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

48 Hours In Marbella

By Steve Adams

The lively Spanish city of Marbella is one of the most popular hotspots on the Costa del Sol, and a terrific holiday destination, not least because it offers something for everyone. Cleverly combining a cosmopolitan appeal with a traditional feel, it offers plenty of culture, a lovely old town, wonderful food, super shopping, great beaches, and a terrific year-round climate – all elements that ought to ensure a great time, whether you visit as a couple, family or group of friends.

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.

But before we get going, it might be best to deal with a few potential misconceptions about Marbella, as plenty of people seem to have the wrong idea about the place. For starters it’s neither an over-developed concrete jungle nor a party town for the rich and famous. Sure it attracts its fair share of luxury yachts and flash Ferraris, but the well-heeled know a great spot when they see one, and with more than 320 days of sunshine a year, 16 miles of pristine beaches, spotlessly clean old and new towns (tirelessly maintained, just like those beaches), top-quality restaurants and nightlife, it’s no surprise the city has more than its share of admirers.

But you don’t need to rock up with a Rolex and a Rolls-Royce to enjoy Marbella. Here’s our guide on how to make the most of 48 hours in this wonderful holiday destination.

Marbella is a true jewel in the Costa del Sol's crown, with plenty to offer all vistors

Marbella is a true jewel in the Costa del Sol’s crown, with plenty to offer all vistors

Day One: Morning

The best way to start a trip to Marbella – and this rule applies to most places, in my experience – is to hit the streets and explore it on foot.

The best streets on which to do so are the narrow, cobbled ones of the city’s Old Town or ‘Casco Antiguo’. Even though it’s near the centre of town and very near the city’s main street (the Avenida Ricardo Soriano), this lovely little area of colourful squares and flower-laden streets is (criminally) overlooked by many tourists – a fact that only adds to its hidden gem appeal.

The ancient streets are lined with elegant houses, boutique shops, quirky art galleries, cool cafés and trendy tapas bars, all orbiting Orange Square (‘Plaza de los Naranjos’), which is at the heart of the action. A traditional Andalucian square filled with orange trees and tropical plants, it’s the perfect place to stop for a coffee and watch the world go by. Better yet, go bar hopping and turn tapas-tasting into a makeshift lunch.

Day One: Afternoon

Your appetite hopefully sated, it’s now time for some culture, because Marbella is home to a surprisingly wide collection of museums and galleries, most notably the spanish Contemporary Engravings Museum, the only one of its kind in Spain.

Housed in a beautifully-kept 16th century building that was once a hospital, the 4,000-piece collection tells the story of Spanish engraving and graphic art from its earliest days, and also showcases work by artists, such as Joan Miró and Salvador Dalí. The latter never lived or worked in Marbella, yet the city is also home to a unique and fascinating collection of his bronze sculptures, which are spread out along the Avenida del Mar, a wide road that leads down to the seafront promenade, and are free for all to view.

There are more sculptures, as well as ceramics and photography exhibits, at the Art Wanson Gallery, located in Marbella Club Golf resort, but the main (pun alert!) draw is a number of significant works by the likes of Cézanne, Picasso, Chagall and Bacon. For something rather more off the wall, in every respect, check out the oil and archaeology exhibits at the Miraflores Cultural Centre.

Of course many visitors will require a shot of retail therapy during their time in Marbella, and while some of the pricier boutique shops in the city’s charming Old Town are galleries for most of us (look but don’t touch), it’s certainly a novelty to gasp at the price tags. You might even fancy treating yourself to a perfect new outfit or piece of jewellery.

There’s more upmarket shopping down the coast at Puerto Banús, where the designer-label stores include the likes of Armani, Versace and Vuitton, while more affordable shopping can be found at La Cañada, a shopping complex that’s just a short bus or taxi ride north of the city. Serious shoppers could probably spend a day here, as there are nearly 300 stores, as well as bars, coffee shops, restaurants, and a cinema, all under one roof.

