Sun seekers’ sensations!

By Helen Foster

While I love the feel of warm sand between my toes and the sound of the sea washing over me, a beach alone isn’t enough. My shores have to be fringed with interesting shops, iconic landmarks and be within easy reach of places that are oozing with character.

Although I love the perfect sun-soaked beach where I can unfurl my towel and lose myself in the murmuring music of the waves and the pages of a good book, I need that proximity to lots of other interesting places I can explore when the time is right to turn a page of my own holiday story.

The Algarve, Portugal

A highlight of the Algarve, for me, are the golden rock formations rising out of the bluest of seas at Ponta da Piedade. These magnificent limestone pillars and arches have been sculpted by the crashing winter seas and they give this coast, just two miles south of Lagos, a distinctive beauty. This wild headland is more cultivated for tourists than it first appears. Boardwalks and steps weave along the cliff tops and down into the hidden sandy grottos, allowing you to take in the views along the coast, or by looking up from below, dwarfed by the towering cliffs.

With a coast as spectacular as this, a boat tour to view the rock formations and secret beaches from a totally different perspective is a must. The locals who work the boats welcome you aboard with a genuine warmth you’ll find everywhere on the Algarve, while drifting around the rocky arches and outcrops transports you to a surreal watery world; one you will always remember. A bonus is a delightful café and restaurant by the car park at the cliffs where you can get your breath back over a tasty lunch and refreshing drink.

The stunning view from Ponta da Piedade Cliffs in the Algarve

The stunning view from Ponta da Piedade Cliffs in the Algarve

You don’t need to work as hard to enjoy the delights of the intimate Praia de Carvoeiro in the Lagoa region. This small beach is sheltered between two rocky headlands and surrounded by pretty fisherman’s cottages, many of which have been transformed into classy little restaurants and lively bars, ideal retreats from the heat of the midday sun. The sands are picture-perfect golden and the sea here isn’t tidal, so great for families. It is also a really short stroll from some of the best holiday shopping you’ll find anywhere. Carvoeiro’s tree-lined boulevards afford a cooling shade while you meander the elegant boutiques and select your fine dining venue for the evening.

There are so many beaches to choose from on the Algarve. For example, Alvor Beach is the longest stretch of sand with a boardwalk taking strollers through the Ria de Alvor Nature Reserve with ease, while Praia de Benagil benefits from being close to the iconic Benagil Caves. Being every bit as stunning as its sister beaches, it is buzzing with boat trips taking tourists into the caves, and returning with the thrill of the boats being driven at speed from the sea straight up, high onto the sands – it felt very James Bond!

Málaga, Spain

Being a city girl, I don’t like to be too far away from the buzzing hub of civilisation, even on holiday. Málaga, the capital of the Costa del Sol, boasts as many as 20 beaches within easy reach of its city parameter. Playa de La Malagueta, a manmade crescent of yellow sand, is just a 10-minute walk from the lively Promenade of Pablo Ruiz Picasso, which will take you past a host of restaurants, bars, shops and other activities, where you can sample a little Malagueño culture and cuisine as you go.

Malaga's Playa de la Malagueta

Malaga’s Playa de la Malagueta

The 3,000-year-old city port is still evolving today and the Paseo del Muelle Dos, opened in 2011, is a snazzy shopping wonderland and home to Jose Carlos Garcia’s restaurant, the only Michelin-starred restaurant in the city.

If this is too pricey for your holiday budget, there are lots of other eateries to suit all tastes and purses. So much in this beautiful city is free, and the Palmeral de las Sorpresas, or Palm Garden of Surprises is a stunning waterfront promenade with children’s playgrounds and activities, endless gardens housing 420 palm trees and 7,400 tropical plants, water features and more. This sleek new addition to the city’s attractions is very different from the ancient favourites, such as the Moorish Alcazaba and Gibralfaro Castle with its neighbouring Roman Theatre, but there are few better places to while away the hours as the sun shines or sets.

Just over an hour’s drive or bus journey from Málaga is Estepona. This exquisitely pretty town nestles behind a stunning beach with its 2.5 miles of wide sands snaking from the port, past the town and beyond. You will find some of the best fresh fish dishes served in the elegant restaurants and traditional chiringuitos along Estepona’s promenade. Often passed over for its glitzier neighbours, you will have a lot more room to spread out on the beaches here, even on the town’s main beach, Playa Rada, which backs onto the promenade.

