A hint of spring in the air, and we all start to dream about the perfect summer retreat – days spent lolling by the pool or on the beach and languorous, balmy evenings around the dinner table. For the ideal European summer holiday, it's the Mediterranean that tops most wish lists. Southern Spain, the Balearics, the South of France, Corsica, the western coast of Italy, Sicily, Sardinia and the endless possibilities and soft sands of Greece and Turkey are always popular. But other destinations including Croatia and Montenegro are growing, with equally stunning scenery, often better value and quieter beaches.

 

The Mediterranean has seen a resurgence this year with excellent value. Greece;Italy and Spain have been highlighted as the best destinations to make your money go further.

 

 

 

 

Mediterranean idylls

 

Love the sun, gentle in winter and scorching in summer? Come to the Mediterranean! Gorgeous beaches and rugged interiors of scrubland, vineyards, olive orchards, and pine groves typify Mediterranean country. The coastal areas range from family-friendly flat sand beaches to jagged cliffs, some quite barren and others lush with forest. What to do but soak it all up and catch a sunset on the blue horizon?

 

Monaco

 

A jewel set alongside the Cote d’Azur, the Principality of Monaco is to many the epitome of Mediterranean élan; where else would expect James Bond to play roulette if not at the Monte Carlo Casino? Monaco is filled to the brim with things to see; diverse museums, handsome monuments, and a range of gardens, including a serene Japanese one and another featuring succulents. The cultural scene is well-supported and lively all year long, and the extremely elegant shopping can feel like a retail museum, but happily, you’re meant to take the beautiful items home with you. 

 

Spain

 

is renowned for its miles of Mediterranean beaches. The Costa Brava is rocky and mysterious; this is, after all, the land of the surrealist painter Dali and visionary architect Gaudi, who left his mark on enchanting Barcelona. Visit historic Cartagena before hitting the white sand heaven of the Costa Blanca or the bustling Costa del Sol, a stone’s throw from Africa. Off the coast, the Balearic Islands offer both magnificent backcountry and cultural attractions. Ibiza, known for a lively social scene, also has protected habitats and natural aspects just as impressive as the glitter of the clubs. 

 

Malta

 

Towns steeped in crusader history lie among scrubland and cliffs plunging into crystal clear, turquoise water on the three islands of Malta. Valetta begs to be wandered, up and down its steep streets with glimpses of the sea between geranium-festooned balconies. Travel around the islands to see the ancient monolithic sites, shop for island handcrafts, and chill out at the beach with local and tourists alike in the glimmering Mediterranean light.

 

Italy

 

There’s no place like Rome. The city looks like a movie set and its ancient ruins, , beautiful fountains, sculpture and art and the Vatican City will astound you. There’s also shopping and people watching to die for. Go north or south and you’ll be equally charmed by rugged coastline and unforgettable views, whether it’s the Amalfi Drive near fascinating Pompeii or the Cinque Terre on the Italian Riviera. In Sicily, the Mediterranean’s largest island, the lure of the beach fights with the pull of archeological sites. In Syracuse stand in a Roman amphitheater facing the sea, with Mount Etna in the background adding its own drama to the scene. 

 

Greece

 

On thousands of islands and the mainland, Greece brings you face-to-face with history. Athens is a must, to see the Acropolis with your own eyes. On Crete visit the ruins of the palace of Minos, surrounded by pine glades, olive orchards, and cypress. At Santorini, stand amidst the blindingly white walls and bright blue domes of the villages, imagining the legendary city of Atlantis lying below the waves. Greece offers all kinds of outdoor adventures, too, it’s not always about history – this is where the Olympics began! Climb, dive, sail, hike, or visit protected biopsheres. Top off your days enjoying real Mediterranean cuisine in a friendly seaside tavern, sure to be some of your favorite take-home memories.

 

Cyprus

 

Cyprus entices with its archeological sites and head-turning beauty. On this compact island you can see ancient settlements, Roman ruins and Byzantine monasteries, and sample perfect beaches, one of which, mind you, was the birthplace of Aphrodite! Search the waves; perhaps the goddess will deign to appear to you in the sea foam at the shoreline? Be gastronomically inquisitive in Cyprus, because its cuisine is a unique blend of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern, and keep an eye on the calendar of events; performers love to have a reason to come to Cyprus, too.

 

Turkey

History in Turkey is rich beyond imagining; at Ephesus walk the ruins of the Temple of Artemis, later home to the Virgin Mary and St. John. Stop in Antalya, birthplace of St. Nicholas (you may know him as Santa Claus). Delve into Istanbul’s jaw-dropping sites - think Blue Mosque and Topkapi Palace to start with. Imagine sailing along the Turquoise Coast on a gulette, a uniquely Turkish craft, peering at ancient ruins on the sea floor. Run river rapids, go trekking, put on your skis, shop ‘til you drop and eat like a king; all easy to manage in Turkey!