Day One: Evening

Much like the culture versus shopping options above, I feel duty bound to offer alternatives here – a nice meal out or the chance to party at one or more of Marbella’s renowned selection of bars and clubs. More energetic readers will doubtless manage both, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Marbella is of course famed for its nightlife, and there’s a head-spinning selection of bars and clubs where you can enjoy as wild (and late) a night of drinking and dancing as you have the stamina for. Most are in the streets in and around the promenade of Paseo Maritimo and Alameda Park. A little further out of the city, the Golden Mile, which stretches out as far as Puerto Banús, plays host to some of the world’s top DJs every summer, and there’s a good chance you’ll spot a few shape-throwing (or ultra-cool) celebrities, from rock gods to soap stars.

For a rather more relaxed evening, finish the day where you began it in the Old Town, which is as lively as it is lovely to explore, and where you can choose from a range of great eateries, from pricey restaurants serving gourmet meals to relatively inexpensive tapas bars where you can eat and drink until the early hours.

Marbella's quaint Old Town

Marbella’s quaint Old Town is a ‘must-see’ … and where you ‘must eat’ some local speciality dishes

Day Two: Morning

The morning’s activities will crucially depend on what option you chose the night before. If you were out partying until 8am, I rather think you can skip this bit – but let’s assume you were tucked up early and are ready to start the day by a reasonable hour. Because a great way to get going again, as well as to see the area, is a bracing walk or cycle ride (there are a number of places where you can rent bikes) out to the marina of Puerto Banús.

The easy five-mile journey takes about half an hour on a bike (around 90 minutes on foot), along a coastal path that runs alongside the Mediterranean, so you’ll be accompanied by terrific sea views all the way.

Your journey will take you to the rather more man-made attraction of Nueva Andalucia (New Andalucia), which is home to a range of upmarket hotels, casinos, apartments and golf courses. The millionaire’s playground – and people-watching paradise – of Puerto Banús raises the bar even further, with yachts and Ferraris – the chosen transport of the rich and famous who frequent the marina’s boutique shops and glamorous restaurants.

Day Two: Afternoon

After the exertions of the excursion (see what I did there?) to Puerto Banús, it’s only fair to reward yourself with a couple of hours chilling on the beach. Marbella has an amazing 23 beaches to choose from, but its main stretch of sand is Playa de la Fontanilla, which runs along the city centre’s southern edge, and works equally well whether you want to kick back and rent a sun lounger, or kick on and take part in one of the many water sports on offer. The beach also conveniently backs onto the Paseo Marítimo, which is lined with bars and restaurants should refreshments be required.

Playa de la Fontanilla is just one of Marbella's 23 beaches

Playa de la Fontanilla is just one of Marbella’s 23 beaches

Another lovely beach can be found at Playa de la Bajadilla, a little further east in Marbella’s old fishing quarter, where its idyllic arc of sand is lapped by calmer waters, making it especially popular with families.

Speaking of which, if you’re visiting as a family and need more than sandcastles to keep the children entertained, then Funny Beach Marbella, the region’s top water sports centre, could be the answer to your prayers. Dramatically modernised just over a year ago, here you can try everything, from tubing and jet-skiing to pedalo and banana boats, while other child-friendly options include (deep breath) go-karting, electric bikes and cars, amusement rides, trampolines, video games… Oh and food and drink outlets that serve the sort of meals that children love too.

Day Two: Evening

On the subject of food, I’d say the best way to round off the weekend, and bid your farewell to Marbella, is to sample some of the city’s fantastic seafood. You’ll find plenty of places and ways to do so, from those tapas bars and restaurants of the Old Town to cheery little chiringuitos at the beach, where you’ll find fish being cooked over an open fire.

Tempt your tastebuds with tremendous tapas

Tempt your taste buds with tremendous tapas

Take that notion a step – well ten minutes’ worth of steps – further and head back out to the old fishing quarter of Playa de la Bajadilla. Here you’ll find arguably the city’s best-known seafood restaurant, Puerto Playa, which has tables out on the sand with great views out over the sea. Hopefully the perfect end to a perfect weekend.

