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Visit the first site in the world to be given a Starlight Tourist Destination Award (in Dec 2011) by the UNESCO-supported Starlight Foundation: the Alqueva region in Portugal. The unpolluted night sky provides a pristine backdrop for clear viewing of constellations and stars with the naked eye. Spot the Milky Way whilst night-canoeing or get a closer look at the stars with a local night-sky expert. Seven nights at the Horta da Moura cost from £472 pp (two sharing) including B&B, flights (Heathrow) and car hire.
The mild temperatures, spectacular scenery and untouched natural beauty of Sao Miguel – the largest Azorean island – make for an outstanding walking holiday. The guided walks on this seven-night trip will roam past placid lakes and tumbling waterfalls and through perfectly pastoral landscapes. Staying at the Hotel Vila Nova in Ponta Delgada, seven nights cost from £828 pp (two sharing) including B&B, flights (Gatwick), transfers, four full-day guided walks and four picnic lunches.
The historic village of Marialva – in Portugal’s unspoilt Centro region – perches on top of a wooded hill, close to the Spanish border, with magnificent views stretching for miles over the surrounding rural landscapes. Casa do Coro is an exquisite, owner-managed guesthouse at the heart of the village, made up of abandoned properties which have been lovingly converted to create stylish and welcoming guest rooms. There’s a large swimming pool, pretty gardens and outdoor terrace – perfect for enjoying al-fresco breakfasts and balmy evenings. A seven-night stay costs from £740 pp (two sharing) including B&B, flights (Gatwick) and car hire.
Wait until term starts and head off on a grown-up getaway to Portugal’s Centro region in September to enjoy the still-warm weather without a whiff of a crowd. Stay at the five-star Casa da Insua, a majestic 18th century mansion filled with spectacular original features and set within extensive grounds. Beautiful national parks, atmospheric historic villages and the buzzing city of Aveiro are all within easy driving distance. A seven-night stay in September costs from £584 pp (two sharing) including B&B, flights (Gatwick) and car hire.
Baking skills a little crusty? Head to Azienda Agrituristica Bergi – a rural and family-run property close to the ancient village of Castelbuono – and activate your flour power on a ‘From Wheat to Bread’ baking course. An expert teacher will guide you through the entire bread-making process, providing wisdom on everything from flour varieties to kneading techniques. You’ll bake your own delicious loaf and taste it fresh from the oven the traditional way: with olive oil, cheese, salt and anchovies. A seven-night stay costs from £683 pp (two sharing) including B&B, flights (Gatwick) and car hire. Baking lesson payable locally.
This summer’s brightest feel-good Brit flick, ‘Walking on Sunshine’ is an unapologetically sugary story of whirlwind romance, family secrets and showdowns at the altar. To raise spirits an extra notch, the action is peppered with roof-raising 80s belters and exuberant dance routines, and set against the glorious background of Puglia – the heel of Italy’s boot. Italy specialist Sunvil Discovery offers a variety of trips to the movie’s spectacular filming locations in Puglia, with its iconic cone-roofed trulli cottages, never-ending slices of soft sandy beach, lively port towns complete with historic palaces and churches, and the remarkable baroque city of Lecce.Sunvil Discovery’s Highlights of Puglia itinerary spends ten days in the area, beginning in the atmospheric city of Trani, with its meandering medieval streets and ancient port. Head north to the Gargano National Park to soak up the wildlife found in the beautiful highlands, and then move on to the Hotel Borgo San Marco, a fortified farmhouse dripping with charm and well placed for visiting the beaches of the Adriatic coast. From here, pay a visit to Alberobello, inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List for its fascinating streets of hat-like trulli cottages. The final stop is the city of Lecce, home to splendid Baroque buildings, a Roman amphitheatre and plenty of upscale boutiques.
The Alentejo region is largely unknown and unspoilt, in comparison to much of the rest of Portugal. If you’re interested in a holiday to the Alentejo region, you can take a look at our Alentejo Holiday Ideas section, or why not read some of the reviews below?
Tantalise your tastebuds at the atmospheric Chianti Grape Festival – Tuscany’s well-known and historical harvest homage set in Impruneta, a tiny village between Florence and the Chianti region. Held on the last Sunday of September, the festival offers wine-tasting (featuring almost 800 wines!), artisan food-sampling, music and dancing. The locals even dress in medieval and traditional costumes. A three-night break in Florence in September costs from £411 pp (two sharing). The price includes return flights (Gatwick) and accommodation with breakfast at the three-star Hotel Paris located in the heart of the city
Each year in August, Stockholm pulsates with an eclectic mix of theatre, dance, music, literature, film and art. Its annual cultural festival sees streets and squares come alive with around 500 different events, including the world’s biggest book table and unusual street art. Admission is 99% free, too. A three-night stay costs from £635 pp (two sharing) including flights (Heathrow), private transfers, three nights’ B&B at the contemporary Hotel Hellsten and a Stockholm pass, offering free travel on public transport, sightseeing tours and entry to attractions.
Sunvil Holidays is offering £97 per person savings on a seven-night stay at the modern Panorama Cottages on the Peloponnese, with sea views and an adjacent beach. Restaurants and shops are a ten-minute walk away in pretty Chrani. Price of £579 pp (two sharing) includes flights (Gatwick), transfers and self-catering. Departs 28 August.
