The 3 most Instagrammable destinations in Europe

Are you an Instagram lover deciding where to book your next villa holiday? Look no further than our top three most photogenic destinations in Europe. Rent a holiday villa at one of these Insta-worthy locations and you’ll get incredible #nofilter shots that’ll make your followers wish they were there.

 1. Cala St Vicente, Majorca

 

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Want to fill your feed with picturesque charm? You can’t go wrong with a villa holiday in Cala St Vicente. Nestled in a hillside on Majorca’s northwestern coast, this quiet traditional fishing village is the perfect choice for a peaceful and scenic getaway.

Head to Cala Barques, the largest of the four unspoilt cove beaches, for photographic paradise. With golden sand contrasting against the azure Mediterranean water, you’re guaranteed to get some dazzling shots. There are fascinating rock pools to discover too.

After you’ve uploaded your last snap, why not continue soaking up the view from one of the local seafood restaurants? Or if you’re feeling more energetic, explore the surrounding area by taking a walking or cycling trail through the spectacular Tramuntana Mountains.

 

 2. Carvoeiro, Algarve

 

Carvoeiro Beach

For picture-perfect coastal character in the Algarve, a relaxing villa holiday in Carvoeiro is just the ticket. An ideal family destination, this traditional Portuguese resort town is bursting with cobbled streets, whitewashed houses, great shops and fantastic eateries.

But the jewel in Carvoeiro’s crown is Praia do Carvoeiro, one of the most stunning beaches in the region. This gorgeous sandy bay is flanked by imposing sandstone cliffs and dotted with fishing paraphernalia. It’s sure to have you instantly reaching for your camera.

To enjoy breathtaking panoramic views over the dramatic coastline, take a clifftop stroll along the wooden walkway from the beach’s eastern end. You’ll end up in Algar Seco, a series of impressive limestone rock formations where you can get even more snap happy.

 

3. French Riviera, France

 

Lavender_Valensole_France_2018-21

It’s easy to see why we’ve added the French Riviera to our range of destinations this year. This enchanting part of southeastern France boasts quaint villages, sun-kissed beaches, glamorous cities, delectable cuisine and much more.

But if you’re looking to capture photos that’ll totally wow your Instagram followers, set off for the Valensole Plateau. Famous for its 800km² of lavender fields, you can point your lens at endless violet carpets while delighting in the intoxicating scent that fills the air.

To marvel at the best blooms, you’ll need to make sure your French Riviera villa holiday falls between mid-June and mid-July. Visit Valensole during daylight to get a magical snap of the vibrant purple flowers against the blue sky. Or arrive in the evening to capture a glorious sunset shot that’ll send your likes soaring.

 

Want extra inspiration for your next villa holiday? Check out our Instagram for even more European destinations that you and your camera will love.

On the Gourmet Trail. Algarve: Piri Piri Chicken

As part of our On The Gourmet Trail campaign, we are taking the most popular and traditional dishes from our fantastic holiday destinations and showing you how to create them on the BBQ at your villa or in your kitchen back home. Here is a recipe from the Algarve, where Piri-Piri was invented in Guia.

Ingredients

1 whole chicken (about 1kg/2lb 3oz), spatchcocked, salt and freshly ground black pepper.

For the piri-piri sauce

6-12 fresh red chillies, depending on how hot you want it

1 tbsp garlic, blanched and chopped

1 tsp salt flakes

½ tsp oregano

½ tbsp paprika

100ml/3½fl oz olive oil

50ml/1¾fl oz red wine vinegar

To serve

chips

salad

 

Method

1. To make the piri-piri sauce, preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4. Place the chillies in a roasting tray and roast them for 10 minutes.

2. Allow the chillies to cool and then roughly chop. Add garlic, salt, oregano, paprika, olive oil and vinegar to the chillies and place in a saucepan, and simmer on a low heat for a couple of minutes.

3. Allow the mixture to cool, then blend it to a purée in a food processor or blender.*

4. Place the spatchcocked chicken in a sealable plastic bag. Add half the piri-piri sauce, spreading it evenly over the chicken. Seal and marinate in the refrigerator for at least one hour.

5. Preheat the oven to 200C/390F/Gas 6, and preheat a large griddle pan on the hob. Alternatively, if cooking at your villa, light your barbecue.

6.  Cook the chicken on the griddle pan for 2-3 minutes on each side, until golden brown.

7. Transfer the griddled chicken to a roasting tray and roast in the oven for 30 minutes, until cooked through. Alternatively, place the chicken on a medium heat barbecue, covered, for 10-15 minutes on both sides or until cooked through basting regularly with the remaining piri-piri sauce.

8.  Serve with chips and salad.

 

*If stored in a container, the sauce will last for a month.

Floral Themed Villas

To celebrate the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2019 we decided to dig out some of our floral inspired villas and share a bunch of our favourites with you.

 

Villa Poppy, Polis, Cyprus

Situated in a fantastic central location, just 900 yds from the beach, is Villa Poppy. Ideal for couples and small groups, this 2 bedroom villa is spacious inside and out and is the ideal place for a relaxing week or two in the sun.

poppy_914_villa1e_w4

Villa Daisy, Lagos, Algarve

Part of our Very Villa Plus programme is the daintily named Villa Daisy. With 4 bedrooms, sleeping up to 9 people, you’ll have plenty of room for all the family. Enjoy your private, heated swimming pool and impressive garden space during your Villa Plus holiday in Portugal.

Daisy

Villa Lavanda, Playa Blanca, Lanzarote

Just a 20-minute walk from the centre of Playa Blanca is Villa Lavanda. With 3 bedrooms, bright and airy rooms and a private, heated pool you have everything you need for your dream holiday this summer.

Lavanda

Villa Rosemary Sostis, Agios Sostis, Zante

This centrally located, 2-bedroom property is Villa Rosemary Sostis. Situated just 500 yds from the beach, the villa is also close to the waterside restaurants and mini markets. Enjoy the privacy of your villa, with heated pool, or use it as a base to explore the island. The choice is yours!

Rosemary Sostis

Villa Lotus, Porec, Croatia

Nestled in the countryside is Villa Lotus, an ideal choice for those looking for a relaxing holiday away from the hustle and bustle of a busy resort. The property had a landscaped garden, perfect for sunbathing in after a refreshing dip in the pool.

Lotus

Villa Jazminez, Marbella, Costa del Sol

This delightful 3-bedroom property is Villa Jazminez. Set amongst a mature, private garden, you’ll have a private pool, al fresco dining area and plenty of privacy.

Jazminez

Which of these villas would you pick? Let us know in the comments below

 

By Maddy Morgan

 

Eat Like a Local in Portugal with ESFW

We’re all about exploring foreign countries and indulging in worldly cuisines. There’s no better way to get to know a destination than through its food, learning how to really Eat Like a Local and maybe even picking up a few cooking tips while you’re at it.

To help uncover Portugal’s foodie scene, we’ve enlisted the help of some of the best cookery schools, who have all been kind enough to give us one Portuguese recipe each. The Edinburgh School of Food and Wine, Scotland’s oldest cookery school, shared this delicious recipe for clams bulhao pato (named after poet Raimundo Antonio de Bulhao Pato) with us.  Read more

Eat Like a Local in Portugal with Billingsgate Seafood Training School

Portugal and fine cuisine go hand in hand. When you’re visiting sun-kissed regions like the Algarve, you’re immediately struck by the range of dishes on offer – think Atlantic seafood and marinated meats, with a whole dose of Mediterranean influences thrown in for good measure.

As part of our ongoing Eat Like a Local project, we’re on a mission to uncover the ins and outs of Portuguese food. We called on some of the UK’s best cookery schools to help us out and they were all kind enough to provide us with a Portuguese recipe of their choice. First up, we’ve got Billingsgate Seafood Training School.

Billingsgate Seafood Training School

Billingsgate Seafood Training School is located on the first floor of the Billingsgate Fish Market, the UK’s largest inland fish market. With such a huge variety of fish sold at the market, the school are able to take advantage of seafood from all over the world. As well as teaching budding chefs essential techniques, the school educates children on the enjoyment and benefits of eating fish as part of a balanced diet.

Naturally, the school sent us this delicious recipe for caldereta de pescado (fish stew) with saffron and picada (almond paste) to show you how to really Eat Like a Local in Portugal.

Ingredients

1kg white fish fillets (e.g. monkfish, hake or red mullet), pin-boned and skinned
4 small squid, gutted and cleaned
500g prepared mussels, thoroughly washed
500g prepared clams, thoroughly washed
250g large raw prawns, peeled and deveined
150ml dry white wine
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large Spanish onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, grated or finely chopped
2 large red peppers, deseeded and quartered
1 large pinch cayenne pepper
1 large pinch saffron
1 heaped teaspoon plain flour
300ml fish stock
1 large bunch flat leaf parsley, chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Lemon juice, to taste

Method

For the stew

  1. Preheat the oven to gas mark 4. Cut the fish fillets into large pieces and the squid into large squares. Chill until needed.
  2. Check the mussels and clams are either shut, or that they close when tapped sharply. Put the wine in a large saucepan and bring to the boil, then add the mussels and clams and cook over a medium heat for 3-4 minutes (or until they open). Discard any mussels and clams that remain shut.
  3. Strain the liquid and reserve. Remove the shellfish from their shells.
  4. Heat the oil in a large casserole dish, add the onion and cook until softened. Stir in the garlic, cayenne pepper, saffron and flour for around 1-2 minutes, then add the mussels liquid, fish stock and parsley.
  5. Add the raw seafood and peppers and season to taste. Cover and cook for 20-25 minutes, then serve sprinkled with lemon.

