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

 

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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.

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.

Best drinks for your self-catering holiday to the Algarve

A huge advantage of self-catering holidays is that you can get a real taste of local culinary offerings. And this is just as true with local drinks as local cuisine. Take a trip to a nearby shop or market and see what delicious tipples you can find to bring back to your villa. After dinner, sip wine on the balcony, or lounge in the evening sun with a chilled beer.

Portugal is a world-famous wine destination, but oenophiles aren’t the only visitors who will love the drinks on offer here. From spirits to beers, you’ll come across a wide range of beverages in the Algarve, and without an expensive hotel menu to limit you, you can try them all. Here are some you have to sample:

Enjoy some spicy Portuguese “fire water” in your Algarve villa
Image by zone41, used under Creative Commons license (CC BY 2.0)

Wine in the Algarve

The climate on Portugal’s southern coast is ideal for grape growing and winemaking. The regions of Lagoa, Portimão, Lagos and Tavira are particularly renowned for their wine. Wine production here also dates back to the days of ancient civilisations like the Greeks and Phoenicians, so they’ve had plenty of time to perfect the process!

Quinta do Morgado da Torre in Portimão is among the region’s oldest vineyards, and the fruity whites and reds here are made from hand harvested grapes. For a fun day out, treat yourself to a tour, tasting, then purchase a few bottles in the shop to bring home to your holiday villa.

Take advantage of delicious Portuguese wine on your self-catering holiday
Image by zone41, used under Creative Commons license (CC BY 2.0)

Macieira

First produced in the 19th century, Macieira is a fruity brandy with a long history in Portugal. Today, it remains one of the nation’s most popular drinks. It is also sold worldwide, but for the best experience, you should drink it in its home place.

This brandy is golden brown in colour with light, fragrant flavours. You can enjoy it on its own, with ice, or mixed with soda water or soft drinks, so it’s a versatile drink that can be tailored to suit every palate.

Aguardente de Medronhos

This strong spirit is also known as ‘fire water,’ as a result of the hot sensation you feel when you swallow it. Distilled from the strawberry-like fruits of the Medronho tree, Aguardente de Medronhos offers a true taste of Portuguese tradition. It is hand produced by farmers in rural areas, so for the most authentic flavours, purchase a bottle directly from the producer – you might find some at a market stall.

Some locals drink Aguardente de Medronhos with breakfast to wake them up, so if you fancy starting your day the Portuguese way, you could give it a go. Otherwise, enjoy sipping this fiery beverage after a meal. If you think you’d prefer something a bit gentler, try mixing it with honey to make a drink called Melosa.

Beer in the Algarve

You won’t find any better location than the sunny Algarve to sample Portuguese beers. There are three main national brands to look out for. The first, Sagres, is a pale lager which is dry and refreshing to drink. Super Bock is another lager. It’s a Portuguese classic, and among the country’s favourite beer brands.

The third national brand is Cristal Pilsner, a light, fruity, easy to drink beer that is perfect for any occasion. If you want a taste of home while you’re abroad, you’ll also find lots of familiar international beer brands on sale in supermarkets.

By Shaun Fraser, a former drinks rep, who now focuses on writing about his favourite tipples from Europe and beyond. He credits his good nose to a previous life as a sommelier.

Your guide to the Algarve

The southern Portuguese region of the Algarve is one of Europe’s most glittering jewels. Despite remaining unspoiled by mass tourism, the region is awash with first-rate facilities and tourist amenities. It’s clear why millions of holidaymakers travel there each year – they flock for the sheer number of beaches, dramatic seaside rock formations, charming villages, nearly endless sunshine, and friendly Portuguese culture. The Algarve also remains one of the best value destinationswhile still offering more than its fair share of luxury.

Discover the Algarve
Image by Garaigoikoa, used under Creative Commons license (CC BY 2.0)

1. The Beaches

Making up the southern portion of mainland Portugal, the Algarve boasts over a hundred and fifty miles of beautiful coastline and too many beaches to count. From small rocky scalloped coves to long sandy stretches that seem to go on forever, the coast here almost makes visitors feel like they get a beach each! Coupled with the dramatic limestone rock formations that pepper much of the coast and the deep blue waters, it’s obvious why the Algarve’s many beaches attract so many visitors.

