June brings summer, but not necessarily the summertime crowds of July and August. Now’s the time to savour the relative calm of European hot spots before coastal resorts and popular cities become overrun with tourists. And if you can’t get away next month, start planning for a late-summer jaunt in September.
Mix Spain’s mountains with the seaside on a driving tour of Asturias and Cantabria. Explore the Picos de Europa mountains and historic villages such as Santillana del Mar before touring the coastal towns of Llanes and Lastres. If you’re there after 23 June, you can catch the opening of a major new art gallery in Santander, Centro Botin, designed by Renzo Piano. Caminos by Casas Cantabricas (caminos.co.uk) offers a seven-night independent tour for £1,350 for two people, which includes B&B accommodation, car hire, maps and directions. Flights and/or ferry crossings are extra but can be arranged.
Head inland from the Mediterranean past Nîmes to reach the exquisite town of Uzès. Wander through its medieval lanes leading to the stone arcades of Place aux Herbes, where the Saturday morning market is one of France’s most picturesque. Just 13km away is La Maison du Sud, an enchanting 18th-century stone house that’s been beautifully decorated and features a courtyard pool as well as three bedrooms. A week’s rental with Oliver’s Travels (oliverstravels.com) costs €2,602 for Saturday departures in June.
Isle of Wight
Before the island gets too crowded in the summer holidays, hole up in the small village of Shorwell where Queen Victoria was a regular guest and the beaches at Freshwater and Brighstone are a short drive away. The 18th-century Five Bells Cottage used to be a pub and is now a cosy, elegantly furnished two-bedroom home. Sykes Cottages (sykescottages.co.uk) offers seven nights’ self-catering for £756 from 23 June.
Whether you’re looking for a honeymoon spot or in the market for a romantic holiday, combine a safari break with a few days of beach luxury. Tanzania’s Selous Game Reserve has an astonishing concentration of animals including elephants and hippos, which you can marvel at during game drives and bush walks. Then fly to Zanzibar for a lazy few days on the beach. Rainbow Tours (rainbowtours.co.uk) has a twin-centre holiday with six nights at Selous and four nights at the Shooting Star Lodge in Zanzibar departing 25 June for £4,050 per person. The price includes all flights, transfers and meals.
Book now for September:
Away from Montenegro’s busy coastal resorts is a compelling world of natural wonders that can be explored on foot. On an eight-day guided walking holiday with Headwater (headwater.com), start in the north for a double bill of beauty: the Tara River Canyon and Durmitor National Park. Then head south to Lovcen National Park and the medieval towns of Perast and Kotor before taking a boat ride on pristine Lake Skadar. The price of £1,579 per person includes flights, transfers, most meals and a guide, for a 10 September departure.
The home of Odysseus remains a pleasantly sleepy island of pebbly beaches, rugged mountains and relatively few tourists – especially in September. The coastal village of Kioni is one of Ithaca’s prettiest, with forested hills curving around a dinky little harbour. Hovering above are the Kyparissa Apartments, with airy interiors and balconies with sea views. Sunvil (sunvil.co.uk) offers seven nights’ self-catering in a two-bedroom apartment from £898 per person, including flights and transfers, departing 9 September.
After the intense heat of August – a time when many restaurants and bars are closed anyway – temperatures in Portugal’s capital come down to the more bearable high 20s. Take in superb city views from the hilltop St George’s Castle, where within the castle walls is the historic four-star Solar do Castelo boutique hotel. Kirker Holidays (kirkerholidays.co.uk) offers three nights’ B&B from £648 per person, including flights, transfers and a 48-hour Lisboa Card for free public transport and entrance to attractions.
Mary Novakovich is editor at large at 101holidays.co.uk