For the picada

15g pine nuts
15g blanches almonds
2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
25g white bread (without crusts)
4 garlic cloves
1 handful of flat leaf parsley

  1. Heat a frying pan and dry roast the pine nuts for one minute and the almonds for two. Leave to cool.
  2. Meanwhile, fry the bread in two tablespoons of olive oil for one minute on each side until it turns crisp and golden brown. Leave to cool.
  3. Break the fried bread into the bowl of a food processor, add the nuts and grind together finely. At this stage, the mixture should be coarse, similar to sand.
  4. Add the garlic and parsley with the remaining two tablespoons of oil. Grind together until it forms a thick paste.

Stay up to date with Billingsgate Seafood Training School on their website, or get more holiday inspiration and look at Villa Plus properties in Portugal.

Eat Like a Local in Portugal with The Bertinet Kitchen Cookery School

Portugal isn’t just golden sands and stunning Algarve coastlines – it’s also home to heavenly cuisine renowned across the globe. We’re all about immersing ourselves in foreign cultures and trying new recipes, so we’ve decided to focus on Portugal for the next instalment of our Eat Like a Local series.

To help us get to know Portuguese food, we called on several of the UK’s top cookery schools. This time round we’ve got The Bertinet Kitchen Cookery school, who gave us this delightful recipe for natas, a Portuguese sweet tart.

The Bertinet Kitchen opened its doors in 2005, in Bath. Under the ownership of French baker Richard Bertinet, this award-winning school offers a range of relaxed and fun courses for food lovers of all abilities, along with specialist baking and bread making courses.

Taken from Pastry by Richard Bertinet, photograph by Jean Cazals (Ebury)

Without further ado, here’s how to do dessert – Portuguese style.

Ingredients – natas

Butter for greasing the tin
100g icing sugar plus some more for dusting
1 packet of readymade all-butter puff pastry
250ml full fat milk
1 vanilla pod
3 egg yolks
60g caster sugar
25g plain flour
Cinnamon or nutmeg if desired

Method

  1. Put the milk into a heavy based saucepan. Using a sharp knife, split the vanilla pod along its length then scrape the seeds into the milk. Put the pods in too.
  2. Add the egg yolks and sugar into a bowl and whisk until pale and creamy, then add the flour and mix until smooth.
  3. Put the pan of milk over a medium heat. Bring to just under the boil and then slowly pour in half the egg mixture, whisking well as you do.
  4. Add in the remainder of the milk and whisk again, before proceeding to pour the mixture back into the pan.
  5. Bring to the boil, whisking all the time, then keep boiling and whisking continuously for one minute. Remove from the heat.
  6. Pour the mixture into a clean bowl or jug and scoop out the vanilla pods.
  7. Cover the surface with greaseproof paper straight away to prevent a skin forming. Allow to cool.
  8. Lightly grease a 12-hole muffin tin and dust your work surface with icing sugar. Take your pastry from the fridge and roll out until it’s around 4-5mm thick, sprinkling with icing sugar as you go. Use a pastry cutter to cut 12 rounds of pastry about 10cm in diameter (big enough to line the tin holes and leave a little overhang).
  9. Put the tin in the fridge and rest for an hour. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees centigrade.
  10. Remove the tin from the fridge and fill the pastry cakes with custard, then sprinkle with cinnamon or nutmeg. Bake for 15-20 minutes until the pastry is golden and the sugar is caramelised, while the custard is dark in spots. Allow to cool for a few minutes before removing from the tin, then cool completely before serving.

Baker Richard Bertinet runs The Bertinet Kitchen Cookery School and The Bertinet Bakery, both based in Bath. Find out more about the school via its website, or look at Villa Plus rentals in Portugaland take the first steps to your Portuguese getaway.

Portugal: mountain biking routes for adventurous holiday makers

Sun, sea, sand, and a whole new world of culture and cuisine – Portugal certainly has a lot going for it. Many people dream of jetting off to the Portuguese coast to sunbathe and sip cocktails, and really, who can blame them? But it’s also a fantastic destination for activity holidays, especially if you’re a keen cyclist.

