I don’t know about you but this time of year tends to send those tell-tale tingles shuddering down our travelling bones more than ever. Maybe it’s the cold mornings, grey days, and short evenings that have us at Exsus HQ dreaming of drier, warmer and sunnier destinations? No, actually, that’s definitely it. After months of dreary wintry weather it’s high time we rewarded our patience with some fully-deserved sunshine in the form of a springtime European excursion.
We’ve put together a few suggestions that might give you the little impetus you need to see out winter’s tail-end in one of Europe’s most luxurious idylls.
Much-needed beach-time – Skiathos
A discrete little island settled in the Aegean Sea, Skiathos abounds in exotic Mediterranean landscape, and the 40km of coastline make it a dream spot for anyone with sunbathing on the brain. Skiathos offers a buffet of beaches with 60 sandy spots to pick from, including the irresistible Koukounaries Beach backed by a shady pine forest on the south side of the island.
Heading to Skiathos this time of year eliminates the likelihood of battling any tourist hordes, but if you wanted to experience complete seclusion the beaches on the northern shores will offer just that. Lalaria is a pebble-stone cove enclosed by sheer rock faces – which make it accessible only by boat – generating a uniquely intimate atmosphere on one of the most stunning locations on the island.
Opposite Skiathos Town, a stone’s throw off the coast, lies a cluster of small uninhabited islands ideal for day trips. Tsougria is the largest of the lot and hides an incredible sheltered bay behind its forested highland, and the other smaller islands are home to treetops-full of local birdlife. Skiathos’ blissful attractions are bound to lay waste to the gloomy post-winter lull.
Vibrant city escape – Madrid
Madrid’s charming squares, blooming flower parks, and trendy cafes and bistros come alive in the spring months, making it the ultimate urban remedy for those pesky winter ills. Just as the temperatures start climbing, but before they climb too high, make the most of the makeshift terrazas cropping up across the city. Divide your time between Santa Ana and Santa Barbara to soak up the best of these outdoor cafes where you can sit alongside locals sipping on sangria and tucking into tapas.
The Rosaleda rose garden is a kaleidoscope of colours blooming in the west of the city, and is a lovely introduction to Madrid’s amazing city parks. At Retiro Park you can saunter around sandy paths, row across the broad pond, visit the Crystal Palace or picnic in a green meadow. (For the first couple of weeks in June the park hosts the Ferio del Libro with stall after stall selling rare second-hand books).
Held in May, the Festival of San Isidro is Madrid’s premier springtime street party celebrating the city’s patron saint. Locals don traditional dress, eat local delicacies, dance and put on live concerts in the markets, parks and squares. In the Plaza de Toros some of the country’s most decorated matadors put on a 24-day bullfighting display that will at the very least take your mind off any weather worries.
Quiet country life – Provence
A proven track record for serving up quintessential French countryside, Provence needs no introduction as a bucolic springtime break. The perched medieval villages, tumbledown Roman relics, rolling hills stiff with vineyards and carpeted in swaying lavender have all inspired the world’s finest artists in the past, and will no doubt do the same to you today.
The spectacular Gorges du Verdon is a river canyon rightly considered Europe’s grandest and holds more than a few reasons to visit. Vertiginous cliffs, panoramic vistas, deep blue lakes and traditional villages never look more appealing than in this region’s comfortable micro-climate of bright balmy weather.
Spring brings out a bounty of Provencal markets worth poring over, and the town of Vaison la Romaine nestling in fertile countryside hosts a stellar selection of stalls. As does L'Isle sur la Sorgue and Carpentras where you can pick up plenty of craft souvenirs to lift your spirits after a six-month winter.
Mountain hideaway – Montenegro
Bridging Balkan countryside and a Mediterranean coastline via a remarkable mountainous hinterland, Montenegro has staked its claim as one of Europe’s top holiday destinations in recent years. Benefitting from reliable springtime temperatures, you can avoid the peak-season crowds without giving up the great weather.
Zabljak is a beautiful mountain settlement showcasing incredible alpine views and original architecture. It’s the highest town in the Balkans with a vantage point of over 1400m and is located near the Tara River Canyon – one of the world’s deepest, second only to the Grand Canyon – which thrill-seekers can be seen navigating on rafts.
The 17th-century township of Kolasin is ensconced among several alpine peaks and set on the outskirts of the Biogradska Gora National Park. With Biogradsko Lake and one of only three preserved wild forests in Europe, a rustic getaway to this pristine pocket of wilderness will certainly help you to while away any wintry woes.
You can find out more about these destinations by calling one of our travel experts on +44 207 337 9010.