The Best New Holiday Hotspots for a Last Minute Summer Holiday
Standard.co.uk - School’s out and August is finally here, which means it’s time to get away. The heatwave was fine while it lasted but that was just the warm-up act and we’re thirsty for more.
And the good news about keeping things last-minute (“flexible”) means there are deals to be had. This year there are new hotspots a-plenty: from a souped-up Croatian lighthouse to a final pre-Brexit EU jaunt. This is where to have a jolly holiday this year.
The film star choice
Croatia and Montenegro
The buzz: Here we go again. We laid all our love on Greece after Mamma Mia! came out a decade ago and this summer we’re taking a chance on Croatia: though the sequel is supposedly set on the Greek island of Skopelos, most of it was actually filmed on the remote Croatian island of Vis.
The Balkan peninsula is quickly becoming the hottest new mid-haul destination, says travel writer Simon Calder: there are more flights to Croatia from the UK than ever this summer and holiday bookings are reportedly up 67 per cent week-on-week since the country’s great run in the World Cup. Apparently the rivalry hasn’t put us off.
Who goes there: Last month the Beckhams spent their family holiday in Montenegro. Our unofficial first family reportedly stayed at the five-star resort of Aman Sveti Stefan, near Budva: a one-night stay in the Sveti Stefan Suite, which comes with its own private pool and terrace, costs from around £5,380 a night (Aman).
Where to stay: Most of scenes in the latest Mamma Mia! film were shot in Kozima, a sleepy 12th-century Croatian fishing village. Andy Garcia, who plays Fernando in the film, stayed at the £312-a-night three-floor Villa Serena while Amanda Seyfried reportedly slept at the 17th-century Palaca Jaksa — you can rent a two-bedroom studio apartment inside the palace for £71 a night on Airbnb.
The site also offers some other Mamma-Mia!-inspired options: for just £56 a night four of you can stay in a rustic hilltop ranch called Selca on the Croatian island of Brač (complete with outdoor hammocks), and for £178 a night you and seven friends can stay in a clifftop lighthouse, Crna Punta, in the hamlet of Koromacno, which comes with its own private beach.
The pre-Brexit blast
Balearic Islands, Spain
The buzz: Spain has always been top of the UK holiday charts but this year the spotlight is firmly on the Balearics, and it’s all thanks to — you guessed it — Love Island. The show’s sweeping seascapes and romantic hot air balloon shots has put Mallorca centre-stage again.
The latest series was based at a villa in Ses Salines, a small town in the south-east of the island. The area boasts unspoiled beaches, pretty towns and charming al fresco restaurants, while Mallorca’s second largest wine region, Felanitx, is a day trip away if you want to recreate Megan and Eyal’s first date. Flights take less than three hours from London.
Ibiza remains a firm favourite among the global party set — England footballer Raheem Stirling jetted to the White Isle after the Three Lions’ semi-final exit from from the World Cup.
Who goes there: Michelle Obama is among the VIPs to have stayed at Cap Rocat in south-western Mallorca, Kate Moss and Gwyneth Paltrow have also holidayed on the island, while Ibiza draws a heavy stream of A-listers each year. Actors Michael Fassbender and Alicia Vikander tied the knot at Yemanja Beach Club last year, Portuguese football icon Ronaldo heads there every summer, while Calvin Harris, David Guetta, Craig David and Idris Elba are all taking DJ residencies on the White Isle this summer.
Where to stay: Unfortunately (or perhaps thankfully) the Love Island villa is not available to rent, but its sister lodge, Casa Amor, is back to being a holiday home now that the series is over. A week in the luxury eight-bed hideaway costs from £4,572 to £7,417 at Villa Retreats, while TripAdvisor has a list of Love Island-worthy villa rental suggestions in the region, including a nine-bedroom house, Vivienda Duplex, with a pool and private garden for £311 a night.
For something more intimate, TUI is offering 54 per cent off stays at its two-bed Villa Ca’n Tolo in Pollensa in the north of Mallorca.
The not so basic beach
Sunny Beach, Bulgaria
The buzz: Brexit is making our holidays more expensive so those in the know are heading outside the EU — but not too far. Bulgaria hits the sweet spot: flights take just three hours from London and the climate is continental but it’s still incredible value.
