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There’s More to the Dolomites than Mountains
Oct 23rd, 2017 by Tom Kerswill

This mountainous region in the north east of Italy covers 548 square miles (1,419 kilometres square), and includes nine mountain ranges. At least 18 of its peaks are higher than 9,800 feet (3,000 metres), making it an obvious place to go for climbers and hikers.

However, the Dolomites is also home to a wide range of attractions, activities and picturesque scenery, making it a great destination, and a base, for a self-catering villa holiday.

Scenic Belluno

Walking in the Dolomites provides spectacular scenic views, and tracts of natural beauty. Belluno is the main centre of the region, with its historic centre built on a plateau.

From Belluno, there are views over the Piave Valley, and its surrounding hills and mountains. While Belluno is often viewed as a base from which to explore the mountainous region surrounding it, the town itself is an attraction.

Most of its architecture dates from the 16th century, at the time it was under Venetian state control.

A good starting point is the main square, the Piazza del Duomo, surrounded by various villas and grand palazzos. Dominating the square is the Cathedral of San Martino, with its prominent belltower. Climb this, and you’re rewarded with great views across the surrounding countryside.

Around another square, the Piazza dei Martiri, you’ll find plenty of cafés to relax at, and watch the passersby.

At the town’s 12th century gateway, Porta Ruga, at the end of the Via Mezzaterra, there are more spectacular views of the mountainous surroundings.

As a hub, from which to explore the Dolomites, Belluno is ideal, with plenty of marked trails, and cycle routes, emanating from it. It’s also convenient for the Dolomiti Bellunesi National Park, a wild, untamed area on the southernmost fringes of the Dolomites.

This is a largely unvisited part of the region, with a real wilderness feel about it, though only two hours’ drive from Venice itself.

It’s a vast haven for wild Alpine flowers, including some rare species, and the park also contains notable areas of natural beauty. These include the limestone range of Monte Pavione, and the dramatic, towering peaks of Monte Pizzocco.

 

Cortina d’Ampezzo

Often known by the shortened name Cortina, this resort offers plenty of activities whether you visit in the winter or summer months.

In the winter, Cortina is a magnet for skiers and snowboarders, and a useful base for various ski tours. The Ice Stadium dates from the 1956 Winter Olympics held in the resort, and there are plenty of ski slopes nearby – Cortina d’Ampezzo is part of the Dolomiti Superski area.

In the summer, it’s great for trail running, hiking, and mountain biking, and for family-friendly activities such as visiting the Adrenalin Centre, for a wide variety of adventure climbs and swings. And the Little Train service ferries visitors form the centre of Cortina to Campo di Sotto and the Pierosa adventure playground.

There is also the extensive, immersive, open air Museum of the Great War, with its reconstructed tunnels, barracks and trenches.

 

Views from the Sass Pordoi

Marking the border between the provinces of Trento and Belluno, this pass has 28 hairpin bends, but is worth braving by car for some spectacular views. It’s the highest surfaced road pass in the Dolomites, at 7,346 feet.

If you want to take things further, then experience the cable car ride up from the pass to the peak of Sass Pordoi. Within a few minutes, you’ll have a magnificent, 360-degree Alpine view.

 

When to Visit the Dolomites

Timing your visit is important in terms of what you want to do, and to experience in the region.

In summer, it’s great for hiking, climbing and cycling, including mountain biking. There are also plenty of music festivals going on throughout the Dolomites throughout the summer months.

The autumn is still good for hiking, with the added attraction of golden-yellow larch trees, and generally less visitors out and about.

Winter is, naturally, the time for skiing and snowboarding, with the advantage of sunshine eight out of ten days. As a winter sports destination, the Dolomites are great for all levels of ability, providing you choose the appropriate location.

Things begin to thaw in spring, with cyclists and hikers returning; and there’s a wine festival running from late May into June, which the 15 wine-growing districts on the South Tyrolean Wine Road host.

 

Find Your Perfect Villa
Book a villa or apartment rental direct with the owners using Villaseek. We’ve got thousands of listings to choose from, to help you create your dream holiday.

