Shake up your summer holiday


By Amanda Statham, travel editor of Cosmopolitan

Photography by Chris Winsor/Getty Images

Skip to Navigation

March 2017

Whether you’re looking for Caribbean-style beaches closer to home or want to indulge in a hefty dose of culture without the crowds, these alternative escapes are guaranteed to make your summer sizzle.

If you like the Caribbean, try Halkidiki

Best for… beach lovers

Gold sand, turquoise sea and waving palms… Halkidiki in Greece has all the charms of the Caribbean – just minus the nine-hour flight. What’s more, the three-fingered peninsula, which extends into the Aegean Sea, has a laid-back appeal that’s hard to beat. If you can bear to leave your lounger, Sithonia, the next peninsula along, has a wilder beauty with rugged mountains, deserted bays and the ancient city of Toroni to be explored. And a boat trip around the coastline of Unesco World Heritage Site Mount Athos, the third peninsula, is a must-do to catch a glimpse of its magnificent monasteries, which are off-limit to tourists.

Gold sand, turquoise sea and waving palms… Halkidiki has all the charms of the Caribbean – just minus the nine-hour flight

Where to stay

Kassandra, the western point and most developed of the three peninsulas, is home to Sani Resort, which overlooks Mount Olympus. Check-in to sophisticated Sani Beach and enjoy days relaxing on a dazzling white sand beach and evenings feasting on Greek meze, such as vine leaves in herbs, at oceanfront Verandah Restaurant.

Book your Halkidiki holiday

  • Chill out in Ibiza Old Town © villorejo / Alamy Stock Photo

    Did you know… ?

    Ibiza’s reputation as a party destination dates back thousands of years. The Phoenician settlers who founded the island in 645BC originally called it ‘Ibozzim’, and dedicated the island to Bes – the god of music and dance.

    Discover Ibiza holidays
  • Osiou Gregoriou monastery on Mount Athos, Halkidiki © vlasidis/Getty Images

    A holy sight

    Visitors aren’t permitted on Mount Athos – aka the Holy Mountain – and its monasteries, but you can see them in all their glory on a cruise around the peninsula from Ouranoupolis.

    Book a Halkidiki holiday
  • A villa at Crete’s Daios Cove

    Rooms with views

    Every one of the resort’s 300 rooms, 70 suites and 39 villas come complete with wall-to-ceiling windows with jaw-dropping views of the Vathi Bay.

    Book a stay

If you like Cyprus, try Crete

Best for… ancient sights

If you like your Mediterranean islands to have a heavy dose of golden beaches, ancient cities, great nightlife and more than their fair share of hip hotels, you’ll love Crete. Thanks to a mild climate, Greece’s largest island is a European hot spot from April to October.

If you do nothing else, book a day trip to Spinalonga, a beautiful Unesco-protected island with a ruined fortress, before returning for seafood at sunset at Topos, the luxurious Domes of Elounda resort’s seafront restaurant overlooking the island. Culture vultures should book a hop-on hop-off bus tour in Heraklion, Crete’s largest city, to soak up the atmosphere at Minoan palace Knossos, visit the impressive Archaeological Museum and enjoy amazing vistas at Koules Venetian Fortress, which has a turret you can climb on the harbour walls. Those seeking a more laid-back adventure should head for the dreamy beaches of Chania’s stunning stretch of coastline.

Where to stay

Stylish resort Daios Cove near the pretty whitewashed harbour town of Agios Nikolaos, makes an ideal base from which to explore.

Search holidays in Crete

  • Crete’s hauntingly beautiful Spinalonga island is steeped in history © Joe Daniel Price/Getty Images

    Did you know… ?

    Spinalonga is home to an ancient fortress dating back to 3,000BC, which was the last 20th-century leper colony in Europe – as featured in Victoria Hislop’s best-selling novel The Island. Book flights from London to Crete, plus a seven-night hotel stay from:£175 pp

    Book flights and hotels

If you like Turkey, try Dubrovnik

Best for… culture vultures

If your heart sores at the sight of Istanbul’s skyline of Byzantine church spires and domed Ottoman mosques, you’re going to fall in love with Dubrovnik. This magnificent Croatian city – known as the Pearl of the Adriatic – has an old town ringed by ancient walls which you can walk along and gaze down on the terracotta roofs, stone houses and narrow lanes that have remained unchanged for centuries. Fans of epic TV hit Game of Thrones will be thrilled to learn the city doubled as King’s Landing in the show – you can take a walking tour to discover where key scenes were filmed, such as the Purple Wedding. Dubrovnik is more than a city destination, however – step outside the fortress and discover beaches lapped by the sparkling Adriatic and stunning islands such as Lokrum, just a 10-minute ferry ride from the Old Harbour and home to a botanical garden and Benedictine monastery.

Where to stay

Combine city and seaside at Bellevue Dubrovnik, a sleek cliff-top hotel that’s a 20-minute walk from the historic centre with its own beach, cave restaurant and excellent spa.

Discover holidays in Dubrovnik

If you like Majorca, try Ibiza

Best for… glitz and glamour

The Balearic paradise has all the glitz and glamour of Majorca with a hefty dose of barefoot beach chic too. For a party on your doorstep, Playa d’en Bossa, a two-mile stretch of some of the best super clubs and bars in the world, is a great place to start. But those looking to escape the crowds can head away from the tourist hot spots and discover the untouched coves and rustic seaside restaurants of sleepy Santa Eulalia on the eastern coast of the island. Spend a day exploring Ibiza Old Town for boutiques selling pretty white linen dresses and shirts, tapas restaurants and pavement cafés hidden away along the narrow lanes. And if you’re keen to get the famous Ibizan boho style, hippy markets at Las Dalia and Cala Llonga are a great place to pick up one-of-a-kind jewellery, clothes and accessories.

Where to stay

Join the party crowds at hip Hotel Torre Del Mar, with its white day beds, circular pool and spa (ideal to recover in after a big night out). Those seeking the quieter side of island life should check in at Aguas De Ibiza Lifestyle and Spa an eco-chic retreat where you can sip Ibiza Sling cocktails on the roof terrace before tucking into tuna carpaccio by the infinity pool.

Book your Ibiza holiday

If you like Spain, try the Algarve

Best for... families

Mainland Spain is a Brit favourite: from the Costa Del Sol in the south to Bilbao in the north, it’s got everything you could need for a lively sun, sea and sand holiday. Yet just over the border in Portugal is an equally fabulous stretch of coastline waiting to be explored.

Surfers head to the wild southwest, where Atlantic rollers hit the shore of deserted beaches and pods of dolphins can be spotted from cliff-top paths. Despite its edge-of-the-world vibe – America is the next place you come to if you continue to travel west – this peaceful pocket is home picturesque villages that sit amid groves of olive trees and untouched golden beaches, while the centre of the region is home to coastal cities like Albufeira, with its buzzy nightlife, and Vilamoura, a popular resort with a marina overlooked by bars, restaurants and designer shops.

Where to stay

Martinhal Sagres is a cool and contemporary escape set in a national park with more activities than you can possibly do in a week, from tennis and hiking to cocktails in the surf-themed M Bar. Golf-lovers should check-in to Anantara Victoria Vilamoura, a sumptuous five-star hotel overlooking an Arnold Palmer-designed course.

Search holidays in the Algarve