October holiday guide: Southern Europe is balmy, the crowds have gone and there are bargains galore


Summer in the UK may be gradually fading but October is a fabulous month for a final blast of sunshine in southern Europe.

What’s more, schools are back, crowds have thinned and travel companies are offering tempting deals for couples.

So here are ten suggestions for a week of early autumn sunshine in European countries keen to welcome us and all listed green or amber by our Covid honchos.

RELAXING RHODES

Take the high Rhodes: Lindos Bay is wonderful for couples in October, according to Martin

Savour the beaches and bays of the turquoise-tinged Aegean Sea one moment, then turn culture vulture the next. Rhodes is the largest and historically most important of Greece’s Dodecanese islands.

Small, peaceful Rhodes Bay Hotel & Spa has its own beach on Ixia in the island’s far north. But just ten minutes away, Rhodes town and its lanes lined with Ottoman mansions will spirit you back to Byzantine times. Farther afield is astonishing Lindos, the town crowned with an ancient acropolis.

Average max temp in early October: 26c.

Covid rules for entry: Amber list. Greek authorities require proof of full vaccination, plus a PCR test within 72 hours or antigen test taken within 48 hours of arrival, or proof of having recovered from Covid.

The Deal: From £878pp at five-star Rhodes Bay Hotel & Spa with First Choice Holidays (firstchoice.co.uk).

MAGICAL MARBELLA

Martin says Marbella's 'sweeping golden beach' (pictured) is worth a visit - and it doesn't cost a penny

Martin says Marbella’s ‘sweeping golden beach’ (pictured) is worth a visit – and it doesn’t cost a penny 

Long a playground for film stars and royalty, Marbella remains the Costa del Sol with glitz. It is not just the money that smells sweet. In the enchanted Casco Antiguo (old town), squares and courtyards fill with the scent of jasmine. You might need a full wallet for the designer boutiques but the sweeping golden beach — the finest on this coast — is free. Dramatic gorges and dazzling whitewashed villages are within a short drive. The road up to Ronda crosses wide open spaces between jagged peaks, with views across the Straits of Gibraltar to Morocco.

Max temp: 24c.

Covid rules: Amber list. Spanish authorities require proof of full vaccination, plus a PCR test within 72 hours or an antigen test taken within 48 hours of arrival.

The deal: From £1,159pp at beachfront four-star Fuerte Marbella Hotel with Thomas Cook (thomascook.com).

STUNNING SICILY  

Take in stunning views of the Mount Etna volcano from the ancient Greek amphitheatre in Taormina, pictured

Take in stunning views of the Mount Etna volcano from the ancient Greek amphitheatre in Taormina, pictured  

Settings don’t get much more spectacular than the Bay of Sirens on the northeast coast, where Grand Hotel Atlantis Bay is built into a cliffside looking across to the toe of Italy. Sicily was freakishly hot this August but those in the know have always understood that prime season here is autumn, not summer. Quaint Taormina, with its Greek amphitheatre, is reached by cable car, while Mount Etna looms nearby.

Max temp: 27c.

Covid rules: Amber list. Italian authorities require proof of full vaccination, plus a PCR or LFT taken within 48 hours of arrival.

The deal: From £1,460pp at five-star VOI Grand Hotel Atlantis Bay (justsicily.co.uk).

FEEL THE HEAT IN POLIS

Those visiting the northwest coast of Cyprus should explore the 'wilds' of the Akamas Peninsula, pictured, according to Martin

Those visiting the northwest coast of Cyprus should explore the ‘wilds’ of the Akamas Peninsula, pictured, according to Martin

Over at the eastern end of the Mediterranean, Cyprus basks in sunshine deep into autumn.

The northwest coast is the calm end of the island, especially the laid-back village of Polis a mile from the sea, with its coffee shops and tavernas spilling on to a bijou square.

Polis 1907 Hotel, with just six rooms, mixes traditional architecture with luxury. It is important to have a car, for getting to the beaches or exploring the nearby wilds of the Akamas Peninsula.

Max temp: 28c.

Covid rules: Amber list. Covid tests are not required if you have proof of full vaccination.

The deal: From £897 at Polis 1907 Hotel with Sunvil (sunvil.co.uk) including car hire.

COSY CALVI

Coastal gem: Pictured is the Genoese-built town of Calvi, Corsica, where temperatures can reach up to 24c in October

Coastal gem: Pictured is the Genoese-built town of Calvi, Corsica, where temperatures can reach up to 24c in October  

As he lay dying on St Helena, Napoleon Bonaparte is said to have reminisced about the aroma of his native Corsica. Gaze up at the hazy mountains above Calvi, inhale deeply and you’ll understand.

It is that perfume of the maquis, the shrubland which blankets Corsica’s wild hinterland, mingling with the scent of pine. There are few places better to experience this than from deluxe La Villa Hotel, high above the walled Genoese-built town.

Max temp: 24c.

Covid rules: Amber list. Covid tests are not required by French authorities if you have proof of full vaccination.