If you would like to experience Marbella for yourself, look at flights to Malaga and view our latest availability for self-catering apartments in the Costa del Sol here

The best things to see and do in Portugal and Madeira

By Lorraine Loveland

When looking for a winter sun break, Portugal and Madeira don’t always make it to the top of everyone’s list, and yet there are so many fascinating and fun things to do in this part of the world.

Here are the best things to experience in Albufeira, a coastal city in the southern Algarve region of Portugal and Funchal in Madeira, part of the Portuguese archipelago most known for its outdoor offerings.

A whistle-stop tour of Albufeira

There are numerous beaches to choose from on this southern stretch of coast, each of them with their own unique characteristics. But a beach day here is particularly a must with over 20 beaches having the coveted Blue Flag status.

Albufeira boasts more than 20 beaches with the coveted Blue Flag status

Albufeira boasts more than 20 beaches with the coveted Blue Flag status

Even in winter, temperatures here are a comfortable 17 degrees celsius so you’ll still feel the subtle warmth of the sun on your back.

After easing into your holiday with some time on the beach, next up should be your own history trail. The city is rich with history and tradition, as you will uncover with a tour of the 18th-century Santa Ana Church. Though tiny in stature, this charming whitewashed church is fused with Moorish influence, typical in this old part of Albufeira known as the Largo Jacinto D’Ayet.

As long as there are no church services taking place you are free to wander inside – just be sure to dress appropriately given its religious significance.

When you are inside soak up the intricate patterns adorning the ceiling, and detailed wood carvings on the altar. And of course, revel in the heavenly peace of your surroundings with just the echoes of people’s footsteps as your soundtrack.

While you’re in the area, you should call in at the Museu de Arte Sacra, which is the home to religious pieces that were salvaged from local churches following an earthquake and tsunami in 1755 – which makes these artefacts particularly treasured.

There is a long tradition of accordion playing in Albufeira, so to delve in and discover more about this unique cultural aspect of the city, head for Casa Museu do Acórdeão in Paderne. The museum features over 1,500 pieces relating to the accordion.

Did you know that the city is known for its birdwatching offerings? Regardless of whether you are a keen twitcher or not, the diversity of bird life here makes for an interesting encounter.

The freshwater wetlands of Salgados Lagoon are a good spot to start and the boardwalks bring you close enough to get a good look without interrupting the natural habitat. Flamingos, spoonbills, herons, warblers and starlings are just some of the varieties to look out for at different times of the year, as well as the mighty falcons and kestrels. Time your visit for an early weekday morning to increase your chances of spotting some extraordinary species of wildlife.

And while you’re in the area, you can also get a different perspective with a genteel horseback ride on the beach.

Local guides will always impart some useful nuggets of information which allow you to really get underneath the skin of a destination, and see it through a local’s eyes. Book a Tuk Tuk Tour to enjoy a tour through the side streets of Albufeira which you won’t typically see by car or bus.

After a day of exploring on foot, horseback or by tuk tuk, you’ll have worked up a serious appetite and with over 700 restaurants in Albufeira alone, you have everything, from traditional Portuguese fare to Michelin-starred venues.

Open for lunch and dinner (closed on Tuesdays), Copos & Petiscos is a family run tapas restaurant in Tavira, where a warm Portuguese welcome awaits. Set away from the tourist strip, you can expect authentic food and wines which are the embodiment of Portuguese gastronomy. While there is a varied menu, opt for a seafood dish as it comes highly recommended on a number of review sites. Pair this with one of the crisp white wines, and you won’t be disappointed.

Bear in mind some restaurants do close during winter so do your research before you travel.

A colourful adventure in Funchal

If I had to define Funchal it would be like a box of crayons, with a rainbow of colourful attractions doodled across the city.

To get your break off to the vibrant start it deserves, the Painted Doors Project in the old town of Funchal should provide the necessary colour pop – sunglasses at the ready!

