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If you're looking to settle yourself down for a few days to get that true experience of a small place that seems to have stood still in time, there's no need to look any further. Here are 10 charming coastal villages that offer exactly that.
Often a small market square where the local delicatessen shop is your go-to point for the best cheeses, the olives served are as fresh as you've ever had and shaded terraces serve wines directly from the vineyard… all this in close proximity to our friendly guest houses and family-run hotels. These types of villages along the coastlines of Europe form a great base for a few days of exploring on foot or by bike as they are a pleasant distance to rugged cliffs, quiet beaches, inland woods and pastures, groves, and mountain foothills.
Breathe in Europe through 10 of its most charming coastal villages.
Agios Georgios tis Pegeias – Cyprus
Agios Georgios tis Pegeias is situated about 400m from the coast and has a small fishing harbour and beach area. The surrounding area is mainly agricultural with bananas and citrus fruit, a few tavernas, two churches and the ruins of an early Christian basilica.
It is locally claimed that the sunset from Agios Georgios tis Pegeias is the most beautiful on the island of Cyprus. Perhaps the best place to be to view this spectacle is above the cliff next to the St. Georges Restaurant, above the fishing harbour or on the coast itself.
Flam – Norway
When you walk down to Flam, you’ll experience a beautiful trail that follows the lush valley route through woods and pastures in Norway. There’s always the sounds of rushing waters and when you eventually drop down to the Aurlandsfjord, a branch off Sognefjord, you’ll enter Flam.
The small coastal village of Flam has several restaurants serving local & traditional Norwegian meals (think of berries and salmon) and one of Norway’s most popular craft beer breweries can be found here. Out of town, enjoy a panoramic view of the Aurlandsfjord, take one of the most scenic bicycle rides in Norway, and hop on the famous Flam Railway.
Collioure – Vermillion Coast, France
Flower-decked Collioure is a very pretty little town set against the foothills of the Alberes Range near France’s Vermillion Coast. It has an idyllic setting with sun, sea and sky attracting lots of travellers each year. The seaside town consists of two little fishing ports separated by the mediaeval castle on a spur.
Did you know? This former fishing port was the birthplace of the Fauve movement of painters in the early 20th century, led by Matisse, and today still is a colourful place attracting painters and photographers alike.
St Peter Port – Guernsey
St. Peter Port, Guernsey Island’s capital, is a bustling, friendly place with a row of attractive harbours and marinas set under a steeply terraced townscape, with some remarkably well-preserved buildings from the 1700s and 1800s. Visit Castle Cornet, the 800-year old fortress, the restored Victorian Gardens, the house where Victor Hugo stayed, or just relax along the promenade with its array of pubs and restaurants.
At certain high points in the coastal town you can see the other Channel Islands of Herm, Sark and Alderney - and the coast of Normandy in France.
Riomaggiore – Cinque Terre, Italy
Riomaggiore, perhaps the most interesting town of the five Cinque Terre villages, is occupied by little fishing and day trip boats. The Italian seaside town has mediaeval tower blocks that are crammed together overlooking an inlet of intense aquamarine colour. The buildings are all painted in bright pastel shades, complementing the natural Mediterranean light.
Bowness-on-Solway – Scotland
The views from Bowness-on-Solway on the border between Scotland and England are special for several reasons. This is the western end of the Hadrian’s Wall tour - behind are rolling hills and country lanes while in front is the beautiful expanse of the Solway Firth.
The coastal village of Bowness-on-Solway has less than 100 houses and is the site of the Roman fort of Maia.
Ajaccio – Corsica, France
Ajaccio, the capital town of Corsica, lies on the island’s rugged west coast. Although a busy cosmopolitan Mediterranean coastal town, it is a pleasant place to spend a few days. Enjoy the impressive harbour and old winding streets where you’ll have plenty of choice of little restaurants and boutique shops.
Did you know that it was on this seaside town that Napoleon Bonaparte was born? You can visit his home, which is now a museum.
St Ives – Cornwall, England
In England, magical St Ives is a town of art, ice creams and fish ‘n’ chips. Protected from Atlantic storms, St Ives was once the most important fishing port in Cornwall, but like elsewhere on the surrounding coast, by the beginning of the 20th century, the fish stocks became depleted and the fishing fleet largely disappeared.
However as early as 1811 Turner visited to paint the seascapes and by the late 1880s there were several artists installed, and the town became famous for its vibrant artists’ colony. This perhaps reached its peak during the late 1940s and the 1950s. Today their work can be seen in the St Ives Tate Gallery, the Barbara Hepworth Museum and the Bernard Leach Gallery. We offer several holidays that include a stay in St Ives.