Visit Zagreb, a Capital full of Culture
Oct 9th, 2017 by Tom Kerswill

While Zagreb is Croatia’s capital, Dubrovnik’s various attractions tend to overshadow it. However, as an alternative to Dubrovnik’s sun-kissed beaches and bustling centre, Zagreb is an intriguing destination, in its own right.

Situated in the north west of the country, Zagreb is perhaps more of a city break destination than a resort, but it’s still ideal for a self-catering villa holiday, if you’re considering a stay in Croatia.

There are three main parts to Zagreb: Gornji grad or Upper Town, including Sabor, where you’ll find museums and galleries; Donji grad, or Lower town; and New Zagreb, which is more of a high-rise business district.

A City of Museums

Zagreb is known as the city of museums because it has so many of them. These include the iconic Museum of Contemporary Art, home to a fine permanent collection and different exhibitions of works on temporary display; and the intriguing Museum of Broken Promises, an unlikely showcase of heartbroken correspondence and collected personal belongings of past lovers across the globe.

Also well worth checking out are the Archaeological Museum, the Museum of Arts and Crafts, the Zagreb City Museum and the Mimara Museum, housing the private collection of Ante Topic Mimara, a local art collector and philanthropist.

Mimara is something of a controversial figure in the art world, as various art historians claim he stole many of the items in his collection when he was working for the Yugoslav military at the end of World War II.

St Mark’s Church

Situated in the Upper Town, this 13th century structure has a distinctive, colourfully tiled roof. This displays the medieval coat of arms of Croatia, Dalmatia and Slovenia on one side, and the emblem of the city of Zagreb on the other.

Only open when mass is held, the church contains dramatic sculptures by the 20th century artist Ivan Mestrovic.

Between April and October, you can catch a changing of the guard ceremony outside the church every Saturday and Sunday at midday.

Take the Blue Tram

Zagreb’s blue trams go across the Lower Town, making them ideal for sightseeing. Most of them pass through Ban Josip Jelacic, the main square, which is a useful starting point for making trips to different corners of the city.

In all there are 15 different lines, and they make sightseeing easy, as you can either stay on and watch downtown Zagreb pass by, or get off at key points to experience the Lower Town close up.

Exploring Zagreb’s Lower Town

While there is a certain amount of urban uniformity in Donji grad, it also has a series of garden squares that are all interconnected and known as Lenuci’s Horseshoe, after the city’s planner, Milan Lenuci.

The streets in the Lower Town are generally wide and spacious, and the main shopping street, Ilica, is a lengthy stretch, running from Ban Josip Jelacic square to the Vrapce neighbourhood of western Zagreb.

For a wide selection of cafes, bars and restaurants, Ilica street is a great stop-off point – try a local fruit brandy, rakija or sample a strukli, a local pastry available in sweet or savoury variations.

If sampling the local bars is to your taste, Tkalciceva street full of them, providing a characterful thoroughfare to wind your way up and down, slowly.

Then, on a Saturday, you can blow away the cobwebs by taking part in the local spica phenomenon.

This takes place by the flower market, from 11am and runs until early afternoon. The best way to describe it is as somewhere between a social gathering, an outdoor party and a fashion parade.

Find Your Perfect Villa

Book a villa or apartment rental direct with the owners using Villaseek. We’ve got thousands of listings to choose from, to help you create your dream holiday.

Dubrovnik: Croatia’s Dreamiest City
Sep 25th, 2017 by Tom Kerswill

In the middle of the Dalmatian Coast lies Dubrovnik, a medieval gem overlooking the Adriatic. The city is a World Heritage site for good reasons: it has magnificent medieval fortifications, Baroque churches, a charming and intriguing old town, and wonderful beaches.

It’s also the filming location for large chunks of Game Of Thrones, making it an ideal destination for fans.

Whether you stay in a holiday villa close by, or in the city itself, Dubrovnik is compact enough to quickly get a feel for it, while remaining endlessly fascinating.

The Walls and the Old Town

This pedestrian-only area is the city’s main draw for visitors, as one of the world’s finest, perfectly preserved medieval cities.

