Sleepy English villages, jaw-dropping Portuguese architecture and Italian mystical folklore; we’ve selected some unusual destinations to inspire your next holiday.
Unusual destination No. 1
Far from the madding crowds indeed, this spot in central Portugal offers an alternative to its popular cousins in the Algarve.
Why you should go: One of the least populated regions in Western Europe you’ve got acres of countryside to explore and the impetus to do it. Dubbed Portugal’s Garden the region of Alentejo boasts the majority of Portugal’s wheat fields and vineyards. Monsaraz is a charming unusual collection of whitewashed cottages overlooked by the Torres das Feiticeiras (the Witches’ Tower to you and me) once owned by the Knights Templar. As a destination steeped in history, Monsaraz offers a look back in time.
Where you should stay: Monte Saraz – rooms glow with Indian rugs, fine country furniture and washes of warm colour. Outside are orchards, gardens, two pools and fabulous views.
Make sure you: Walk the old castles walls.
Unusual destination No. 2
Forgo Venice and head to Palermo to experience all that comes with a Sicilian port town famous for its heady mix of Mediterranean cultures.
Why you should go: Expect a souk atmosphere, a dash of Italian grandeur and ever-changing character as you wander the streets. For the brave of heart head down to the catacombs and visit the world’s largest collection of dead bodies. With the oldest harking back to 418 and the youngest a mere 96 years old you’re guaranteed to get a holiday snapshot like no other; a surefire unusual destination.
Stay: Le Terrazze – Towering 5 storeys above lively Palermo, a gracious B&B with sunlit rooms, lovely Sicilian hosts and breakfast in fine china on the terrace
Make sure you: Eat your way through the street food; the daring should try the Stigghiola, let’s just say it gives haggis a run for its money.
Unusual destination No. 3
One of the oldest towns in Spain, Ronda offers an alternative to the neighbouring Costa del Sol.
Why you should go: Character, jaw-dropping architecture and a tranquillity that comes with stepping away from the popular beaches. The city’s defining feature is its bridges with the Puente Nuevo spanning the canyon to the old town; a sight to behold day or night. Ronda has captured the imagination of many artists and writers alike. Ernest Hemingway said of Ronda: ‘…nice promenades, good wine, excellent food, nothing to do…” – sounds good to us.
Stay: La Fuente de la Higuera – laid-back, relaxed atmosphere meets stylish elegance; this old mill conversion is delightful. There are views, a pool and wonderful food.
Make sure you: visit the ancient Arabic baths.
Unusual destination No. 4
Orford is hard to beat, a sleepy Suffolk village blissfully marooned at the end of the road.
Why you should go: This picturesque village in Suffolk proves that staycations can provide the weird and wonderful too. Lucky visitors can expect a plethora of sights while enjoying a peace and calmness that only comes with the quiet British coast. Expect everything from nature reserves and iconic lighthouses to smokeries serving up fresh fish. Dig deep into the rich history of smugglers and the mystery of the ‘Wild Man of Orford’ for your bedtime stories.
Stay: The Crown & Castle – a chic bolthole in a sleepy Suffolk village with seriously good food, stylish bedrooms, riverside walks and Suffolk’s wild coast.
Make sure you: Explore the beaches- discover the coastal wildlife and several rare species.
Unusual destination No. 5
Why you should go: If what you’re missing from your next holiday is a spot of water-jousting head to Sète in the Occitanie region of southern France where you’ll find the lances and shields your heart desires. In this ancient tradition, water warriors strike each other with lances from rowing boats. In summer months bouts are held throughout the season, culminating in a five-day showdown at the St Louis Festival. When you’re not busy jousting there’s the sparkling Med sea, beaches to relax on and winding canals to explore.
Stay: La Baraquette, Sete, France – once just a fisherman’s summer shack and now an easy-going bolthole with great views.
Make sure you: Enjoy the view after a (steep) walk up to the Notre-Dame-de-la-Salette.
Unusual destination No. 6
Forgo its showier sister Barcelona and head to Valencia.
Why you should go: Combining old tradition and modernity this clash of opposites sings beautifully in Spain’s third largest city offering a noteworthy, unique stay in a much-visited country. Just 15 minutes from the coast and surrounded by huertas, Valencia offers a relaxed vibe for any holidaymaker wanting to explore its architectural treats and dizzying dining scene.
Stay: La Maga Rooms – its white walls, polished concrete floors and designer windows are ultra modern and enhanced by splashes of shabby chic.
Make sure you: Take a bike ride along the riverbed.
Inspired? Explore more…
Sawday’s Curious Guides and Journeys are designed to help you get off the beaten track, to explore further and find a new angle on some well-loved destinations. We want to uncover the people, places and experiences that make somewhere unique and inspire you to go out and find even more. Close to home and further flung we’ve got heaps of beautiful spaces in the nooks and crannies of Europe waiting for you to explore from hidden gems and family getaways to foodie destinations and road-trip inspired boltholes.