Porto – Portugal
In Porto, famous for its port and wine, there are lots of traditional tascas (taverns) that serve marine cuisine. Explore for example vibrant Ribeira district down by the quays. The city is located right between the Green (Costa Verde) and Silver (Costa de Prata) coasts of Portugal and forms part of the Douro Valley.
To get the best idea of this Portuguese coastal city with a small-town feel, we suggest a walking itinerary taking in the famous sites such as the Cathedral and churches of 'Igreja de sto Ildefonso' and the 'Igreja Clerigos' with its monumental tower. Maybe walk along the upper and lower spans of the famous Luis I Road Bridge and admire the riverside districts of the old towns on both river banks. For those with extra time in Porto, why not take a trip across the river to the other town, 'Vila Nova de Gaia'.
Santa Caterina – Sardinia, Italy
When you descend from the Montiferru Mountains on a walking holiday in Sardinia, you’ll walk into Santa Caterina di Pittinuri, located on the coast. Santa Caterina is a quiet bay surrounded by oak forests, olive groves and quiet pastures. This is a small coastal village, with just one small shop and a couple of bars. There’s also a nice 4-star hotel located right on the coast on a cliff at the edge of the beach with an excellent restaurant overlooking the sea. What more do you need besides a good glass of local wine, fresh produce from the island and the charming village life passing by?
Planning a trip to Italy and looking for holiday ideas that you can undertake fairly soon? We have created an overview of the first trips travelling to Italy this year. You can be packing your bags and hitting the Italian trails in spring undertaking one of these pleasant walking holidays in the land of pizza and the Romans.
The itineraries travel across the country and from the first of March, be among the firsts this year to enjoy the Italian walking paths, sip from your cappuccino on a quiet terrace in the first beams of sun in spring, visit ancient Roman sites without the crowds, and follow the trails of the Cilento Coast, Lake Como, Amalfi, Sardinia and Cinque Terre.
The great lakes of northern Italy have been a popular holiday destination since Roman times, evidenced by the array of lavish villas and sumptuous gardens which line their shores. When you visit Italy in March, April or May, you can enjoy full flexibility on this itinerary that uses the old Roman tracks. They cross the mountains on the west side of Lake Como, exploring forested valleys, mountaintops and traditional villages. Still in use today by the locals, they have been transformed into a series of way marked trails offering breath-taking views.
>> Learn more about the 8-days Lake Como Rambling holiday
A brand-new trip in Italy to the less known side of Amalfi was launched in March 2017. Most visitors to Italy’s world famous coastal strip do not continue beyond Vietri sul Mare, the Amalfi’s easternmost point. Go a few miles further south though, and you will find Cilento: the country’s largest National Park. Richly scented pinewoods, mediaeval farm houses and traditional water mills remain largely ‘undisturbed’ by the 21st century.
>> Learn more about the 5-days Cilento Coast and Mountain walking holiday
Few trips in Italy take in such a diverse combination of iconic highlights and stunning seascapes, making it impossible to escape the hordes of crowds that head to ‘Nastro Azzurro’ (Blue Ribbon) in the summer months. But, travel between March and May and you will have the Amalfi Coast virtually entirely to yourself.
>> Learn more about the 11-days Classic Amalfi Coast walking holiday, or check out the 6-days or the Classic Amalfi Coast - 8 Days options
The Cinque Terre (Five Lands) is Italian Riviera at its best. The coastline of the Cinque Terre in north-western Italy is as stunning as Amalfi, yet somehow even more colourful! For centuries artists and poets have praised the tiny aquamarine inlets that serve as fishing harbours and the ancient terraces rising steeply out of the coastal crags in words and pictures. You can opt for the gentle coastal strolls or strenuous hikes into the surroundings hills. Visit churches and viewpoints, walk through cliff-side vineyards and pine forests, while reserving ample time to feast on the rich Italian cuisine.
>> Learn more about the 6-days Cinque Terre Villages walking holiday
The weather in Sardinia in March and April is often already relatively warm and pleasant for undertaking outdoor activities. When you visit the Italian island in early spring, stay around the coast to enjoy gentle walks and explore secluded bays and ancient watchtowers. Taste the clear spring water, spot birds like Grey Herons and Pink Flamingos, and watch the sunset turn the cliffs to shades of yellow and pink.
>> Learn more about the 8-days self guided walking holiday A Saunter in Sardinia
For more information on your options for visiting Italy in March, April and May and for booking details, you can download the trip notes on each trip’s page or contact our team of travel experts by phone or email.