The deal: From £1,249.50pp at Relais & Chateau La Villa Calvi with Just Corsica (justcorsica.co.uk). Flights are via Nice.

ALL GO ALGARVE 

Nature lovers will enjoy touring the wetlands and open expanses of the Algarve's Rio Formosa natural park, pictured

Nature lovers will enjoy touring the wetlands and open expanses of the Algarve’s Rio Formosa natural park, pictured 

Quinta do Lago is the Algarve’s plushest estate. Think of fairways, posh villas secluded in pinewoods, and the boutique Magnolia Hotel facing the wetlands of the natural park, Rio Formosa. A footbridge crosses the estuary to a ten-mile beach, to which there is almost no other access.

Early autumn is prime time for golf, or for enjoying nature and open expanses in a region better known for mass tourism.

Max temp: 25c.

Covid rules: Amber list. Portuguese authorities require proof of full vaccination, plus a PCR test within 72 hours or antigen test taken within 48 hours of arrival.

The deal: From £642 at the Magnolia Hotel, with Jet2 Holidays (jet2holidays.com).

GORGEOUS GOZO

Divine inspiration: You could take a trip to see St John’s Co-Cathedral in the Maltese capital of Valletta

Divine inspiration: You could take a trip to see St John’s Co-Cathedral in the Maltese capital of Valletta 

Gozo and big sister Malta are pretty much bang in the middle of the Med, between Sicily and North Africa. Go there for laid-back times in the sun, taking in as much or as little of the extraordinary history as you choose. The smaller island is wilder, greener and good for walking.

Plus, there is the old-world elegance of the five-star San Lawrenz Hotel, with its swimming pools and spa set among olive trees.

Max temp: 27c.

Covid rules: Green list. Covid tests not required by Maltese authorities if you have proof of full vaccination.

The deal: From £1,285.15pp at Kempinski San Lawrenz with Kuoni (kuoni.co.uk), including transfers by ferry and private car from Malta airport.

CRETE SHINES ON 

Head to Stavros beach (pictured), where a classic scene from the film Zorba The Greek was shot in the 1960s

Head to Stavros beach (pictured), where a classic scene from the film Zorba The Greek was shot in the 1960s 

Remember Anthony Quinn in Zorba The Greek, dancing round a lagoon? The scene was shot at Stavros beach, near Chania in Crete’s less-visited northwest. The sun still shines in October, when not a huge amount seems to have changed on the far-flung peninsula of white-sand beaches and ancient churches hewn out of rock faces, since the 1960s.

Max temp: 25c.

Covid rules: Amber list. Greek authorities require one of the following on arrival: proof of full vaccination, a PCR test within 72 hours, an Antigen test taken within 48 hours or proof of having recovered from Covid.

The deal: From £774pp at family-run Hotel Doma on the edge of Chania, with Sunvil Holidays (sunvil.co.uk).

FUN FORMENTERA

The tiny island of Formentera, pictured, is a haven for those seeking fresh seafood and clear blue waters

The tiny island of Formentera, pictured, is a haven for those seeking fresh seafood and clear blue waters

An hour by ferry from Ibiza, tiny Formentera might as well be a million miles from the club beat and foam parties. Instead, people come for a slice of small-island life, undeveloped white sand, clear water, a wildlife expanse of wetland and to break up their days with a plate of fresh fish. True, tales of this haven of tranquillity have spread in recent years, but come autumn it is all yours.

Max temp: 26c.

Covid rules: Amber list. Spanish authorities require proof of full vaccination, plus a PCR test within 72 hours or antigen test taken within 48 hours of arrival.

The deal: From £614.80pp with Tui (tui.co.uk) at simple but stylish three-star Hotel Tahiti, with transfers including ferry from Ibiza.

DUBROVNIK DELIGHTS 

The Croatian port city of Dubrovnik is revered for its 'mighty walls, towers and turrets', Martin notes

The Croatian port city of Dubrovnik is revered for its ‘mighty walls, towers and turrets’, Martin notes 

When he first glimpsed the Croatian port with its mighty walls, towers and turrets, Lord Byron extolled Dubrovnik as the Pearl of the Adriatic. Since then, the city and its crinkled coastline have lost none of their allure.

Autumn brings out the best of the old town, a glorious backdrop to the beaches and sparkling sea of the Lapad Peninsula.

Max temp: 23c.

Covid rules: Currently on ‘green watchlist’ (in danger of changing to amber). Croatian authorities require proof of a PCR test within 72 hours or antigen test taken within 48 hours of arrival, regardless of vaccination status.

The deal: £939pp at the four-star Hotel Kompas on the Lapad Peninsula, with Tropical Sky (tropicalsky.co.uk).

THE SMALL PRINT 

  • Prices quoted are per person, b&b, for seven nights based on two sharing. Prices include flights from the UK and transfers, departing during the first week in October.
  • In addition to complying with Covid rules for the country you are visiting, you must follow UK rules for your return. From green list countries, you will need to take an antigen test within three days of returning; and to have booked a PCR test to be taken within two days of getting back. For amber countries, you also need to self-isolate if you are not fully vaccinated.

 



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