The Public Art Project has transformed the Zona Velha area into a permanent art gallery with doors, walls and premises decorated in a variety of creative ways. The works were created by a number of renowned creatives of the Madeira art scene, and notable contributors include the architect Paulo David and the designer Nini Andrade Silva.

Look out for the Painted Doors Project in the old town of Funchal

Look out for the Painted Doors Project in the old town of Funchal

Find your favourites from over 80 pieces of work located on Rua de Santa Maria, before stopping for lunch to run through your highlights with each other from the variety of amusing and edgy displays.

Just a short walk along the street you will find Galeria Restaurante, and if you’re in need of a hearty lunch, the steak is highly rated here. Vegetarian options include the asparagus and mushroom risotto, and it will be hard to determine whether you should eat or just photograph the desserts as they are quite the work of art!

After lunch, take the cable car to the village of Monte to see the Monte Palace Tropical Garden which presents Japanese-style gardens filled with koi ponds, red bridges and bright blue flora. And of course, when in Madeira, you should look out for the exotic Bird of Paradise, the island’s national flower, noted for its resemblance to a bird taking flight.

While in Monte, you’ll also glimpse traditional Portuguese Santana houses, featuring triangular thatched roofs, with colourful red doors and blue window frames.

What goes up must come down, so stroll over to Nossa Senhora do Monte Church to take the ten-minute ride back down to Funchal aboard a traditional wicker sledge. It’s certainly not for the faint-hearted, with the toboggans reaching 18 miles per hour as they career down into the outskirts of the city while being directed by two men called ‘Carreiros’ dressed in white and donning straw hats.

It’s one of the island’s most iconic attractions, and the activity dates back to the early 19th century when they were used as a means of transport for locals.

Either take a 30-minute downhill stroll back into the city centre, or book a taxi back.

If you’re not feeling too queasy from the ride, you should pick up a cup of tea and a pastel de nata custard tart. The creamy custard tart is a Portuguese delicacy and you’ll find them all over the island served with or without cinnamon.

It will be like your very own taste of history – the sweet treats were first created by Catholic monks in the 18th century in Lisbon. At the time egg whites were used for starching clothes with the leftover egg yolks used to make cakes and pastries.

With the impending closure of convents and monasteries after the 1820 Revolution, monks resorted to selling the pastries at a sugar refinery to make some money, before selling the recipe on to the refinery in later years, and it is still in operation today.

Pastel de nata is a creamy custard tart you’ll find all over the island

Pastel de nata is a creamy custard tart you’ll find all over the island

Following all your inland wanders, it will be high time to head for the coastline. The Lido Promenade meanders along the rugged coast, past gardens, cafés, restaurants and even natural pools. A small tunnel will take you to Formosa Beach – the largest in Funchal with phenomenal cliff views.

The walk takes less than two hours, and will bring you to Câmara de Lobos Bay. Try to time your arrival for sunset and be amazed at the stunning display of oranges and pinks as the sun makes its descent into the sea. This should provide the ideal finish to your rainbow tour.

The ultimate sunset spot: Câmara de Lobos Bay

The ultimate sunset spot: Câmara de Lobos Bay

Our self-catering apartments in Portugal and Madeira offer the perfect base to explore this beautiful country:

View apartments in Portugal

View apartments in Madeira

Canary Island Adventures

By Ellen Smith

With temperatures averaging 18 degrees centigrade from December to March, and around 25 degrees at its hottest in August, the Canary Islands prove to be an ever popular escape route all year round for holidaymakers looking for a much-needed sunny break. Whether it is a winter pick-me-up or a family summer holiday, there is a Canary Island holiday for everyone.

Each island has something exciting and unique to offer. It can be hard to decide which island to holiday on, but why have one holiday destination when you can have two or even more? With journey times between the islands starting from just 25 minutes, you can choose to have a multi-destination holiday, or have one base island to excursion from each day.

