Never mind the campsite in Cornwall — how about a whole week in Greece, Spain or even Abu Dhabi, with flights included? Here are this summer’s best-value breaks
In a year when holiday prices seem to be spiralling, it can be a struggle to find a really good week-long summer break for less than £500 per person. So we’ve done the work for you, digging out not just camping trips in Cornwall, but secret retreats in Spain, family resorts in the south of France, hideaways in Italy — and even a five-star holiday in Abu Dhabi.
Headline prices are per person. Unless stated, package prices include flights. Where flight and car-hire prices are given, they were available at the time of writing
1 Mountain playground, Castile and Leon, £324 El Escondite de Pedro Malillo is a mountain retreat in the Sierra de Gredos, two hours west of Madrid. This is the Spanish take on Tuscany: six stylish cottages in a forest of oak trees, each with a pool and views across the Castilian flatlands. The Sierra is a hiker’s playground of waterfalls and crystal pools, and the farms down the hill supply figs, tomatoes, goat’s cheese and pimenton to a string of fabulous rural restaurants. Los Robles cottage sleeps six and costs £935 a week in June (00 34 664 301025, elesconditedepedromalillo.com). Fly to Madrid with Iberia (from £80) and rent a six-seat car for £524 (holidayautos.co.uk).
2 Foodie secret, Basque Country, £398 The village of Getaria, on the coast east of Bilbao, is a sensual spot between two beaches, draped in the vineyards that produce the bone-dry Txakoli whites. Lunch is pintxos on Kale Nagusia Kalea, the main street, and dinner is fish, landed daily by the village fleet. Your bed is in Saiaz Getaria, a gothic tower turned boutique hotel, where a week in June costs £262pp, based on two sharing (00 34 943 140143, saiazgetaria.com). Vueling has flights to Bilbao for £78; car hire starts at £116 (holidayautos.co.uk).
3 Costa Brava camping, £481 The Cypsela campsite is popular with French, Dutch and Spanish families, with good reason. This shady spot beneath the pines has a big pool with slides, a bowling alley, a nightclub and a kids’ club. Playa de Pals lies just over a mile east, and medieval Pals, with its Tuesday market and great dining, is two miles west. A week in a four-berth cabin, arriving on August 14, costs £1,193 (0161 332 8900, alfresco-holidays.com). Flights to Girona cost £155 with Ryanair or Jet2; car hire starts at £111 (skyscanner.net).
Boarding school: learn to surf at Le Pin Sec, in Bordeaux
4 Classic beach holiday, Murcia, £451 La Manga is the barrier island that divides the Med from the Mar Menor. It looks a lot like the Surfside end of Miami Beach, with high-rise hotels by the sand and a buzzing crowd of bars and restaurants lining the streets behind: hardly untouched, but great fun if you’re in the mood. The high-rise to choose is the Hotel Servigroup Galua — or so say the Spanish, who voted it one of the top 10 beach hotels in Spain last year. It’s on chic Galua beach and has a pool, a spa, a kids’ club and a bar. A week in late June costs £340pp, full-board (0845 094 2449, servigroup.com). Ryanair has flights to Murcia for £111.
5 Wild Canary, £486 La Gomera is the wild Canary with the enormous cliffs, pumping surf and Jurassic Park-like interior of volcanic crags and dense rainforests. It’s a place for walkers more than beach lovers: there are 58 marked trails, following the ancient paved pathways known as caminos reales. La Gomera is also an island for foodies, with a unique cuisine that ranges from sea-fresh tuna steaks to roast rabbit and the twin addictions of almogrote — a zingy cheese spread — and papas arrugadas, tiny new potatoes boiled dry in salt and dipped in a hot red sauce. Stay at the Aparthotel Playa Calera, which has huge rooms and a rooftop pool. It’s a steal at £486pp for a week, B&B, departing on June 14 (thomson.co.uk).
6 The original Algarve, £389 The most charming town on the Algarve, pastel-painted Tavira entices you to waste days in cafe-bars, the cobbled old town and the lush gardens. But there are beaches to visit, too, with sands stretching to the Spanish border, in the east, and Praia do Homem Nu, in the west. The Hotel O Castelo is a 19th-century mansion five minutes from the ferry to the beach, and its best rooms have balconies overlooking Rua da Liberdade. A week in July costs £227pp, B&B (booking.com). Flights to Faro start at £120 with Ryanair; car hire costs £84 (zestcarrental.com).
