Bringer of sunshine and long, lazy days, July can only mean one thing – jet-setting season is in full swing! With the infectious buzz of summer wanderlust hanging in the air, everyone's on the hunt for a slice of that heavenly holiday pie. While the UK weather doesn't always get the memo, delightfully toasty temperatures are just a plane ride away. From gorgeous Greece to picturesque Provence, swoon-worthy escapes are made even more beautiful beneath brilliantly blue skies. Whether you're after blissful beaches, back to nature adventures or some good, old fashioned lounging by the pool, it's time to take matters in to your own hands with a look at where's hot in July…
Whether you're a big believer of the tried and tested beach-based escape, or after something a little different, July is the perfect month to treat yourself to some summer time heat…
Summer plus Portugal almost always adds up to 'Algarve'. And while the celebrated south has earnt its 24-carat coastal crown, there are plenty more holiday highlights to go around. Set aside your assumptions, abandon all preconceived notions and go against the grain with a getaway to the nature-focused north. Mix plenty of National Parks, a splash of silver-sanded beaches, a healthy helping of UNESCO heritage sites and a dash of dramatic scenery. Serve with a side of timeless, traditional towns and voila! You've got a taste of an under-the-radar holiday cocktail that's got it all…
July is a magical month to visit, with climes cool enough for outdoor adventures and heavenly highs of around 25°C. Swoon-worthy landscapes sprawl out in all directions, from emerald forests to mountainous peaks and forgotten coastlines, treating holidaymakers to a glimpse behind the glorious curtain. Traverse nature trails in Costa Verde, spend a relaxing day on the river in Douro Valley, or admire the spellbinding shores of the Silver Coast. If holidays are about 'getting away from it all', then Northern Portugal is the epitome of escapism.
Go back to basics and savour life's simple pleasures on the green coast. Velvety hills and verdant valleys are at the core of the Costa Verde's DNA. Another one for the nature lovers, the region can't help but enchant visitors with its captivating countryside. Deer, otters, boars and badgers call the luscious landscapes home, as well as some more elusive residents. Can you spy a golden eagle or Iberian wolf on your travels?
Carpeted in armies of pristine pines, running wild with rugged rivers and boasting a mesmerising mountain backdrop – the smell of fresh air is sure to revitalise you. If the natural aromas don't do it alone, then the picturesque peaks of Peneda-Gerês National Park are a shoo-in! Scattered with off-the-beaten track trails, put your best foot forward and send your pedometer step count soaring. Reward yourself with a visit to the thermal baths at Gerês afterwards, nature really does soothe the soles.
Generally considered second to gold, a holiday to the Silver Coast might make you rethink the hierarchy of precious metals! Welcome to a wonderland of unspoiled beaches, where you'll most likely have the place to yourself thanks to a colossal coastline that stretches for 150km – between Porto and Lisbon. Each beach beauty has its own name, but let's face facts, it's almost impossible to tell where one ends and another begins! Basically making this spacious splendour the world's longest shoreline. Sand strollers come here to satisfy restless legs and sea breeze cravings, while the relentless roar of the Atlantic calls to watersport enthusiasts the world over.
Even the most dedicated beach bums need a day off. If you're on the hunt for other itinerary ideas, look no further than the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Obidos. Overflowing with charm and character, from quaint cobbled streets to traditionally painted houses, this historic treasure is encircled by wonderful walls and watched over by a medieval castle. Amble along the quintessential collection of souvenir shops and eateries, a great way to spend a sunny afternoon.
Dreamlike Douro Valley does out class by the glass (literally!) Seemingly playing second fiddle to the South of France, this Portuguese paradise is actually the lesser-known trendsetter of award-winning vintages. Winemakers have been working their magic here since the 4th Century, with the rest of the world only just cottoning on to the UNESCO-crowned cultural landscapes. Set apart by spectacularly steep terraces that decorate the banks of the Douro River, see where the grapes are grown as you drift by vineyard-laden hills on a boat tour. Anyone who glimpses your holiday snaps will be seeing green, and not just because of the endless emerald scenes.
