Gloriously wild in parts, the Costa Brava has some of the finest Blue
Flag beaches in Europe
Think that’s where their dedication ends? Think again. Since January, we have
also been offering free
destination-guide apps to some of your favourite cities worldwide,
including Venice, Paris, Rome, Barcelona and Edinburgh. Built with offline
GPS access, avoiding pricey data roaming charges, our highly-rated apps
offer interactive maps, even more recommendations from our experts, and
numerous helpful features, including a “what’s nearby” option.
To paraphrase the evocative song, and with Ella Fitzgerald’s soulful rendition
in mind, it will soon be summertime, the season for living easy – let
Telegraph Travel’s team of trusted experts take the stress out of your
summer holiday planning, and help make your life just that little bit easier
A taste of the Greek Islands
There has been a resurgence of pride in regional specialities (including wine
from legacy grape varieties) across the Greek Islands, and of cooking based
on the superb raw materials that were always a mainstay of tavernas
patronised by Greeks rather than tourists. Crete has figured prominently in
this revival, drawing on such local ingredients as flavoured rusks, fresh or
cured meats, wild edible weeds and of course rakí or tsikoudiá. Restaurants
leading the way include Rakodikeio (0030 694 577 4407), in Réthymno , which
is an exquisite little ouzerí , popular with local university students,
offering creative takes on Cretan standards – for example, pork fried with
saffron and ouzo, Hánia-style píta (turnover), apák (cured streaky pork),
and beet salad with yogurt and walnuts; also Ouzythino, in Neahóra, Hánia,
for mountainous servings of delicacies such as marinated anchovies, Sfakian
sausage and cheese-stuffed peppers.
Santoríni is best approached by sea to truly appreciate the island’s
sheer lava cliffs
Order an assortment of mezédes (appetisers) to share, rather than expensive
mains for each diner. Hima wine, ordered by the quarter, half or full kilo
(a litre, that is, but the Greeks universally quote the weight), is cheaper
than bottled and usually drinkable. If in doubt, start with just a quarter
(a katroútso in slang) and order a soda, which makes even the harshest wine
quaffable – though interestingly, this will get you tiddly faster. Or you
can ask to taste first.
Marc Dubin first visited Greece in 1978 and was immediately drawn by the
Aegean light (which spurred him on as a photographer), the pace of life
compared to America or Britain, swimming in the brilliant blue sea, the
music, and even the then-unpolished food. Marc has lived part-time on Samos
Life’s a beach in Cornwall
England’s most south-westerly county is defined by its magnificent coastline,
with 300 miles of dunes and cliffs, medieval harbours and oak-forested
creeks – and every mile accessible on foot. The coast – and coastal
communities – took a battering last winter but nearly all of the storm
damage has been repaired and it is business as usual beside the peninsula’s
Grecian blue sea. Two of my favourite beaches include The Strangles, near
Crackington Haven, a high-summer hideaway reached down a steep and tricky
path, where at low tide you can walk to Rusey beneath 700ft cliffs; and
Gwithian Towans, near Hayle, which has three miles of dune-backed sands
perfect for escaping the hordes and waves that are suitable for novice
Cornwall is defined by its magnificent coastline
The winter storms have reshaped the coastline. Beaches such as Nanjizal , near
Land’s End, have lost every grain of sand to reveal polished round boulders.
In contrast, Porthminster Beach in St Ives has risen several feet. To escape
the crowds this summer, it’s worth leaving the main resorts and walking out
along the coastal paths to see if there’s a newly created sandy cove on
which to lay your towel. Do watch out for rip currents and new sand cliffs
hiding beneath the waves. If you find you can’t get back to shore, don’t
fight the current. Try to swim across it, parallel to the beach, until its
power eases and you can swim back in.
About our expert
Gill Charlton fell in love with the landscape and people of Cornwall while
writing a Telegraph guidebook, Cornwall in a Week, in 1991, and moved to the
county more than 15 years ago. Gill likes nothing better than to walk the
Land’s End peninsula, which she considers one of the most beautiful
stretches of coastline in Europe, finishing with a sunset drink and tapas at
the Porthmeor Beach Café (porthmeor-beach.co.uk)
in St Ives.
