The Cyclades: Famous Islands of the Aegean
Dec 11th, 2017 by Tom Kerswill

Forming a circle around the sacred island of Delos, the Cyclades islands have a deserved reputation as being some of the most beautiful in the world. Here you’ll find glorious bright sunlight and gleaming blue ocean, but also a variety of settings and experiences, depending on the island you choose for your self-catering villa holiday.

Here is a selection of them.


Cultural Andros

The northernmost of the Cyclades islands is also the closest to Athens, making Andros a popular weekend destination. However, this shouldn’t put you off: Andros has plenty to offer, and plenty of space to explore.

Whereas Batsi is the most developed part, with its beaches and hotels, there are also rocky coastlines and a rich variety of plant life and trees.

There are various secluded villages, connected by paved paths, ancient castle ruins and Neolithic settlements.

The capital of Andors, Chora, is a cultural destination in its own right, with the globally renowned Goulandris Museum of Contemporary Art, housed in two neighbouring buildings.


Glamorous Mykonos

There’s more than a touch of St Tropez and Ibiza about Mykonos, and this is something the island is well aware of.

Playing to its strengths, Mykonos offers visitors boutique hotels and cafés, a relentless party season and a wide selection of restaurants and bars.

However, Mykonos is also the main dropping off point for visiting the nearby island of Delos, rich in architecture and quietly mesmerising – a world away from the cosmopolitan glamour of Mykonos.

Also, if you choose to stay in a villa in Mykonos out of season, you’ll find it strangely sedate and quiet, so you can enjoy its scenery and beaches largely to yourself.

Volcanic Santorini

The views on Santorini can be stunningly panoramic. It’s perfect for glorious, romantic sunsets, and for looking at the wide, blue infinity of the Aegean from its whitewashed buildings.

It’s a unique destination, which is why it draws so many visitors annually, many of them visiting for the day on cruise ships.

A rough, crescent shape, the island’s crater-like structure was what was left after a huge volcanic eruption thousands of years ago.

Consequently, on its eastern side are its famous landscape of towering cliffs.

Santorini combines this natural ruggedness with a cosmopolitan outlook.

However, while the Island’s elevated west coast is home to many sophisticated bars, restaurants and tavernas, its lower-level east side combines beaches of volcanic black sand with a more traditional Greek island feel.

In other words, you can get the best of both worlds here.


Natural Naxos

The largest and greenest of these islands is Naxos. It’s got high mountains, gorges, valleys and villages perched high overlooking spectacular seascapes.

So, while it has its bars and beaches and more typical tourist attractions, Naxos is also great for some homegrown culture and nature.

The main Naxos Town has an old quarter known as the Kástro, which was originally the seat of the Venetian Duchy in ruled most of the area from 1204. It has steep lanes to wander along and you can explore the nearby countryside dotted with Byzantine churches and the tower mansions that the Venetians themselves once occupied.

There are also two museums in Kástro: a private Venetian Museum and a state-run archaeological museum.

There are two monasteries worth visiting in the countryside of Naxos. There are the ruins of Kalamítsia, run by Jesuits in the late 1600s; and the more intact, Greek Orthodox monastery of Fotodótis.

A notable ancient site on Naxos is the unfinished Temple of Delian Apollo which is an imposing stone portal, known locally as the Portára. You can also visit a skilfully reconstructed temple at Gyroúla.

Naxos provides great walking country, when you explore the vast olive grove uplands southeast of Naxos Town, known as the Trageá. You’ll also discover steep mountain passes leading to characterful villages and tempting tavernas.


Lesser-Known Cycladic Islands

Apart from these big hitters of the Cyclades, there are several lesser-known islands well worth visiting, if only for the day.

These include the tiny island of Iraklia with its scenic bays and dense greenery; Tinos, the religious centre of the area, home to the church of Panayia Meyalóhari; and Kythnos, with its thermal springs.

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The Ideal Villa Break in Tuscany
Nov 27th, 2017 by Tom Kerswill

There’s plenty to explore in Tuscany, from different areas, such as Chianti, to famous cities like Florence, Pisa and Siena.

It’s an ideal location for a self-catering villa break, giving you the freedom to set your own itinerary and pace, to relax and enjoy this endlessly fascinating region of Italy.

The Tuscan Countryside

As a holiday setting, the Tuscan countryside is ideal. It feels open and expansive, but at the same time you’re never going to be too far from the region’s various attractions.

There are many self-catering villas, and converted farmhouses, in the Tuscan countryside to choose from, and they make a good base to then explore the beautiful rolling hills, mountains and the region’s coastline.

You’ll find plenty of absolute gems dotted about, such as the Abbey of Monte Oliveto Maggiore, in the middle of a forest of cypress trees, deep in the Siena countryside.

The Orcia Valley, in the Valdorcia area, is richly green and has large numbers of sunflowers covering its many hills.

A short distance from Florence and high in the hills is the small town of Loro Ciuffenna, with an approach that offers commanding views of the valley far below.

