When keen travellers from around the world think of Europe as a holiday destination, they no doubt conjure up images of vibrant cities, iconic landmarks and endless Mediterranean beaches.
Southern Europe is well-known for producing some outstanding scenery in which to spend a few weeks relaxing, soaking up new cultures, exploring, luxuriating and most certainly dining on the delights offered up from the locale.
From Southern Spain in the west to Turkey in the east, the scenery, cuisines, languages and cultures vary wildly and with a surprising 20 European countries said to border the sea, choosing the best place to take in the spectacular scenery and host of other benefits isn’t an easy one. If you’re looking to take a trip that encompasses all of the above, then after the year we’ve had you most certainly deserve it, but where to go?
We take a look some of our favourite destinations with a taster of some of the highlights you can indulge in on your visit.
The four Spanish islands that make up the Balearics – Ibiza, Mallorca, Menorca and Formentera – are a popular summer destination for those looking to escape from the day to day and inject some much-needed fun and sun into their lives. The four islands sit just off the east coast of Spain and each hold their own identity. Despite its clubber’s image, Ibiza is a fantastic island to visit for families, friends and couples alike and boasts some beautiful beaches, truly luxurious Ibiza villas with pools to reside in, wellness retreats and, of course, a smattering of top-tier nightclubs to dance the night away in.
Accessible by ferry, Formentera is the smallest of the four and is a paradise for those looking to truly escape, relax and take in the stunning turquoise waters and white sand beaches. Mallorca boasts a number of seaside resorts, fantastic shopping in medieval Palma and mountainous areas to explore alongside pretty inland towns. Menorca is a place for those who want to spend their days reclining on pristine beaches, visiting archaeological sites, scaling Monte Toro or windsurfing on the northern coast.
Croatia is a country that manages to blend a ridiculously rich history with some truly beautiful scenery. From ancient walled towns to private islands and a busy arts scene to inviting vineyards, the country is a mixed bag and a place where you will be desperate to return to after your first visit.
Popular Dubrovnik provides those ancient city walls to explore – the setting for plenty of notable scenes in the TV series Games of Thrones – just make sure you take the cable car up Mount Srd for some breath-taking views. The coastal city on the southern tip of the country will easily provide you with a week’s worth of delights so make sure you book into one of the deluxe Dubrovnik villas available so that you can explore the region and reside in style.
The museums and cafes of the capital city, Zagreb, will delight, while the city of Split provides some vibrancy within Diocletian’s Palace. The Roman ruins, marbled streets, hip bars and pleasurable eateries of Zadar are certainly worth a visit, while the natural beauty (breath-taking waterfalls and lakes) within Plitvice Lakes National Park is not to be missed.
Anyone who has visited the island of Crete will surely have fallen in love with the wondrous place. Whether you are a fan of visiting historical sites, lazing in stunning lagoons and on fine sand beaches, making friends with the locals, sampling stunning cuisine, shopping for a selection of goodies, or all of the above, then Crete is the place for you. Split by a chain of mountains in the middle, most visitors will head to the more hospitable northern coastal areas, which is no bad thing.
Minoan, Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman, Venetian – the history of Crete is plentiful and is evidenced across the island. The Palace of Knossos, the distinctive Venetian harbours you will easily spot, the architecture, and artefacts you will find in museums will all give you a fantastic look into its varied and long history. Samaria is one of Europe’s most spectacular gorges and is certainly worth a visit if you can handle the trek in the heat. But if you prefer a more leisurely trip, the incredible selection of restaurants, bars – hosted by the friendliest of people – and the unmissable Gramvousa will truly delight.