Take a self-catering trip to the Algarve

Praia da Marinha, Lagoa

Perhaps the Algarve’s most iconic stretch of beach, Praia da Marinha adorns many of the tourist brochures of the regions and it is easy to see why. With multiple sea stacks, arches and steep cliffs blending with the pristine sand and balmy waters below, it is no wonder visitors flock to this picturesque beach each year. If you only visit one beach in the Algarve, it should really be this one. Regular boat trips also let you see the stunning geology up close, and the clear waters are ideal for diving and snorkelling.

Treat yourself to a self-catering holiday in the Algarve

Praia da Falésia, Albufeira

Boasting nearly four miles of golden sand, Praia da Falésia is among the longest beaches in the Algarve. Backed by towering, pine-tree-covered red cliffs, this large beach has more than enough room for everyone. Known for its laid-back atmosphere and well-stocked amenities, Praia da Falésia remains an excellent spot to lie back and enjoy the Portuguese sunshine.

Praia da Galé

An archetypal stretch of Algarve beach, Praia da Galé offers lovely soft sand and warm waters. The area is also full of caves, rockpools and striking rock formations perfect for children to explore. Found between the towns of Albuferia and Armação de Pêra, the coastline has small secluded beaches as well long uninterrupted ones ideal for a morning stroll. The area is popular with holidaymakers and has lots bars and restaurants nearby, including the famous two-Michelin-starred Villa Joya.

Ilha de Tavira

Tavira Island is found to the east of Faro and is made up of a long and unspoilt Blue Flag beach. Only a stone’s throw from the mainland, the sandbar island has no permanent settlement. This makes Ilha de Tavira a serene place to enjoy the seaside all year long. It’s also a small part of the Ria Formosa Natural Park – a conservation area well known for its vibrant bird life.

Embrace the Algarve
Image by p_v a l d i v i e s o, used under Creative Commons license (CC BY 2.0)

2. The Destinations

The Algarve may be a small region, but there is a rich diversity in the destinations it offers. From touristy resorts, to authentic Portuguese villages, there is plenty of scope for a unique holiday each time you go.

Faro

The largest city and capital of the Algarve region, Faro is a major tourist hub all year round. Often overlooked by visitors en route to their villa or resort, the city has a wealth of cultural activities to enjoy. It is also one of the best places to experience an authentic slice of Portuguese life. In its well-preserved medieval old town, you’ll find a host of museums, cobbled lanes, and historic churches that offer a flavour of the area’s rich and storied history. With a very different vibe to the major resort towns of the area, Faro is a must-see place if you’re looking to capture the real Algarve.

Albufeira

The quintessential resort town, Albufeira might not provide the best example of the “real Portugal”, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t an ideal spot for a holiday. This area is rich in tourist-focused amenities, being awash with bars, cafes, and restaurants. It also acts as an excellent hub for the beautiful nearby waterfront with beaches like Praia da Galé and Praia dos Alemães close by. The town’s modern marina offers boat trips to explore the area’s rocky coves, see its dolphins and wildlife, and even go diving.

Lagos

Perhaps the finest tourist town the Algarve offers, Lagos will please culture lovers and action seekers alike. With historic city walls protecting its old town, the city’s long heritage is very much on display. But away from the cobbled lanes and chilled piazzas, you will discover a modern city ideal for a short break. Beautiful Praia da Batata beach is just minutes from the town centre and the seafront offers a range of water sports and boat tours to enjoy.

Sagres

By heading to the region’s western edges, you’ll be greeted by some dramatic windswept scenery and a selection of the most scenic fishing villages in Portugal. One of the finest places to go it the town of Sagres. Located right on the most south-westerly point of the Iberian Peninsula, Sagres was greatly linked with the Portuguese Age of Discovery. Today, the town offers rugged scenery, first-class surfing, and dramatic views out across the Atlantic Ocean.

3. Things for the kids

While perfect for a for a getaway no matter your age, the Algarve is the ideal destinations for a family holiday. With more than enough attractions to keep the kids entertained, a holiday to this part of Portugal is sure to be a hit. Here are some of the top child-friendly attractions in the region:

Zoomarine

Despite being open seasonally, Zoomarine remains the Algarve’s most visited attraction. As popular with adults as it is with kids, the water park combines its ecological attempts to protect and preserve Portugal’s marine life with a wildly entertaining water park full of slides, pools, and other entertainment. The park gives your little ones a chance to learn, have fun, and interact with dolphins at the at the famous Dolphin Emotions centre.

