Lake Bled, Slovenia
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Located a short ferry ride away from the world-famous party island Ibiza, Formentera is altogether more relaxed and more low-key than its neighbour. The landscape is, however, just as picture-perfect, complete with turquoise waters and white sand beaches dotted with palm trees and buzzing beach bars. Life on this Balearic island exists at an altogether different pace and offers guests a chance to experience the Mediterranean lifestyle at its finest.
When it comes to summer destinations in Portugal, the Algarve is usually the first thing to come to mind, yet if you’re looking to escape the crowds, the Alentejo offers much quieter beaches. Running along the coast from Lisbon down to the Algarve, the Alentejo includes a vast stretch of Atlantic coastline with some fantastic surf spots and sleepy villages such as Comporta and Porto das Barcas. It’s also a major wine-producing region, offering some juicy, full-bodied reds that are the perfect accompaniment to the hearty local fare.
Located on the shores of the Mediterranean in Southern France, Sète is a historic city with a strong local identity and culture. Once described as the ‘Venice of the Languedoc’ by French writer and Sète native Paul Valéry, the old port and harbour seem fixed in time. Yet the arrival of the Worldwide Music Festival and Convenanza festival have made the city a prime destination for music lovers in Europe.
Not quite mainland Europe, the Azores is an archipelago located in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean and belongs to Portugal. Once an important stop on the trade route to the USA, the islands are a veritable adventurer’s paradise, with everything from whale watching to canyoning from which to choose. The volcanic landscape is home to tea plantations and a UNESCO World Heritage-listed vineyard, while its natural parks are some of the finest in Portugal.
Located on the south-western coast of the Mani Peninsula in the Peloponnese, Stoupa is relatively well preserved as far as Greek seaside towns go. Steeped in history, the area sees charming medieval villages and fishing ports, as well as the nearby peaks of Profitis Ilias in the Taygetos mountain, surrounding it. Considered relatively remote by Athenian standards, the area is a far cry from the package holiday resorts of Mykonos or Kos.
If a summer holiday in the Baltic Sea might sound a little strange at first, ask any Dane about the island of Bornholm, and you’ll soon find out why it’s so popular. Officially the sunniest spot in Denmark, the island is famous for its fine sand beaches – Napoleon is rumoured to have used sand from Bornholm for his hourglasses – and many smokehouses offering freshly smoked mackerel and herring.
Over the past decade or so, Croatia has become a top European holiday destination, renowned for its scenic beaches and vibrant nightlife. The island of Hvar has made a name for itself as a prime party destination for the rich and glamorous, with the town of Hvar itself buzzing with exclusive nightclubs and beach bars. Venture further north of the island, though, and you’ll find quieter beaches and more peaceful scenery.
Summer holidays in France aren’t all about the Côte d’Azure or Biarritz. The small island of Noirmoutier sits just off the coast of Brittany and offers an altogether different seaside experience to its southern counterparts. Mostly covered in salt marshes and oak forests, the island connects to the mainland by a road that floods twice daily at high tide. The flat landscape makes it perfect for cycling around from beach to beach, while the average temperatures during the summer are a respectable 23–24°C (74–75°F).
One of the latest places to be described as ‘the new Tuscany’, the region of Marche sits just east of Florence. The landscape features rolling hills dotted with picturesque villages and old farmhouses, while the coastline is home to many a seaside resort – most of which have remained relatively unchanged over the past decades. Further inland, there are some remarkable medieval and Renaissance towns such as Urbino.
Barcelona has long been a top summer destination, yet the Catalan capital seems to keep reinventing itself. While the breathtaking architecture, thriving food scene and vibrant nightlife are all still present, it’s the current music scene that is really worth mentioning this year. Aside from Sónar and Primavera Sound – two of the best festivals of their kind worldwide – the likes of Brunch in the Park/City bring some of the best DJs to the city every other weekend throughout spring and summer.
Still relatively unknown outside of Bulgaria, the historic city of Sozopol is one of the most beautiful seaside resorts in the area. Inside the town, old cobbled streets meander between wooden houses that sit on the very edge of the waterfront. While the town is by no means a party destination, there are a number of bars and clubs offering entertainment as well as free live music throughout the city and beaches during the summer.
One of the food capitals of Europe, San Sebastian is famous for everything from its Michelin-starred restaurants to its rustic bars serving pintxos – like tapas on a stick. As if the food culture wasn’t enough, San Sebastian also boasts a beautiful urban beach known as La Concha Beach – so called because of its curved shape reminiscent of a shell, or ‘concha’ in Spanish – which stretches some 1.3 kilometres (0.8 miles) along its shores.
Perched on the far tip of Portugal, stretching out into the Atlantic Ocean, Sagres feels like the end of the world. In fact, it’s more like a surfer’s paradise; with two coastlines to choose from, one south and one west, there’s something to surf whatever the current. The town is small but has everything you need to get by, including some great seafood restaurants that are supplied daily from the fish market on the harbour.
While officially part of France, Corsica’s proud local identity, cultural heritage and history give it a truly distinct character to the mainland. Located at the southern tip of the island, just a few kilometres away from Sardinia, Bonifacio is a town steeped in history, long an important port in the area. The surrounding nature is well preserved and harbours some rare species of animals, while on the sea, water sports and diving are particularly enjoyable.
If you’re looking for something a little different this summer, why not explore Finland’s Wild Taiga. Stretching from Kuhmo to Suomussalmi on Finland’s eastern border, this sustainable tourism destination boasts an incredible diversity of wildlife, including brown bears, wolves and deer, while outdoor activities in the summer include cycling, husky trekking and canoeing.