7 The best beach in Europe, £490
Last month, this newspaper declared Portugal’s paradisical Praia da Amoreira the finest beach in Europe. But we omitted to mention the hotel to book: Muxima-Montes Ferreiros, the blissful rural fantasy of Sofia Faustino and Jorge Andrade, who have built the chicest of ramshackle retreats in a cork forest five miles from the beach. Rooms are themed on Togo, East Timor and similarly exotic locations, while the breakfasts are worth getting up an hour early for. A week in July costs £328pp, B&B (00 351 917 059969, muxima-montesferreiros. com). Flights to Faro start at £120 with Ryanair; car hire costs £84 (zestcarrental.com).
8 Five-star Algarve, £446 Backed up against the Monchique hills, the Vale d’Oliveiras Quinta Resort and Spa, in Carvoeiro, offers golf, pampering and organic dining in a tranquil spot above the golden sands of Praia dos Caneiros. The famous Praia da Rocha and the nightlife of Portimao lie just across the River Arade. Go in late May and you can expect highs of 22C, 20 hours of sunshine a day and a week’s half-board for £446pp (0871 474 3000, onthebeach.co.uk).
9 Brittany break, £326 The camping holiday in Brittany is as British a tradition as a rained-off cricket match, but getting there sitting in a steamed-up car, with are-we-there-yet? kids, can be a hassle. No longer. This summer, Ryanair’s new service to Lorient (from £72 return, starting on July 1) will put the Breton coast a mere 80 minutes from Stansted. Campsite L’Atlantique is an hour west, just behind the magnificent Maner Coat Clevarec beach and within walking distance of the seaside town of Beg Meil; there’s a water park and a bar on site, which is all you need to know. A week in a three-bedroom mobile home, arriving on July 29, costs £811 — that makes £203pp if there are four of you (01233 629950, venueholidays.co.uk). Car hire starts at £205 (rentalcars.com).
10 Posh holiday camp, south of France, £237 The new camping operator Firefly Holidays made it into this year’s Sunday Times Best 100 Holidays for its luxury approach to the classic French camping break. One of its standout offerings is the fabulous Camping la Sirène, in Languedoc-Roussillon. It’s a short stroll from lovely Argelès beach — but with a huge water park on site, you may have trouble persuading people to leave. Accommodation is in state-of-the-art cabins that sleep up to six, with full kitchens, coffee machines, wi-fi and dining terraces. A week in August costs £1,300 (01606 717900, fireflyholidays.co.uk). Return Dover-Calais ferries start at £120 with P&O.
11 Alpine summer, Savoie, £212 Les Arcs in the summertime: bright sunshine, clean air, dazzling night skies and winter’s pistes transformed into flower-filled meadows. Hiking and mountain biking are the big things here, but other diversions include rafting, tennis, golf, a circus school and catching high-altitude sunshine by the pool. A week’s self-catering at the luxury Le Village resort, in Arc 1950 — with views across the Aosta Valley to Mont Blanc — starts at £212pp, departing on July 29 and including Eurotunnel returns (020 7590 1690, ernalowsummer.co.uk).
12 Surf school, Bordeaux, £421 There’ll be a dude waiting for you at Bordeaux airport. He’ll drive you through dappled pine forests to the surf camp at Le Pin Sec. Here, on a consistent and uncrowded beach break, you’ll undergo 90 minutes of surf instruction every day for a week, taught by British and Australian Surf Association-accredited instructors. There’s plenty of time for other pursuits, too, such as trawling the local party spots. Your meals are included, all kit is provided and accommodation is in proper beds in carpeted teepees. Courses run all summer long for £350pp (0845 625 0445, golearnto.com). Ryanair has flights to Bordeaux from £71 in August.