Fiesa Sand Sculpture Festival

A delightfully unique event, the Fiesa Sand Sculpture Festival is a must-try experience for any trip to the Algarve between May and October. As the name suggests, it is a festival of sand sculptures – the largest in the world – and provides a memorable day out for the children to see amazing sandy creations both big and small.

Mini Golf

The Algarve one of the world’s premier golfing destinations. In fact, it can lay claim to more than 25 championship courses. But there are plenty places for the wee ones to practice their swing, too. Family Golf Park, found in Quarteira, tempts budding golfers with two fantastic and well-maintained courses. Meanwhile, Mini Golf Quinta do Lago in central Algarve boasts a miniature version of some of golf’s most famous holes!

Zoo de Lagos

Another continual family favourite, Zoo de Lagos is sure to delight the kids. While not the largest zoo out there, it does contain three hectares of beautifully maintained grounds with all manner of animals to see, from cobras and crocodiles to primates and pelicans.

4. Food in the Algarve

The Algarve’s residents, like the Portuguese in general, love their seafood. And as they are surrounded by the waters of the Atlantic, there is no shortage of it either. Cafés and restaurants often have a catch of the day on offer, letting you enjoy some of the freshest fish you’ll likely ever try. Other seafood like sardines, shellfish, and calamari make up a number of the area’s signature local dishes. From mouth-watering recipes like Clams in Cataplana, Camarão Portuguesa (garlic prawns) to Algarve-style oysters, the seafood dishes here could be among the best you try.

Arianne Fabrice is a travel journalist who specialises in the popular resort destinations in and around Europe. Having worked for some of Paris’ premium travel mags, she’s recently moved into English-language publications.

Algarve self-catering: recipe for Clams in a Cataplana Casa Velha

Self-catering doesn’t mean skimping on luxury, and it means you get to try out the best local cuisine. To make sure you enjoy the full flavour of the Algarve while in a holiday let, here’s a delicious recipe that you need to try if you take a break to southern Portugal.

Steamed Clams
Image by suchiorg, used under Creative Commons license (CC BY 2.0)

Portuguese Self-Catering Recipe

What better way to embrace the taste of Portugal from the luxury of your villa in the Algarve than by sampling a popular dish from the region. Clams in a Cataplana Casa Velha is a simple, tasty dish that you can whip up with a minimum of fuss, and enjoy at your leisure on a balmy Mediterranean evening. They love their seafood in this part of the world, and they also love their pork – so why not combine the two!

Local Algarve Ingredients

A thick flavoursome stew of pork sausage, clams, garlic and tomato, Clams in a Cataplana Casa Velha is quintessentially Portuguese and benefits from the quality of the local Algarve produce available. You can make it with ingredients back home, but the small, sweet and delicate Portuguese clams are without doubt the best for making this dish sing. As is the subtle and nutty Portuguese take on chorizo – called chouriço – but chorizo or pepperoni should make a fine substitute if there’s none available.  The best way to prepare it is with a traditional Portuguese clamshell cataplana, but if you don’t have one you can use a normal pot. Though you’ll be hard pushed to find a Portuguese kitchen without a cataplana!

Portuguese Kitchen
Image by chilangoco, used under Creative Commons license (CC BY 2.0)

Ingredients for Clams in a Cataplana Casa Velha

3 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons cornmeal
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup coarsely chopped Italian parsley
4 dozen small clams
3 medium onions
3 large garlic cloves
2 large sweet green peppers
3 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons cornmeal
1/4 cup olive oil
1 large bay leaf
1 can tomatoes
1 can tomato sauce
2 ounces lean prosciutto
1/4 pound lean smoked ham
1/4 pound chouriço

Preparation and Cooking Instructions

First things first, you need to scrub the clams. Once they’ve been given a good clean, place them in a large pot and fill with cold water. Add the cornmeal to the water as this helps draw out any sand or grit from inside. Leave to soak for at least an hour.

Now it’s time for the sauce. Crush the garlic and chop the onions, and cut the peppers into smallish strips and then cook the lot in a large pan with olive oil for around ten minutes. Once they start to smell tasty throw in the bay leaf, and the tin of tomatoes. Bring the mixture to the boil and let it simmer for 20-30 minutes. While this simmers dice the prosciutto, ham, and chouriço, then throw the lot in and cook for another half an hour.

Now it’s time to get out the cataplana. Spoon half the sauce into the bottom of the cataplana and place over heat so the sauce gently cooks, then start adding the clams. Place them over the bed of sauce and then cover with the rest of the sauce and shut the cataplana.