The Old Quarter here isn’t just a step back in time, it is an explosion of invigorating colour, where the bright white walls of the houses are the perfect canvas for the profusion of coloured planters and cascading blooms which adorn the tiny lanes. The town’s plazas are also completely charming places in which to take some time out to enjoy a tasty Spanish tapas treat sitting on a terrace fringed by orange trees.

Malaga is the capital of the Costa del Sol and boasts 20 sandy beaches within each reach

The best of both worlds: Malaga is the city capital of the Costa del Sol and boasts 20 sandy beaches within each reach

Crete, Greece

It was a yearning to visit Spinalonga, an island off Elounda in northeastern Crete, that kicked off one of my best holidays ever. Victoria Hislop’s novel, The Island, tells a fictional story of a leper who was sent out to Spinalonga – Europe’s last active leper colony from 1903 to 1957. The lepers have long gone but I was moved to be following in their footsteps through the houses, shopping street and church – all there, as described in the book.

The ferry over to the island takes about 15 minutes from Elounda and costs around €10. The beaches on Elounda are pretty shingle suntraps and not overly populated. Elounda is a busy little town, complete with a picturesque clock tower and some spectacular seafront eateries.

You can’t help but love the way multi-generational families come out to dine together, and how the smallest, noisiest members of the group are made so very welcome by the waiters, waitresses and maître d’s. I don’t think I have ever visited a more child-friendly destination; it was wonderful to see everyone so happy and relaxed as they dined out together.

A boat over to Spinalonga Island costs around €10. Spend the day taking in the the history of these old streets and enjoy the clear blue sea surrounding the island.

A boat over to Spinalonga Island costs around €10. Spend the day taking in the history of the old streets and enjoy the clear blue sea surrounding the island.

Crete is a great place for waterborne exploration. If it is a fabulous, sizzling beach you want, then head for the beautiful seafront town of Ierapetra in southeastern Crete – it is an easy place to drive around – and hop on a ferry to Chrissi Island. Just 25 minutes later you will be in an island paradise of just 17 square miles of the best sand and sea you’ll see anywhere.

The only shade is beneath the grassy parasols by the sun loungers, so take some light cotton cover-up clothes, as well as your sunscreen. Thankfully, there are small beach shacks selling cooling drinks and snacks. Don’t forget that a dip in the azure waters here is a wonderfully refreshing experience.

Back in your rental car, a drive up (and down) into the forgotten rural world of the Lassithi Plateau proves a memorable adventure. The area is famed for windmills and Dikteon Andron, the cave where Zeus was born and for which you will need sturdy shoes to tackle the slippery steps.

The real pleasure is to take your lunch under the shade of the vines at a tiny café – that serves as the village shop, bar, and community centre – with the local farmers. Communicating largely by using mime, you can spend a couple of fun hours ‘talking’ with the laid-back and lovely people who live here, grow the food you are eating, brew the wine you are drinking and are openly amused by your fascination with their ancient tractors and farming tools!

Did I mention the truly breathtaking views? They come as standard in this destination.

Feel the sand beneath your toes at these destinations and relax back at your own self-catering apartment at the end of a fun-filled day with Apartments4you

Six top Tenerife day trips

By Mary Anne Evans – Food and Travel Writer

Enjoy one of these six day trips in Tenerife to make the most of your Canarian adventure.

With its sub-tropical climate guaranteeing year-round sunshine, its spectacular scenery and warm Spanish welcome, Tenerife, the largest of the Canary Islands, takes a lot of beating as a hot holiday destination. Here are some of my favourite things to do on this small sun-kissed island.

A two-day trip is a pretty good way to get a good feel for Marbella, as it should give you enough time to see everything the city has to offer, from laid back squares to lively neighbourhoods, chilled out dining to exciting nightlife.

Feel on top of the world

Mount Teide, at the centre of the island, is a fabulously strange world. Drive into the 10-mile-wide volcanic crater and it’s like entering a science fiction movie – such as Clash of the Titans which was filmed here. It’s an easy drive on good roads, taking you past cafés above the clouds for a unique refreshment stop en route.

