13 February 2018
Sun-kissed southern Europe is home to some of the world’s most fascinating destinations, where long golden beaches sit alongside ancient ruins and fascinating cultural attractions. Create the holiday of your dreams with our top three southern European destinations to visit in 2018…
Exquisite cuisine, idyllic landscapes, romantic cities and ancient landmarks; Italy has it all and you can find world-famous sites in Rome, Venice and Florence. Rome’s iconic landmarks include the Colosseum, St Peter’s Basilica, the Sistine Chapel with its legendary fresco and the Trevi Fountain. In Venice visit the gothic-style Doge’s Palace, sip coffee on the Piazza San Marco and stroll along the Bridge of Sighs. Florence is a must for culture enthusiasts, as its Galleria dell'Accademia houses Michelangelo’s ‘Statue of David’. Its other attractions of note include the intricately-adorned Florence Cathedral, the Ponte Vecchio bridge with its jewellery shops and the 13th century Palazzo Vecchio.
Italy provides a myriad of different experiences. History enthusiasts should head to Pompeii, famous for its well-preserved Roman ruins like the Villa Poppaea with its lavish frescoes. Enjoy invigorating hikes along volcanic peaks Mount Vesuvius in Campania and Mount Etna in Sicily. Foodies will love Italy, whether you go to global pizza capital Naples, try the world’s only patented bread ‘altamura’ in Puglia or buy ‘cassata’ sweets for your kids in Sicily. You can also visit designer boutiques including the likes of Prada and Armani in Milan, or enjoy family days out at shores such as Sardinia’s secluded Cala Goloritzé and the gently-shelving sandy beach of Tropea where kids can swim in shallow waters.
One-of-a-kind adventures await in intriguing Italy. Embark on a romantic gondola ride down the idyllic Grand Canal of Venice, and afterwards visit the city’s traditional shops where you can buy iconic ceremonial masks and glassware. While you’re in Florence sample Tuscany’s world-renowned Chianti red wines, or travel to the Conegliano Valdobbiadene area and see how Prosecco is made. Unique religious attractions can be found across Italy like the Shroud of Turin and UNESCO World Heritage site the Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi in Umbria. Italy is also the birthplace of opera, so you can watch spell-binding performances at venues such as the Arena di Verona amphitheatre!
Croatia is the jewel of the Adriatic Coast, with so much to see and do. Its most popular destination is Dubrovnik, where you can tour the magnificent old town walls, stroll down the limestone-cobbled streets of the Stradun public area, visit the Assumption Cathedral with its holy relics including the remains of St Blaise, and tour the Lawrence Fortress. The capital Zagreb is worth a visit, as it hosts the Medieval-style St Mark’s Church, the Art Pavilion gallery and the Museum of Illusions where your children can try engaging puzzles. This city also boasts the trendy Gornji Grad–Medveščak district known for its neo-gothic cathedral and Tkalčićeva Street with its chic cafes and boutiques.
Boasting 1,800-kilometres of Adriatic coastline, Croatia is ideal for nature enthusiasts, adventure sports lovers and families. A must for your itinerary is Plitvice National Park with its 16 emerald coloured lakes where you can spot wolves, bears and falcons. Try adventure sports like scuba diving in the coral-rich waters surrounding the Kornati Islands, hiking in the Golden Cape Woodlands and rafting in Cetina River. Enjoy a family day out sailing among the uninhabited rocky inlets of Kornati National Park, or by visiting shores like the cliff-shaded Bellevue Beach where it never gets too hot, Plat Beach with shallow waters ideal for swimming and Lone Bay Beach, a popular paddle boarding spot.
A host of memorable experiences call you to Croatia. Foodies can sample tantalising local dishes like squid risotto, cottage cheese and sour cream-stuffed ‘strukli’ pastries and Dalmatian delicacy ‘pasticada’ which is made from beef and gnocchi. Croatia also boasts a thriving wine scene, which you can explore at the picturesque hilltop vineyards scattered across Zagorje, an area also known for its thermal spring spas. Discover hidden gems including the Museum of Broken Relationships in Zagreb, Zadar’s Caffe Bar Tequila Sunrise where you can enjoy expertly-crafted cocktails, the capital’s graffiti-strewn alternative music venue ‘Medika’ and Istria’s spectacular Baredine Cave.
The land of myths and legends, renowned for its islands, Greece is the perfect holiday destination in 2018. This country is essentially a museum, housing a treasure trove of attractions which shine light on the most admired societies of Classical Antiquity. Tour historic ruins in Athens, the city which was once called home by the likes of Plato and Homer, with notable sites being the Acropolis, Parthenon and the Ancient Agora. Delve into Ancient Greece by visiting places like the Temple of Apollo at Delphi – once home to noted oracles – the well-preserved theatre of Epidaurus, Crete’s Knossos Palace which features the Minotaur’s fabled labyrinth and Olympia, where the original Olympics were held.
For relaxing getaways fly to one of Greece’s sun-dappled islands. Corfu is a favourite for many people with its blue flag Sidari Beach, neoclassical 19th century ‘Achilleion’ mansion and hiking hot spot Mount Pantokrator, which features a traditional Greek Orthodox monastery. Mykonos is a popular destination due to its glitzy beach clubs, trendy ‘Little Venice’ area where you can find chic cafes and bars, as well as the reef-rich scuba diving hot spot Paradise Beach. Enjoy a fabulous family holiday in Crete, home to the shallow-watered Elafonsi Beach, snorkelling hot spot Platanias Beach, the CretAquarium where you can meet indigenous sea life like red scorpionfish and more!
There’s so much more to see and do in Greece. Try a wide range of water sports on the Ionian island of Lefkada including yachting, kite surfing, sea kayaking and surfing. While you’re on Corfu take a day trip via ferry to Albania, where you’ll visit small communities and Roman ruins. Lose yourself in the urban sprawl of Thessaloniki, where you can sip cocktails and coffee in the bars lining Aristotelous Square, as well as sample local ‘koulouri’ sesame dough rings. Other local fare you should try include ‘moussaka’, sweet dessert pastry ‘baklava’ and the lasagne-like ‘pastitsio’ dish, available in eateries all over Greece. Cap off your trip by trekking up Mount Olympus, the home of the Ancient Greek gods, and find a vantage point with spectacular views of the country’s olive-grove dotted landscape.