The Spanish Costas are overrun with tourists as once-popular destinations in North Africa remain off limits. Northern Spain has better value and it’s rarely better than Baiona in southern Galicia. The fishing port is close to Portugal so gets warmer weather and less rain than locations further north. The town has several small and appealing beaches – with countless others along the coast nearby. If you like seafood you will be in heaven with prices more reflective of the Spanish rather than the German or Irish cost of living.
Not the first place a family might think of, nor the easiest to get to – you’d have to travel via Manchester – but it has novelty factor and is much cheaper than Italy or Croatia. The beaches are beautiful, the villages quaint – look towards the medieval town of Kruja, Apollonia’s ruins and Berat , the Unesco World Heritage site famous(ish) for Byzantine churches and Ottoman architecture. Car hire is less than €10 a day and restaurants and accommodation are as cheap. And the sun will shine.
Turmoil in Turkey has seen its tourist industry struggle in recent years but a decline in popularity has had a consequential fall in package holiday prices. The more adventurous might want to check out Gaziantep, Turkey, a 90-minute flight from Istanbul, If you are into your food you’ll be delighted to know it is one of only eight Unesco Creative Gastronomy cities in the world and also the pistachio capital of Turkey. It is a whole lot cheaper than the big resorts and Istanbul and while it is 200km away from the coast, it will bring out the adventurous spirit in some.
Costa de la Luz
This is the secret the Spanish keep to themselves because they don’t want their coast of light blighted by lobster-red tourists from the north. The stretch of coast from Cadiz to Trafalgar (yes, the famous one) and Conil de La Frontera boasts stretches of sandy beaches and low-rise, eco-friendly resorts and endless days of unbroken sunshine are all but guaranteed. The beach-side restaurants are brilliant and brilliantly cheap, the surfing and body boarding are great craic and if you get bored Morocco is a day-trip across the sea. Don’t go in July and August when all of Spain seems to be there.
Wild Atlantic Way
If it is good enough for Luke Skywalker it should be good enough for you. We are terrible in Ireland for overlooking the magical tourist hotspots on our doorstep and there can’t be anywhere in the county that is attracting more attention internationally than Skellig Michael and the Wild Atlantic Way at its fringe. Don’t plan it too much. Just pick a random spot along the way and start cycling. If you’re not too fussy about your accommodation and don’t let the weather get you down, you will have a great – and very cheap – holiday at home.
Slovenia is made for anyone who enjoys the great outdoors. It’s the first country to be declared a green destination. The best time to visit depends on whether you want snowy peaks (Dec-March) or hiking and cycling (May-Sept). Outside these months, there is still plenty on offer. Check the “I Feel Slovenia” website (slovenia.info/en) for information. Fly from Dublin/Cork via Amsterdam, Frankfurt or London or to Venice and cross the border by train. Kayak across Lake Bled before following a trail through the trees to a tea room once used by President Tito. (lakeblednews.com/cafe-belvedere).
Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Winter is not just for the skiers in Jackson Hole. It’s also for the birds – hawks, eagles and owls – and the elk, moose, bison and wolves. The valley floor, part of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, is as well regarded as Lamar Valley for wolf sightings. In summer, the Teton mountains that frame the “hole” (aka valley) provide the backdrop for grizzlies as they re-emerge. Jackson Hole Wildlife Safaris (jacksonholewildlifesafaris.com), founded by photographer and guide Jason Williams, have winter and summer safari offerings. Trailfinders (trailfinders.com) has flights via Denver and Washington.
Head south to visit the world’s last wild frontier, see its declining colonies of penguins and view spectacular glaciers breaking into icebergs. The carbon footprint of getting here is substantial – flying to Argentina and then boarding a cruise, so travel on fuel-efficient, Cleanship-certified vessels (Abercrombie & Kent’s Ponant, abercrombiekent.com; Responsible Travel, responsibletravel.com) carrying 250 people or fewer. Only 100 passengers are permitted to disembark at one time. Support polar research through the Scott Polar Research Institute (spri.cam.ac.uk).
Botswana Wildlife Guiding Course
Be part of your own safari by learning to how to track the Big Five, to paddle your own canoe through the Okavango Delta and wild camp under the stars. “Safari Brothers” Grant and Brent Reed, known for their NatGeo Wild programme, run one- to four-week guiding courses (€1,624-€2,744pp) at their Okavango Guiding School (guidetrainingcourses.com). It is based in Kwapa Camp, in wilderness that stretches unfenced from northern Botswana into Angola and Zambia. Training sponsorship for a local guide is included. Courses are run all year round. Dry season is May to September. Watch the brothers on the National Geographic channel (channel.nationalgeographic.com/wild/safari-brothers/videos).
Once famous for its whaling, this Portuguese archipelago is now a whale-watching hotspot. You can also hike, bike, visit wineries and taste cheese. Blue and fin whales pass through from April to June while sperm whales, dolphins and sea birds gather all year round. Bring waterproof bags for your camera if you plan to travel around the nine volcanic islands and book accommodation at least a few nights in advance at busy times. Archipelago Choice offers a seven-night whale-watching holiday to Pico (azoreschoice.com, €990).