And for that last stage to its iconic tip – the cable car will whizz you up 1,200 metres (3,937 ft), above the crater floor for superb views over the island, the Canarian archipelago and way beyond.

Top Tip: Take a jacket, even in the height of summer, and good walking shoes, as you can take a path to the top to explore further.

Open daily 9am to 4pm.

Mount Teide towers majestically over Tenerife and is well worth the inland trip

Mount Teide towers majestically over Tenerife and is well worth the inland trip

Enjoy fun with the family at Siam Park

The large Thai-themed water park frequently wins awards and it’s easy to see why.

Siam Park is a real family-friendly attraction, with aquatic features that range from a wave park, where the surf gets up to three metres high, letting you ride the waves like a real professional, to the Singha, a ride over 240 metres (780 ft) long that bends and curls its way from start to end.

Set in an exotic tropical park, you can either enjoy the adrenaline-fuelled rides or be as lazy as you want to be. Why not hire a cabin for the day? Or, after exhausting both the children and yourself on the thrill rides, you can simply sit on the sandy beach or take a genteel ride down the Mai Thai River in a dinghy.

Open daily from 10am to 6pm from 1 May to 31 October, and 10am to 5pm from 1st November – 30th April.

 Siam Park is a waterpark to entertain the whole family, including a lazy river to relax and soak up the sun as you float

Siam Park is a waterpark to entertain the whole family, including a lazy river to relax and soak up the sun as you float

Go wild at Loro Parque

The sister attraction to Siam Park is famous for being home to the largest collection of parrots in the world. But don’t worry if those gaudy, noisy birds don’t rock your boat.

Loro Parque ticks all the boxes, with dolphins that pirouette and dive to entertain, and Orca whales which provide equally amazing moments.

There are jungle walkways in the aviary where you will come face to face with emus, kookaburras, cockatoos and more, plus the largest collection of lovable penguins outside the Antarctic region. This wonderfully wild experience is to be found in the northern capital, Puerto de la Cruz, an 80-minute drive from the south of the island.

Open daily from 8.30am to 6.45pm. Last entrance is at 4pm.

Go whale or dolphin watching

Book a boat tour from either Los Gigantes or Los Cristianos to take a gentle cruise through the warm crystal waters, on a mission to spot whales and dolphins cavorting around you.

Bottlenose and Risso dolphins, accompanied by Pilot and Sperm whales, are the resident species in these waters, who will happily dive under your boat and swim alongside in their pods.

You will soon feel the suspense at being so close to those magnificent creatures that you can actually hear them breathing – bringing you out in goosebumps! Take a long, lazy, lunch or dinner once back on dry land at one of the many delightful harbour-side cafés and restaurants while you contemplate the wonder of your day.

Visit Los Gigantes to join a whale or dolphin watching tour in the sunny Canary Islands

Visit Los Gigantes to join a whale or dolphin watching tour in the sunny Canary Islands

Take a hike in the hills

Tenerife is great walking country, particularly in the north-east corner where the lush green forests of the remote Anaga Mountains take you a world away from the beaches of the sultry south-west.

The landscape here is ruggedly beautiful, from misty forests to towering pinnacles, this is one of nature’s finest showcases.

Paths are well marked, making this a super family-friendly adventure. Hikes through the mountain ravines and rainforests vary in length, but you will relish every part of this ‘secret Tenerife’. Book with the walking company, Anaga Atrapiés, or buy a good walking guide book.

Wander through Spanish colonial history

A visit to the island’s former capital, San Cristóbal de La Laguna, is certainly rewarding. It is one of two UNESCO World Cultural and Heritage Sites on the island and was its capital until 1821.

Do not be deterred by its sprawling urban exterior. The Old Quarter is, quite literally, a hidden gem of perfectly preserved palatial mansions from a mix of several different architectural periods, owing to the mixed nationalities of its wealthy inhabitants who built this vibrant and colourful city throughout the centuries.

Walk the ancient streets overflowing with buildings dating from the 15th to the 17th centuries.

