Where to go for your summer holiday: Family escapes, cultural trips, and adrenaline adventures

Sterling may be sliding and many popular destinations deemed off-limits, but there is still scope for a summer escape if you get in ahead of the crowds, says James Ellis

The pound may be sliding against currencies in our summer holiday favourites, but reduced spending power isn’t having an adverse effect on travel to popular eurozone destinations such as Spain and Portugal. Indeed, political instability and perceived danger in previous summer hotspots such as Tunisia, Egypt, and Turkey has lead to surge in demand for holidays in “safer” short- and mid-haul beach destinations, according to Abta – The Travel Association. It claims that bookings to Spain through its travel company members are up 27 per cent this summer. 

You’d be forgiven for thinking that if you haven’t already booked your escape, you’ll be limited to trips to your local park or lido. However, broaden your remit a little further than the traditional sun-drenched honeypots and you’ll find there are holidays with decent availability and a not-too-hefty price tag attached, waiting for your custom.


Have a blast in Biarittz

Head away from the crowds on the Med by dashing to France’s Atlantic coast. The pretty Basque seaside town of Biarritz offers a mix of French and Spanish culture and is easily accessible thanks to new British Airways (0344 493 0787; ba.com) flights from Heathrow, launching in May in addition to Ryanair’s (0871 246 0000; ryanair.com) existing Stansted link. 

Manoir d’Ascain is a beautifully-restored six-bedroom luxury villa in the village of Ascain, ideal for large families or groups. It comes with a home cinema, lawned gardens and a heated pool, while the sandy beaches of St Jean de Luz are a short drive away. Seven nights’ self-catering costs from £3,100 for 12 people through Quality Villas, with good availability in June, July, and August (01442 870055; qualityvillas.com). 

Manoir d'Ascain, Biarritz

Croatia camping

Cut down on the cost of a summer break with a camping holiday in Croatia. Porec’s Camping Lanterna has a series of new “moda” lodges – stylish two- and three-bedroom offerings with decks overlooking a parkland setting. The site, set on a bay on the Istrian peninsula, is home to watersports, tennis and mini golf, as well as a pool complex. Seven nights’ self-catering in a three-bedroom lodge (sleeps eight) costs from £1,557 through Canvas Holidays (0345 268 0853; canvasholidays.co.uk). Ryanair flies from Stansted to Trieste, around 90 minutes’ drive across the border from Italy.

Island hopping at home

If you can’t face the prospect of flying or driving long distances this summer, head to the sunniest part of the British Isles for an island-hopping experience. A new trip offered by Channel Islands Direct takes in Guernsey, plus car-free Herm and Sark, where you’ll be closer to France than England, but still able to spend in sterling. The latter two islands are all sand dunes, rock pools, and undisturbed beaches; on Sark, horse-drawn carriages and tractors ferry luggage from the port to hotels. Three nights’ B&B in Guernsey, two nights on Sark and two on Herm costs from £569 per person including ferry travel from Poole (08444 937 095; channelislandsdirect.co.uk).


Join the Crew in Greece

Costa Navarino, a luxury resort on the southern Peloponnese coast, launches a new teens’ club this year. Exlcusive to Scott Dunn customers, Crew will offer a flexible 18-hour programme split over six days for over-10s. There’s no clubhouse or timetable; instead a mix of water and land-based activities, including wakeboarding, paddle boarding, rock climbing and go-karting are on offer. Parents will have to make do with the fantastic restaurants, spa, and high-end sporting facilities. 

The region will soon become more accessible thanks to a new BA flight from Heathrow to Kalamata starting 30 April. Seven nights’ half-board starts at £1,580pp with flights from Heathrow (020 3355 6724; scottdunn.com)

Stay cool in Kalkan

Tourism in Turkey is suffering thanks to the war in neighbouring Syria. Two specialist tour operators have gone bust in the last year, Thomas Cook has switched 800,000 seats to alternative destinations this summer, while Mark Warner has pulled out of the country completely this season. However, glitzy resorts such as Kalkan are a good 600 miles from the Syrian border, as well as Ankara and Istanbul, where recent attacks have ocurred. Even so, visitors are staying away, meaning that summer bargains are available. 

The Turquoise Coast hosts the Lycian Food Festival in May and the Festival of the Sea in July, while the more adventurous can kayak over the underwater city of Kekova and gaze down at its ruined buildings. 

Villa Sultaniye is a three-bedroom villa with a private pool and sea views near Kalkan Town. Seven nights’ self-catering cost from £950 in May, when the house is available during half term (0113 2941834; kalkanmagic.com).


Croatia for couples

The Zadar Riviera is a lesser-known stretch of the Dalmatian coast combining the towns of Biograd Na Moru, Vodice and Sibenik. The former has great beaches, watersports and a wide range of bars, restaurants and shops, as well as being home to the swish Hotel Adriatic, which overlooks a marina, 20 metres from the town’s Blue Flag beach. Vrgada island, with its golden beaches, pretty coves and pine forests; and the 89 islands of Kornati National Park make for excellent excursions. 

