It’s that time of year when the easiest cure for an awkward silence goes something like: “so do you have any interesting plans for summer yet?” I’ve used it about three times in the last week already. Ah yes, the question that holds so much promise but strangely, is being met with more shoulder shrugs so far than I would normally expect. So what’s up? Are we feeling a little hesitant about heading to that oh-so-predictable, oh-so-overpriced (come on admit it) summer hotspot? Excellent, because I have a few ideas…
Four European Secret Island Getaways
Sounds pretty exotic and far away doesn’t it? Well Gozo is in fact the lesser known, little sister island to Malta– you know, the one that has plenty of flights going to and from most European airports on a daily basis (hop on a ferry from Malta for 5 euros and you’re on Gozo within 20 minutes). Easy to miss south of the Italian boot, Gozo breaks the European beach mould. The curving fiery orange beach of Ramla Bay on Gozo’s north shore is virtually undeveloped and according to Homer’s epic, Ulysses spent 7 years being entertained by a nymph here (naturally).
Except for the local bars and discos (always amusing), don’t expect any crazy island clubbing life here, this is beach bum territory– swimming, snorkeling, sunbathing and sensational seafood (see what I did there). Think diving in turquoise blue lagoons and boat trips around the island or to neighboring islands Sicily and Malta. There are ofcourse fourteen picturesque little towns/villages on Gozo each with their own unique temples, war stories and beautiful architecture. You’ve got a lot of history here; Gozo has been inhabited since 5000 BC.
Accomodation: There are one or two 5* hotels to take note of, with double rooms at a steal even in peak season (from 150 Euros per night), but I would recommend for an unspoiled island such as this to organize a group rental in one of the many renovated farmhouses/ villas available on Gozo. To enjoy the island while staying in your own luxury self-catering villa (think of the BBQs) as a group of six, you’ll be looking at prices from around 175 Euros per person for the entire week. Not bad.
Iles de Hyères, France
Fifty miles off St Tropez (just far enough) are three untainted little islands called the Iles de Hyères, without a supercar or social climber in sight (all wheels except bikes are banned). MessyNessy’s pick, the island of Port Cros, only 3km wide and 4km long is located between Porquerolles and Levant island (the latter is an infamous naturist/ buck-naked island in case you’re interested). It’s a very well kept secret that Port Cros has a handful of the most beautiful hidden beaches in Europe. The bay of Port-Man is pictured above and the beach there is often absolutely deserted; not a person in sight. There are plenty of people who won’t want to go to Port Cros. Anyone who likes busy beaches, noisy restaurants and night-clubs
should stay in St. Tropez will be disappointed.
Accomodation: Le Manoir d’Hélène
The only hotel on the island, this is a place so dreamy that it would be worth swimming from St Tropez to stay there. Offering an ‘old fashioned colonial charm’, dining under the Eucalyptus trees at a site overlooking the bay that can only be described as ‘priviledged’, scuba diving or underwater spear fishing organized for you in minutes; this bohemian-esque little hotel will remind you of a stay at a friend’s vacation house and without doubt, wins the prize for being excessively romantic.
Around £117 per person including dinner during peak season…
Getting there There are daily boat services to the Golden Isles from La Tour Fondue (20 minutes to Porquerolles, about £12.25 return, 00 33 4 94 58 21 81, www.tlv-tvm.com) and to Port Cros and Ile du Levant from Le Lavandou with Les Vedettes des Iles d’Or (about £17 return, 00 33 4 94 71 01 02,www.vedettesilesdor.fr).
The Pelagie Islands, Italy
The Pelagie Islands near Sicily are a set of hidden European hideaways worth knowing about. Lampedusa is full of hidden coves and quiet corners. Just a hop away is Rabbit Island (pictured above), a small fleck of sand flanked by white cliffs just off the crystal clear waters of Lampedusa. Rabbit Island is one of the last remaining sites to spot the massive Loggerhead Sea Turtle, which is endangered throughout the Mediterranean. Better than the Maldives and no need for a 10 hour flight.
Accomodation: La Rosa Dei Venti Club
There are several hotels on the island but I chose La Rosa Dei Venti Club because of the blissful day trips they offer their guests on their beautiful boats. The family style sailing vessels go from hidden cove to secluded beach while you lounge in a hammock, help out on deck or learn how to prepare a seafood lunch. The hotel is located on a hill with stunning views of all the island.. The two owners Elisa and Francesco are extremely welcoming and ensure guests mingle together and organize big Sunday night dinners.
(80-100 Euros per person a day depending on the room includes: buffet breakfast, a motorcycle at your disposal, transfer to and from the port/ airport. Boat excursions can be bought separately or as part of a weekley package).
See Website here (note: the English-Italian translation is nothing short of adorable)
This is probably the least known island of the Greek Peloponnesos, but that’s simply a bonus. Once part of an ancient peninsula, the shallow aqua waters that lap at the shore of Simos Beach (pictures above and below), surely make up for the fact that there is pretty much nothing to do except take in the beauty of this island’s beaches– possibly the finest of all Greek sand.
Accomodation: While I don’t suggest looking for hotels for a week long séjour here, I do recommend it as must-go-to if you happen to be hanging around the Peloponessos already. Simos beach is one of the few beaches in Greece where camping is kinda-sorta allowed. Well maybe it is not allowed but people do it anyway, pitching their tents among the dunes and trees and giving the area a sort of hippy or gypsy feeling to it. All the beaches on Elefonissos have a tropical look and feel to them and the cantinas play as much latin as Greek music. So why not hang with the hippies on a Greek Island this summer? That sounds pretty memorable…
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