It’s huge stone walls were built between the 11th and 17th centuries, and you can still walk along them. A full circuit of the walls is two kilometres, walking along the battlements.

The walk provides an excellent vantage point for fabulous views across the sea and over the old town. The walls themselves are an imposing sight, around six metres thick and 24 metres high, on average.

You’ll also encounter a series of towers along the way, added in the 15th century to further protect the city against the Turks.

The main street in the old town is Stradun, also known as Placa. This stretches from the western entrance to the port. It’s the main local promenade, full of cafés, shops and restaurants. Its fully pedestrianised, and most of the streets in the old town lead onto it. It’s an ideal place to stop for a drink and watch the people passing by.

At the eastern end of the old town is Luza Square, where you’ll find Dubrovnik Cathedral, Orlando’s Column, and other inspiring architecture. This beautiful square is also the site of Dubrovnik’s annual Summer Festival, and a ceremonial procession on Sveti Vlaho’s Day in February.

Explore the Dominican Monastery

This striking building is just behind the Sponza Palace, and close to the Ploce Gate – the main entrance to the old town from the eastern side. The monastery dates from the 14th century, and you can approach it via a grand stairway, which leads to the monastery church of St Dominic, and a statue of the saint.

At the heart of the monastery you’ll find 15th century Gothic cloisters and a museum displaying some fine examples of religious art and reliquaries, including three canvasses by the notable 16th century artist, Nikola Bozaderivic.

Ride the Cable Car Up

In contrast with the vivid medieval feel of the city, this modern attraction, built in 2010, provides regular, three-minute runs to the top of Mount Srdj, just behind the city.

There are two carriages, each taking 30 people, and the views, en route and at the top, are spectacular. There’s a restaurant, café and gift shop when you get to the top.

If you’re feeling up to it, you can always take the cable car up then hike back down the mountain on foot, along the Mount Srdj Ropeway.

Visit the Beach

One of the great things about Dubrovnik is that when you want a change of scene, you’ve got several beaches to choose from, giving you a real sense of contrast with the city itself.

There are half a dozen beaches close by, from the busy stretch of sand at Banje, just outside the old town; to the small but picturesque stretch of pebbles at Sveti Jakov, some twenty minutes’ walk from the centre, with fantastic views of the old town.

Whether it’s bustling and lively or more secluded you want, Dubrovnik has the beach to suit your tastes. And when your day in the sun is over, you can head back into the city for evening sightseeing, local colour, food and drink.

Find Your Perfect Villa

Book a villa or apartment rental direct with the owners using Villaseek. We’ve got thousands of listings to choose from, to help you create your dream holiday.

A Legendary Greek Destination: the Peloponnese
Sep 11th, 2017 by Tom Kerswill

When looking for that perfect Greek holiday villa, don’t neglect the mainland. The Peloponnese is the mythical heartland of Greece, the setting for so many of its legends, but it is also a glorious, largely unspoilt, holiday destination.

The Gulf of Corinth separates this southern peninsula from the central part of the mainland, and of its administrative regions, the Peloponnese is the largest.

This area was at the heart of ancient Greek affairs and contained the major cities of Argos, Sparta, Corinth and Megalopolis. It was also the setting for the Peloponnese War in 431 BC, when various Ancient Greek states united against the Persian Empire.

As a contemporary holiday destination, the Peloponnese has plenty of sandy beaches and beautiful natural landscapes, alongside intriguing ruins and remnants from antiquity.

 

Fortresses and Caves in Laconia

The Laconia Region of the Peloponnese contains areas of natural beauty and historical significance, such as the fortress city of Monemvasia and the Mani peninsula.

Monemvasia is a hidden fortress, dating from the Byzantium period, and close by is the ancient Kastania Cave, formed over millions of years. There are also beautiful beaches here, for when you want a break from exploring.

Mani has two distinct parts, Outer and Deep. The Outer Mani consists of coastline, including pretty coastal villages such as Kardamili, and the beautiful beaches at Lefktro.