Magical and moving, on 13th December thousands of young girls, dressed in white gowns with a crown of electric candles and holding a lit candle, bring light to the darkness of a Swedish winter. ‘Saint Lucia’ leads the procession of maidens, who hand out saffron buns to the crowds as they go. Soak up the festivities in Stockholm, Sweden’s vibrant capital. Prices start from £610 pp (two sharing) including return flights (Heathrow), private transfers, three nights’ B&B at the four-star Hotel Freys and a complimentary Stockholm pass, offering free travel on public transport and entry to local attractions.
Located in the heart of ancient Beja is the impressive Pousada Sao Francisco. Originally built in 1268, this Franciscan monastery has been artfully restored, breathing new life into the spectacular medieval structure that is now a luxury 35-room Pousada. Relax by the tranquil pool, take a turn around the cloister and chapter house, explore Beja Castle and don’t miss the town’s specialty, the Pao de Rala, bread cake made with pumpkin. A seven-night stay costs from £732 pp, including flights (Heathrow), B&B accommodation and car hire.
Try Chef Damien Montecer’s French-Brazilian cuisine at ‘Tereze’ in the beautiful Santa Teresa Hotel, furnished with recycled wood and adorned with local works of art. Or, Chef Ana Castilho’s ‘Aprazivel’, offering an exotic and tropical menu popular with Rio’s elite. Otherwise, feast at the fashionable Fasano Hotel, where Chef Luca Gozzani enhances unique seafood dishes with Italian flavour. The ten-night Brazil itinerary costs from £2,500 pp (two sharing) including ten nights’ B&B, return flights (Heathrow), transfers and excursions.
In the heart of the little known National Park of Cilento, in a valley cultivated with olive trees, Le Favate is a sympathetically restored, 16th century working farm. Goats, pigs and cows are reared here, and olive oil, fruit preserves and red wine are produced on the 50-hectare estate. Couples desperate for peace and paperback time can prop themselves up around the sizeable pool by day and the fireplace (with a glass of the farm’s finest) by night. Travel in September when the summer scorch eases. A seven-night stay in September costs from £571 pp (two sharing) including return flights (Gatwick), B&B and car hire.
Roman Holiday in the Alentejo, Portugal – from £675 pp with Sunvil Discovery See Portugal at its most architecturally diverse this August with a visit to the majestic hilltop town, Castelo de Vide. This town of Roman origin has a medieval Jewish quarter with Portugal’s oldest gothic synagogue, as well as a late 17th century square surrounded with beautiful Baroque buildings – one of which is the charming manor house, Hotel Casa Amarela. Stay in this beautiful family run hotel decorated with antique furniture offering both square and mountain views. A seven-night stay costs from £675 pp, including flights (Heathrow), car hire and B&B.
Sunvil Traveller is offering this staggering saving on a nine night trip including a seven-night fullboard cruise on La Pinta, one of the most luxurious vessels in the Galapagos. Including: two nights (with breakfast) in the 32-room historic Patio Andaluz in Quito; private half-day city tour; private airport transfers; Quito-Galapagos-Guayaquil flights and seven-night fullboard cruise with daily group excursions. Costs from £2,359 pp. For check-in at the Patio Andaluz on 24 August for a cruise departing on 26 August. Pre or post-cruise extensions available. Find out more
Sunvil Holidays offers a seven-night stay at Villa Sophia, with spectacular views across the Messinian Gulf and a short walk to two idyllic beaches, for £547 pp (family of four). Price includes flights (Gatwick), transfers and self-catering. Departs 28 August.
A famous 14th century tradition, the Palio is a short, sharp and frenzied bareback horse-race around the Piazza del Campo in Siena. Thousands of spectators cram into the middle of this beautiful main square to watch. The next Palio is on 16 August – get there a couple of days before the main event to enjoy the build-up, and to claim a prime spot amid the action on the day. A three-night stay at the four-star Hotel Athena, overlooking the Palio, costs from £621 pp (two sharing) including flights (Gatwick) and car hire.
Perched on the shores of Ecuador’s Anangucocha Lake, the Napo Wildlife Centre eco-resort – boasting 12 deluxe cabins accessible only by boat – is fully owned by the 140-strong Anangu tribe, supporting 27 families. See magnificent macaws flocking to nearby clay licks, spot up to 568 bird species from the canopy tower and get up close to the tiny Golden-mantled Tamarin monkey. A ten-night itinerary taking in four nights at the Napo Wildlife Centre costs from £3,037 pp (two sharing) including flights (Heathrow), private transfers and excursions
Part of the Azores, Flores is a diminutive dot in the ocean known as The Atlantic’s Garden. Here is a rambler’s paradise – a rugged landscape strewn with craggy cliffs, tumbling waterfalls, small meadows, lakes and natural swimming pools hewn out of rocks along the seashore. Combine two walking trails here and you’ll walk the entire length of Europe’s western-most coastline. Stay at Aldeia da Cuada, a cluster of cottages that cost from £919 pp in July (two sharing) including direct flights (Gatwick), all transfers and seven nights’ self-catering.