Follow the river far enough and you'll find yourself in the picturesque city of Porto. The perfect setting for a day trip, you'll be planning your return before you've even left thanks to the sheer volume of things to do! Stealing hearts for centuries, the Old Town is a stunning starting point for any visit. Mingle with locals, walk the riverside area of Caid da Ribeira and admire the candy-coloured houses that line the charming alleys. Here you'll stumble upon great views of the iconic Luís I Bridge, as well as a hub of cafes and boutique shops, just made for holiday indulgence.
You can't go wrong with Greece, and the idyllic Ionian island of Lefkas is all the proof you need! Delightfully laid-back and brimming with natural beauty, here's a summer escape with your name on it. Jaw-dropping white cliffs soar out of sapphire seas, while swathes of sun-baked sands lie below just waiting to be discovered. The land that tourism forgot, you won't find garish resorts or high-rise buildings on these hallowed shores. Instead it's all about timeless towns, sleepy fishing villages and traditional charm. Welcome to Greece's best kept secret…
In true island style, Lefkas' breathtaking beaches are the centrepiece for your summer getaway. From western wonders to the easy-going east, these shores can rival the Mediterranean's most sought-after sandy spots. Porto Katsiki, the poster child for this Ionian idyll, is the place that demands the most plaudits. Wild and windswept, azure seas shimmer in the sunshine, while the sound of waves lapping the shore will soothe you into a state of heavenly holiday bliss. Cast your cares away, roll out your towel and settle in for a day of Vitamin D and dramatic scenery. This is the July you've been dreaming of!
No one-trick pony, this Grecian gem boasts more than just beaches, proving what's on the inside matters just as much as what's on the outside. Nature lovers are in for a treat with a whole host of natural wonders, from enchanting forests to majestic mountains and everything in between. Dust off your walking boots and conquer the more isolated parts of the island, hiking through verdant valleys and alongside luscious lagoons. There's no better way to explore than on foot, savouring every second of peace and quiet as you discover hilltop hamlets and ancient ruins along the way. The dazzling Dimossari Waterfalls are a must-see, where cascading water tumbles down a rugged rock face into picturesque pools below. Reward yourself with a refreshing dip and make the most of this secluded tropical treasure.
Perfectly positioned for island hopping, Lefkas is the sailing capital of the Ionian, so don't be surprised if you see flotillas of yachts accessorizing the deep-blue horizon. Whet your own appetite for an adventure on the high seas with a ferry trip to neighbouring Kefalonia, Ithaca or Meganisi. Often escorted by playful porpoise trying to catch a ride on the wake, make sure you have your camera at the ready! If you're feeling extra brave, hire a boat and get up close and personal with those hard-to-reach beach hideaways dotted around the coast. The real holiday magic starts when the only set of footprints in the sand are your own…
Not wanting to leave anyone out, history hunters can rely on this slice of Greek paradise to deliver the goods. Ancient landscapes are adorned with amphitheatres, amazing archaeological sites, mesmerising monasteries and relics of Roman rule, as well as museums that trace Lefkas' historical heritage through the ages. Highly sought after and conquered on countless occasions, the Corinthians, Venetians and Turkish all wanted a piece of lovely Lefkas, and who can blame them? Once you've stepped foot on these stunning shores, you'll be left scratching your head as to why anyone would go anywhere else.
The joy of a July getaway means you can turn your attention to dreamy destinations that are practically on your doorstep! Forgo long-haul flight times and set your sights on France's sensational south. A honeypot of captivating countryside, historic towns and fantastic food, live your very own French fairy tale in picture-perfect Provence. Temperatures can soar well over 30°C, so get ready for fine wines and unbeatable Mediterranean climes.
