Summer is here! It’s finally time to start dreaming of incredible summer destinations… whether or not they will be able to happen this year.
This summer is going to be a unique one, so ‘flexible planning’ is called for in regards to any trips. Luckily, most airlines are offering extremely flexible booking conditions so you can book without any worries of losing your money – if you have to reschedule your trip, they will facilitate this free of charge. British Airways is offering the ability to change your destination, date of travel, or both – with no change fee – for travel up until April 2022. EasyJet also appears to be providing a similar no-fee flight change for any date up until May 2021.
Don’t forget to enjoy some of the local Muscat wine!
Travel tip: Booking travel with a credit card rather than a debit card can give you better protection in the case that a company goes bust. Under section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act (AKA ‘chargebacks’), you can claim against your credit card company if you have paid more than £100 for your flights (minimum £100 per flight) or holiday and have used your credit card to book direct with the tour operator or airline. Some companies will give a refund if you’ve paid via a travel agent, but they aren’t obliged to.
Read on to be inspired by some of my top picks for breathtaking summer getaways in some of the most spectacular places in Europe!
A Spectacular Summer in Samos
The Aegean island of Samos is an absolute gem, often overlooked for busier and more touristy Greek islands like Santorini or Mykonos. Samos is the perfect Greek island for stunning blue water, lush landscapes, and incredible beaches. Samos was also the birthplace of Pythagoras (think back to secondary school maths) as well as the philosopher Epicurus.
Samos is accessible from both Greece and Turkey by boat – the trip from Athens (Piraeus) is an overnight journey and from Kusadasi in Turkey the journey takes only two hours. There are also flights to Samos from Athens and Thessaloniki, as well as other Greek islands such as Chios and Rhodes. Ferries also serves Samos from nearby islands such as Mykonos, Ikaria, Lemnos, Kos, and many others.
The best way to enjoy Samos is definitely to hire a car and drive around the island. It’s pretty hilly so you’ll need transport to get around! If you don’t drive (or don’t want to), you can also take local buses, travel by taxi, rent a motorbike or even cycle (if you’re feeling energetic!). If you enjoy hiking, Samos has more than 45 hiking routes of which many are in the forest and are therefore shaded even during the summer days. Don’t forget to enjoy some of the local Muscat wine when you’re relaxing at the end of the day!
Experience the Midnight Sun in Norway
A unique summertime experience has to be northern Norway’s midnight sun. One of the best ways to experience this phenomenon is by cruise, which will allow you to explore different cities and regions of Norway all in one trip. So, what is the midnight sun? Due to Norway’s location, where part of the country is located within the Arctic circle, the northernmost regions experience the phenomenon of the sun never setting during summer! On the flip side, they are also some of the most spectacular places to experience the Northern Lights in winter as well.
Destinations located within the Arctic Circle include Bodø, the Lofoten Islands, Senja, Vesterålen (including the stunning island of Andøya), the Lyngenfjord region, Tromsø, and Sommarøya. This region is truly remarkable as well as incredibly varied – from islands that look like you’re somewhere like Hawaii to stunning glacial lakes, snowcapped mountains, and beautiful waterfalls. Whether you love to road trip or you’re a hiking enthusiast, if you fancy kayaking on some spectacularly clear waters or you dream of seeing whales in their natural habitat, Arctic Norway truly does have something for everyone!
And the best part? The sun never sets! It’s a strange experience and takes some getting used to, but you are essentially treated to a full night of an almost setting sun. You know that perfect hour of light before the sun sets? Photographers call it golden hour, and thanks to Arctic Norway’s location you can enjoy this beautiful light all night long.
Flights operate to various airports in Arctic Norway, including Bodø, Tromsø, and the beautiful city of Trondheim that’s just below the Arctic Circle (but well worth a visit in its own right). You can fly directly from London Gatwick to Trondheim or via Oslo to Tromsø. KLM also operates flights from Málaga to Trondheim via Amsterdam, if flying from Spain is a better option.