The Deep Mani has an altogether more rugged coastline, and is strikingly dramatic. Visit the village of Vathia, perched high above sea level, with its outcrops of stone tower-houses and winding streets.

In this part of the Mani you’ll also find the legendary Diros Caves, which you explore on a punt, gliding along on the water’s surface through their eerie setting. The caves cover a huge area of around 33,000 square metres, and only a fraction of this has been explored, but it certainly feels extensive as you pass stalactites and stalagmites.

 

Archaia and Patras

The Peloponnese region of Achaia is home to Patras, the biggest city on the peninsula, along with wonderful beaches and scenic mountains.

Patras is a bustling place, in contrast to the more rural, undeveloped areas of the Peloponnese. However, it has its charms and attractions, from its busy harbour, medieval castle, and the cobbled streets of the Old City. It also has a landmark lighthouse, and various areas of archaeological interest.

Also, like many Greek cities and towns, it has a thriving nightlife, as you’d expect from a city that is the country’s third largest and also home to a large student population.

The region has some truly beautiful beaches, including Kalogria, Akrata, Platanos, Monodendri and Egira.

Also look out for a more modern architectural wonder, the Rio-Antirrio bridge, which connects the Peloponnese to central Greece.

 

Glorious Coastline at Ilia

In the north west of the Peloponnese, Ilia is a fertile, rural region, with a long coastline running up its western side.

It’s the site of Ancient Olympia, where the first games were held, and the hot springs at Kaïafas, legendary home of the Atlantean nymphs.

The beaches are beautiful, many with blue flag status. Some are bordered by pine trees and they range from the tranquil to the more active, where you can enjoy a range of watersports.

Ilia has plenty of picturesque sea ports and traditional villages, alongside its many characterful tavernas and beach bars. It also boasts the Temple of Apollo at Epikourios, the first Unesco-listed Ancient Greek heritage site.

 

Find Your Perfect Villa

Book a villa or apartment rental direct with the owners using Villaseek. We’ve got thousands of listings to choose from, to help you create your dream holiday.

Dénia: Traditional Spanish Town with a Cosmopolitan Feel
Aug 28th, 2017 by Tom Kerswill

How much of the real Spain you want to experience on a self-catering villa holiday is a matter of personal taste, but some resorts feel a little more Spanish than others.

If you travel to the north of the Costa Blanca, you’ll find the town of Dénia. While this is by no means a quiet and secluded destination, it does have the genuine feel of a busy Spanish town.

An 18th century fortress, the Castillo de Dénia dominates the town’s skyline, and it provides an excellent vantage point for taking in the surrounding area.

To the north of the town are 20km of blue flag sandy beaches, and with their fine sand and shallow waters they’re ideal for families.

The Town and Local Food

Dénia is cosmopolitan but comfortable – it’s got pavement cafés and boutiques, and a great indoor market. It has traditional streets and squares, churches, museums and monuments.

The seafront is attractive, with various small roads leading from it into the town behind. You’ll find a variety of places to eat and drink on the front, but if you explore the raise patios immediately behind it, there’s plenty more to discover.

Overlooking the sea, the Baix La Mar is a traditional fisherman’s neighbourhood, where you’ll find little squares and colourful townhouses with wrought-iron balconies spilling over with bright flowers.

The main shopping street in the town is Calle Marques de Campo, and it’s both bustling and fashionable. The left side of the street as you work up it is pretty much given over to cafés and restaurants.

Dénia has been described as an ideal destination for food lovers with over 400 restaurants.

Its most famous rice dish is, naturally, paella, but there are many others, such as arroz a banda, made with fish stock and saffron.

There are also the delicious mini-pizzas known as cocas, and espencat, made using grilled aubergines, red peppers and salty fish.

The town has branded itself a gastronomy centre, and sampling what’s on offer, you will see why.

 

Amazing Raisins

Dénia is historically famous for producing raisins. These come from the Moscatel Romano grape and from the 19th century the town exported them all over the world.

The same locally-cultivated grape is used to make Mistela, a sweet liqueur wine. It’s the ideal accompaniment to local cakes and delicacies, including delicious almond and raisin biscuits.

