Here at Kiwi.com, we love exploring new places – particularly when they’re a bit less busy. There are some great deals for sites to go and get a bit of September sun; here are our suggestions for 10 destinations you might not necessarily have thought of …
And no, we’re not going to start with any “how Nice” puns (oh, except for that one). On the French Riviera, with all the warmth and sun that implies, Nice has been a draw for the wealthy and opulent since the 19th century.
The Promenade des Anglais that runs in a lazy curve along the seafront carries its name after the then-new breed of rich Victorian travellers from the UK on their very own Grand Tour of Europe by rail. These luxury hunters gave rise to the need for handsome hotels and restaurants, many of which survive to this day.
As well as an interesting Old Town, Nice is located almost precisely between Cannes to the west and Monte Carlo to the east, so if you want to see even more of the beautiful people, it’d be a nice (sorry) location in which to base yourself.
Whisper it, but as a tourist destination, the small (approximately 6,000 people) town of Kas is almost undiscovered and therefore unspoiled. It’s a centre for scuba diving in particular, but there are other sporting possibilities such as kayaking, mountain biking or hiking.
The town itself is relatively small, but there are also villages dotted along what’s known as the Turquoise Coast, each with their own character and places to stay. You can easily move from one to the other over the course of a few days. For those looking for a less sporty holiday, the beaches are beautiful, and there’s a decent smattering of tiny street cafes where you can sit with a glass of something delicious, inhaling the scent of jasmine that perfumes the town.
When it comes to Egypt, Sharm El Sheikh is the daddy of destinations for people wanting sun, sea and sand at an affordable price. It has meant, however, that a number of gigantic hotels have sprung up and you could very well forget you were in Egypt at all – it just became another package holiday destination.
80km north-east, you’ll find the former Bedouin fishing village of Dahab. Like Kas, it’s a spot to head for if you’re into diving (there are spectacular reefs to be found in the warm, clear sea) or windsurfing. Even if you’re not, with an average temperature of 28°C during the day in September and almost no rain the rest of the year, the sun virtually comes as a guarantee.
“And suddenly, there is Cagliari […] It is strange and rather wonderful, not a bit like Italy.” D.H. Lawrence was a fan of Sardinia, and we understand why. The second-largest Mediterranean island is home to centuries of history, from Roman to medieval and beyond, Spanish coastal reinforcements built in the 15th century to help ward off attacks from Barbary pirates, and one of Italy’s oldest cities, the aforementioned Cagliari.
On top of that, the Sardinian language (which is definitely a separate branch of the Romance tree, not an Italian dialect) can be proudly heard and seen around the island. It’s Italy, but not as we know it. Get there, hire a car and explore the island for yourself.
Away from the tourist spots such as Barcelona, Madrid and the south-western coast, if you wanted somewhere almost guaranteed sunshine (around 320 days a year) but without the hustle and obviousness of the places mentioned above, why not take a look at Murcia?
Although slightly inland, there’s easy access to the stunning Mar Menor lagoon as well as a number of golf courses, hillsides covered in vineyards producing wonderful wine. Perched high on a vast rocky outcrop, sits the 11th century Monteagudo castle, giving spectacular views over the mountains that surround the city.
Bulgaria’s second city is also known as its summer capital. Located on the Black Sea coast, for years under Communism it was somewhere Bulgarians could go to escape the grind of places like Sofia and Plovdiv. It’s been a major trade and cultural centre for over 3,000 years and has 12 miles of sandy beaches which are now taking advantage of the fact that, for many countries, Bulgaria is still a very cheap destination to visit.
Outside of its urban sprawl, the city is surrounded, like much of the country, by lush forests and hills, orchards and vineyards. In the city itself, expect to find a lot of Mediterranean-style dining, with fresh seafood or grilled meat served at restaurants whose tables spill out onto the streets of an evening as locals and tourists alike wash it all down with some excellent local wine.
At the other end of the Black Sea lies Sochi. It was a favoured resort of, among others, Joseph Stalin who, as a Georgian, knew the area and its people well (Sochi is right on the Russia-Georgia border). It has shot to further prominence lately as the host city of the 2014 Winter Olympics, and since then has played host to the Russian Grand Prix.
When summer rolls around though, why not take a walk along the promenades and beaches, soaking up an architectural style known as Socialist Classicism? If that doesn’t float your boat, you can visit Stalin’s dacha or, to get a glimpse of the city and region year-round, visit the Sochi National Park.
Covering 190,000 acres, you can see plants and animals in climate zones ranging from mountainous to sub-tropical, and is the only place on the planet to be still home to the (almost extinct but being carefully bred and released) Persian leopard.
Sitting at the foot of the western end of the Atlas mountains on the Atlantic coast, Agadir is probably the most modern city in Morocco. It was heavily rebuilt in 1960 after an earthquake but it still retains a sense of itself. The Kasbah, for example, built in 1541, is one of the finest examples of medieval Arabic architecture in the country and, remarkably, was one of the few buildings to survive the earthquake intact.
The beaches are long and wide, and the Atlantic waves make them popular with surfers. If you’d like to be slightly more looked-after, you could try a visit to a hammam – a Moroccan bathhouse – or, for the slightly more adventurous, there’s the option of a 100km trip to the Tiout palm oasis, overlooked by yet another stunning medieval fortress.
Yes, we all know that Croatia has leapt in popularity as a beach destination over the last decade or so, but that’s not a reason to cynically write it off while you go in search of more “undiscovered” places. There’s still plenty to see, and the crowds in early autumn will be far more bearable.
With easy access to a number of Croatia’s many islands, Zadar is a laid-back place, summed up by the fact there’s a bar (called The Garden) located on the city’s ancient walls. The bar is indeed a garden, but instead of chairs and tables, you can chill out on sofas and beds. The Old Town itself is the perfect size for an easy stroll before hitting the beach, and being Croatia, the standard of the seafood for the price is outstanding.
Soča Valley, Slovenia
The first location in the beautiful country of Slovenia that gained the European Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Excellence (or something), it follows the rushing, clear-blue Soča river from the Triglav National Park to Nova Gorica.
Every step of the way, you’ll be greeted by steep-sided hills in which deadly battles were fought in World War I. You’ll find the opportunity to go rafting or swimming; you’ll be able to hike to the hidden beauty of the Kozjak waterfalls.
When all that outdoorsiness gets too much for you, head to the town of Kobarid to see the magnificently odd Kostnica s Cerkvijo Sv. Antona, or reflect on the history of the area during the war in the Kobariški muzej (which also organises wider-ranging history walks). A stunning area indeed.