The place to be see is Sunny Beach on the Black Sea, where a beer costs just 80p. There’s also plenty of wine, and a steady supply of fresh fish. As the name suggests, the area averages about 1,700 hours of sunshine between May and October while the 8km-long stretch of fine golden sand is Blue Flag-certified for its cleanliness. It’s also home to some of the coast’s last remaining natural sand dunes. The Unesco-certified town of Nessbar is just a 15-minute drive away.
Who goes there: the annual Solar Summer Festival on Cacao Beach attracts tens of thousands of party-goers and world-famous DJs every year — Fatboy Slim and Pete Tong have played in previous years.
Where to stay: The five-star Barcelo Royal Beach is one of the most rated on the Bulgarian Riviera, offering a poolside bistro, spa facilities and 304 rooms with balconies and indulgent walk-in showers. It’s just a five-minute stroll to Sunny Beach and TUI is currently offering seven-night self-catering stays from £363 per person.
The island life
The buzz: “You know what you’re getting in Greece: calamari, Greek salads, crystal-clear waters, wall-to-wall sunshine,” says travel expert Roz Webster, from London travel agent Cream Travel.
It’s now the second most popular destination for British tourists, according to travel agents, and it’s a hotspot for the A-list set — especially the island of Mykonos, known for its whitewashed walls, blue domes, summer party atmosphere and 25 beaches.
Halkidiki, in northern Greece, meanwhile, is said to have the best white sands on the Med — Jet2 now runs 12 weekly flights to Thessaloniki from the UK and has almost trebled its number of seats.
Who goes there: Last month models Gigi Hadid, Emily Ratajkowski and Kate Moss touched down on Mykonos by helicopter for the opening of luxury shopping centre Nammos Village and many of the nearby hotels attract a steady celebrity crowd: Nicole Scherzinger recently celebrated her 40th birthday at Nammos’s beach bar while John Legend and Calvin Klein are among the guests to have stayed at the Kivotos Hotel’s three-storey Noah’s Villa, which has its own sandy beach (Kivotos is currently offering 20 per cent off stays if you book via its website.
Where to stay: Mykonos is home to “the coolest spa in Europe”, a rock-walled spa called The Cave at Kenshō Boutique Hotel, with tropical rain beds and hi-tech sunbeds while Jenny Graham, managing director of Quintessentially Travel, recommends the Myconian Villa Collection that has a saltwater infinity pool overlooking Elia Bay.
The island is awash with wellbeing retreats: Helios’s fitness and yoga holidays feature daily training sessions, guided meditation and walking excursions from a luxury villa. Prices for the next retreat in September start at £1,300.
In Halkidiki in the north, Webster recommends the award-winning five-star Sani Resort, which is made up of five different complexes. The resort offers a Football Academy in association with Chelsea FC, a personalised sommelier service and even its own music festival, Sani Festival, which runs until mid-August. Half-board prices start from £92 per night and the resort is currently offering 30 per cent off holidays booked now for October.
The buzz: Last weekend’s washout may have dampened your spirits but Sunday’s storms were just a temporary blip — the heatwave is officially set to continue. The staycation is back on and Wales is the hotspot of the moment.
According to the National Trust, more than 40,000 of us have already sought out the spectacular sun-drenched sands of Barafundle Bay beach in Pembrokeshire this summer, while the village of Benllech, near Anglesey, has emerged as the top trending UK location among Airbnb customers, with an inbound guest arrival boost of 350 per cent.
Who goes there: Wales is a favourite among the rich and famous for a rural retreat — they say its rugged coastline and mountain rambling clears the mind. Adventurer and TV presenter Bear Grylls goes there with his family every summer while Theresa May famously decided to call an election following a walking holiday in Snowdonia last year.
It has royal approval: the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge spent three years living in a farmhouse on Anglesey while Wills worked as a search-and- rescue pilot on the island — on his departure, the duke said he had never in his life “known somewhere as beautiful and as welcoming”.
Where to stay: Benllech may only have a population of 3,000 but its Blue Flag sandy beach draws holidaymakers from afar. Airbnb offers a romantic glamping pod for two for £45 per night, complete with a log burner and sea views, or you can choose from a number of holiday homes on the nearby Bodorgan Estate, where Kate and Wills first lived as newlyweds. Melin Y Bont is a grade II-listed, four-storey windmill that sleeps six and there is availability left for September and October. A seven-night stay costs £500
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