Local Cultural Spots

In the historic heart of the town is the Museo Ethnologico, where you can see beautifully crafted 19th century furniture and jewellery, and opulent clothes from the reign of Isabel II.

There are also many outstanding examples of historical architecture in the town that are well worth seeing.

These include the Hostal Loreto, a former nunnery that’s around 450 years old. Now a hotel and restaurant, it’s well worth a visit, if just to admire its courtyard and traditional wall tiles.

 

Fiesta Time in Dénia

You might not have planned your stay around any local fiestas, but they’re fairly frequent, so you might well catch one anyway.

In fact, there are fiestas throughout the summer months, and also during the winter.

These include parades, a carnival, and the big Festa Major in July, which includes bull running, starting from the Calle Marques de Campo.

Find Your Perfect Villa

Book a villa or apartment rental direct with the owners using Villaseek. We’ve got thousands of listings to choose from, to help you create your dream holiday.

Benidorm: Sometimes Brash, Often Beautiful
Jul 24th, 2017 by Tom Kerswill

The most visited resort on the Costa Blanca is big and bold, packed with restaurants, bars and clubs. But the size of this sprawling resort means more choice, so you can tailor your holiday to fit, making it a great destination for a family holiday.

In other words, don’t be put off by Benidorm’s somewhat larger than life reputation. Choose a self-catering holiday villa in the area, and take what Benidorm has to offer at your own, relaxed pace.

Beaches in Benidorm

Luxuriant and long, Benidorm’s beaches are epic stretches of golden sand, so while they’re popular, there’s plenty to explore to find your ideal spot in the sun.

On the east side of the resort is Levante Beach, known as the sunrise beach. It’s lively and has some 5,000 sun beds. The sandy beach slopes gently into the sea, making it relatively safe for all swimmers, whatever their level of confidence and ability

In the sea itself are rafts, slides and diving boards, while lifeguards are on duty throughout the summer season. There’s also disabled access onto the beach via ramps.

For parents seeking relaxation, children are well catered for with all-day entertainment at the beach, and the conspicuously colourful meeting points make it easy to find them at the end of the day.

To the west is Poniente Beach. While also huge, it tends to get less crowded than Levante. It’s rock-free with a relaxed atmosphere and a recently revitalised promenade provides food and drink, and shopping – for when you want a break from the sun.

Further along the coastline from Poniente is the area of La Cala, a quieter part of the coast. This is a little way out from Benidorm, but when you tire of the quiet life, you can easy get a taxi or bus back to the hustle and bustle of the main town.

Closer to the harbour, beneath the port, is the smaller Malpas Beach. In contrast to the two main beaches this is altogether quieter, but with a character of its own.

The Old Town

Benidorm’s glitz, glamour, nightlife and beaches are, naturally, a big holiday draw, but away from the bustling city, the old town retains its natural Spanish charm.

Here you can experience the taste of Spain at a range of authentic eateries, and explore the town’s cobbled roads and twisting streets. Tapas Alley is so named because it’s packed with tapas bars and restaurants.

There’s a weekend flea market, and local market produce available mid-week – ideal for stocking up your villa supplies.

You can easily explore the shoreline from the Old Town, and key vantage points provide beautiful views of the beach and the coast.

Balcon del Mediterraneo – the Castle Viewpoint

On top of the rock that separates the two main beaches, overlooking the port, is Balcon del Mediterraneo, originally the fortress built to defend Benidorm town from incursions of Algerian pirates between the 14th and 16th centuries.

With its large balcony, you can enjoy splendid views of both the beaches, beautiful architecture and places of interest in Benidorm, such as the Church of San Jaime.

There are steep steps to climb, but the view is more than worth it as your reward.

Find Your Villa

Book a villa or apartment rental direct with the owners using Villaseek. We’ve got thousands of listings to choose from, to help you create your dream holiday.

The Beach and Beyond: Attractions in Alicante
Jul 10th, 2017 by Tom Kerswill

In the middle of the Costa Blanca’s recreational coastline, Alicante is a multi-faceted tourist destination with a strong culture and tradition dating back centuries.