Majorca’s secret sands
Pine trees rise from the rust earth of the ridge around the coast, forming a
discreet curtain around this delicious string of little bays on the Victòria
peninsula, which separates the Bay of Alcúdia from the Bay of Pollença. Even
though it is only a short drive from the resort of Port d’Alcúdia, the area
has a remarkably untouristy feel. Most of the people on the beaches are
either locals or foreigners who live on Majorca. The best of these beaches
is S’illot, which means “the little island” in Catalan and gets its name
from the lump of ochre rock in the sea that protects the bay from the
Tramuntana wind. While S’illot doesn’t have any umbrellas or sunbeds, it
does have a very appealing beachside restaurant, known simply as S’illot
(0034 971 897218). I don’t mean that it’s fancy or anything; just the kind
of place you wish every beach had. Sitting there at a table overlooking the
beach after a swim, gazing across to Cap de Formentor, with a plate of
sardines, a huge salad and a glass of white wine – made on Majorca, of
course – just about sums up the concept of simple holiday pleasures.
Majorca is home to a number of great beaches
If you are visiting the city of Palma, remember to wear a bit more than you
would on the beach. Local authorities are cracking down on tourists
wandering around in their swimwear and you could get an on-the-spot fine.
You should also put some clothes on before entering most bars and
restaurants – unless they are right on the beach.
About our expert
Annie Bennett first visited Majorca 30 years ago and has been a regular
visitor ever since. She particularly loves shopping in Palma and walking in
the Tramuntana mountains.
A gastronomic journey through Catalonia
Any lingering associations the Costa Brava may have with egg and chips are
well past their sell-by date. Yes, English menus may still be a fixture in
the larger resorts on the southerly part of the coast, such as Lloret de
Mar, but farther north you won’t catch a glimpse of them. In fact, this
stretch of the coast is a foodie’s paradise and Catalonia – where the Costa
Brava lies – has one of the highest concentrations of Michelin-starred chefs
in Spain, not to mention superb, locally produced wines. Little wonder that
this has been the holiday spot of choice for well-heeled Barcelonesas and
in-the-know French for years. One of my favourite places to eat is L’Hort
del Rector (hortdelrector.com),
which specialises in cod – there are 15 variations of the dish on the menu –
and is located just outside the walls of the medieval village of Monells.
The warren of rooms inside are filled with antiques, shelves laden with
books on art, cinema and philosophy, and an upright piano. There’s also a
lovely conservatory overlooking the gardens.
The Costa Brava is a foodie’s paradise
You can savour the region’s combination of coast and countryside in the local
speciality, mar i muntanya (which translates as sea and mountain or “surf
and turf”). Most restaurants offer the dish as either a casserole stew,
paella or noodle dish (fideuá) combining poultry or red meat and seafood.
About our expert
Eddi Fiegel first visited the Costa Brava in the 1990s and was bowled over not
only by the romance and beauty of the teal-green, pine-laced, rugged
coastline but also the countryside inland. Eddi travelled up the coast every
other weekend to the Costa’s beaches and villages when she was living in
Barcelona; she still goes back frequently.
Festival fun in Brittany
There’s much more to Brittany than its beaches. For many centuries this was a
proudly independent realm, with closer connections to Britain than France;
it was after all “petite Bretagne”, as opposed to “Grande Bretagne” across
the Channel. The pan-Celtic traditions are still going strong; the Breton
language is still spoken, while festivals celebrate Celtic music and dance.
The biggest jamboree of all is Lorient’s Festival Interceltique (festival-interceltique.com),
which gathers the Celtic diaspora together for a 10-day extravaganza at the
start of August (this year the focus is on all things Irish), while the
Festival de Cornouaille (festival-cornouaille.com),
held towards the end of July in the delightful riverside city of Quimper, is
a specifically Breton affair. The quirky Sea Shanty Festival (brittanytourism.com),
held at Paimpol in August, boasts all the bearded seasalts you could ever
hope to shake a jangly stick at. If it really is beaches you’re after,
countless little resorts, from St-Jacut in the north to Morgat in the west
and Locmariaquer in the south, have wonderful sandy crescents, and there’s
almost always a deserted strand off the coastal footpath.
Festivals celebrating Celtic music and dance take place across Brittany
in the summer months
If you’re partial to French seafood, you don’t have to pay restaurant prices.
Head instead for one of the many viviers tucked into crannies in the
coastline, where they raise live shellfish. At places such as Viviers
Olivier at Fôret-Fouesnant (0033 2 98 56 83 89) or Prat Ar Coum (prat-ar-coum.com)
outside Carantec, you can pick up superb oysters, clams, and crabs, perfect
for beach picnics.
