A different beach every day, Albania
Albania might not be the first place that springs to mind for a beach holiday, but the resorts just half an hour from Tirana offer golden sands, calm seas and cheap hotels. The long sweep of the crescent-shaped coastline offers all-day sun and Albania’s opening up, after years of restrictions, helps keep prices competitive, especially once you convert your pounds to the local leks. A cheap option to get there is to fly into Corfu then take a ferry over for about €20 each way. We based ourselves in Dhërmi where you can try a different beach every day. A picnic basket for four costs around £20 and lunch at a nice restaurant starts from £8.
Glorious sands, France
We stayed in a static caravan at Camping Front de Mer in Argelès-sur-Mer in June last year. The accommodation was great, the pools fabulous and the vast town beach glorious. The real star though is the surrounding area of Côte Vermeille with its secluded beaches, green mountains plunging into a sparkling sea, and quaint towns such as Collioure overlooked by Fort Saint-Elme. Further inland we found traditional French villages, fantastical Cathar castles perched on improbable pinnacles of rock and cool ravines full of wildlife. And the price for all this? Around £450 for a week in June on eurocamp.co.uk.
All-inclusive resorts can feel soulless and environmentally damaging, but at Pine Beach in Pakoštane (€2,478 a week including all meals, mobile home for four), Croatia, accommodation is in eco-friendly thatched reed bungalows overlooking a white sand beach. It’s easy to switch off here: the bungalows (which sleep up to five) have no electricity, and each one is tucked into a shady pine forest. Budgeting is straightforward and cheap: all food and local drinks are included, along with numerous activities, such as kayaking, wind surfing and sailing. Wifi and charging points abound for those who simply can’t be away from their devices.
Turtles and turnovers, south-west Turkey
For a taste of how Turkey used to be 40 years ago, head to İnlice – about half an hour’s drive east of Dalaman. It has a beautiful horseshoe-shaped sand/shingle beach with perfectly clear water, where you coud have loggerhead turtles keeping you company while you swim. Behind the beach is the state-run (licensed) cafe-bar, where locals man the barbecue and turn out amazing gözleme (turnovers). Accommodation is in simple bungalows and pensions – Inlice Unzile Bungalow is a good choice. You can take the Havas airport bus from Dalaman and alight on the main D400 road a few minutes walk from the village. This party of south-west Turkey is 600 miles away from the region so terribly devastated by earthquakes recently.
Adriatic views, Montenegro
Budva in Montenegro is a superb destination. The walled town is beautiful and full of places to eat and drink at reasonable prices. The beach is clean and has great views over the Adriatic. The service, food and cocktails at Torch Beach Club were excellent. Bay of Kotor, a stunning World heritage site, is a short taxi ride or boat trip away.
Your own cove, Greece
The Goatshed (from €500 a week, sleeps 4) on the western Peloponnese is a well equipped converted goat shed within walking distance of Koroni’s tavernas and beautiful beaches. A short walk from the property, or a five-minute drive, and you’ll have your own cove with no one else there. Fida is the perfect host and will give you a personal tour of the area on arrival. Driving across country is easy due to great network of toll roads.
Tranquil paradise, southern Portugal
The Tróia peninsula in Portugal’s Grândola Municipality is a tranquil paradise of 13 miles of sandy beaches and pine dunes, with accommodation for all wallets. Private rentals start at £500 per week for a family of four, while a chic hideaway costs around £1,000. Activities include surfing, dolphin cruises, diving, horse riding, golf and cycling along rice paddy fields. The nearby Parque Natural da Arrábida has beautiful hiking, while there is winetasting in Azeitão’s cellars, plus sightseeing and shopping. Setubal is just a 20-minute ferry crossing, and Lisbon an hour by train or car.
Black Sea coast, Romania
Floating over Lake Neptun, Hotel Insula (from £300 a week for a room for four in June) appears to be very Maldives-esque, making for an incredible view to wake up to in the morning. The restaurant actually sits on the water, and having breakfast overlooking the lake and the sea is wonderful. The lake is separated from the sea by a sand bar – the beach is just a 10-minute walk around the lake. The Black Sea coast of Romania has lovely weather in summer and is extremely affordable. There are also plenty of amenities with a water park just down the beach and several restaurants and bars along all of the “planetary” beaches from Neptune down to Saturn.
Huts on Gran Canaria
Soaking up sun rays on the beach and by the pool, laughing with new-found friends, the cold greyness of London only a few hours behind me, Grand Canaria’s Blue Ocean Camp Tasartico (from €250 a week for a hut for two) is a travellers’ heaven. The luxury is in the peaceful, hilly surroundings, while the simple, budget-friendly wooden hut I am staying in provides all I need: solitude, sanctuary and sleep. It also offers a range of accommodation from camping to a plush motorhome. Bliss!|
City stay, Alicante
Alicante has everything you want – beach, art galleries, a castle, restaurants, shops. I was really drawn to the funky fun modernist architecture of Juan Guardiola Gaya, especially around the neighbouring Albufereta. Out of season admittedly, I booked an apartment in the city for £500 for a whole month. Easy day trips are available to Benidorm (if you must), Elche or Murcia City.
Winning tip: Sunsets and seafood, Galicia, Spain
My husband, seven-year-old son and I started our 2019 holiday with a night in Porto at the delightful Hotel Miradouro on the top two stories of a 1960s high-rise building. We then travelled up the coast to Galicia, Spain, where Camping Bayona Playa (from €111 for a one-week pitch, huts from €270 a week) occupies a peninsula of white sandy beach with estuary views all shaded by rees. The varied, reasonably priced accommodation makes for a great base to explore the Rías Baixas region. We enjoyed sunsets from the beach bar, walks to the pretty town for incredible seafood, and ferry trips to the stunning Cíes islands. Prices are geared to locals and reasonable. We’ll go back this year.