Let’s take a look at just a few of the numerous exciting experiences on offer in this sun-kissed archipelago.


You may have heard of, and even visited Mount Teide, but did you know you can take a cable car to the summit of Spain’s highest peak? Visitors can witness the light illuminating the wonderful volcanic rock formations of this national park at altitude, spectacularly so at sunrise and sunset, taking in breathtaking views along the way.

Tickets can be booked online to secure preferred boarding times, with prices from €27 for a return ticket.

Mount Teide rules over Tenerife

Mount Teide rules over Tenerife

Back at sea-level, there is so much to see and do on the largest of the Canary Islands. The sun-drenched shores of Costa Adeje and Playa de las Américas are a perfect mix of beaches, bars and restaurants, ideal for seafront strolls. Kids will also love spending days at the Siam Park waterpark and Loro Parque zoo.

This island is easy driving. Straight coastal roads loop round the island meaning you can drive from one end of the island to the other in a day – and your passengers are treated to splendid views as they go.

La Gomera

Mirador de Abrante is a glass structure positioned 625 metres above sea level on the beautiful island of La Gomera. Designed by the architect José Luis Bermejo, this truly exceptional high-rise platform offers stunning views of Tenerife from across the Atlantic Ocean, as well as over La Gomera’s town of Agulo.

Known as the Green Balcony, thanks to its beautiful surroundings of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Meriga Forest and Agulo, this innovative installation makes for a spectacular view.

If, unlike me, you don’t need to dig your nails into your chair and keep incredibly still whilst up on the Mirador de Abrante, your free hands may like to get hold of the various tapas and Canarian cuisine available in the Gastrobar-Abrante restaurant. Access to the viewing deck itself is free if your nerves can take it!

Gran Canaria

Feel like Lawrence of Arabia in Gran Canaria on a camel ride along the sand dunes, one of the most popular activities on the island. Pacing softly along Maspalomas beach, riders enjoy views of Gran Canaria’s diverse landscape of rugged ridges and soft sand dunes against the cool blue Atlantic Ocean.

Different packages are available and start from £10 for a 40-minute camel ride, to others which include a visit to Camel Park Arteara with lunch and refreshments from around £25. Once the camel ride is over, you can wander down to Maspalomas Beach for a sunbathing session or a refreshing dip in the Atlantic Ocean.

The desert-like dunes of Maspalomas Beach

The desert-like dunes of Maspalomas Beach

Puerto de Mogán is at the heart of the action on Gran Canaria. An upmarket port with quaint shops to browse; time your visit on a Friday for market day to pick up some mementos, or simply watch the world go by against the backdrop of colourful buildings.


With its Lunar-like landscapes, sunshine and cool breezes, Lanzarote is a haven for beach and nature lovers alike. Feel like you’ve stepped onto Mars with a trip to the Timanfaya National Park and see the stunning Fire Mountains.

Lanzarote's landscape is so much more diverse than you may think!

Lanzarote’s landscape is so much more diverse than you may think!

For a yellow submarine adventure that doesn’t require travelling back in time to the psychedelic 1960s, look no further than Lanzarote. This fabulously unique hour-long submarine experience takes you deep into the Atlantic Ocean to explore the coral reefs, brightly coloured schools of fish, and even sightings of shipwrecked boats.

TV monitors situated throughout the submarine give fascinating facts about the surrounding underwater world and its aquatic residents. Advance online booking prices are €30 for children and €49.50 for adults, but expect to pay slightly more if paying on the day.


The second-largest of the Canary Islands, Fuerteventura is a beach-lovers’ paradise, with plenty of beaches to choose from. Many of the golden sandy stretches of beach are framed by stunning and dramatic mountains and all are inviting for sun worshippers and sandcastle builders, alike.

The dreamy sands of Fuerteventura

The dreamy sands of Fuerteventura

To see them all, book a quirky trike tour or hire a car and take in the beautiful views on the drive.