About our expert
Greg Ward has been visiting Brittany since holidaying there in the Sixties –
when his father would order mussels for his five children and eat the lot.
Now he goes on annual walking, cycling and, of course, mussel-eating trips
of his own.
A white-knuckle ride in Provence
On Tuesdays and Fridays, indulge in food lust at Lorgues market, then motor
north to Villecroze. Backed into Alpine foothills, the medieval village is
overseen by cliffs whose caves were fortified by Benedictines fearful of
Saracens, then fancied up with Renaissance frontages. They’re an
extraordinary sight. Continue to the pretty town of Aups, awarded the
Croix-de-Guerre for its Resistance activity. It’s a grand coffee stop before
the haul up to the Canjuers plateau. Shortly, you’ll spot the vast,
artificial Sainte Croix. Pause for a dip at Les Salles-Sur-Verdon, before
pushing up to Aiguines. The doughty old village perches between the lake and
the Verdon Gorges, France’s Grand Canyon. It is 3,000ft straight down in
places; nature on a supernatural scale. After aperitifs in Aiguines, head
out on the Corniche Sublime road which hems the edge of the gorges. If
you’re not good with heights, hand the steering wheel to someone who is, and
brace yourself. The gorges run for 15 miles and, at times, the drop is more
than 2,000ft. If your stomach is holding up, you might lunch right on the
edge, at the Auberge du Point Sublime (0033 4 92 83 69 15), which
specialises in hearty regional dishes.
Provence is held together by family, farming, festivities and feuds
round the fountain
To come to grips with the gorges, you need to get in among them – hiking,
rafting or kayaking, say. The Castellane tourist office (0033 4 92 83 61 14; castellane.org)
is the first stop. Nearby, Buena Vista Rafting (0033 4 92 83 77 98; buenavistarafting.com)
will sort out all the watery stuff. Note: this summer, water activities will
be Tuesdays and Fridays only.
About our expert
Anthony Peregrine is based in southern France. He has been wandering around
Provence for the past 25 years – walking, drinking rosé, eating, playing
pétanque, drinking rosé, bobbing into churches to seeMary Magdalene and
other holy women, preparing barbecues, drinking rosé, scaring himself
witless on unbarriered mountain roads, meeting winemakers and drinking rosé.
He remembers quite a lot of it.
Cultural diversions in Sicily
Most of Sicily’s attractions are cultural or scenic; aside from a couple of
summer water parks, there’s not much in the way of family fun days out. But
this is the kind of destination where sightseeing is always more than “just”
sightseeing: it’s the combination of history, a balmy climate and a vibrant
contemporary eating, drinking and shopping scene that gives this island of
wine, citrus fruits and ancient landscapes such all-year-round appeal. The
spectacularly located ruins of the Greek temple of Selinunte, on a
flower-strewn rise above the beach, are typical of the island’s riches, and
if you seek out Cave di Cusa, seven miles to the north-east, chances are
you’ll have it all to yourself. Abandoned in 409 BC, this was where the
stone used in Selinunte’s temples was quarried. It’s a fascinating place,
with great fluted column sections, carved in situ, anchored in the mother
Most of Sicily’s attractions are cultural or scenic
Of Sicily’s major archaeological sites, only Syracuse and Agrigento are easily
reached via public transport. For the rest you’ll need a car and a good map
or satnav. Alternatively, book a guided tour with transport out of Palermo
with Passage to Sicily (passagetosicily.com),
one of the best of the locally based cultural tour operators.
About our expert
Lee Marshall moved to Italy in 1984. Currently based in Umbria after many
years living in Rome, he has an ongoing love affair with Sicily and visits
regularly. In between, Etna rosso wine and Bronte pistachios stoke the
Scaling the heights in Umbria
The direct, 30-mile drive north along the Vale of Spoleto between Spoleto and
Assisi – two of Umbria’s finest large hill-towns – follows the SS3 and SS75,
making for a quick, dull, and at times quite unattractive ride. It’s far
better to follow a meandering and more scenic route via several smaller
hill-towns, with an optional climb over Monte Subasio’s wild uplands, before
dropping down to Assisi. This full-day route passes through the Monti
Martani hills, the sleepy village of Gualdo Cattaneo , and Montefalco, a
charming walled town filled with art and churches, fine wines and even finer
views. Afterwards, head to Bevagna, a former Roman colony, which is worth an
hour’s wandering followed by a drink or bite to eat at Redibis (redibis.it).
In the afternoon, a detour to Monte Subasio (4,232ft) will be rewarded with
vast meadows and immense views.
Umbria has all of Tuscany’s attributes – and a few more
In many Umbrian towns, negotiating narrow streets and parking are problematic
– it’s usually best to park on the outskirts (where there’s often an area
provided) and walk in to the old historic centres.
About our expert
Tim Jepson first visited Umbria in 1982. He lived in the region, near
Castiglione del Lago, and has written extensively about the area. He has
also worked as a mountain guide in Umbria’s Sibillini National Park and
elsewhere, and returns to the region for writing, hiking and other projects
several times a year.
Laid-back living on the Turquoise Coast
Imagine a long, curving shingle beach, home to loggerhead turtles in summer,
backed by citrus groves and book-ended by dramatic limestone spurs. Behind,
wooded mountains rise to the heights of Mount Olympos at 7,762ft (2.300m).
This is Çirali, one of the loveliest spots in the Mediterranean, where
guesthouses and boutique hotels are tucked beneath a blanket of trees. By
day, chill by the beach, but don’t expect nightlife, except a pleasant meal
at one of the simple, wooden, seaside restaurants. It’s perfect for
families, and older teenagers will enjoy Olympos Village (olymposvillage.com),
with its wooden treehouses, backpacker vibe and disco. The Lycian Way passes
through Çirali, giving walkers great scope, but anyone can hit the heights
and admire the spectacular views by taking the nearby cable-car to the top
of Mount Olympos (olymposteleferik.com;
£21 return) for fabulous views.
The Turquoise Coast is home to spectacular bays and pretty coves
Çirali is one of the few places in Turkey where locals still get around by
bike. Vehicular traffic is light, the terrain level and houses spread far
enough apart to make walking a chore, but not far enough to make it worth
getting the car out. Throw in the pleasant lanes shaded by citrus groves and
you can see why it makes perfect sense to join the locals and hire a bike –
even if it’s only to get to those perfect beach spots beyond easy reach of
About our expert
Terry Richardson lived in Turkey for 12 years (until July 2013) and helped set
up the country’s first marked walking trail, the Lycian Way. He visits the
Turquoise Coast regularly.
Glamping in the Dordogne
The region is home to a fabulous choice of family-friendly camping and
glamping sites: the luxurious tree castles of Châteaux dans les Arbres (chateaux-dans-les-arbres.com),
complete with fairy-tale turrets, are particularly enchanting; Le Moulin de
la Jarousse (location-en-dordogne.com)
is a 15-hectare site with treehouses, yurts, log cabins, cottages, a pool
and other outdoor entertainment; Les Cabanes de Jeanne (lescabanesdejeanne.com)
enchants with a floating wooden cabin on the site’s pretty lake; while Les
Cabanes de Vaure (cabane-perigord-dordogne.cabanesdevaure.fr)
has boutique treehouses with super-chic French country interiors,
beautifully located in the sticks. Some guests choose to arrive by hot-air
If, like me, you’re a glamping kind of girl, you will have a natural affinity
with L’Étang de Bazange (camping-bazange-dordogne.com),
a lakeside campsite with luxurious canvas tents and a floating cabin with
rooftop terrace from which to spot approaching pirates – or happy kids
fishing for crayfish and carp.
Another magnificent campsite for children is Domaine des Mathevies (mathevies.com),
an easy four-mile bike ride along labyrinthine country lanes from
Sarlat-la-Canèda with the parental bonus of excellent cuisine and fine wine
served in its on-site Cosy Nook Café.
The Dordogne has a fabulous choice of family-friendly camping and
Most campsites can organise river canoeing; children must be aged at least
five and be able to swim 25m.
About our expert
Nicola Williams had her first encounter with the Dordogne in 1996. She went
with the intention of losing herself in the prehistoric art of Grotte de
Lascaux, and left completely blown away by the rural landscape, much of
which has been unchanged for centuries. It’s a place, she says, of
effortless beauty; one of the finest parts of la belle France.
Telegraph destination guide apps
the free Telegraph Travel app, featuring expert guides to
destinations including Paris, Rome, New York, Venice and Amsterdam
The ultimate guides to summer