The town itself has well-preserved historic buildings and streets and one of the oldest working water mills in Tuscany, grinding chestnuts into flour. There’s also an attractive, arched Romanesque bridge.

The famous wine-growing Chianti region of Tuscany has miles of green hills, vineyards, olive groves and ancient walled towns and villages. This region stretches from Florence to Siena and has plenty to both see and do. And be sure to include a wine tasting during your visit.


Tuscany’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites

The region is blessed with an abundance of historically and culturally significant destinations, recognised as such by UNESCO.

Florence, the region’s capital, has enough to justify a whole holiday spent there, from its historical centre to its hugely popular artworks, churches and cathedral. It’s home to the Uffizi Gallery, where you can see Botticelli’s Birth of Venus, Titian’s Venus of Urbino and lots of works by early pioneers of the Renaissance.

Close by to Florence are the original summer residences of the famous Medici family. These 12 villas and two gardens are captivating remnants of the Renaissance era.

Pisa has, of course, its Leaning Tower, set in the Piazza dei Miracoli, the Square of Miracles. It’s all architecturally striking, and its whiteness stands out amid the surrounding greenery.

Another World Heritage site is the small town of San Gimignano, which in many ways feels like the quintessential Tuscany: it has historic medieval towers, great local food and wine and it fits in beautifully with the surrounding countryside.

The historic centre of Siena includes its campo – a square shaped like a shell – and cathedral, which is home to various masterpieces by local artists. It’s also where the city holds its famous Palio horse race in July and August.

Pope Pius II transformed his hometown of Pienza into what became known as the ideal city of the Renaissance, implementing some of the era’s first architectural projects, such as the Palazzo Piccolomini. This is another location with a strong culinary tradition, famous for its meats and cheeses.


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Visit or Stay, but Don’t Miss the Island of Hydra
Nov 13th, 2017 by Tom Kerswill

Hydra is one of the most famous of the Greek islands, and it’s been a magnet for celebrities for many years, since becoming a film location in the 1950s. Consequently, some of it is quite chic, and expensive.

Does this mean you shouldn’t visit? Of course not. While Hydra is undoubtedly cosmopolitan in outlook, it still boasts possibly the most beautiful harbour of any of the Greek islands, and it retains its laid-back charm.

It’s a favourite weekend haunt for Athenians, because it’s only just over an hour’s trip away by high-speed ferry from the port of Pireaus. This means it’s accessible as an island-hopping destination or stopover.

When choosing your holiday villa in Greece, whether it’s on Hydra itself or on one of the Argo-Saronic islands, don’t miss out on experiencing a unique place that retains a special charm.

Natural Hydra for Hikers

While Hydra certainly has many boutique hotels, bars and restaurants, and a lively nightlife, it’s also home to some beautiful walking paths and donkey trails, making it a perfect destination for hikers.

Spring and autumn are the best months for hiking. The island is covered in a carpet of wild flowers, some unique to this location. Plus, the weather is far more forgiving for taking extended, rugged walks.

Also, there are no cars on Hydra, which adds to a sense of freedom, and safety, for hikers.

There are three main hiking routes on Hydra. You can take a hilly route from the ferry, up through a tree-lined avenue then a trail through pine trees, to the Profitis Ilias Monastery.

Another scenic hiking route takes you to Zourvas Monastery and the Hydra Lighthouse. The best way to do this is to take a water taxi there then hike back, along an upward slope, along goat paths and a donkey trail.

Finally, there’s a great hike to the Byzantine town of Episkopi, which follows the coastline, past several swimming beaches, so you can always break off for a dip along the route.

Out and About and Waterfront Views

Food in Hydra is variable in price and imagination, however, the views from the waterfront cafés are unmissable. The main entertainment is people-watching and there is no finer spot.

There are plenty of cheaper eating places you’ll discover if you explore Hydra Town’s backstreets, with tavernas serving traditional Greek dishes alongside other restaurants offering pizza and pasta.

Some establishments have been here for years, including Xeri Elia Douskos, the oldest restaurant in Hydra. This is where Leonard Cohen used to go when he stayed on the island in the 1960s. You can still find Local musicians playing bouzouki and accordion of an evening.

Getting around is, well, interesting, as there are no street names. This makes Hydra ideal for exploring though, as you just set off and see what you find around the next corner.

While the island has its cosmopolitan reputation, it feels unspoiled by all the attention it gets. With transport pretty much restricted to donkeys and horses, it never feels overcrowded.

It’s not, however, known for its beaches. This doesn’t mean it’s not ideal for lazing about in when you’re not exploring, but don’t expect the sun-kissed, sandy brilliance of other Greek islands.

The cove at Ágios Nikólaos is beautiful though, coming as a reward at the end of a long hike, lengthways across the island.

Hydra is also a great base for day trips to neighbouring islands, Spétses, or Póros.

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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.


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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.

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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.

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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.


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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

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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.

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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.

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