Located just one mile off the north coast of Fuerteventura is the tranquil nature reserve of Lobos Island. Lobos offers opportunities to see rare and endangered birdlife, species of vegetation unique to the island, walking trails and peaceful beaches.

How you travel to Lobos can be an adventure in itself. With options of speedboat-style water taxis, ferry crossings – which take around 15 minutes – as well as four-hour sailboat tours. Prices range from £13 to £70.

The Canary Islands make a great holiday destination all year round thanks to their fantastic weather, great beaches and plenty of activities to enjoy. If you want to make these unique islands the base for your next holiday, view the latest availability of our self-catering apartments in the Canary Islands.

Explore all that the USA has to offer!

With its diverse regions and lively cities the USA has something for everybody. With many bucket list attractions and amazing landscapes it is no wonder that millions visit its states annually. It would be hard to list all those places which are worth to visit in the country but we have selected some states below to inspire you with holiday ideas.


Few states, if any, have more things to see and do than California. With its major metropolitan cities, majestic mountains, legendary national parks, trailblazing theme parks and, of course, remarkable ocean views, the sunshine state is best sampled in week-sized chunks. In all, California can be separated into 12 regions, each with its own distinct natural beauty and exciting adventures.

Head to San Diego for a slice of surf culture, a romantic dinner or a visit to one whale of a theme park. Head to Lake Tahoe and sample more snow-covered terrain than any other U.S. destination. Or head to Palm Springs, home of the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic and the LG Skins Game, for a golf and spa holiday experience like no other. And when you’re done, you’ll realize you’ve barely scratched the surface of ways to explore the nation’s third largest state – and the No. 1 state for tourism.


From Florida’s “Space Coast” to the Gulf of Mexico, holidayers will find a little bit of everything their hearts desire: exclusive shopping, world class golfing, bustling beaches and warm ocean breezes, to name a few.
Along the west coast lies the Tampa Bay area, where residents and guests alike, it seems, are required to be outdoors. Tampa was recently named the fifth best outdoor city by Forbes, thanks to its clean air, vast parks and perpetually sunny weather.
Sanibel Island’s beaches are well known for their unspoiled beauty, tranquility and colorful seashells deposited daily by Gulf waters. Visitors to Sanibel are more apt to sunbathe, take a sunset stroll along the sugary sands – or perform the famous shell-hunting ritual that has come to be known the “Sanibel Stoop.”
Between the do-everything city of Fort Lauderdale and exclusive Palm Beach, lies culturally diverse Delray Beach, where holidayers can follow a day at the beach or tennis center with a night downtown among the galleries, restaurants and shows.
Farther south, sandwiched between the Atlantic and the Gulf, sits incomparable Key West. In the Keys, scuba divers, eccentric artists, anglers and partygoers all peacefully coexist, and it appears as if just about all of them gather nightly to view the magnificent sunsets. Although the Keys reside in the continental United States’ southernmost region, ocean breezes keep temperatures pleasant, enticing more than 1 million visitors each year to come and join the fun.


The seasons blend into perpetually warm and sunny days here in the heart of the Desert Southwest, where golfers, explorers, power shoppers and sightseers know there’s never a bad time for making memories that last a lifetime.
Oases of holiday resorts dot the landscape, offering championship courses that challenge and inspire golfers regardless of skill level. Spas, meanwhile, conjure the healing powers of native desert plants to provide signature treatments that regenerate the body and nourish the soul.
Every area of this grand state is unique and special in its own way. With high-end retailers such as Tiffany’s, Gucci and Cartier – and more spas per capita than any other U.S. city – historic Scottsdale is a shopper’s paradise and a spa lover’s dream. There may be no better place to indulge yourself, or, as more than a third of the teams in the Major League have discovered, no better setting for spring baseball. 
Venture beyond the diamond to Sedona, and you’ll discover a surrounding landscape that includes ancient rock art, pueblo ruins and incomparable desert mountain views. We are your source for Arizona Holiday resorts.
While the rest of Arizona relishes the 365-day-a-year tee time, fresh powder awaits skiers and snowboarders atop Flagstaff’s San Francisco Peaks. From here, day trips to Grand Canyon National Park are possible.