Full of natural treasures, and with blue flag beaches to relax on, Alicante is a great holiday villa destination, where you can set your own pace, combining culture with a bit of holiday indulgence.

Contrasting Beaches

First, the beaches, because even if you’ve got other interests, the beach remains a great attraction, and Alicante’s beaches are of a Blue Flag standard, while offering a high degree of diversity.

There’s the central Postiquet Beach, near the heart of Alicante itself. It’s big, it’s popular and it has wide stretches of fine sand, palm trees and plenty of places to eat and drink. It’s also ideal if you want to take a break during your day at the beach to explore more of the city.

If you don’t want so much bustle and activity around your beach, try the quieter location of La Almadraba. Enclosed by rocky outcrops, Playa de la Almadraba is smaller and quieter than the other beaches in Alicante. It provides lovely scenic views, especially at sunset, and during the day it retains its quiet charm.

There are plenty more beaches to choose from, many practically on the doorstep, and where they’re not, the public transport network of buses and trams makes reaching them easy.

A Brush with Culture

We’re not saying you shouldn’t soak up the sun’s rays and just relax, but if you want to mix your holiday experiences a bit, then Alicante is the place to do it. There are several great museums in this culturally rich location, including the Alicante Museum of Contemporary Art (MACA).

MACA’s home is a baroque town house, the oldest civil building in Alicante. By contrast, the museum’s focus is on contemporary and 20th century art, and contains work by Picasso, Juan Gris and Cocteau, alongside notable local artist and sculptor Eusebio Sempere.

If you want art that’s more traditional, try the Gravina Museum of Fine Arts. Here you’ll find plenty of striking work by regional artists from the 16th to the 18th centuries. Like MACA, the entrance to this museum is free.

Climbing the Castle

The 10th century fortress of Santa Barbara Castle rises over Alicante, perched on the of Mount Benancantil. Whether you walk, drive or take the lift from Postiguet Beach, which tunnels up through rock to reach its destination, this is well worth a visit.

As one of the largest Medieval fortresses in Europe, this is the full castle experience, including dungeons, battlements, the palace and the ruins of a small church within the castle walls. Plus, you get tremendous views across Alicante.

Throughout July and August, the city hosts special evenings at the castle consisting of free concerts held in the courtyard.

The True Taste of Alicante

As you might expect, Alicante boast fine local seafood, usually combined with tasty rice dishes, including arroz negro – black rice cooked with cuttlefish. Another speciality is to bake a whole fish in salt, and the area has the claim to some of the best prawns in the world.

If you visit the Pesca al Peso restaurant in the Old Town, you pick out your choice of fresh fish from the market-style displays and they cook it for you on the spot.

In all, there are lots of seafood restaurants in idyllic locations to choose from, when you want a break from your self-catering holiday villa. There are also daily indoor markets from where you can buy your own fresh fish supplies and go native.

Make Island Hopping in the Canaries Worth Your While
Jun 26th, 2017 by Tom Kerswill

The Canary Islands are a popular holiday destination, but most people stick to just one for the duration of their break. However, it is possible to broaden your experience of the Canaries by island hopping.

Your self-catering holiday villa can provide the perfect base for exploring the different islands, whichever destination you choose.

Getting About

For island hopping purposes, the best means of getting about is by using ferries. With the hydrofoil and high-speed ferry services, island hopping is far less time consuming, while remaining relaxing and pleasurable.

The main airports of the Canaries are Fuerteventura, Tenerife South, Las Palmas for Gran Canaria and Arrecife for Lanzarote. Once at your main destination, you can explore the ferry and boat links to the other islands.

 

Tenerife

This is an ideal ferry destination for island hopping because it has a bit of everything, from imposing volcanic landscapes to the tourist-friendly centres of Costa Adeje and Los Cristianos.

Explore the vineyards of La Orotava, or go whale watching off the coast. Mount Teide is Spain’s highest mountain, and the world’s third highest island volcano, situated in Teide National Park, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You can enjoy the spectacular views by riding on the Teide Cable Car.

