Escape the crowds this summer with these off-the-beaten-track destinations.
With its untouched white sand beaches and crystal clear turquoise water, Ksamil is unlikely to remain a hidden gem for much longer. For now, though, this beautiful coastal village on the Albanian Riviera remains uncrowded, visited mainly by locals and populated by small, family-run hotels. With excellent food influenced by its Greek neighbours and featuring plenty of fresh seafood, incredibly friendly locals and cheap prices (a three-course dinner for two will only set you back €20), it makes for the perfect beach holiday. Get there quickly, though, before the secret gets out.
Lunch: €5 (550 Lek)
Three-course dinner for two: €20 (2,500 Lek)
Double room in a mid-range hotel: €40-60
Short taxi ride: €5-10
Average return flight to Corfu (closest airport) from the UK: £150
Situated between Norway and Iceland in the North Atlantic Ocean, these 18 self-governed volcanic islands are often overlooked by tourists. However, with their breath-taking cliffs, waterfalls and coastlines, they offer dramatic landscapes as beautiful as their Nordic neighbours, without the crowds (in fact, sheep outnumber humans on the islands by almost 2:1).
Standard double hotel room: €80-160
Two-course meal for two with wine: €100-150
Daily bike hire: €10
Average return flight from the UK: £250-300
With a beautiful old town, a thriving food scene and a vibrant cultural life, Tbilisi has everything you need for a city break. Just a short drive from the surrounding lakes and mountains, it’s a great starting point for exploring the beautiful country, which is yet to be discovered by mainstream tourists.
Meal in an inexpensive restaurant: 15 GEL (around £4.35)
Three-course meal for two: 55 GEL (around £16)
Standard double hotel room: 140-720 GEL (£40-£200)
Mashrutka (minibus) ticket: 0.90 GEL
Metro card: 2 GEL (£0.55)
Average taxi ride in the city: 5-10 GEL
Return flight from the UK: £200-£300
Situated on the edge of Lake Ohrid, one of Europe’s oldest and deepest lakes, this Macedonian city is a perfect mix of historical intrigue and natural beauty. Its old quarter features cobbled streets, picturesque churches and quaint cafes and restaurants, set against a stunning landscape. Ohrid’s sunny climate, beautiful scenery and affordable prices are slowly beginning to draw in tourists from across the world, so it’s best to visit outside of the peak summer season.
Meal in an inexpensive restaurant: 225 MKD (about £3.50)
Three-course meal for two: 1,000 MKD (about £15)
Standard double hotel room: £30-45
Airport taxi from Skopje: 1200 MKD (about £17)
Return flight to Skopje from the UK: £150-250
Picture perfect and as yet undiscovered by mass tourists, Hercegovina is a true hidden gem, with medieval ruins, scenic mountains, waterfalls and rivers, and plenty of opportunities for outdoor adventuring. Highlights include Stari Most, a magnificent 16th century bridge in Mostar, and the magical Kravice Waterfalls.
Standard double hotel room: 80-190 KM (£35-90)
Glass of wine: 7 KM (around £3)
Three-course meal for two: 35 KM (around £16)
Return flight from the UK to Sarajevo: £180-280
With its picturesque Transylvanian towns and fairy-tale castles, Romania should be on your 2019 to do list. Outside the hustle and bustle of Burcharest lies Transylvania, often described as the ‘last truly medieval landscape in Europe’. As well as ancient villages and monasteries, picturesque castles (like the 14th century Bran castle), and beautiful forests and mountains, you’ll find thermal spas here, and if you’re lucky you might even spot a bear (or even a vampire).
Standard double hotel room: 227 lei (around £40)
Three-course meal for two: 100 lei (around £19)
Train/bus ticket: 30 lei (around £6)
Return flight from the UK to Bucharest: £100-150
On the edge of the Côte d’Azur close to the Italian border sits Menton, a sleepy coastal town with picturesque coloured buildings, beautiful gardens and stunning beaches. It has all the French Riviera charm of the nearby Nice and Monaco, without the flashy yachts, exorbitant prices and swarms of tourists. Situated right on the Italian border, Menton also boasts an excellent food scene, and is home to the Michelin-starred Mirazur, which was recently declared the world’s best restaurant.
Standard double hotel room: €90-190
Set menu in an average restaurant: €20-40
‘Mirazur Universe’ set menu: €260
Bus/train ticket: €5-10
Return flight from the UK: £85-120
This picturesque village in northern Slovakia is a great place to escape the tourists and immerse yourself in rural tranquillity. Roughly translated as ‘the village under the castle’, the area is best known for its magnificent Orava Castle, which dates back to the 13th century.
Meal in an inexpensive restaurant: €4.80
Double room at a small hotel by the castle: around €30
Entry to Orava Caste: €7
Train from Bratislava: €15
Return flight from the UK: £40-120
Despite being the capital of the Cyclades islands, Syros is often overlooked by tourists in favour of Mykonos or Santorini. Equally as beautiful as its neighbours, however, and much less crowded, Syros offers a range of unspoiled beaches, a rich history and culture, and delicious Aegean cuisine, all for much cheaper prices than you’ll find at the more touristy islands.
Meal at a local taverna: around €20
Standard double hotel room: €60-150
Bus fare: €1.70
Return flight from the UK to Mykonos: £50-150
Ferry from Mykonos: €20
The third oldest continually inhabited settlement in the world, Matera is rich in history. Its unique sassi (stone houses carved out of caves and cliffs) create the impression of having stepped back in time, and have resulted in the area being awarded UNESCO World Heritage status, and being featured in over 25 films. However, its remoteness and relative obscurity means that you can explore this ancient city without any crowds.
Three-course meal for two: €50.00
Standard double hotel room: €100-220
Entry to historic sites: €0-5
Return flight from the UK: £100-200