New England

From the smell of the salty ocean air to the sweet summer breezes, New England has it all. Whether you prefer an active holiday full of sailing, skiing and cycling, or you want a leisurely getaway rich with history and culture, you’re sure to find more than you even imagined.
Romantic couples or families with children are equally entertained with New England holidays – at any time of year. In this part of the country, there are four distinct seasons, each bringing new scenery and a new set of activities.
Soak in the rays at a pristine beach or scream with delight on an amusement park ride. Take a bicycle ride down a leaf-strewn lane or take a drive along the famous Cape Cod seashore. Ski perfect mountain slopes or visit one of the region’s many historic sites. Sample an array of vintages at a top-notch winery or spot a humpback whale on a relaxing cruise.
At any time of year, indulge in the freshest seafood anywhere in the country, served at some of the best restaurants in the country.
With its natural beauty, deep cultural significance and myriad ways to spend your free time, you’ll want to come back to New England again and again.


People in Texas love their football. That much is true. But they love the great outdoors just the same. 
Whether your passion is golfing, hiking, hunting, boating, deep-sea fishing – or starlight shows reserved only for the widest of open spaces – then a Texas holiday should be on your next destination list. Catch a trophy bass on Sam Rayburn Reservoir, a beautiful, 114,000-acre stretch of clear, fresh water that serves as a regular stop on the pro anglers’ tour. Discover tranquility – and some of the finest golfing in the Southwest – just an hour north of Houston at Lake Conroe.
Explore the Texas Piney Woods at Lake Palestine, by boat, by foot or on an authentic steam train. Or head south to Texas’ southernmost city, Brownsville, which is home to historic U.S.-Mexico battles and a hop-skip-and-a-jump from the beaches of beautiful South Padre Island.
From Hill Country lakes to national forest trails to sandy Gulf Coast shores, your Texas holiday will have a little bit of everything for those who want to commune with Mother Nature.


A Nevada holiday is so much more than a drive through the desert. A diverse climate offers plentiful sunny days that are popular with outdoor sports enthusiasts, but heavy winter snowfall in the mountains make Nevada a winter sports paradise as well. In this wild, beautiful state, visit historic Old West mining towns, enjoy guest ranches offering the cowboy lifestyle, or see a star-studded show and play the slot machines.
Las Vegas is world-famous for its round-the-clock neon lights, dining and, of course, world-famous casino entertainment. When it’s time to move beyond The Strip, travel 446 miles southeast to Reno. Nestled against the Sierra Nevada foothills, Reno offers a wide array of shopping, distinctive dining and year-round outdoor sports from skiing to golf and everything in between.

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:

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:

Cyprus, Birthplace of Aphrodite

 Cyprus is a small Mediterranean island with rich culture and many activities for an unforgettable holiday. Legend says that the Greek goddess of Love and Beauty, Aphrodite was born here. No wonder she has chosen this place because Cyprus is one of the most popular tourist destinations with sunny weather all year round, amazing natural beauty, beautiful beaches, lively cities, archaeological sites and lovely cuisine.

With daily flights from many international destinations to Paphos and Larnaca you can easily reach the island and find accommodation close to the airports. Nicosia is the largest city, capital, and seat of government of the island but the main tourist areas would be Paphos, Larnaca and Limassol.

Paphos is included in the official UNESCO list of cultural and natural treasures of the world’s heritage for its unique ancient remains and it was selected as the European Capital of Culture for 2017. According to the myth Aphrodite rose from the sea at the site of Paphos where you can also visit the famous Aphrodite’s Rock and some ancient ruins as well in the area such as the Tomb of the Kings, the Kato Paphos Archaeological Park and the House of Dionysus.

Aphrodite Hills Resort, Paphos

Larnaca is known for Finikoudes Beach which is a sandy strip in the city centre with a seaside promenade full of palm trees.

