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10 alternative destinations for a sunny European holiday this summer

Evening Standard logo Evening Standard 10/03/2019 Laura Hampson

a group of lawn chairs sitting on top of a beach: (Shutterstock) © Provided by Independent Digital News & Media Limited (Shutterstock) Each summer, when trying to decide where we want to go for our summer getaway , the usual haunts of Italy, Greece and Spain spring to mind.

We’ve long loved these Mediterranean-hugging countries for their glorious beaches and relaxed atmosphere, but in the height of summer, sometimes they can get just a bit too crowded.

Which is why this year we want to head off the beaten track , to European countries that often slip under the radar but offer a completely different type of summer break – one filled with culture, fresh air and, most importantly, a slice of solitude.

Below, we’ve rounded up the best alternative destinations for a sunny European holiday to book in 2019.

Ksamil, Albania

The Albanian Riviera is often overlooked, making it one of the hidden gems of the Mediterranean. Ksamil, a village in southern Albania, offers white sand beaches and crystal clear water that rivals the Maldives , oozing with small-town charm and cosy restaurants offering authentic dishes. The village is part of the city of Saranda and found in the Butrint National Park – so check out the Butrint archaeological site while you’re there.

Best beach to visit: Ksamil town is based around the beach of the same name, so go for a swim there. You can also get a boat out to one of the uninhabited islands nearby for a more secluded beach experience.

Where to stay: While Ksamil is yet to embrace luxury hotels, the secret is to book into a charming beachfront Airbnb. We like this one, just two minutes’ walk from the beach and starting from £13 per night for a three-person apartment.

Skanör, Sweden

a small house in a body of water: (Shutterstock) © Provided by Independent Digital News & Media Limited (Shutterstock)

The Scandinavian countries aren’t often thought of as a beach-lover's nirvana, which makes discovering their pristine beaches that much more satisfying. For the softest sand and warmest water, head to Skanör – just south of summer hotspot Malmö and across the sea from Copenhagen. Here. You’ll find long stretches of superb beaches, and restaurants with good vibes – try Badhytten for a beachfront dinner followed by a night of dancing.

Best beach to visit: Skanör and neighbouring suburb Falsterbo are home to miles-long beaches, offering white sands and turquoise waters. Tourists and locals flock to the coast in the summer months, but the expansive space means you’ll still find a good stretch of beach to call your own.

Where to stay: for a cosy stay in the heart of Skanör, book into Hotell Gässlingen which is just a 15-minute walk away from the coast. Rooms from £132 per night, hotellgasslingen.com/

Bolata, Bulgaria

a group of people on a beach near a body of water: (Shutterstock) © Provided by Independent Digital News & Media Limited (Shutterstock)

One of our favourite beaches in Europe , this white sand haven is the perfect place to escape to for a few days this summer. While the beach itself is secluded, there are a few accommodation options nearby. During the summer season, you’ll find a couple of small eateries where you can purchase food and drinks to fuel your days lying in the sun.

Best beach to visit: the crescent-shaped Bolata beach with translucent blue water is a stunning sight. The only sandy beach in the region, you can expect it to be filled with local sun-chasers and tourists checking out Cape Kaliakra.

Where to stay: the Calithea Complex is just a 20-minute drive away from the beach and offers stunning sea views. Rooms from £52 per night, booking.com/

Sylt, Germany

a group of people on a beach: (Unsplash) © Provided by Independent Digital News & Media Limited (Unsplash)

Brits generally flock to Germany for two reasons: Oktoberfest and the stunning Christmas markets . Yet, Germany should be on your radar as a summer destination, especially the island of Sylt on the Frisian archipelago in the North Sea. Here, you’ll find thatched roof houses, long, idyllic beaches and plenty of history and culture to soak up.

Best beach to visit: with 25 miles of sandy beaches, you have a lot of beach space to choose from. Kampen is probably the most popular of the lot, with the tidal mudflats of the Wattenmeer to the east, and the wild waves of the North Sea and fine sandy beaches to the west.

Where to stay: the thatched roofs of Hotel Alte Strandvogtei make it an alluring abode, but the interiors make it even more charming. The hotel offers rooms along with separate holiday homes and a spa, plus it’s located right next to the sea, making it the perfect seaside getaway for family and friends. Rooms from €190 (£164) per night, alte-strandvogtei.de/

Petrovac, Montenegro

a body of water with a mountain in the background: (Unsplash) © Provided by Independent Digital News & Media Limited (Unsplash)

Located on the Montenegrin coast between Budva and Bar, Petrovac is a laid back summer resort with a large beach leading to sparkling waters. The town itself was a former fishing village watched over by a Venetian fortress. Historic Budva is just a 20-minute drive away and is one of the oldest settlements in the Adriatic, so be sure to take a day trip there during your stay.

