the crowds and meander through the quiet little streets, as good as any Tuscan hill town. El Greco came here in 1577 and didn’t leave. Who can blame him? The massive cathedral is the seat of the Primate of Spain.
Don’t bother with a farewell drink in the overcrowded main square. Stroll back to station and refresh yourself in the peaceful garden of the station café.
You’ll be back in Madrid in time for free evening entry to the Prada before joining the Madrileños for another late night.
Wake up early and ride the Mount Baldo cableway up 1.6km to hike among breathtaking scenery of the snow-capped pre-Alpine region, the Po Plains and the Dolomite Mountains. After exhausting ourselves on the mountain trails we head to a hilltop restaurants for late lunch with panoramic views of the lake. We loved Mount Baldo so much we went back twice more during our week-long summer holiday to Malcesine, Lake Garda.
A wonderful family-run yoga retreat in the Italian countryside. You are picked up from (and, sadly, dropped back to...) Pescara airport and taken to the six-bedroom villa near Atri for a snack and tea before bed. The next morning you wake to the wonderful views across the valley, yoga on the terrace and lovingly home-grown, home-prepared vegetarian meals which will rival anything you've ever tasted (vegetarian or not). Local wine and 2 yoga classes a day are included, and you also have the option of paying for extra treatments and/or snacks on top. Spend your days enjoying the beautiful views over the mountains while you swim, sauna, hot-tub or just swing in one of the hammocks dotted around the garden. For those who prefer to get out and about, there are options of day-trips to nearby towns, a beach yoga day (all included in the price) and a meal out in a local restaurant (transport there and back included, meal is approx. £15). There are also bikes to borrow and a cafe a short walk away for that authentic capuccino (just don't ask for white tea). Stephanie teaches yoga in a calm, confident, serene and non-judgemental way, so you really will be fine whether a complete beginner or an expert. Her massages are to die for. (Seriously. Have one.) Rupert takes care of all the cooking (and, basically, rocks the kitchen). Put all these things together and you get a week (or a weekend) of utter bliss. You'll come back a different person. (And you'll be forever planning your next trip back...)
Pescara airport (from Stanstead) or Rome
If you’re going to visit a historical site, it makes good sense to enjoy the whole experience as people in the past did, so I recommend the Cagaloglu Haman in Istanbul. It’s one of the oldest Turkish baths in the world and has been visited by figures as diverse and illustrious as Florence Nightingale, King Edward VIII and Tony Curtis. This place was a gift to the city from Sultan Mahmud 1 in 1741and it retains the original features, such as beautiful high-domed ceilings and marble fountains as well as an interior garden. The bathing experience is still just as it was in the Ottoman days - you are given a brisk body exfoliation followed by a bubble massage as you lie on a smooth marble plinth. I skidded around like a beached seal as the masseur slapped and pummelled me before washing my hair with a deliciously herbal scented soap. Afterwards, wrapped in white fluffy towels and sipping tea, I could almost imagine myself back in the days of the Sultan.
Alemdar Mh. Cağaloğlu Hamamı Sk No:34, Fatih, Turkey
+90 212 522 2424
Google map: bit.ly/15fTNQg
Caños de Meca is one of several golden beaches spread along Spain’s Costa de le Luz, like a trail of forgotten breadcrumbs. We came across this beach when driving from our base 12km away, in the Moorish hill-top town of Vejer de la Fronterra, to the popular fishing town of Barbate. Wowed by the crescent-shaped stretch of sand laid out beneath us, we parked up our hire car (for free) in the nearby pine forest, La Brena, and wandered through the sleepy coastal town. We never made it to Barbate.
At Canos, the thick pines merge seamlessly into a backdrop of imposing cliffs, with alarmingly clear seas gushing below, begging to be explored. Previously popular on the hippy trail, and with quiet chilled out music playing from most nearby bars and restaurants, you might expect the beach to be drenched in dreadlock-donning travellers. But we only came across a handle of tourists during our time, mostly Spaniards fleeing the sweltering heat of nearby city, Cadiz.
In fact, in stark contrast to neighbouring Costa del Sol, this stretch of unyielding coastline has largely escaped the mass tourism scene so often associated with Spain. For bedraggled water babies with a penchant for adventure, Canos de Meca has surf; for the bucket and spade parade, it’s a safe haven of everything you’d expect from a picture-postcard shoreline. For those wanting a bit of history, you can also walk around the coast to Cape Trafalgar, the starting point for Admiral Nelson in the Battle of Trafalgar. And for those wanting a little relaxation, you’ll be joined by just the occasional sprinkle of bathers, not an army of sun-worshippers. Besides, with a constantly-strong salty wind whistling over the beach, it’s impossible to hear much else, apart from your own silence and the falcons soaring overhead.
During our one-week holiday, we spent hours being flipped in the waves, bobbing with the blue swell of the Atlantic. Sometimes, we played in the nearby rock pool, a magical spot constantly doused in gentle sunshine. And at the end of our day, we’d usually retire to La Jaima, one of a handful of Boho-style beach bars flanking the cliff-top, which entices beachgoers with the sizzling waft of its daily barbecue. Here, we sipped on cold beers and complimentary peanuts saltier than the seawater coating our skin, watching as a group of Spanish students played football beneath.