Tenerife is also the main hub for inter-island sea traffic, so you’ve plenty of choice for where to hop to next from here.

 

Gran Canaria

This island is home to Las Palmas, the capital of the Canaries, which dates from 1478. It’s on the eastern part of the island, and has two bays with the popular beaches, Playa de las Canteras and Playa de las Caravaneras.

Gran Canaria is often described as a continent in miniature, because it consists of such varied geography and climates. Places of interest include the large bird sanctuary at Palmitos Park, and the Maspalomas Dunes and Maspalomas Lighthouse.

Also check out the village of Puerto de Mogán, known as Little Venice because of its many canals; and the archeologically significant Painted Cave of Galdar.

 

La Gomera

With its dense woodland, lush vegetation and deep ravines, La Gomera is an ideal destination for walkers and hikers.

These green slopes form the Garajonay National Park, and there are some 350 kilometres of walking trails. On La Gomera, there are streets made of sand, and the inhabitants still speak an ancient whistling language, Sibo, devised to help them communicate across the island’s landscape.

 

Lanzarote

Beyond the beaches and clubs, Lanzarote presents an eerie, alien vista of red and black volcanic rock and its famous lava tubes.

Some of these form the Green Caves, or Cueva de los Verdes, a large cave system which includes a concert hall carved into of it.

Lanzarote’s vineyards grow celebrated local Malvasia wines, which you can enjoy while experiencing the island’s long, sunny days.

There are daily ferries from this northernmost of the Canaries to Fuerteventura, and the journey takes around 25 minutes.

 

La Palma

Another of the Canaries with a varied geography, La Palma is known as the beautiful island for its beaches, its stunning greenery and dramatic volcanoes

The entire island is a UNESCO-designated World Biosphere Reserve. It has 1,000 kilometres of paths for walkers, through prehistoric forests, past waterfalls and up the island’s peaks.

And at night you discover another quality to La Palma, its incredibly clear skies, making it a great place for star gazing. Astronomers love the island for this reason, but you don’t have to be an expert to experience the beauty of the stars from high on La Palma.

Exploring Volcanic Fuerteventura’s Varied Coastline
Jun 12th, 2017 by Tom Kerswill

Whether it’s the beach, the exploration, the food or the nightlife, the island of Fuerteventura has plenty to keep you occupied, while giving you the space to relax as much as you want.

Less than 100km off the African coast, this is the oldest of the Canaries, and the largest. It boasts 152 beaches along its coastline, many of which are dazzling white sand, while others are a contrasting black, volcanic shingle. There’s barely any rainfall here and the temperature rarely falls below 18º centigrade, or rises above 32º.

In short, for many it’s the perfect island destination. And if you choose a holiday villa as your base, this gives you an open itinerary for exploring and experiencing Fuerteventura’s varied attractions and locations.

The island’s natural coastline is, itself, a big draw, offering beaches, landscapes and places to explore.

 

The Best Beaches

Obviously, with 152 beaches to choose from, there is a lot of choice. However, some of Fuerteventura’s beaches are so strikingly beautiful that they set a whole new standard.

Sotavento has 17 continuous miles of unspoiled, white sand. This lengthy beach stretches down the south east coast of the island, and while some parts of it are popular, and therefore get quite busy, others are deserted.

Swimming conditions are ideal, with the sea a comfortable 21º all year round.

Getting to Sotavento beach is very easy. There are places to park all along the coastline, if you’re driving, or there are plenty of buses leaving from all the major towns on the east coast.

At the north of Fuerteventura is Corralejo beach. This is six miles long, bordering a national park. With its palm trees and sand dunes, it’s another idyllic setting. You can reach it from the island’s highway, the FV-1.

From Corrlejo there are regular boat trips to Isla Lobos. You can explore this tiny island on foot in just a few hours, but it has some wonderfully secluded beaches, and it has great snorkelling – its protected status means there are plenty of fish in its waters. Lobos island also comes with its own volcano, so if you tire of beach life you can always hike to the top for some spectacular views.