This region is truly remarkable, and the best part? The sun never sets!
Fall in Love With Landscapes and History in the Caucasus
I couldn’t pick just one when suggesting Georgia or Armenia, so I definitely recommend visiting both! They’re incredibly easy to combine as a dual trip, whether you travel between Tbilisi and Yerevan by overnight train (which I did), marshrutka (minibus), by car, or by taking a short flight.
The Caucasus region is oft overlooked by many travellers, but those who are in the know… they know. Georgia is a stunning country with incredible landscapes, mind-blowing architecture, delicious food, and – possibly my favourite – excellent wine. Armenia is all of this as well, but both are so wonderfully unique and different from each other. Armenia became the world’s first Christian country in 301 AD and its rich, ancient culture can be seen all around the country. Monasteries are built in spectacular places, such as on the basalt plateau of Tatev, the red gorge surrounding Noravank, and the mountainous region where you’ll find Geghard Monastery. My personal favourite has to be the monastery of Khor Virap, with its view across to the majestic Mount Ararat.
The scenic Lake Sevan is located on the journey from Tbilisi to Yerevan and is home to popular beaches as well as the impressive Sevanavank Monastery (yes, Armenia has many monasteries). Yerevan, Armenia’s capital, is well worth a few days to explore and to enjoy the culinary highlights.
Georgia’s capital, Tbilisi, is also an incredible destination. You could easily spend a week here alone! Tbilisi’s location on thermal springs means that the old town is home to beautiful and relaxing baths, as well as, impressively, a waterfall. Other destinations in Georgia that should definitely be on any bucket list include mountainous Kazbegi in the north, sunny Batumi on the coast, and the wine region of Kakheti.
Georgian Airways operates direct flights between London Gatwick and Tbilisi and LOT flies from Heathrow to Tbilisi via Warsaw. From Malaga, Aeroflot flies to Yerevan via Moscow and Turkish Airlines flies to Tbilisi via Istanbul.
Admire Albania’s hidden beauty
While destinations like Croatia, Greece, and Italy are well known for beautiful beaches and historic towns and cities, Albania is not often on many bucket lists. After World War II, a Communist government was established in Albania and the country became infamous for its isolation, even from other Communist governments such as the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, and China. The death of dictator Enver Hoxha in 1985 preceded the opening up of Albania and the fall of Communism in the country started in earnest at the end of 1990. In the last 30 years, Albania has gone from an incredibly isolated nation to a member of NATO in 2009 and an official candidate for accession to the EU in 2014.
This beautiful nation is also opening up for tourism and many of the wonderful destinations in the country aren’t often visited by many tourists, aside from Albanians as well as some tourists from neighbouring Greece, Macedonia and Montenegro. The country is home to incredible and barely touched beaches, such as Gjipe Beach, Jalë Beach, and the beaches in Dhërmi, Himarë and Palasë. The coastal town of Sarandë is considered to be the ‘capital’ of the Albanian Riviera, with the nearby village of Ksamil well-known for its turquoise-blue waters and views across to the Greek island of Rhodes.
If you don’t want to spend all of your time by the beach, the historic city of Gjirokastër is an absolute must visit. The old town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is famed as a rare example of an extremely well-preserved Ottoman town. The castle offers panoramic views over the old town and the new city, as well as the surrounding mountains. Other Albanian destinations include the beautiful city of Korçë with its imposing cathedral, the capital city of Tirana with its buzzing nightlife and excellent cafe scene, and the town of Krujë with its enchanting and colourful old bazaar and historic castle.
Various airlines fly direct to Tirana from London, including WizzAir from Luton, as well as British Airways and easyJet from London Gatwick.
These are just some of the most beautiful destinations you can escape to in summer, whichever summer that may be. Enjoy researching future travel plans, be inspired, and support local travel businesses if you can.
Stay home, stay safe, stay inspired!