In Portugal, mountain biking routes can be found everywhere, although the best are in the Algarve region. If you’re planning a biking holiday here, there are plenty of tracks to suit all abilities and a self-catered villa is perfect for using as a base camp for them. Without further ado, let’s start with mount Foia…

Downhill cycling in Monchique

The highest mountain in the Algarve is called Foia and it’s a popular spot for cyclists. For a fun family day that will suit older children with some cycling experience, hitch a ride to the top of Foia and cycle back down through the Serra de Monchique hills. From the mountain peak to the town of Mexilhoeira Grande (just outside Lagos), this quiet, rural and visually stunning route runs for a little over 20 miles.

Albufeira via the Algibre River

This route takes you from the coastal town of Albufeira, then north through the Quarteira river valley and on to Paderne, home to a Moorish castle. The arm of the Quarteira river that spills into Paderne from the northeast is known as the Algibre, an area of great natural beauty with an extensive network singletrack path network. From Paderne you can cycle west, looping back down to Albufeira through the rocky trails and orange groves of Tunes.

Albufeira countryside and coastal ride

For a sightseeing tour of Albufeira for all the family, start in the centre of town and head northwest to Guia, famous for its vineyards. Afterwards, move south towards the coast, where you can explore the Salgados Lagoon – a popular wildlife hotspot – via specially constructed boardwalks.

From Salgados you can begin to go east back to Albufeira, moving inland from the coast at particularly rocky areas. Coming into the town from the west you can admire the marina, the central stretch of beach and Albufeira’s charming cobbled old town.

Algarve coastal tour

If you really want to make the most of your time in the Algarve, why not take a full-day bike tour along the coast? Setting off from Vila Real de Santo Antonio, start with a flat, scenic stretch west through the resorts of Altura and onto the seaside hamlets of Cacela Velha and Fabrica. Taking a break in historic Tavira, continue on to Luz and the Ria Formosa Natural Park, a huge area of lagoons and marshes which its famed for its bird population. From here, you can trundle back to Luz before unwinding to a classic Algarve sunset.

Regardless of where you’re cycling to, remember to pack plenty of sun lotion and water. That way, you’ll be free to really enjoy Portugal’s renowned cycling routes.

Look at Villa Plus accommodation in the Algarve and make that biking getaway you’ve always dreamt of a reality.

By Isabella Perkins, a freelance travel writer best known for writing about self-catering holidays. Her writing tends to have a family focus, and she is in the middle of writing a new travel guide due to be published next year.

Good snorkelling holidays for villa-loving travellers

Holiday rentals provide the perfect basecamp for snorkelling getaways. Hiring a villa gives you the freedom to prepare your own packed lunches and dinners, and you’ll have plenty of room to store your snorkels, flippers and wetsuits.


Image by Lance, used under CC License (CC by 2.0

Good snorkelling holidays unlock a country’s most enthralling secrets. Pack your underwater camera and get ready to delve deep in some of these top destinations…

Costa del Sol, Spain

Costa del Sol is blessed with tepid waters bustling with marine life. On top of that, there’s plenty of sun-kissed beaches where you can set up camp before a few hours of snorkelling. Visit Maro beach, near the town of Nerja, and try to find its fascinating underwater cave if you’re feeling daring.

The shores surrounding Las Yucas and La Viborilla beaches, near Benalmadena, house a wide range of fish such as tuna, bonitos, and dolphinfish.

Costa Blanca, Spain

Like Costa del Sol, the Costa Blanca is a snorkelers’ paradise. Explore the region’s shorelines and you’ll quickly find that it’s simply brimming with underwater life. Granadella Cove, near Javea, has notoriously clear waters. Not only that, it’s quite sheltered so younger snorkellers can see the bay’s treasures, too.

The Algarve, Portugal

Portugal’s Algarve coast comprises playful Atlantic waters and warming sands. It’s also home to the famed Ria Formosa lagoon, one of the country’s many natural wonders. Here you’ll find one of the largest populations of seahorses in the world – wipe down your face mask and prepare to dive amongst them.

Cyprus

If you visit Cyprus during summertime, you might encounter beautiful green and loggerhead turtles on the island’s western coast. The island’s Cape Greco National Park is well worth a visit, too, complete with some of the clearest waters in the region and picturesque in every sense of the word.