13 Unfashionable Puglia, £458 There are some cracking beaches just down the road from Masseria Grotella, ranging from Torre Lapillo, with its buzzing beach clubs, to the untamed beauty of Punta Prosciutto. This is the unfashionable coast of a little-known region: the Ionian Sea side of the Puglian peninsula. You won’t find the cool crowd here, but you will find the nice crowd — if you can escape the hotel, and that could be tricky. Masseria Grotella is a 19th-century mansion in a forest of olives. It has a pool with a swim-up bar that will keep you captive all day, and a restaurant serving Apulian favourites that will take you hostage at night. A week in June starts at £269pp, B&B (booking.com). Return flights to Bari start at £85 with Ryanair; car hire costs £208 (zestcarrental.com).
14 Austrian lakes and mountains, £475 The Alpine village of Mayrhofen is at its best in September, when the smell of autumn is on the warm breeze. It’s a time for gentle strolls — through the forests of the Zemmgrund, beside the turquoise waters of the Shlegeis and up on the high ridges of the Ramsberg — or for cycling if you’ve got the lungs for it. The Hotel Gasthof Brücke is a pretty, family-run chalet with a cosy restaurant and comfortable rooms. It also hosts the hottest music acts in the Ziller Valley, so if you’ve yet to catch the Haderlumpen trio, now’s your chance. A week from September 11 costs £475pp, B&B (expedia.co.uk).
15 Sicilian sizzler, £342 June is the month to be in the chic southern Sicilian resort of Marina di Ragusa: the beach clubs are open and the sun is hot, but it’s still early enough in the season that you don’t have to make reservations for lunch at the terrific Ristorante Don Serafino (mains from £30; locandadonserafino.it). Stay opposite the beach at the self-catering Casa del Sole, which sleeps four and costs £870 a week in June (01223 460100, essentialitaly.co.uk). Ryanair has flights to Comiso from £74; car hire starts at £200 (rhinocarhire.com).
16 The bit beyond Amalfi, £490 When Amalfi Coast tourists reach Vietri sul Mare, they see Salerno’s uninspiring littoral and conclude, aesthetically, that they’re at journey’s end. But beyond that dull coastal plain rises the limestone wonderland that is the Parco Nazionale del Cilento. Here, ports such as Marina di Pisciotta are the kind of places Amalfiphiles dream of, but never find, while amid the lemon groves inland, you’ll discover villages so ancient, they should be monochrome. Your base is the elegant Hotel Marulivo, a former monastery turned boutique bolthole in Pisciotta, where a week in late May costs £490pp, B&B (020 3302 4424, expertoitaly.com).
17 Tuscan bargain, £362 You don’t need to blow the bonus on a summer palace in Chiantishire: Casa El Pino, 20-odd miles southeast of Florence, will do just fine. It’s a two-bedroom apartment in tended gardens, with a private pool, a shady terrace and an outdoor barbecue. Wine is big here, and the enoteca in the hill town of Cavriglia — half a mile west — offers 300 varieties. The flat costs £979 in the week beginning August 19 (0121 286 7782, to-tuscany. com). Flights start at £120 with Ryanair, and car hire costs £229 (rhinocarhire.com): that’s £362pp based on five sharing, or £422pp for four.
18 Venice like a local, £298 “Living like a local” is today’s travel mantra, but the reality often means renting where the locals have been forced out by landlords cashing in on tourists’ desire … to live like locals. Venice, for example. Instead of living like a local, why not live with a local? Homestay.com puts you in properties with hosts who serve as the most plugged-in concierges you could hope for. Lia, whose professed desire is to “be like your aunt”, has a house on the mainland, because real Venetians no longer live in Venice. The tourist attractions are a £1, 15-minute bus ride away, and you can return to a living Italian neighbourhood. Just like a local. A week in June costs £188pp, B&B (ref 76954; homestay.com). Ryanair has flights to Venice from £110.
19 Zakynthos escape, £464 They call Zakynthos “the flower of the Levant”, but if you want to see the Ionian island’s meadows in full bloom, you need to go in May. The sea might be on the cool side at this time of year, but the weather is near-perfect. There will be few other tourists here, so you should have fabulous beaches such as Kalamaki, Keri and, if you take the boat trip, Navagio pretty much to yourself. A week’s self-catering at the light, airy Kyprianos Apartments, in Keri, costs £464pp (020 8758 4758, sunvil.co.uk).
