Winning tip: Walks on the wild side, Portugal
My friend and I wanted to do some winter walking where the weather was sunny. We found the GR15 walking route in the eastern Algarve from Vila Real de Santo Antonio on the coast inland to Alcoutim following the Guadiana river. There are also smaller routes off the GR15. Absolutely stunning views and unspoiled. We stayed in Almada D’Ouro at Casa Da Paz – a beautiful B&B with views on to the river and just one two-bedroom suite (from £70). We had a bedroom each. A fantastic breakfast with fruit, ham, cheeses and eggs is included. A fire in the evening. A great host.
Lapland paradise, Sweden
If you’re torn between a Lapland adventure but need your skiing fix, Luleå in northern Sweden offers the best of both worlds. Stay close to the frozen Baltic to experience husky rides, reindeer and northern lights, then take an hour’s drive to the small ski resort of Storklinten. This is where the locals head for a weekend of downhill or cross-country skiing, have lunch around a bonfire and enjoy perfect snow and luxuriously empty slopes.
Treat yourself to a night at the Tree Hotel or stay at the resort in one of the stylish cabins in the woods (Bear Lodge is great for families).
Intoxicating lounge bar, Gozo, Malta
Meaning “little room” in Maltese, “Gebuba” is both a Tardis and an Aladdin’s cave. Somehow your affable host, Govann, has squeezed more than 500 international beers and ciders, countless spirits and a sizable collection of wines into a space no bigger than the average sitting room. Malta’s sister island, Gozo, isn’t exactly blessed with bountiful hostelries, so if you’re in the mood for a liquid epicurean adventure after a hard day at the beach there really is only one place to go. Head to San Pietru u San Paul square in the village of Nadur , in front of the beautiful church, and choose your tipple.
• On Facebook
Beaches and anchovies, Italy
Cetara is a tiny town on the Amalfi Coast, past the hectic streets and restaurants of Sorrento and Positano. Famed for its anchovies, Cetara is a relaxing place to enjoy the delights of the Amalfi region without feeling like you need to finish your spaghetti alle vongole in record time! The beach is a perfect size, easy to access, and you’re never more than a stone’s throw from a restaurant. There’s a wide range of eateries offering fresh local seafood, pasta and pizza. I’d recommend Ristorante Acquapazza on Corso Garibaldi, where the owner kindly let us sit and drink during the evening and offered us a tasting of his notoriously delicious five-year-old marinated anchovies.
Perched on the edge of Europe, Greece
Finikounda, on the south-west tip of the Peloponnese, is literally at the edge of Europe. A scenic 90-minute bus ride south from Kalamata, it is a peaceful, authentic village, with Greeks outnumbering British visitors. Its cobbled main street runs adjacent to the curve of the blue flag beach, with several tavernas on the seaward side. Watch the moon rise over the bay as you enjoy delicious, homely Greek food and robust local wines for half the price you would pay on the islands. The sporadic transport links soon force a revelation –that significant delight lies in just “being” there.
Fabadas and fishing villages, Asturias
Fishing villages along the rough Cantabrian coast are worth the effort it takes to get there. One of the most breathtaking is Lastres. Jump off a bus at the top of the village and stumble down its steep, breezy streets. At Restaurante Marbella on Calle Corea it’s worth the short wait for a seat on the terrace that juts out from the back, with the mountains and sea stretching either side. A hearty fabada (Asturian bean stew) and a bottle of sidra are perfect for sharing. The compact sandy beach at the bottom of the town is ideal for a post-lunch nap as the sun dips towards the hills.
Mountain hideaway, Slovenia
With three sides dominated by the Julian Alps and a steep mountain pass providing the only road access, Drežnica is not a place many stumble across by chance. Relax, a bright-yellow new-build holiday home with a heartwarming wood-chip boiler and uber-modern amenities, somehow fits perfectly into the mountainside setting. Slovenians are famously hospitable, and our wonderful hosts brought us fresh cow’s milk, and a delicious homemade dessert. Its an easy walk to Slap Kozjak, where the water tumbles 50m towards the emerald-green Soca river. And the foodie paradise of Kobarid is just 8km away.
• On Airbnb, sleeps 5, from around €110 a night
Tranquil wildlife haven, Lithuania
Nida is the last of the four former fishermen’s villages on the Curonian Spit – a thin strip of land in Lithuania with the Baltic Sea on one side and the Curonian Lagoon on the other. Through most of the year, it’s a tranquil haven for fishermen, visiting artists and the many animals that inhabit the spit (all of it is a nature reserve). During the summer, it gets busy as the tourists arrive for the sandy beaches, electronic music and jazz festivals, and the regatta. Ferry and environmental charge for a car with passengers around €30.
Pirates’ lookout, Mallorca
Away from Alcúdia’s stunning 6km white beach, are two sandy coves – Mal Pas and S’illot; with arguably the clearest water on the island, these are ideal for snorkelling. Or you could continue through aromatic pine forests to the peaceful Ermita de la Victoria. But for unbeatable island views, follow the footpath behind the hermitage for Mirador de Penya del Migdia. There are chains on tougher parts of the path, while far below is the blue only the Med can be. Spring is perfect as autumn can be rainy – less than ideal for walking along cliff edges. No idea how they got the cannon to the top!
Fairy chimneys, French Pyrenees
Forty minutes’ drive inland from Argelès on France’s Côte Vermeille, in the foothills of the Pyrenees, lies Ille-sur-Têt and Les Orgues. Free parking and a €5 ticket gives access to a meandering dust track. It’s an easy 15-minute walk, enhanced by quirky metal sculptures, before you arrive at the main event: stunning rock formations, the likes of which can’t be seen outside the US or Turkey. Les Orgues translates as “organ pipes”, which might best describe these extraordinary sand and clay structures; children might prefer “fairy chimneys”. Take water if visiting during the summer and enjoy a cooling drink at the cafe at the bottom. A small giftshop sells honey and other artisanal produce.
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