It isn’t all about the history, however, La Laguna today is a lively university town, with pavement cafés where it is an absolute pleasure just to sit and watch the world go by. Head for the marble fountain in the lush Plaza del Adelantado, and turn into Calle Obispo Rey Redondo, a spectacular street that will give you a taste of traditional Spain. It may not have a beach, but San Cristóbal de La Laguna has the best of the rest.

Wander around Tenerife's La Laguna and admire its rainbow of architectural styles and colours

Wander around Tenerife’s La Laguna and admire its rainbow of architectural styles and colours

Tenerife is the perfect family destination all year round, with temperatures still reaching the mid-to-upper 20s in September and October. Take a look at our self-catering apartments in Tenerife here

*All opening times correct at 15.08.2017

Your Top 5 destinations in 2018

Suffering from holiday inspiration block? A great way to start planning your 2019 getaway is to discover what was hot on everyone’s list last year!

We’ve put together the top 5 most visited apartments4you destinations for 2018:

1. Tenerife

Your evergreen favourite is Tenerife. With year round sunshine and amazing beaches it’s a sun worshippers paradise. Los Cristianos and Playa de las Americas still remain the most popular spots offering a diverse selection of restaurants, bars and nightclubs. There are lots of activities to keep the family entertained such as climbing Mount Teide with Spain’s tallest peak, Loro Park and Siam Park attracting approximately five million tourist visits to the island each year. No wonder it tops our most visited destination list for 2018!

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CLC The Paradise Club, Torviscas

2. Florida

Florida is famous for its sunny weather and abundance of theme parks – making it one of the most popular family destinations in the world! From Gatorland to Walt Disney World, if there’s a theme park for it you can probably find it in Florida. Florida Keys is home to America’s only living coral reef and it is a really unique adventure to visit. If you are looking for a Florida beach holiday, what better place than Fort Lauderdale beach. The drive from Orlando to Miami is quicker than most think… in only 4 hours you can be in Miami, which is one of the top city destination worldwide. The Art Deco District in South Beach is incomparable with anywhere else with its unique character.

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Summer Bay Orlando By Exploria Resorts, Orlando

3. Costa del Sol

The attractive city of Málaga is the cultural, artistic and historic hub of Spain’s Costa del Sol. Resorts such as Benalmadena, Marbella and Fuengirola are always popular with plenty to offer visitors. The beaches of Málaga and the Costa del Sol are some of the best in the country. Known for its sophisticated vibe, Marbella is a hotspot for those who appreciate the finer things in life. Just the food and fine wines of the area are worth a visit!

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Macdonald Villacana Resort, Costa del Sol

4. Lanzarote

As Lanzarote is one of the Canary Islands you are most likely to experience year round sunshine. Its spectacular volcanic landscapes make the island really unique. The moon-like terrain of the Timanfaya National Park, the green lagoon of El Golfo, the mind-blowing architecture of César Manrique architect puts the island on most bucket lists. Puerto del Carmen, Playa Blanca and the Papagayo Beach are the most stunning beaches on the island attracting many sun lovers from around the world with their many bars and restaurants.

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Club Las Calas, Puerto del Carmen

5. Portugal

Portugal is one of the world’s leading tourist destination. No wonder that our customers love it as well! With its long sunny summers and mild winters, long golden coastlines, diverse gastronomy and nice costal resorts it has many things to offer to everybody. Plus with its award winning golf courses it makes it a perfect choice to tee off in 2019!

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Pestana Palm Gardens, Algarve

Where will your next holiday take you?

 

apartments4you have a wide range of self-catering holiday apartments suitable for all of the family. Take a look at the holiday apartments that we have available: www.apartments4you.com

Top 3 Places For A Family Holiday

There’s nothing better than a family holiday. It can sometimes be tricky choosing a destination that will appeal to everyone, especially if you have young children and grandparents to keep entertained, but there’s plenty of incredible places all over the world that are perfect for all types of families.

The wide choice of resorts available to apartments4you customers means that we have got everything covered when it comes to catering for families. Self-catering accommodation is usually more spacious than hotel rooms, and come complete with all the home comforts a family needs, including kitchen facilities, giving you a great dining in option if you would rather not eat out every day. That way, you can take your time and enjoy your holiday at your own pace.

