Tired of the same old holiday resorts? Fed up with crowds descending on your favourite beach? Escape the masses and head to Europe’s top undiscovered summer destinations
Wouldn’t it be nice to come back from your holiday and be able to tell your friend about the resort you’ve just visited without them having been there, done that and bought the villa there?
For those travellers brave enough to buck the trend and head to somewhere unheard of, booking a holiday to an unusual European holiday destination can pay dividends.
Dobrota and Budva, Montenegro
Croatia may have become a holiday honeypot for wealthy Europeans but Montenegro, to the south, shares the same fantastic climate and has crystal-clear waters. Boka Kotorska Bay is one of the most spectacular natural fjords in the world and lies an hour and a half from Dubrovnik.
Boka’s numerous waterside hamlets offer culture, history, superb dining and luxury stays for half the price of Hvar and the rest. Accommodation ranges from old stone apartments to ten-room hotels with private pebble beaches.
The tiny village of Dobrota is a peaceful enclave and sits right on the banks of the fjord. Dobrota’s Palazzo Radomiri hotel has sunset yoga classes on its open-air terrace, a plunge pool, a private sunbathing jetty and double rooms starting from £104 a night.
The family-run restaurant next door (the four outdoor tables sit on a stone pontoon over the water) is worth the stay alone. Taxis are refreshingly cheap (think Split ten years ago) so it’s no problem if you fancy nipping to the popular town of Kotor or neighbouring Perast for an evening out.
Away from the manicured golf courses of Quinta do Lago and Vale de Lobo, the western Algarve has a distinctly more Portuguese flavour. Ferragudo’s beaches are blissfully crowd-free and the tiny fishing village is home to a clutch of waterfront tavernas, which grill fresh fish every evening on open charcoal fires.
Ferragudo’s Grande beach is family friendly but never teeming with toddlers and Club Nau and the super-cool, Dutch-run Kalu beach bar are great for sea-view lunches.
Along the coast between Ferragudo and Carvoiera, several coves cut in to the burnt-orange cliffs. Take your pick and you’ll often be the only visitors for the whole afternoon. Caneiros beach, a 30-minute clifftop walk from Ferragudo, has draped cabanas for hire, massages on site and the excellent Reis das Praias restaurant.
Tresco, Scilly Isles
The Scilly Isles have bays to rival the Bahamas (yes, really) and lie 28 miles off the coast of Cornwall, keeping visitor numbers manageable. As the islands lie in the warm gulf stream, palm trees and sub-tropical plants flourish here and temperatures are on average much warmer than mainland UK.
Tresco is the second largest of the islands and is ideal for exploring by bike. You can also hire a boat, windsurf or kayak from the Isles of Scilly Sailing Centre.
There’s very little traffic (mostly horses and bikes) and very little phone signal. For a get-away-from-it-all holiday, these sand-spit islands and their gin-clear waters are a top pick.
Lake Bled, Slovenia
In a nutshell, this is one of the most beautiful countries in eastern Europe. The alpine forests and lakes of Slovenia boast some of the best activity centres around and the scenery is spectacular with huge emerald lakes, towering mountain trails, icy waterfalls and giant gorges.
The unspoilt town of Radovljica lies near Lake Bled and is a perfect jumping off point for cyclists and activity hunters. The town has white-washed houses, some adorned with beautiful frescos, quiet squares and traditional tavernas serving authentic food.
Festivals run during the summer and visitors can cycle to Lake Bled to hire row boats, kayaks and go rafting.
Sagres, at the very tip of Portugal’s coast, has a final-frontier feel with dramatic cliffs and a wide sweeping bay. From nearby Cape Saint Vincent lighthouse, the next stop across the Atlantic is America, but Sagres is no tumbleweed backwater.
Those in the know flock to the small beach town catch some of the best surf Europe has to offer. The laid-back vibe, small town and beach cafes will suit those wanting to chill out and pick up a board.
The cosmopolitan student town of Cluj, surrounded by acres of Transylvanian countryside and forests (good for trekking and cycling), has open-air festivals running throughout summer and is a top pick for a wallet-friendly holiday.
The city large parks, tree-lined squares, baroque architecture and many ancient churches. You can eat very well in Cluj for very little and in recent years there’s been a boom in modern cocktail bars and alfresco dining. Boutique hotels are springing up fast and room prices compare extremely favourably with the traditional city break destinations of Venice, Rome and Paris.