Best beach to visit: just a 10-minute drive from Petrovac or a short walk through the forest, you’ll find Perazića Do. The pebbly beach is largely untouched and offers some great authentic food from the beachfront restaurant.

Where to stay: skip the hotel and opt for an Airbnb in Petrovac, where you can find some charming white-washed local houses like this, which is just £20 per night to stay in the guest room.

Wolfgangsee Lake, Austria

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Just a half hour east of the picturesque Austrian village of Salzburg you’ll find yourself in Sound of Music territory – and an even more picturesque lake called Wolfgangsee. Traditional houses are dotted around the lake and you can walk parts of the perimeter and be amazed by the striking green mountains contrasting with the blue hues of the lake. Be sure to walk to Brunnwinkl, a small hamlet, home to a few incredibly pretty houses.

Best beach to visit: the great thing about visiting a lake is that you can swim just about anywhere, just take your pick of swimming spot and jump right in.

Where to stay: for a lush lake front escape, opt for Hotel Seevilla with a very Instagrammable outdoor infinity pool, private lawn for sunbathing and chic décor. Rooms from €89 (£76) per night, seevilla-wolfgangsee.at/

Gozo Island, Malta

a sandy beach next to a body of water: (Unsplash) © Provided by Independent Digital News & Media Limited (Unsplash)

This lesser-known destination in Malta is much quieter than the main island and has been described as ‘the way Malta used to be’. The small island, with just 37,000 inhabitants, is surrounded by clear azure waters and offers a number of stunning beaches. The countryside is also worth exploring, for its picturesque valleys and striking scenery, and make sure you check out the capital city of Victoria for its medieval Citadel, with fortified walls.

Best beach to visit: Ramla Bay can be found on the northern side of the island, around a 40-minute walk from the village of Xagħra. Here, you’ll find a long golden beach, with sparking turquoise waters and a few Roman ruins.

Where to stay: for both sea and countryside views, opt for Viewpoint Boutique Living located in Xlendi Valley. Close to the bay of Xlendi, the rooms are simple but lovely and you won’t find a better pool spot on the island. Rooms from £104 per night, gozoviewpoint.com/

Odessa, Ukraine

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This port city in Ukraine is known as the Pearl of the Black Sea, mixing a vibrant city culture and pretty seascape. Walk down the famous Potemkin Steps that lead you to the Black Sea, or simply admire the pastel neoclassical buildings during a stroll through the city.

Best beach to visit: with a few different beaches along the city’s coastline, the best of the bunch would be Otrada. As is the case with many resort towns, you’ll find the usual amenities like restaurants and kids areas here along with warm and clear waters to swim in.

Where to stay: located in the heart of Odessa’s historic city centre, Frederic Koklen is a boutique hotel with an Instagrammable rose-coloured exterior. Inside, the furnishings are opulent with French and Spanish inspirations for the décor apparen throughoutt. Rooms from 2,716 Ukrainian hryvnia (£80) per night, koklenhotel.com/

Isles of Scilly, UK

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Located off the coast of Cornwall, the Isles of Scilly are made up of five main islands. You can fly in to St. Mary’s, the main island, from Exeter, Land’s End and Newquay or get a ferry from Penzance. Here you’ll find the UK’s sub-tropical secret, as the group of islands often experience warm, sunny weather during the summer months, with a number of lush and untouched beaches and crystal-clear seas.

Best beach to visit: you’d be forgiven for thinking Rushy Bay on Bryher was a beach in the Mediterranean with its sparkling turquoise waters and white sand, but it’s a little slice of paradise right here in the UK.

Where to stay: on the main island of St. Mary’s, you really can’t go past the Star Castle hotel. The fortress overlooking the bay, sits pretty at the top of a hill and offers modern rooms with decadent dining. Rooms from £157 per night. star-castle.co.uk/

Ayvalik, Turkey

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The magic of Ayvalik is found a few streets back from the waterfront, where you’ll encounter colourful buildings, restored stone houses and cafes bursting with locals. The port town offers a quieter holiday to that of Turkish hotspot Bodrum, where you can while your days away at the beach or simply wandering through the streets.

Best beach to visit: Sarımsaklı Plajı is a little out of the way (a 20-minuite drive or two hours by foot), but is worth the trip once there. Go snorkelling in the clear waters or simply enjoy walking along the soft sand and basking in the sun.

Where to stay: for a charming B&B with plenty of character, opt for the Boutique Ayvalik Pension, just a 10-minute walk away from the marina and offers mountain views. The Ottoman-style home has three guest rooms with lovely bay windows and is situated in the town centre. Rooms from £20 per night, booking.com/

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