Corfu, Greece

The Greek island of Corfu has plenty of spots for a good snorkelling holiday. Its pebbly beaches tend to have clearer waters, but you might want to wear a wetsuit or flippers to protect your feet from the jaggier rocks! Keep your eyes peeled for a diverse range of silverside fish, alongside flathead mullet and painted combers.

Pula, Croatia


Image by Christoph Sammer, used under CC License (CC by 2.0)

Croatia’s idyllic Adriatic coastlines are the envy of the world. Pula houses some of its finest and along with these renowned views, it has a number of great snorkelling spots.

Take Brijuni National Park, a short boat journey from Pula. The waters of these 14 small, protected islands are alive with flora, fauna and old Roman artefacts. In Verige Bay, on the western coast of the park, you can get a guided tour to explore submerged archaeological sites. Take full advantage and get excited for a day of underwater education.

Whether you’re travelling as a family, with friends or with your partner or spouse, a snorkelling holiday provides an unrivalled way to get to know a country’s ins and outs. Uncover exotic species of fish or simply paddle around and let the waves wash over you – underwater getaways are always ones to remember.

Have a look at some of the Villa Plus offerings in these hotspots and let your snorkelling dreams come to life.

By Isabella Perkins, a freelance travel writer best known for writing about self-catering holidays. Her writing tends to have a family focus, and she is in the middle of writing a new travel guide due to be published next year.

5 of the best beach holidays for families in Europe

Europe is blessed with many of the world’s most stunning coastal destinations. Take advantage of shorter flights and jet off to explore the best of them with your loved ones. Here’s the continent’s five best beach holidays, made for families who want something extra special for their next getaway…

Spain

Viva Espagna! Spain is a great holiday destination for families. Take the time to unwind on beautiful strips of sand – the Costa del Sol, Costa Blanca and the Balearic Islands pack them in abundance. On the Costa del Sol, you can explore Marbella’s lush harbours before parking up on nearby beaches, or head to Estepona for buoyant waves and dreamy Mediterranean sunsets. With over 200km of Mediterranean coastline, the Costa Blanca is a beach lover’s gem. Enjoy the beaches, popular with both locals and tourists, at Javea, Moraira and Calpe.

The island of Majorca, one of Spain’s Balearic Islands, is known for its glistening waters and pure sands. Head to Alcudia for relaxed beaches – usually within the backdrop of Alcudia Bay – well suited for young families set on making unforgettable holiday memories.

Portugal

Portugal’s Algarve has all the right ingredients for a great beach holiday – wide coastlines, entertainment facilities and tranquil views. Located in the southeast, one of the region’s vibrant hotspots Lagos is flanked by turquoise coves and sun-kissed strips, particularly the Blue Flag Meia Praia Beach.

Head here and take your pick from over 5km of prime lounging spots. The waves are top-tier, so why not embark on some bodyboarding or a few hours of splashing about with the little ones?

Greece

Some of Greece’s beaches arguably rival that of the Caribbean. Factor in the rich history, cuisine and culture, and you’ve got everything you need for the ultimate family getaway. The country’s rich selection of islands give it an edge over many other countries, many thanks to the luscious coastlines of Corfu and Rhodes…

Both islands boast unreal views over the Aegean Sea, which sits at a temperature ideal for a spot of swimming. Agios Gordios beach and the bays of Sidari and Paleokastritsa beach are some of Corfu’s best family hangouts. In Rhodes, you can’t go wrong by visiting either Ladiko, Lindos or Stegna.

Croatia

Croatia has some of the greatest landscapes, beaches and architecture in Eastern Europe. The waters are crystal clear and the history is ripe with Roman amphitheatres and medieval castles.

Try heading to Pula, the largest city in the district of Istria, with your family. It’s a fantastic location to stay during your holiday and it has stunning coastlines for whenever you want to take a dip. For a secluded couple of hours away from the city, head south to Kamenjak Cape, a sheltered pebbled beach complete with unbeatable views of the Adriatic Sea.

Cyprus

As the third biggest island in the Mediterranean Sea, Cyprus is a treasure trove of fine beaches. On top of that, there’s three breathtaking UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The best beach for a family holiday in Cyprus is without a doubt Coral Bay. It’s got all the amenities you could ask for – think snorkelling, boat trips, and quad biking tours. Not only that, it’s also safe for swimming, after which you can dry off on any number of prime Mediterranean sand spots. If you get a chance, then both Makronissos and Nissi beach are also worth a visit.

Ready to put the wheels in motion for your own family beach retreat? Take a look at some Villa Plus properties near beaches.

By Lara Scott. A former executive at a major hotel chain, Lara Scott is a freelance travel writer and journalist. She says her previous career gives her extra insight into both sides of the tourism industry.