Make sure the lid is secure and leave for ten minutes. After that, open the cataplana add the wine and the parsley and gently toss the clams. Reclose and cook for another 15 minutes or until the clams open. Throw out any clams that don’t. Now get out your ladle and serve the beautiful concoction with some Portuguese farm bread, pao. Why not add a crisp glass of local dry white wine, Arinto to perfectly complement your culinary creation? Bom apetite!

By Imogen Bishop, a part time travel writer, part time restaurant critic, and full time mum. She has an affinity for Mediterranean cuisine and can usually be found in the kitchen with a bottle of olive oil in hand.

The Algarve- more than just great beaches!

Of course, no trip to the Algarve would be complete without exploring the stunning sandy beaches that this destination has to offer. The shorelines are certainly sun drenched and hard to resist! Ranging from the expansive sands of Fisherman’s Beach in Albufeira to smaller coves such as Castelo. However, the Algarve has much more going for it than just its’ beaches making it a well-established family favourite.

5 reasons it should be top of your list for a family getaway in 2017

There are no shortage activities to keep children of all ages occupied so here is a snap shot of the best things to do whilst you are here.

1. Zoomarine, Guia

Zoomarine is arguably the Algarve’s biggest attraction and ideal for a fun packed day out. It has shows, rides, slides and pools a plenty- a great marine experiences for all the family. It’s much more than just a waterpark with an educational element too giving children and adults alike the chance to learn about wildlife, conversation and the environment. As you are in Guia- home of chicken piri piri it would be rude not to stop off for a bite to eat at one of the local restaurants after a day of fun!

2. Waterparks

The Algarve has some great waterparks to guarantee hours of fun. Aqualand, in Alcantarilha, with the famous Kamikaze and Benzai slides has to be top of the list. However, Slide and Splash and Aquashow are well worth a visit too!

3. Fiesa Sand Sculpture Festival

The International Sand Sculpture Festival, held in Pera, takes place every year from May to October. It celebrates a different theme each year and takes the 50 international artists 8 weeks to prepare for! The exhibitions are an impressive sight both during the day and at night when the sculptures are illuminated with coloured lights. There is a bar and snack bar, occasional live music and a very relaxed vibe. The exhibits are fantastic and are created by artists from all over the world – great fun for all the family!

4. Mini Golf

The Algarve is home to some of the best golf courses in the world and if you wish to get the children in on the act there are 2 mini golf courses for them to try at the Family Golf Park, in Vilamoura. The theme throughout is ancient Rome and it is beautifully landscaped with water features, obstacles and even a bird house. This is mini golf at its best.

5. Karting

Karting is a family favourite with 4 venues in the Algarve to choose from. There is a fabulous indoor Hot Wheels Raceway in Albufeira, an outdoor track at Almancil, a great karting track near Portimao and the International Race Track next door. This is where the world championships and Superbike competitions take place

Ask The Experts – Tricia, Algarve Resort Manager

Meet Tricia, our overseas manager in The Algarve. With a wealth of travel and tourism knowledge we thought we’d ask her some questions and share them with you…

Hi Tricia, you’re originally from Southern Ireland but you moved to Bognor Regis and now the Algarve in Portugal Where did this love of travel come from?

My father was in the hotel business and as a family we travelled around a lot, this is where it all started for me!

What was it about the Algarve that made you decide to stay?

My husband!!! And also the people, who are quite like the Irish. They like to dance, drink and have a laugh!

What first made you want to be a holiday rep?

I always wanted to travel and I am a people person, so I have managed to combine the two things perfectly.

Of all the countries you’ve visited, what are your personal highlights?

I absolutely love Rome. The history and culture is phenomenal. It is also very romantic.

For you, what is it that makes villa holidays so good?

You have your own independence, not having to wait for other people or for hotels to say when dinner is ready! You also have a lovely pool all to yourself.

And finally three questions we ask all our experts…

What’s your favourite holiday destination and why?

Have only ever been to Tenerife and Gran Canaria, with the family, my favorite, was Tenerife because of the climate in the winter months, which is the only time I can go. The children were younger then and they enjoyed the resort. It was nice being pampered in the Hotel and we flew from Seville, which was a short flight.

If you could spend a week in a villa with any celebrity or fictional character, who would it be and why?

Antonio Banderas. Do I really need to tell you why???

You are allowed to pick three songs to listen to on your villa holiday, what are they?

Anything from Bruno Mars, Michael Buble or Showaddywaddy!