 

The Protected Peninsula

The south westerly tip of Fuerteventura is another protected area. This is the Península de Jandía, a rugged landscape of cliffs and empty plains.

It provides a dramatic contrast to the beaches of the north and east, and is an opportunity to explore another side to the island.

If you’re feeling confident and adventurous enough, you can hire your own four-wheel drive to drive along the winding cliff roads, or alternatively, take the bus to experience the ride and views.

 

Caves and Coves

On the west coast is Ajuy, an area full of rocks, caves and coves. It’s a great area for walking and taking in the natural, dramatic atmosphere.

The footpath makes the caves more accessible from the top of the cliffs, and you can also reach them from the beach.

The beach at Ajuy is black, volcanic sand, contrasting with the crystal clear water. It rarely attracts many visitors, so provides a peaceful place to relax after exploring the caves and coves.

Ajuy town is small but welcoming, and it has plenty of seafront restaurants offering great local food.

This varied coastline is just one of the many aspects making Fuerteventura an ideal destination for a villa holiday.

Fascinating Betancuria at the Heart of Fuerteventura
Jun 5th, 2017 by Tom Kerswill

Much of the Canaries’ attraction comes down to them being the ideal holiday destination, with glorious weather and vast stretches of white, sandy beach.

However, if you’re going on a self-catering break to a holiday villa in Fuerteventura, you might just want to consider what else there is to do there, because, strange as it seems, you can have too much relaxing on a beach in the sun.

Luckily, there are plenty of other things to see and do in Fuerteventura when you want a break from the beach, due to the island’s history and heritage.

The Old Capital and Turbulent Times

Betancuria is the old capital of Fuerteventura, before the advent of tourism transformed the island so dramatically. Along its cobbled streets, you’ll experience a sense of a past that still resonates beneath the modern island, and is carried on through its culture.

Jean de Béthencourt founded Betancuria in 1404, hence the name, during the Castilian invasion of the island. Because Betancuria was some distance from the coast, many there believed it would be safe from invading pirates, and therefore the ideal spot for a settlement.

In fact, Moors and Berbers raided it several times during the early 15th century, and the British had a go at invading it in 1740, but were defeated at the Battle of Tamasite by the Spanish.

From the 19th century onwards, as the island’s power and economic centre shifted, Betancuria declined in importance until it was officially stripped of its capital status in 1834.

With the growth of tourism in the 1960s, more inhabitants migrated to the coast, leaving behind Betancuria and the island’s interior.

 

Historical Architecture

The Iglesia de Santa María was the first church built on the island, and is a combination of different baroque, renaissance and gothic architectural styles.

This is because it was rebuilt several times during the island’s more troubled history, with the Berbers burning it down in 1593.

The historic bell tower survives, however, as do other aspects of the church; and the interior has several elaborately decorated baroque altars.

On the outskirts of the town are the ruins of a late 15th century monastery, San Buenaventura. This convent was last used in 1937 and now stands as a ruin, alongside its small, disused companion church, which has undergone extensive restoration.

In the heart of the designated Betancuria Natural Park, is the Casa de Santa María, a house dating from the 17th century. It has been carefully renovated in the traditional Canarian style and is now home to a local museum and craft centre, along with a café and restaurant. It also has a 3D cinema showing spectacular underwater footage.

Also in Betancuria are the Museo de Arte Sacro (Musuem of Sacred Art), containing many historically important religious relics, and the Casa de Museo de Betancuria, displaying various architectural objects found at excavations in Fuerteventura.

 

Great Views

A little way out from the town centre are a couple of vantage points presenting spectacular views of the island.

The Mirador Corrales de Guize is located at an altitude of 600 metres and provides a panoramic view of the stunning local scenery. It’s hard to miss as it’s marked by two enormous bronze figures. On a clear day, you can see the El Rincón Valley, the mountain peaks of Morro Veloso, Morro de la Cruz and la Atalaya, and Betancuria itself.

The other vantage point is at Mirador Morro Veloso, north of Betancuria, towards Antigua. This has a café bar at the viewing point, and offers great views of the dramatic landscape.

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