AWAY DAYS FOR CASTAWAYS

ESCAPE ROUTES 2: GETTING AWAY FROM IT ALL; Staying one step ahead of the tourist hordes makes for a peaceful break. Jill Crawshaw suggests hidden places
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The Independent Culture
CRUSOE WAS HERE

Ari Beach is the simple Robinson Crusoe island of the Maldives, far away from the five-star luxury resorts nearer Male, the capital. Guests of Kuoni can leave their footprints on lonely sandy spits, ponder on life all day in the hammocks outside their thatched huts unless they wish to bestir themselves sufficiently to go snorkelling in the reef around the island, windsurf, take a diving course or sign up for a night fishing trip to catch the next day's supper. Prices are modest; end of July departures cost pounds 589 a week half board, better still, around pounds 680 for 2 weeks, with no supplement for single occupancy. You can expect some rain and wind, so remember to pack the worthy books you've been meaning to read.

Kuoni Travel 01306 740500

CORTIJOS AND HACIENDAS

Keeping well away from the crowded Costas, Spanish specialists Mundicolor's "Country Collection" programme features old cortijos (ranches) and haciendas (arable farms) in unspoilt Andalucia, aimed at holidaymakers who like walking, riding and exploring the great Moorish cities of Seville, Cordoba and Granada and the little white towns (pueblos blancos) of the High Sierras. Most have been converted to hotels with high standards, many with pools, and serving local food. The Cortijo Aguila Real in the village of Guillena, 13 miles north of Seville has its own chapel, stables, a swimming pool and shady gardens The simpler, more rustic Cortijo Las Navazuelas in a valley of olive and oak trees in Cazalla della Sierra, a converted 18th century olive mill has its own pottery and ceramic workshops. The Hospederia de San Francisco at Palma del Rio, 30 miles from Cordoba is a converted Franciscan Monastery, dating back to 1442. B&b prices in the Cortijos start at pounds 29 per person per night in August.

Mundicolor 0171 828 6021

HIDDEN DEPTHS

Lake Orta is such a well kept secret that even most Italians can't place it on the map. About 50 miles north of Milan, 15 or so from Lake Maggiore which heaves with summer crowds, Lake Orta has only a sprinkling of hotels and villas around its waterfront and in the enchanting capital called Orta, all cobbled streets, tiny piazzas and faded frescoes. There's a huge market at Omegna every Thursday, and an eccentric island in the middle of the lake where the local Saint did what all good Saints do and slew the resident dragon and snakes.

Rooms at three very different hotels are offered in Inghams Lakes and Mountain programme; the Giardinetto on the outskirts of the village of Patennasco is best for families, or for active holidaymakers, costing pounds 458 for a week's half board (including flights). In Orta itself, the San Rocco, once a monastery, now converted to an understated, quiet luxury hotel costs pounds 734 half-board for a week, while Hotel Orta, right at the water's edge is simple, charming, old-fashioned and family run with a terrace on the main piazza, and costs pounds 499-pounds 514, half-board.

Inghams Lakes and Mountains 0181 780 4444

MAROONED

For the ultimate getaway - Mason Island, just off the Irish coast at Carna in Carna, Co Galway - holidaymakers are ferried across the 14-mile strait in the owner's curragh, then left in peace - with only a radio telephone to summon help or supplies.Completely uninhabited most of the year, Mason Island is about 34 mile long and 12 mile wide with tiny beaches, interesting birdlife, a few derelict cottages and one renovated house simply furnished, sleeping up to eight escapists. This and other Irish cottages on the mainland are available from Shamrock in the latter half of August and throughout September. A week's rent for Mason Island is pounds 388 in August, pounds 220 in September.

Shamrock Cottages 01823 660126

PETIT FRANCE

The aim of La France des Villages is to find parts of rural France that most Brits never reach - the French themselves call them "les petits pays", regions with a distinctive identity, often by-passed by holidaymakers belting down the autoroutes to the Cote d'Azur and the Dordogne.

The firm can come up with an old shepherd's cottage in Gascony, traditional Breton farms and old bakeries, quayside houses along the canals of the Poitou-Charente, houses in rugged Finisterre, and in the rolling Burgundy countryside. Typical prices: the shepherd's cottage sleeping seven costs pounds 700 a week in August, the Breton bakery pounds 450-pounds 475. Fares are not included but can be arranged.

La France des Villages 01449 737664

Note: To avoid congested motorways in high season, send for the Bison Fute roadmap which shows picturesque local alternatives. Free from information offices at the Channel Ports, or from the French Tourist office, London 0891 244123 (calls 39p-49p per minute)

TURKEY OTTOMAN-STYLE

With Turkey this year a hot holiday favourite, they'll be gasping for air in the hotels of Bodrum and Marmaris, Alanya, Side and the increasing number of popular spots in the main package brochures. In rural Akyaka tourism hasn't yet ousted farming and fishing, and local restaurants still serve more than the ubiquitous kebabs and chicken and chips.

It's where Ilios Holidays offer splendid Ottoman style houses for rent, with intricately carved wooden ceilings, divan seating, handwoven carpets and kilims, and private walled gardens. The Villa Bulbul, for example, with room for six costs pounds 516 per person per fortnight which includes flights and transfers. The villas are near the village and sandy beaches, and for those prepared to get up early to avoid the ferocious crowds and heat, the ruins of Ephesus, the rock tombs of Dalyan and the strange natural rock formations at Pamukkale are between one and four hours drive away.