Famed for its lavender fields, every Provence bucket list should begin with a visit to the beautiful blooms that carpet the luscious lowlands. Flowering season begins in mid-June, making July one of the best times to see them in their purple prime! Dressed up the nines in dazzling shades, feast your eyes on one of the most iconic landscape accessories on the planet. Bright yellow, full-faced sunflowers get in on the action too, transforming the countryside into a patchwork quilt of colour. Venture to the Valensole Plateau, Sault Plateau and the Luberon Valley for the highest concentration of fields, these see-it-to-believe-it beauties are not to be missed!
Beyond the blooms, Provence packs a punch. Culture vultures and art enthusiasts can discover the landscapes that lent themselves to the legendary works of Picasso and Vincent Van Gogh. Explore Aix, the birthplace of Paul Cézanne, where you can even visit his former studio and admire an enviable collection of his personal belongings. The nearby mountain of Sainte-Victoire was perhaps his biggest muse, which he painted a whopping 87 times! Classroom favourite, Van Gogh, is thought to have resided in Rèmy-de-Provence while seeking treatment for depression. Follow his troubled trail and visit all the places that influenced his paintings, or swing by Arles, where the artist famously cut off his own ear.
Old-worldly towns and jaw-dropping chateaux are yet another South of France staple. Perched on high hilltops, these man-made masterpieces command unrivalled views from dizzying heights. Almost as iconic as the fragrant florals found in the fields below, Provençal villages lure visitors in with their quintessential quirks and renaissance treasures. Cobblestone streets, medieval monuments and charming chapels bask in golden sunlight, with a generous helping of olive groves and romantic stone buildings thrown in for good measure. Amazing Avignon is revered as the region's pièce de résistance and cultural hub. Once the centre stage for Christianity in the 14th century, travellers come to see the Palais des Papes, a spectacular site that once rivalled the Vatican. From gorgeous Gordes to unbelievable Uzès, there's no escaping Provence's historical hamlets, and there's most certainly no substitute to seeing them with your own eyes.
Proving that you can't have too much of a good thing, Provence is the gift that keeps on giving – this time to lovers of the great outdoors! With a wealth of natural wonders sure to send shivers down your spine (even in the July heat), there are countless ways to get up close and personal with the beauty all around. Kayak through canyons, trek mountaintops, cycle rural roads or simply steal time tucked away in secluded serenity. Not wanting to be outshone by the respected artists of the region, Mother Nature has one or two tricks up her sleeve.
Meticulously carving inlets and coves from craggy limestone for over 120 million years, the beauty of Calanques National Park is worth every century. Minds are sure to be blown at this bucket list backdrop! Snorkel in the azure waters or take in second-to-none views from one of the countless hiking trails. Trade holiday highs for underground discoveries and delve into gargantuan grottoes and captivating caves. Teeming with rivers, petrified waterfalls, stalactites and stalagmites, landscapes here are just as lovely below the surface as above. Prehistoric paintings can be found in some of the caverns, telling tales from 36,000 years ago. It's a profound feeling to stand in the same spot as these ancient artists!
If you're chasing an all-round adventure, set your sights on Provence's gorge-ous ravines. A real-life paradise, Verdon is revered as canyon royalty. Towering limestone walls climb out of impossibly blue waters, soaring hundreds of metres above the glacier fed river. Flowing through a series of lakes, take a dip in the dazzling turquoise tones, or raft your way along the picturesque pass at your own pace. Take to the skies and witness the gorge in all its glory! Whether your inner adrenaline-junkie braves a bout of Paragliding, or you opt for a gentile hot air balloon ride, the unforgettable views will stay with you until long after you land.
France and foodies go together like fine wine and cheese, with thousands of holidaymakers keen to experience the countless culinary creations the country has to offer. From simple dishes to lavish triumphs, menus are influenced by the areas close proximity to the Mediterranean. Local ingredients, changing seasons and an ever-evolving gastro scene culminate in mouthwatering meals and unique eats. Try the region's fish soup speciality, Bouillabaisse, or vegetarian friendly Ratatouille. Renowned for its wonderful wines, pair your dinner with a glass or two of the local tipple. Whether it's full-bodied reds, refreshingly crisp whites or a particular vintage you're after, your tastebuds will thank you later. Bon appétit!
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