European holidays are the mainstay of the average Briton’s vacation diary, thanks to the immense variety on offer, the cheap flights to most places on the Continent and the great value offered by the exchange rate of the pound versus the euro.
Recently, adventure traveller and TV presenter Ben Fogle revealed that he had just returned from a holiday in Portugal with his family, and suggested that Brits have much to gain from choosing some of the more overlooked destinations.
Here’s five suggestions of our own:
Let’s take a look at Ben Fogle’s destination of choice this summer. We are all aware of the golf courses of the Algarve and the urban delights of Lisbon, but what other hidden gems does Portugal offer? Well, in the mountainous centre of the country, the whole family can get back to nature in style, renting a spacious yurt for an eco-friendly yet luxurious experience. Alternatively, why not experience the heritage of the Knights Templar, in the mediaeval town of Tomar on the banks of the Nabão River. Portugal offers a hugely diverse experience, and prices are incredibly low.
The Mediterranean island of Corsica is frequently overlooked, and it is a real shame. One of the most unspoilt destinations in the region, thanks to its mountainous and thickly forested terrain, Corsica’s beauty is breathtaking. Hire a car and drive up the winding vertiginous roads up into the central maquis and check into the quirky Hotel A Flatta – a cross between a quirky chambres d’hôtes and a backcountry auberge – before heading into the remote town of Calenzana to feast on venison, chestnuts and rich red wine!
Fancy giving the kids a spooky thrill, while experiencing some of the most evocative scenery that Europe has to offer? What better than the home turf of Count Dracula. Fly into Romania’s Sibiu Airport and ravel to the towering Carpathian mountains in the centre of the country. Visit the many mediaeval fortified churches and towering Gothic castles – including Dracula’s castle Bran – visit Sighisoara, the birthplace of the real-life Vlad Dracuul (Vlad the Impaler) and join safari expeditions, tracking bears, wolves and lynx in the forests. A trip to the real Transylvania is a holiday like no other.
For a destination so close to the UK, Brittany is a region of France neglected by a surprising amount of British holidaymakers – a real pity, since it is a region of beautiful countryside, delicious French cuisine and is the stomping ground of Asterix the Gaul. Visitors to Brittany should visit the town of Carnac, where they can see the menhirs – the standing stones – made famous by Asterix’s pal Obelix. The Museum of Prehistory in Carnac-Ville gives you the lowdown on the stones, which date from 4,000BC, and you can also learn about the real-life Gauls who lived in the region well before the time of the Romans, and later on you can pop down the road to the family-friendly seaside resort, Carnac-Plage. Be sure to sample some of their locally-farmed lobsters!
What could be a better way of getting close to nature than racing across the icy tundra, shouting “Mush!” at a pack of huskies? Well, you don’t have to go as far as Alaska to try your hand at it – dog sledding in Norway is a winter holiday with a difference, with operators throughout the country offering excursions for every ability level and duration. Take a day trip as a passenger, or spend several days in the wilderness leading your own husky pack – it’s up to you.