1. SAN SEBASTIAN
Basque Country of northern Spain is known for its strong traditions and regional culinary scene, layered by modern culture and a buzzy vibe. Explore it in greater depth by visiting two of its most interesting towns.
Fly into Bilbao and transfer directly to San Sebastian, the foodie capital of Europe. This coastal town has a relaxed feel and it’s easy to explore on foot, plus you can surf and swim on the town beach. Stay at historical hotel Villa Soro, swathed in gardens yet walking distance of the old town.
A must is to explore San Sebastian’s many bars and restaurants sampling the innovative pintxos (tapas-like bites) and fine dining at Michelin-star restaurants.
"Fusing cultural Bilbao with the foodie traditions and coastal escapism of San Sebastian makes a fascinatingly diverse trip away."
The last part of your trip will be in cultural Bilbao. Stay at Gran Hotel Domine which is conveniently located opposite the shimmering, titanium-sculpted Guggenheim. Gaze at the unique architectural marvel, designed by Frank Gehry in 1997 before exploring inside to discover artwork by Jeff Koons and Richard Serra, among many others.
Bilbao also has other museums to explore such as the maritime museum and Museo de Bellas Artes, plus the imminently strollable old quarter – the Casco Viejo.
Laid-back Porto, bisected by the swirling Douro River has so much to offer for a city break. Extend your trip with time spent in the Burel Mountains and enjoy a longer, more exploratory holiday in northern Portugal.
Start in Porto, perhaps with tastings at port houses like Taylor’s or Cálem, taking the gondola and walking across the double-decked Dom Luís I bridge, designed by Gustav Eiffel.
You can also cycle along the river or spend the day on the beach, feasting on fresh seafood at authentic restaurants.
Lay your head at Vila Foz Hotel & Spa, located on Praia dos Ingleses for some coastal escapism.
"A trip that combines a riverside city with rural splendour makes staying in Porto and onto the Burel Mountains an alluring proposition."
2. SERRA DA ESTRELA MOUNTAIN RANGE
The next part of your trip sees you head inland to the mountainous region of Serra da Estrela. Enjoy breathtaking views, fresh air and opportunity for hiking, encircled by the beauty of the mountains.
Stay at Casa de São Lourenço, a design hotel that makes the most of its elevated position with a terrace, beautiful spa and panoramic vistas of the valleys and tree-lined hills.
The region of southwest France has some treasures to unearth. We’re zoning in on Île de Ré and Cognac, less than two hours apart by road yet two very different settings.
Start in cultural Cognac, the home of its namesake distilled spirit which you can taste at the cognac houses Hennessy, Remy Martin and Martell. It also has a wealth of historical architecture including the Royal Castle of Cognac where King François I was born in 1494.
Stay at Chais Monnet hotel, a comfortable base with an indoor pool and outdoor swim-through.
"Be immersed in France's food and wine traditions with a trip to Cognac followed by the breezy charm of Île de Ré and its seafood delights."
2. ILE DE RE
Change up your topography with the second part of your trip to the breezy, coastal beauty of Île de Ré.
Loved by the French, the island’s laid-back vibe gets you into holiday mode whether you’re revelling in its natural beauty from pine forests to wild beaches, cycling the sandy tracks or admiring boats bobbing in picturesque harbours like La Flotte. And as you might expect, the gastronomic scene here is excellent with seafood restaurants aplenty, cafes and ice cream parlours.
Stay at classic French hotel La Toiras and enjoy its restaurant terrace for dinner.
With an opportunity to spend time on Sicily’s east coast paired with the remote beauty of the Aeolian Islands, this trip is an incredible showcase of southern Italy’s coastal experiences.
Start in Sicily, staying at hidden gem Donna Carmelo, an old farmhouse stylishly renovated, that overlooks the Ionian Sea and is clasped in a flower-filled garden. Bike down to the beach or relax by the pool by day and enjoy homecooked Sicilian classics heavily influenced by the sea in the evening.
You can also reach Catania, Syracuse and Taormina from here for a day trip and Mount Etna presides over the hotel, accessible for hiking.
Enjoy the drama of Sicily's volcanic landscapes and cultural towns paired with the peaceful seclusion of Vulcano Island.
2. AEOLIAN ISLANDS
From Sicily, board a ferry to reach the Aeolian islands. Your destination? The rugged isle of Vulcano where Therasia Spa hotel awaits.
Cradled on a rocky cliff edge, its dramatic location is heightened by the encircling Tyrrhenian Sea dotted with islands silhouetted on the horizon. With these panoramic views, relaxing is easy but you can further enhance your wellness with a spa treatment or a cookery class.
Elsewhere on the island, trek to the crater, enjoy a natural mud bath, snorkel the vibrant waters or sunbathe on a black sand beach.