Ilios Island Holidays 01403 259788

SEYCHELLES SUMMER

Our summer is the best season in the Seychelles (the rainy days peak in December and January) - one of the few places you can still find a beach to yourself, since development has been controlled to preserve the rare and abundant wildlife and exuberant lush tropical vegetation. It was General Gordon who named the Seychelles the "Garden of Eden" after experiencing the arid deserts of Khartoum.

Airwaves "Small and Friendly" collection of holidays based on self catering cottages and family run small hotels and auberges is very much in keeping with the easy going, relaxed pace of life in the islands, and likely to appeal to independent-minded travellers. In Mahe, the largest and most varied island, Le Petit Village, log cabin self catering apartments with their own private beach, costs pounds 849 a week including flights, though two weeks makes more economic sense, as you pay only an extra pounds 42 a night.

On Praslin, probably the most beautiful island, a week's self-catering or half board, (the owner specialises in local Creole curry dishes), starts from pounds 1,057 for a week, pounds 55 for each extra night. On La Digue, the most laid back of the islands where no cars are allowed, staying at the very simple Paradise Flycatchers Lodge (the Black Paradise Flycatcher, one of the rarest birds in the world, can be found on the island) costs pounds 979 a week, pounds 33 for each extra night.

Airwaves 0181 875 1199

NORTHERN LIGHTS

"Alternative Scandinavia" from Scantours has interesting holiday suggestions in the lesser known regions of Scandinavia, the Baltic Republics and Russia. The semi-autonomous Faroe Islands are reached via Copenhagen on Scantours' nine-day b&b holiday with four nights in the Danish capital and another four in Torshavn, the Faroes' capital, with bus and boat tours to bird cliffs and grottoes, ancient Viking settlements and local villages; cost: pounds 890.

In Norway, a 12-night holiday with a four-night stay in a fisherman's cottage in Mortsund, a working port in the Lofoten Islands, combined with two nights in Bergen and the rest aboard a traditional coastal steamer, costs from pounds 960, including flights and car hire in the Lofotens. A Spitzbergen Adventure Cruise with landings ashore in nimble Zodiac boats to explore the glaciers, icebergs and view birds, reindeer, Arctic foxes, seals, even polar bears, costs pounds 1664 for seven days

Scantours 0171 839 2927

ALL GREEK TO ME

Anyone arriving on the tiny Ionian island of Meganisi will recognise it as the elusive Greece of picture postcards from two decades ago, where the arrival of the little ferry from Nidri four miles away is still the major event of the day, and the best forms of transport are by mule or bike. There's only one taxi on the whole island, and its driver doubles as the local grocer. If you want to stay at the 20-roomed Meganisi Hotel, the only hotel on the island, Simply Ionian can arrange it for pounds 535 b&b for two weeks, which also includes return flights to Preveza, and transfer to Meganisi by speed-boat.

In the Dodecanese, Laskarina Holidays offer some of the most remote islands, including Tilos where there are still few vehicles, so you have to walk or hitch to the best beaches. A two-week apartment holiday costs pounds 559 including the flights.

Lipsi is even further off the beaten track - there's nothing much to do, but there are great beaches to do nothing on. Prices start at pounds 499 for two weeks in an apartment, including flights.

For independent travellers to the Greek Islands, flights only to Athens cost pounds 119 return fare, for students and under 26s, from STA Travel.

Simply Ionian 0181 995 1121; Laskarina Holidays 01629 824884; STA Travel 0171 361 6161

INDEPENDENTS DAY

Independent globetrotters who are under the age of 26 can get good fare deals from STA Travel, and there are also many bargains available for the over-26s. Just pounds 288 will take students and under-26s as far as Seattle and back, for example (pounds 322 for others), from where you could take the ferry up the Canadian coast to Alaska ... the best weather for treks there is just about now. Further south in the United States, from San Diego (pounds 312 and pounds 328 respectively) you can head down overland to Baja, California for some surfing or whale watching.

In South America, Recife in the north east of Brazil has just opened up to tourists - so why not make the most of its space for pounds 550 (under 26s only) or head for Buenos Aires (pounds 575 under 26's), and visit Tierra del Fuego with little more than penguins for company?

There's real peace and quiet in Western Australia where the return fare to Perth is from pounds 550 and pounds 583. The nearest to paradise you'll get to is in the South Pacific (Samoa and the Cook Islands, Moorea, Bora Bora, Fiji or Tonga) where fares cost from pounds 696 for students under 26, and pounds 725 for everyone else.

Back in Europe, look out for useful air and bus passes; northern and southern Europe air passes can be had for pounds 236, valid for any four flights taken within a period of six months.

A two week Eurobus pass costs pounds 99; one valid for a month is pounds l40 and a three-month pass is pounds 235, for unlimited coach travel in 12 countries.

STA Travel for Europe 0171 361 6161, worldwide 0171 361 6262; other fares available from Campus Travel 0171 730 8111 and Trailfinders 0171 938 3366 !

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