When looking for somewhere to go on your summer holiday, often the most difficult part is deciding on a destination. If you’re looking for somewhere a bit on the unusual side, then look no further than the choices below. They all offer beautiful beaches and gorgeous sunshine, with the option of sight-seeing if you’re not one for laying by the pool all day.
Morocco’s introduction to the mainstream holiday market in the late Nineties added a new genre to the library of world travel. Suddenly, holidays were scented with spice rather than sun cream, and the soundtrack of waves was remixed with calls to prayer. Today, more than eight million tourists come to the country every year in search of a beach break with a twist. Most people choose Agadir as their base, and for good reason. The stretch of coast here unravels for six miles and basks in 300 days of sunshine a year. The city itself eases you in to Moroccan culture gently by offering up European-style cafes and smart hotels alongside its bustling souks and Moroccan restaurants. Agadir is also close to the shape-shifting sands of the Saharan desert. And, the dramatic High Atlas Mountain range is about four hours’ drive away. Head a little further north from the mountains, meanwhile, and you’ll reach Marrakech. The highlight of this chaotic city is the market place in Jemaa el-Fna square. Even if you don’t have an eye to buy it’s still worth a visit. You’re likely to see bejewelled belly dancers and snake charmers cajoling cobras from wicker baskets.
Croatia turned up on the UK’s tourism timeline fashionably late. In fact, it was only in the last years of the Nineties that the country started to find its feet in the mainstream market. Nowadays, though, more than 10 million people holiday here every year. A large part of Croatia’s appeal comes from its coastline. The seaside here stretches out for 1,778 kilometres and 1,185 islands float off the shores. In places like Porec, Rovinj and the Makarska Riviera, the white sand and soft pebble beaches are backed by waves of pine groves and lined with cosy cafés and restaurants. The sunbathing scene is just the start of Croatia’s story. The country is an up and coming diving destination. The shallow waters of the Istrian Riviera and Dalmatian Coast are ideal for beginners, while the deeper waters in the south offer more experienced divers the chance to explore coral reefs, caves and shipwrecks.Then there are the historical sites to consider. You could run yourself ragged in Split and Dubrovnik alone. Croatia is also great walking territory. The vineyards, pine forests and national parks here beg for the tread of walking boots.
Floating 500 kilometres off the coast of Senegal, the Atlantic isles of Cape Verde have been dubbed the African Caribbean. They’re still fairly new to the travel circuit, but with their out-of-this-world beaches and lively surf, they’re quickly making a name for themselves. Cape Verde’s most popular island is cosmopolitan Sal, which is known for its striking, lunar-like landscape. It’s dotted with colourful, cobbled towns, like Santa Maria on the southern shores, where you’ll find surf shops, traditional restaurants and a pretty square lined with al fresco cafés. The main attraction, though, is the beach, which stretches along the coast for 8 kilometres. You’ll find plenty more in the way of beaches over on Boa Vista, which translates as ‘beautiful view’. The sands here halo the coastline for 55 kilometres and easily rival those you’d find in the Caribbean. Praia Chave deserves a special mention, thanks to its snow-white swathes and shape-shifting dunes. Whichever island you opt for, expect a melting pot of cultures. The Portuguese originally discovered Cape Verde, so there’s a mixture of African, Brazilian and Portuguese influences. You’ll see it in the island’s music, fashion and – perhaps most clearly – the food.
If you’ve never been to Sardinia before, you might expect the island to be a condensed carbon copy of the Italian mainland. But you’d be wrong. The differences start with the language. Sardinian or Sardo is as commonly spoken as Italian here. Sardinia’s architectural offerings are different to the rest of Italy, too. This is because the island was once the natural pit stop for empires journeying through the Mediterranean Sea. The Phoenicians, Vandals and Byzantines all left their mark on the place. But the influence that’s most obvious is the Spanish one. Alghero was colonised by the Spanish Catalans for hundreds of years. The town’s street signs are still written in Catalan and the design of the cathedral shouts about its Catalan roots. Another thing that really sets Sardinia apart from the boot is its beaches. The island’s north coast alone is scalloped with 80 coves. The fishing village of Isola Rossa lays claim to one of the most seductive stretches of sand. The water here is gin-clear, too, which makes it a great place to snorkel. What Sardinia does have in common with its Italian neighbours is its passion for food and wine. The island’s cookbook-worthy dishes include roast suckling pig and myrtle-stuffed wild boar.
All photos and information from Thomson.