Here are three of our top destinations for a great family holiday.

Tenerife

If you are looking for a family holiday that combines sun, sea and sand, Tenerife ticks all the boxes. With year-round sun, you can spend days at the beach, even in the winter when there’s snow on the ground in the UK – not many destinations are only a four-hour flight away from the UK can offer that.

CLC The Paradise Club, Tenerife

The south of the island is packed with tourist hotspots and beaches. If you relish fine dining and meandering gently through ancient streets then the beautiful Old Town of Adeje is probably your kind of place. The north is much more quintessentially Spanish, with beautiful old churches, interesting architecture, and plenty of restaurants serving traditional Spanish cuisine to savour a long and delicious meal. Lago Martianez, a beautiful and artful man-made lagoon, provides safe bathing, sun loungers, parasols and refreshments, just steps away from the attractive and sophisticated centre of Puerto de la Cruz.

Tenerife is a small island – you can drive the whole way around it in a day, comfortably – but it packs in more variety of landscape and holiday experiences per square mile than most other destinations I can think of.

Europe’s biggest water park, Siam Park, is one of the best family` days out in Tenerife. The Thai-themed water park is a world-class attraction. From the adrenaline junkies to those who prefer to keep their feet a little closer to the ground, Siam Park should definitely have something to please.

In the north of the island, Puerto de la Cruz is not only an elegant holiday base, but also home to Loro Parque, which happens to be one of the best attractions on the island for all ages. This zoo is home to hundreds of birds, mammals and fish, including dolphins, orcas, various species of monkeys and lots of different types of birds, notably its many colourful chatty and friendly parrots. You can even get a picture holding a parrot, which comes highly recommended.

Florida

Orlando in Florida – the US Sunshine State – is home to the greatest theme parks in the world! You’ll be pushed to find a more family-orientated holiday destination anywhere, and there really is something for everyone here, from the young to the young at heart.

Whether you’re skipping down Main Street in the Magic Kingdom or buying your Hogwarts’ robes in Madam Malkin’s Robes for all Occasions in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, there’s something truly magical about the Walt Disney World and Universal Studios parks.

Photograph of Summer Bay Resort Orlando

Summer Bay Resort, Florida

Away from the parks there is so much to do, you could fill a whole other holiday if Disney princesses and wizards are not really your thing.

Spend evenings exploring Celebration Florida – another Walt Disney brainchild – filled with shops, restaurants and entertainment. Marvel at the dolphins in SeaWorld; or fly down a water slide in one of the many waterparks; or dispose of your holiday spends in a designer outlet. There’s so much fun to be had in Orlando, both inside and outside the famous theme parks.

The Sunshine State is more than just its capital. Daytona is one of the best places in the US for families, as there is so much to do. You can’t possibly think about going to Daytona without visiting the beach. There are over 20 miles of sand to play, walk and sunbathe on, so pick your spot and enjoy some of the warm Florida sunshine.

There is something rather nostalgic about a beach boardwalk and pier, and Daytona’s is the heartland of the city. Restaurants, shops, exciting thrill-rides and arcades make this a fantastic place to spend holiday time with the children.

Mexico

Mexico is often overlooked as a family holiday destination, but it is a perfect place to escape for a week or two away in the sun. Many of the resorts available are filled with so many activities, having round-the-clock entertainment for all ages, you don’t even have to leave the resort with your little ones – or older ones – to have a good time on this holiday.

Emporio Hotel & Suites, Mexico

If you do want to venture off-site, Mexico has some of the world’s most beautiful beaches, including Playacar, which runs along the front of the resort. The crystal-clear Caribbean sea is perfect for snorkelling and scuba-diving if you have older children who want to meet the local marine life.

There are also the Mayan ruins of Chichén Itzá – one of the New Seven Wonders of the World – to explore. With its iconic pyramid architecture, this ancient place of worship provides a fascinating insight into Mayan culture and is a place that both young and old will find intriguing. It is a definite must-do day out.

Mexico is a destination that is rich in history, with plenty of sunshine and great beaches – what more could you want from a holiday?

 

apartments4you have a wide range of self-catering holiday apartments suitable for all of the family. Take a look at the holiday apartments that we have available: www.apartments4you.com