A week’s B&B at the hotel costs from £429 per person, including flights from Stansted on 2 May (01425 480400; prestigeholidays.co.uk)

Make for Montenegro

On the heels of neighbouring Croatia, Montenegro is making a play for high-spending summer visitors with the construction of the exclusive Porto Montenegro marina in the Bay of Kotor. However, you don’t have to have pockets as deep as the former military marina to enjoy this glittering stretch of coast. EasyJet is launching direct flights from Manchester to Tivat from 27 March. 

From here, head to the pretty fishing town of Becici, home to a 1.5-mile beach that was voted Europe’s best in the mid-1930s before it was closed to western tourists by Tito’s communist regime. A week’s B&B at the beachfront Montenegro Beach Resort costs from £667 per person with flights from Manchester on 21 July through easyJet Holidays (020 3499 5232; easyjet.com/holidays).


Sizzling Sicily

The British Museum (britishmuseum.org) unveils a new Sicily: Culture and Conquest exhibition next month (21 April-14 August), showcasing 4,000 years of the island’s history and casting its riches in the spotlight. 

If you want to sample the island like a local, head to the laid-back south coast with its late Baroque towns of Val di Noto, Ragusa and Modica. Stay at Villa Vendicari, a four-bedroom property owned by fashion designer Luisa Beccaria, with a pool created from an old vasca water tank. Set on an estate with orange, almond and olive groves, it is just a few minutes’ walk from the sandy beach of Vendicari. Seven nights’ self-catering costs from €3,875 (£2,996) for eight guests (020 7043 2188; avenueproperty.com). 

Into Iran

Thanks to last year’s historic nuclear deal, Iran is open to tourism for the first time since 2011. Indeed, British Airways will restore its route from Heathrow to Tehran on 14 July. 

Home to some of the finest examples of Islamic architecture in the world and landscapes ranging from snow-clad mountains to inhospitable deserts, it’s a varied country with excellent cuisine and friendly locals. 

Exodus is leading the throng returning to the country by offering a 15-night group trip that takes in sights including capital Tehran, Shiraz, the troglodyte village of Meymanden and the ruined city of Persepolis. 15 nights’ mixed board costs £2,599pp, including flights from Heathrow on 27 August (0845 805 9418; exodus.co.uk).


Germany’s island hideaway

Say Germany and you’re hardly likely to think beach holiday, but the Baltic Coast has some particularly good stretches of sand, especially on Rügen Island, a summer resort hidden for years behind the Iron Curtain. Discover it on a new cycling holiday offered by Inntravel that ventures down country lanes, taking in towering chalk cliffs and fishing villages, Belle Epoque architecture and a ghostly holiday camp commissioned by Hitler. A week’s B&B on the island costs from £995pp, including five dinners, cycle hire and return Dover-Calais ferry crossings. Departures available daily from May to October (01653 617001; inntravel.co.uk).

Albania's Accursed Mountains

Albania’s Alps

Hikers will find it hard to resist a trip that takes in a range known as the Accursed Mountains. Located a few hours north of capital Tirana, the Dinaric Alps are home to ancient shepherds’ trails that pass through flower-filled meadows and past towering chalk cliffs. 

Responsible Travel is offering a new group walking holiday in the region based in family-owned guesthouses – helping generate income for isolated communities. A week’s B&B, with most other meals, costs from £999pp, including flights from Gatwick or Heathrow on various dates throughout the summer (01273 823 700; responsibletravel.com).

Greener Greece

When the temperatures rise in Greece, so do visitors to the coast. Go against the flow by heading inland to the rustic-chic Aristi Mountain Resort in Zagori in the north-western Pindus mountains. Newly added to National Geographic’s Unique Lodges of the World collection, its rooms feature exposed stone walls and modern furnishings. Guests can take part in mushroom hunting, rafting and swimming in rivers. Double rooms start at €140 (£108), B&B (00 30 26530 41330; aristi.eu).  


Wine-stay winner

Stay on a working French wine estate. Château St Pierre de Serjac, a short drive from Beziers and Sète, opens this month. The estate is home to a luxurious hotel and 36 stylish self- catering villas, with nearby sights and activities including beaches, national parks, fishing villages, castles and canals. The vineyard is in the Languedoc, which is more affordable than its glitzy neighbours, the Côte d’Azur and Provence. A week’s self-catering in a three-bedroom pool villa costs from £3,780 on select dates in July and August (0345 686 6505; serjac.com).

Jersey’s just royal

Jersey’s lobsters, oysters, dairy and potatoes mean it’s gaining a gourmet reputation, and that bountiful larder also means that for a small island it carries a big Michelin-starred punch, with four restaurants boasting the coveted guide-book gong. Stay at the refined Atlantic hotel for a fine-dining experience at its Michelin-starred Ocean restaurant. A three-night Michelin package costs from £571pp including flights from Gatwick on 20 May (01534 496 650; jerseytravel.com).