Whether it’s a quick city break or a two-week villa-based sojourn, Brits are still in love with the Mediterranean and there are still ‘new’ spots waiting to be discovered.

Timeless classics

For many Brits, summer holidays are synonymous with the coveted blue hues and sugar cube villas of the Med and this spiritual home of package holidays has seen an upsurge in popularity of late.

It’s a summer holiday staple, and although the collapse of Thomas Cook was a blow to many resorts in the region, tour operators are scrambling to increase their capacity in these classic destinations as well as increasing tours, offering fresh ways to see familiar places and lesser-known spots.

Greece is the word on many tour operators’ lips, with a flush of new destinations and tours on sale for 2020. Leading the way is the UK’s second-largest tour operator, Jet2holidays, which has put a twist on a timeless classic by adding a handful of less familiar Greek destinations.

According to Head of Trade Sales, Alan Cross, Jet2holidays flights and package holidays to Greece have experienced “phenomenal demand from both customers and independent travel agents alike.”

He added: “On the back of this demand, we have launched four new Greek destinations for Summer 20 – Lesvos, Peloponnese, Skiathos and Preveza. With 12 Greek destinations now on sale, including Corfu, Crete (Heraklion and Chania), Kefalonia, Kos, Rhodes, Halkidiki and Zante, we are offering holidaymakers more choice and flexibility in Greece than ever before.”

In the same vein, TUI Fly has expanded capacity to Greece for summer 2020 with almost every third flight headed to the islands of Corfu, Crete, Kos and Rhodes, accounting for 30% of its total planned seats. It will also add more flights to Santorini and Skiathos from Newcastle and Bournemouth airports.

In fact, TUI still sees the Mediterranean and southern Europe as a region for future growth, commenting: “Greece, Turkey, and the Balearics will all see significant growth in summer 2021, as these beach hotspots continue to grow in popularity and prove to be a big hit with families and couples alike. Hundreds of hotels will be available to choose from, including the Thomas Cook favourites recently added.”

Increased demand for Greek and Turkish destinations has also led British Airways to introduce new routes to Kos and Antalya.

Hidden treasures

It seems familiar because it’s almost on our doorstep, but the Mediterranean still has secrets to reveal. Alongside Jet2holidays’ fresh destinations in Greece, a clutch of tour operators have turned their attention to unveiling these hidden treasures on small group tours for 2020.

“We are noticing that even closer to home our customers are becoming more adventurous,” says Shearings Holidays’ Product Director, Matthew Herbert. “Our Go By Air tours in Europe address this with exciting new touring itineraries to destinations such as Morocco and Cyprus.”

On the Mediterranean’s far eastern shores, Lebanon has crept onto the radar as a hot holiday destination for next year, with FCO advice against travel to the destination being lifted at the end of 2018.

Saga Holidays was one operator quick to seize the opportunity with its new Lebanon tour. Product and Purchasing Executive, Ellis Manning, said: “This modern country is bouncing back and guests will have the opportunity to experience the Mediterranean coastline, forested mountain ranges, local wine tasting and some of the finest examples of Roman architecture on our eight-night tour.”

Explore has introduced a collection of exciting cycling holidays to the Mediterranean for 2020 which also includes an itinerary in Lebanon. Explore’s Programme Manager for Cycling, James Adkin, comments: “Our new trips for 2020 really go to show that cycling can be the best way to see the landscapes of a country and really get under its skin.”

Algeria, another largely unknown country, has a long Mediterranean coastline that’s ripe for discovery and small operators such as Wild Frontiers offer unique itineraries that include the sleepy town of Tipasa, its sandy shores strewn with ancient Roman ruins.

Although the Mediterranean is still popular, travellers are looking for new ways to explore. When it comes to seeing familiar places from a fresh perspective, says Adkins. The operator’s 00Cycle Bosnia and Montenegro trip includes exploring Sarajevo, which it describes as ‘the Jerusalem of Europe’, Lake Skadar National Park – Montenegro’s and the Balkans’ largest lake – and a stay in Virpazar, a traditional Montenegrin village.

As well as its usual trekking itineraries connecting travellers to the lay of the land, Ramblers Walking Holidays has branched out to add more ‘well-anchored walking adventures’ to its product range – offering cruise and walk holidays in collaboration with Fred.Olsen Cruise Lines. Exploring the Med coast from both land and sea, there are tours covering the Italian Riviera and the Amalfi Coast or classic itineraries stopping in the historic Greek ports of Athens and Heraklion, Crete.

Ramblers’ Groups and Public Relations Manager for the Travel Trade, Salvatore Maniscalco, says the tour operator’s decision to introduce a new Mediterranean and Her islands tour was partly down to the growing demand for holidays in the region, but also due to an upsurge in travellers booking cruises, which is being fuelled by the Brexit situation.

“People are realising that by going on a cruise you can to some extent avoid the uncertainty and potential passport pitfalls of a ’no deal’ or unknown outcome and still plan ahead to enjoy a fantastic holiday around the Mediterranean, exploring its coastline, with the added adventure of stepping ashore, in a small group, to explore some truly remote and fascinating destinations on foot,” says Maniscalco.

“Offering a longer duration cruise also means our clients get to experience a lot more and make the most of their time island-hopping between a fascinating selection of destinations which would be complicated to do otherwise.”

As a firm family favourite that shows no sign of stalling, tour operators are offering fresh ways for families to explore too. Families can trade in the bucket and spade cliché for a mask and snorkel on Explore’s new Turkish Coast Adventure, for instance. The tour includes a night inside Cappadocia’s famous ‘fairy chimneys’ and Mediterranean mountain strolls, letting travellers see the region’s stirringly-beautiful shores from all angles.

As ABTA’s 2020 travel trends report points out, Europe was the number one choice for British holidaymakers in the year leading up to July 2019, with 84% visiting the continent, and 57% of the travellers the organsiation surveyed saying they plan to take a trip there in 2020 too. And with Mediterranean giant Turkey showing double-digit growth, it looks like the region will be a strong seller in the next decade too.

Where to book it

Jet2Holidays offers a seven-night self catering holidays in Lesvos, Greece (one of the operator’s new destinations in the northern Aegean Sea off Turkey) is from £539pp, departing in May 2020, and based on two sharing with flights and a 22kg baggage allowance.