20 Peloponnese boutique, £451 The mountainous Mani peninsula is wildly beautiful, with deserted beaches, silent villages and rustic tavernas in which to try Maniot specialities such as loukaniko — a citrus-laced sausage — and the local roast goat. It’s an unexpected place in which to find the chic Citta dei Nicliani, once a fort, now an eight-room boutique hotel run by an oenophile. It’s every bit as good as it sounds, and a week for two in early June starts at £291pp, B&B (00 30 27330 51827, cittadeinicliani.com). Ryanair has flights to Athens for £120; car hire costs £80 (skyscanner.net).
21 Cyprus break, £476 If all you’re looking for is a good-value beach resort capable of delivering a week of effortless loafing in guaranteed sunshine, you could do a lot worse than book the St George Hotel, in Paphos. It has a huge pool with a swim-up bar, a vast Roman-style spa, excellent swimming off Chlorakas beach and newly refurbished rooms. While in town, be sure to dine at the 7 St Georges restaurant, in Yeroskipou — a 20-minute cab ride south and the purveyor of the world’s best meze. A week costs £476, B&B, arriving on July 6 (01903 258297, loveholidays.com)
22 Climb Mount Toubkal, Morocco, £478 At 13,671ft, Mount Toubkal is the highest peak in North Africa. Getting to the summit involves a fascinating journey from Marrakesh, meandering through peaceful Berber villages and into the High Atlas. Spending most of your seven nights under canvas, you ascend past Lake Ifni and the Tizi n’Ouanoums — the most spectacular pass in the entire range — to base camp at 11,975ft. The next day, you conquer Toubkal itself: if you can handle long days in the British hills, you’ll be fit enough. The trip costs £395pp, full-board, departing on September 23 (017687 73966, keadventure.com). Ryanair has flights to Marrakesh from £83.
23 Abu Dhabi bargain, £486 With the Sheikh Zayed Mosque, the Emirates Palace hotel (the one with the machines that vend gold) and the multiple attractions of Yas Island, there’s a lot to see in Abu Dhabi. Temperatures are manageable in May, averaging 31C and leaving the sea at a bath-warm 29C — so you’ll need a stretch of sand. There’s a private one at the Beach Rotana Hotel and Towers, a five-star resort in downtown Abu Dhabi, along with 11 restaurants, a huge pool and an excellent Zen spa. A week’s package costs a bargain £486pp, B&B, departing on May 25 (0800 422 0740, awayholidays.co.uk).
£500 goes a long way on a staycation, too
When the sun’s shining, you can’t beat home shores for a summer holiday — and with a budget of £500 a head, you’re spoilt for choice.
24 Rent a cottage
The bigger your party, the more you’ll get for your money. With 24 people, for example, you could book a week at the castle-like Ludbrook Manor, in Devon’s South Hams — indoor pool, four-poster beds, floodlit tennis court — for £481pp in August (kateandtoms.com). But it’s the smaller properties that are in most demand: sea-view cottages sleeping four or six are like hen’s teeth, which is why we’re astonished that the dreamlike Melin Abereiddy is still available. It’s a restored 18th-century mill at the southern end of Abereiddy beach, in Pembrokeshire. Slate floors and a woodburner are just two of the charms of this three-bedroom house, which has a stream in the grounds and steps down to the beach. It’s available for £1,499, or £300pp based on five sharing, in the week of August 12 (coastalcottages.co.uk). Otherwise, try agencies such as classic.co.uk, helpfulholidays.com, sykescottages.co.uk or bluechipholidays.co.uk.
25 Go camping
Staying at the fabulous Treen Farm, in Porthcurno, Cornwall, costs £27 a night for a family of four during August (treenfarmcampsite.com), while pitches at the gorgeous Hollows Farm, in the Lake District, are just £20 a night (hollowsfarm.co.uk). Can’t be bothered to put up a tent? The Camping and Caravanning Club has it covered. Turn up at any of 38 Ready Camp sites across the UK and you’ll find a Kenyan-style safari tent already pitched, with real beds – one double and a triple bunk – a sofa, a kitchen and a wooden deck. Our pick is the Veryan site, in Cornwall: Pendower beach lies three miles away, and it’s six miles to the Hidden Hut, Britain’s trendiest beach restaurant, on the sands of Porthcurnick. A week in August costs £600 – or £120pp, based on five sharing (readycamp.co.uk).