Med sun escapes
By Jeannine Williamson | November | 5 minute read
The British love affair with the Med shows no sign of cooling, with countries such as Cyprus reporting an 8.6% rise in UK arrivals from January to August 2017 and on track for another record-breaking year. Guaranteed sunshine, beautiful beaches, accommodation to suit all budgets and short flight times – what’s not to like?
“Croatia is the new ‘place to go’ and this is thanks in part to Game of Thrones, which showcased some of its stunning scenery and historic cities like Dubrovnik and Split”
LOUISE HEATLEY, HEAD OF PRODUCT AND CONTRACTING AT GREAT RAIL JOURNEYS
With its capital Valletta being crowned European Capital of Culture next year, Malta is in the spotlight. The destination combines the familiar sights of red telephone boxes and British stores with a unique culture, unspoilt countryside and a warm climate. Two distinct periods of rule – the Knights of the Order of St John of Jerusalem and the British – have shaped the island’s history and left a rich legacy of architecture and sights.
Malta has traditionally appealed to a mature market, but its family-friendly beaches, watersports – including some of the best dive sites in the Med – outdoor activities, spas, cuisine, nightlife, festivals and range of accommodation including rustic farmhouses and boutique hotels make it ideal for all age-groups and tastes.
New product: Air Malta relaunches weekly flights from Manchester to Malta from May 1, 2018. After the discontinuation of the route this summer, the decision was reversed in line with growth strategy.
The Med’s third-largest island, with 10,000 years of history, more than 300 days of sunshine and Europe’s cleanest bathing waters in Europe, offers many different experiences. The resorts of Larnaca, Limassol and quieter Paphos are all great bases for a stay, with easy access to the main attractions.
The Tombs of the Kings, where underground burial chambers resemble vast homes, is the top sight. Also on the ‘must see’ list is the ancient city kingdom of Kourion with its Greco-Roman theatre, while no visit is complete without taking a photo at Aphrodite’s rock, where the goddess of love was said to have risen from the waves.
Top tip: Animal lovers should head for Skarinou’s Golden Donkeys Farm, between Larnaca and Limassol. It’s home to 170 donkeys, once the island’s main mode of transport. Visitors can taste donkey milk and buy cosmetics made with it.
The most popular destination for Brits, with magnets including buzzing Benidorm, the beautiful coastal city of Barcelona and the island of Mallorca, with enticing resorts and the elegant capital of Palma, need little introduction. For something new, suggest Alicante in Valencia, an up-and-coming region combining beach, sun and a glamorous lifestyle with historic and cultural sites.
Travellers can experience the thrill of the Spanish Grand Prix with Shearings’ new 2018 tour. The 10-day half-board coach tour, departing May 8, is based in the resort of Santa Susanna and includes entry to both the qualifying rounds and race day near Barcelona.
Sell it: The Canary Island of La Palma is a 2018 new destination for Olympic Holidays. Seven nights B&B at the four-star Las Olas leads in from £390pp, including flights.
The closest Mediterranean island to the UK remains relatively uncommercialised. With the highest mountains and most rivers of any island in the Med, it’s a great destination for visitors that want to combine chill-out time with activities like canyoning, rock climbing and hiking, plus watersports along its 620-mile coastline.
Ajaccio, the capital, was the birthplace of Napoleon. Its 16th century old town is filled with pastel-coloured buildings. Aleria has the remains of a Roman town and winery, while Bastia is a quaint old port town.
Top tip: Known as the ‘Mountain of the Sea’, Corsica’s highest point is 8,891ft Monte Cintu and 20 other mountains reaching more than 6,560ft. It’s a paradise for keen cyclists who can follow challenging routes such as the one used in the 2013 Tour de France.
Most visitors head straight to the sun-drenched islands. From Crete – the largest – to the iconic white buildings of Santorini and livelier islands of Rhodes, Corfu and Kos, each one is different.
However, the mainland is also a delight. Halkidiki is where the Greeks holiday. Properties include the stunning five-star Eagles Palace Villas being offered by Travel2 from £1,089pp with flights and a lounge pass. Four Seasons opens its first property in Athens in spring 2018. Following a €100-million upgrade, the existing Astir Palace debuts as the 300-room Seasons Hotels and Resorts and Astir Palace. Also opening in May 2018 is Corfu’s luxurious 403-room Ikos Dassia resort, featured by Caribtours with all-inclusive prices from £1,129pp.
New product: Mark Warner is introducing foiling to its watersports programme in Kos and Rhodes for summer 2018. The thrilling new aspect to dinghy sailing and windsurfing involves hydrofoils and fins being used to increase speed.
Sporting one of the sunniest coastlines in Europe, which stretches for 3,625 miles, plus more than 1,244 islands, 16 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, eight national parks and excellent regional food and wine, Croatia has a broad appeal across all markets.
The jewel in the crown is Dubrovnik, the magnificent 15th century walled city that’s known as the ‘Pearl of the Adriatic’. Further down the coast is Split, the stylish port city and capital of the Dalmatia region that’s famous for its magnificent Diocletian’s Palace.
Island-hopping opens up another wealth of possibilities, including lavender scented Hvar, Korcula with its vineyards and olive groves and Brac, famous for its golden horn-shaped beach.
Sell it: Great Rail Journeys’ Classic Croatia & Adriatic Cruise summer tour starts from £2,295pp and takes in the islands and cities of the Dalmatian coast including Dubrovnik, Hvar and Mljet National Park.
Sicily and Sardinia, the Mediterranean’s largest and second-largest islands respectively, combine sunshine with classy sightseeing: Sicily is home to no less than seven UNESCO sites.
Sardinia’s glitzy Costa Esmeralda is studded with elite hotels and beautiful beaches.
Simply Luxury by Travel2 has added Sicily and Capri to its portfolio with 13 new properties.
For clients that want to stay on the move, Arena Rail Holidays has added two new Italian tours for summer 2018, including the eight-day Little Trains of Sardinia itinerary, departing June 2 from £1,449pp.
Back on the mainland, the Adriatic coast has plenty of safe beaches that are ideal for families.
Sell it: Titan’s new nine-day Enchanting Calabria tour will appeal to culture vultures as it explores dramatic coastlines and beautiful landscapes. From £1,499pp including flights and door-to-door transfers.