‘Blissful and extraordinary’: readers’ favourite places in Europe | Europe holidays

Lakeside beaches, France

Lake Vassivière in the Limousin has something for everyone. We found one of France’s largest artificial lakes while on a donkey-trekking holiday (but that’s another story!). The lake has five lovely sandy beaches with safe swim areas, beach cafes and kayak hire. There are walks and cycle paths, but the real gem is the lake’s island, with its lighthouse, a sculpture park and a chateau that is now a restaurant. Access is via a footbridge, free water taxis or by canoe. We stayed in a fabulous yurt on a donkey farm three miles away (about €400 for a week). Je ne regrette rien …
Angela Luke

A lush and fruity oasis, Sicily

Citrus heaven, Sicily.
Citrus heaven, Sicily. Photograph: Lynne Collis

When you climb down the path to the lush Kolymbetra gardens, your skin breathes in relief after the arid heat of Agrigento’s Valley of the Temples. We’d seen entry to the gardens was free with a National Trust card, but we were the first visitors to present one. The receptionist was delighted, and made us very welcome. The gardens are an oasis of citrus plants, from lemons the size of grapefruit to bergamots, tangerines of every kind, kumquats and ugli fruit. The paths are steep and uneven but glorious.
Lynne Collis


Readers’ tips: send a tip for a chance to win a £200 voucher for a Coolstays break


Guardian Travel readers’ tips

Every week we ask our readers for recommendations from their travels. A selection of tips will be featured online and may appear in print. To enter the latest competition visit the readers’ tips homepage

Thank you for your feedback.

The crystal-clear waters of a Swedish island

Beach huts and boats at Asperö, Gothenburg
Beach huts and boats at Asperö, Gothenburg. Photograph: Mikael Utterstrom/Alamy

Asperö, one of the islands in the archipelago off the coast of Gothenburg, was our base for an incredibly quiet and peaceful stay. We rented a small cabin close to the water – the views were stunning and the water crystal clear, albeit shockingly cold. There are no cars, and locals get around on their own two feet or using funny little motorised trailers. The island is reached via a regular local ferry, and a tram line connects the coast to the city centre.

Falling in love with Palma de Mallorca

Palma de Mallorca with a view of the cathedral.
Palma de Mallorca with a view of the cathedral. Photograph: Alex/Getty Images

In 2011, I began a series of trips to Palma de Mallorca and fell in love with the city. From the Paseo Maritimo to the Arab quarter, there are so many places to stay, eat and wander – all with a different neighbourhood feel. The golden stone of the cathedral glowing in the sunset is wonderful seen through the masts of luxury yachts. There are tourists, but this is a working city with buses full of locals. Venture beyond the residential districts for a beach day in Ses Illetes or drink in the fabulous views from Castell de Bellver.
Janet Dean

Beavers and wild boar in the Czech Republic

The flower garden of Kroměříž castle, Czech Republic.
The flower garden of Kroměříž castle, Czech Republic. Photograph: Marcin Lukaszewicz/Alamy

The charming village of Rusava, in the south-eastern Czech Republic, is a perfect spot for nature lovers. Stay at Hotel Rusava (from £62 a night), which overlooks a valley in the Hostýn-Vsetín mountains. The area is great for hiking through pine and beech forests and alpine meadows. Farther afield is the Poodři wetland area, just west of Ostrava, which is teeming with bird life. To the south is Soutok nature reserve, the largest in the country. It’s the best reserve I’ve ever visited and I saw eagles, beaver and wild boar. For some culture, Kroměříž is only 30 minutes away and is famous for its beautiful Unesco world heritage site castle and gardens.
Rob Dalziel

Blissed-out in Romania’s Bear Lake

Bear Lake, Sovata, at dusk.
Bear Lake, Sovata, at dusk. Photograph: mauritius images GmbH/Alamy

Floating in the saltwater of Romania’s heliothermal Bear Lake is the most blissful and extraordinary experience. It’s deep (18 metres in places) and, unusually for a salt lake, fringed with trees. Once you hop in the water to float, it’s perfectly peaceful … and extraordinarily warm. The top layer consists of sweet water flowing from nearby streams, and the deeper you go, the warmer the water: at one metre it reaches 35C. Some visitors come seeking cures for infertility or rheumatism; or, you can just bob about like a cork, regardless of however many papanasi cheese doughnuts you consumed in the nearby cafes the night before.

skip past newsletter promotion

Eye-popping Kastellorizo, Greece

Kastellorizo, Greece
A water taxi to Kastellorizo, Greece. Photograph: Jayne

Take the ferry from Rhodes (or from Kas in Turkey) to Kastellorizo (also known as Megisti or Meis), among the most eastern of the Greek islands. There are gorgeous, well-priced rooms at Hotel Megisti, plus plenty of other apartments or hotels to choose from. Swim from the little beach on the far side of the basilica or catch a water taxi to tiny St George’s island for a day of swimming and snorkelling. When the day trippers have left, head to one of the many harbourside tavernas, which serve up super-sparkly fish, fresh salads and slow-cooked lamb. Keep an eye out for inquisitive loggerhead turtles that reside in the bay, which will probably pop their heads out of the water to see what’s on your plate.

Relaxing in thermal spa waters, Hungary

Lakeside next to the pier on Lake Balaton.
Lakeside next to the pier on Lake Balaton. Photograph: Peter Forsberg/Alamy

Lake Balaton is under two hours by train from Budapest. It provides a tranquil escape from the capital where thermal spa waters and endless seafood eateries line the lake. It’s where Hungarians go to escape busy city life, and where my grandparents spent their summer holidays while my mother and aunt were growing up. I travelled there in 2019 with a friend and stayed with a local family on their farm. Cycling every day, delving into the family’s organic produce and enjoying the relaxing water felt like a lockdown in the most wonderful way possible, before the real daunting one the following year.

Honey brandy and history in Sarajevo

Traditional Lukomir village in Bosnia.
Traditional Lukomir village in Bosnia. Photograph: Sulejman Omerbasic/Alamy

History, culture and natural beauty join hands in Bosnia and Herzegovina’s charismatic capital, Sarajevo: that’s what keeps me coming back. Cradled by dramatic mountains, we spent one day hiking out to visit Lukomir village, where a traditional lifestyle can still be seen. Back in the city that evening, we dropped into the Zlatna Ribica bar (the “golden fish”) to sharpen appetites with ludicrously cheap glasses of medovača, a delicious honey brandy. Later, we walked via the Latin Bridge to see the spot where Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated in the incident that sparked the first world war. Then we had dinner in the cheerful Aščinica ASDŽ cafeteria, with its generous portions of traditional Bosnian dishes.

Winning tip: a treasure hunt in a Massif gorge, France

Sainte-Enimie. Photograph: Sergi Reboredo/Alamy

The highlight of our trip last autumn to France’s Massif Central was the spectacular little town of Sainte-Enimie, nestled in a crook of the Gorges du Tarn. We dropped down into the amazing gorge – dramatically revealed after the approach across the high plateau to the north – via the hermitage hewn into the rock above the town. The walk around town felt like a treasure hunt of hidden alleyways and evidence of the community’s history since the seventh century – a wonderful surprise on what was a last-minute detour! The rest of the gorge is stunning and merits a holiday on its own. We plan to return for a full week of active adventure.
Matt Elliot

A picture in this article was changed on 16 June 2023. An earlier version showed Lake Hévíz in Hungary, rather than Lake Balaton.

Please use the comments to tell us about your own favourite spots

Coolstays use this one

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *