Spring is definitely in the air, and for many sun lovers, it’s time to start planning their summer holidays. Whether you’re planning well in advance or you’re looking for a last minute break to a beautiful sun trap, we’re here to recommend the best European destinations for sun lovers.
1. Try a traditional holiday with a difference in Portugal.
Portugal is a popular choice with sun lovers, in 2014 Portugal topped a poll of European holiday destinations. It’s easy to see why – whether you’re looking to relax on a pristine beach or revel in a cultural experience, Portugal has it all.
For beaches, it’s hard to find somewhere that could hold a candle to the Algarve. Despite being a tourist hotspot, it’s easy to escape the crowds and find tiny private beaches nestled amongst the rocks which are only accessible by boat. With its clean sandy beaches and stunning white cliffs setting off the deep azure of its clear waters, the Algarve feels like a faraway paradise, despite only being a 3-hour flight away from the UK.
If you’re looking for a cultural visit even further from the tourist crowds, a visit to Porto, Portugal’s second largest city and namesake, might be in order. You don’t have to like its signature drink – Port – to enjoy Porto. The city centre has a magical medieval charm, particularly evident in its gilded churches, but this aura is offset by the city’s contemporary buzz. You can find bright modern art galleries, theatres, cafés and restaurants on every street.
2. Experience incredible diving in historic Malta.
The beautiful island of Malta continues to be popular with sun lovers for one very simple reason: Malta boasts around 300 sunny days per year, meaning a holiday without sun is rare. Its year-round sunshine, coupled with the cleanest waters in the Mediterranean and a rich and diverse history, make Malta a unique holiday destination.
Located between Europe and North Africa, these three charming islands were first occupied by the Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans and Arabs, and more recently, the French and British. The former left behind some of the oldest stone buildings in the world and archaeological sites dating back nearly 7000 years, while the latter left behind red post boxes, phone booths, and their language, meaning that for many Malta feels like a home away from home.
The coastline of Malta’s three islands boasts a range of diving conditions which are ideal for both new and experienced divers. Beginners can try shallow dives at around 12-metres at Għar Lapsi. More confident divers should head to the challenging Lantern Point which has a 50-metre deep underwater tunnel where colours appear brighter by the light of your diving torch. The coastline of the Maltese archipelago offers a wide range of other dives where you can explore the cliffs, reefs and wrecks which surround the islands.
3. Discover sunshine and history on a Greek Island.
Greece and its islands are enduringly popular with sun lovers. Lord Byron said of the Greek Islands “Eternal summer gilds them yet, But all, except their sun, is set,” in 1818, and they remain a top holiday destination to this day. This is, at least in part, due to the fact that Greece covers over 6000 islands and islets, of which only 277 are inhabited.
Greece’s geographical makeup has led to its hundreds of years of exploration and discovery. Of course, this also means that there are thousands of miles of Greek coastline to explore, many of which are beautiful beaches perfect for soaking up the bright summer sunshine. Greece is often heralded as the birthplace of civilization, with many of the cultural forms we know and love today stemming from the region, including the modern theatre with its roots in the Greek tragedies and comedies, and democracy itself.
There’s always something to do around the Greek mainland or its many outlying islands; whether it’s exploring ancient olive groves or lush pistachio orchards, sampling anise flavoured Ouzo, or visiting the many classical temples and archaeological sites which span thousands of years.
4. Embrace or avoid the crowds in Croatia.
Holidays to Croatia are increasingly popular, with stays in the magnificent walled city of Dubrovnik seeing a particular uplift thanks to its feature on the hit TV show Game of Thrones.
But even those not au fait with the show will enjoy the spectacular medieval architecture, the calm waters of the Adriatic with their striking deep blue colour, and the countless cafés and restaurants. There’s even a chance for a celebrity sighting with big names like Brian Ferry and Tina Turner being seen in this holiday hotspot.
For those looking to avoid the throng of tourists seen in the major cities, a trip to the countryside might be more agreeable: perhaps to the undulating hills of Pula where you can taste the real Croatia or to the dramatic landscape of the Dalmatian mountains where you can hike all day. Alternatively, island hopping around the Dalmatian coast is perfect for sun lovers, with dozens of dazzling beaches to discover on the shores of the Adriatic.
Inspiration: Voyage Privé