I recommend it because, although it's only in Spain, it feel as though it's a million miles away. A true, tropical-style, paradise.
Canos de Meca, Andalucia.
Turn off the main N40 road at Vejer de la Frontera and follow the narrow roads to the coast. You can also reach it by taking the minor road through the pine forest from Barbate.
Google map: bit.ly/YkuZ9L
A nature reserve with some of the best beaches in the world, in particular Rodas Beach on Monteagudo. Great for a day trip from Vigo but even better to camp. No cars, no rubbish bins (take your rubbish back to Vigo!), awesome sunsets over the sea, wonderful flora and fauna (especially birds). Summer only. Plan ahead for the boat and camping!
Strewn out for miles along the southern Atlantic coast of Spain is the stunning El Palmar beach. You won't find yourself short of things to do at the village end - with a mix of restaurants, bars and surf shacks; but walk (or drive and park for free) along to the far eastern edge of the beach and you'll find yourself completely alone with just the wide expanse of sand and sound of waves for company.
You can surf, swim, body board or simply throw out your towel and sit and watch the waves hit the beach and relax. It is perfect at any time of day - for a morning swim, a lunch-time picnic, romantic stroll or to watch the sun go down over the water.
Also at this end is a wonderful little restaurant with a beautiful garden, just right for lounging back on a wicker chair with an Estrella.
You can camp in El Palmar but we stayed in the town of Vejer de la Frontera, 12km away - probably my favourite town in Spain.
11159 El Palmar, Cadiz province, Andalusia, Spain
Google map: bit.ly/13VpdPV
If you want to beat the crowds then look no further than the idyllic beaches of Isla Canela in the Costa de la Luz. Even in July and August you'll find plenty of room to spread a towel or hire a lounger, and the rest of the year you could find yourself almost alone. Want to swim? The sparkling blue sea is safe for swimming, due to a long sloping sweep out to a sandbar and warm enough from May to the end of October. Fancy a drink? Dotted along the dunes are a number of beach bars, such as La Cabra or La Sonrisa, all offering a range of beer, wine and cocktails or food from the BBQ. Looking for something more active? Learn to water ski from CanelaXtreme or hire canoes or bicycles from Bicilandia and cycle along the long promenade. And all of this with five unbroken miles of glorious, fine, golden sand that's cleaned daily. This year more money has been allocated to maintain the pristine condition of the beach, with a special emphasis on making all amenities accessible to people with reduced mobility.
A short drive or bus ride from the town of Ayamonte.
Google map: bit.ly/Z0SpzX
A walk across mudflats following the tracks of a miniature train (that runs daily in high season) gave us the spooky surprise of a graveyard of huge rusting anchors wedged into the dunes, particularly atmospheric at dusk when we arrived. Beautiful quiet beach sheltered by the dunes and calm warm summer water. An Algarve find that stayed with us.
Access to the beach is a walk (or train trundle) across the Ria Formosa nature reserve, car park and bus stop at Pedras d'El Rei, 4 km from Tavira.
Google map: bit.ly/Yj3md3
On a recent travel forum, somebody asked ‘ Is Marseillan in the Languedoc really as lovely as people say it is?' The answer is a resounding yes. Just walk down to the pretty little port and take in the view - sail boats bobbing on the silvery waters of the saltwater lagoon, and holiday cruisers drawn up to the moorings where a choice of restaurants awaits the lucky traveller. The impressive Chateau de Port, now a restaurant, looks out to sea, flanked by the cellars of local winemaker Henri de Richemer.
Your choice for lunch – Rive Gauche or Rive Droite ? Go left and a dozen waterside restaurants await, offering you everything from fresh shellfish to crepes and fresh salads. Go right, and choose from the fine dining at the Chateau to pizzas or oysters and a glass of Picpoul at the tiny fish stall.
But the really great thing about Marseillan is that it isn’t just a chic tourist façade, but a proper working town. The church square buzzes on Tuesday with the street market, the little indoor Halles opens daily for fruit, veg, fish and cheese. The Boulevard Hotel in the town centre offers steaks cooked on an open fire, or go to the Table d’Emilie for Michelin-style dining. The Bar Marine is where the local stop to people watch over a coffee, a Ricard, or to watch the evening footie on big screens. The Delicatessen restaurant is decorated with retro furnishings, and spills out into the shadow of the church on summer days.
Plunge into the narrow lanes of the pedestrianised old town for shady relief from the sun, where visitors and locals live happily side by side. And when you need a dip, clean, sandy uncrowded Mediterranean beaches are just five minutes away.
Throughout the town, tiny shellfish stalls packed with freshly harvested oysters and mussels raise their shutters at lunchtime and evenings. Locals queue for a kilo or two of oysters – this isn’t overpriced food for the few, but the local diet, cheap as chips. The Picpoul de Pinet wine which is only grown in this area is the perfect accompaniment – sit in any local restaurant and watch the two being enjoyed together. Visit the Picpoul domains which dot the area, and marvel at how many labels can thrive in such a small locality.
Marseillan really is a French town like no other, worth a visit at any time of the year. Buses connect with Beziers Cap d’Agde airport for the princely sum of 1.5 euros making it an easy place to visit for a short break without a car.
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