Royal Blue Hotel & Spa, Paphos

Larnaca Salt Lake is encircled by natural trails which attracts hikers and it is decorated with flocks of flamingos which is a really unique attraction in itself. The area is also popular by divers and there are many diving schools and other water sport opportunities as well.

Other fun activities on the island include cycling tours, quad and jeep safaris, climbing and sightseeing tours. You can rent a car to discover the island’s many little treasures yourself but there are plenty of options to choose from organized daily trips as well. Cyprus is really is a place for love!

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:


Must visit destinations recommended by our customers

There’s nothing quite like the feeling of a summer holiday! If you haven’t booked yours yet, this blog will definitely get you in the holiday planning mood. Here are just some of the most popular destinations that we know our apartments4you customers love to visit. The destinations may sound familiar, but the different ways in which you can holiday there might just surprise you.


El Marques, Tenerife

As familiar as it is warm, there’s no surprise why Tenerife remains a firm favourite with British holidaymakers for both summer and winter getaways. With beaches galore, from golden sands with every amenity in Playa de las Américas and Los Cristianos, to the coves filled with black volcanic sand in Playa de la Arena and Puerto de la Cruz, it’s no wonder holidays centre around the beach here. But if you dig a little deeper you’ll find that there is so much more to discover. At the island’s heart you’ll find the towering volcano of Mount Teide. Look to the north and discover Tenerife’s capital Santa Cruz, sitting in contrast to the holiday hotspots of the island, this dynamic and sophisticated city is buzzing with life and rich in culture.




Silver Lake Resort, Florida

There really is something for everyone in this holiday capital of the world. If it’s a thrill-a-minute family holiday you’re after, Orlando should be at the top of your list, being home to the world’s greatest theme parks. This is just one reason to visit the Sunshine State. If you’re a nature lover, explore the sub-tropical waterways of the Everglades National Park, and if shopping is your hunting ground you won’t be disappointed. Whether it’s a pair of Mickey Mouse ears or that designer handbag at a fraction of the price, shops are aplenty. If soaking up the sun is more your style, then visit the pristine shores of Palm Beach or strut your stuff on the miles and miles of Miami’s white sand. A holiday in Florida is whatever you want it to be, and we’re sure that however you chose to holiday, you’ll be returning again.




Macdonald Monchique Resort and Spa

Warm, welcoming and exuding traditional charm there are many good reasons why picture-perfect Portugal remains a firm favourite, embracing beach goers, culture lovers and sports enthusiasts alike. With a coastline as expansive as Portugal’s, there is no shortage of beaches for you to check out on your travels. If you’re more of an explorer, walks across the golden clifftops and boat trips to secluded caves with magnificent rock formations are a must. Look beyond the shores of Portugal and you’ll uncover fascinating histories and vibrant cultures. Portugal’s distinctive food and wine captures the charisma and traditional soul of the country. To top it off, it has a pleasant year-round climate, so your invite to holiday in Portugal will always be open.




Diamond Club Maritima, Lanzarote

With sandy beaches, volcanic landscapes and quirky architecture, Lanzarote is one of the Canary Islands’ biggest hitters. Local artist and sculptor César Manrique’s work has enhanced the island’s natural beauty, with his sculptures and architecture waiting to be discovered across the island. Make Timanfaya National Park your first port of call. The moon-like landscape here is made up of around 100 volcanic craters known as the Fire Mountains – pour water into one of the boreholes and it’s vapourised in seconds. On the east coast, Jameos del Agua and the Madeira Botanical Garden offer more examples of Manrique’s fascinating use of the island’s natural resources. Jameos del Agua hosts concerts in an auditorium cut into the volcanic lava. For the beach lovers, they can enjoy the 30 kilometres of sand that melts into the ultra-calm sea.



These are just some of our most popular destinations. With access to one of the largest collections of self-catering holiday apartments across the world- there’s something to suit everyone’s 2018 summer plans. To view all of our holiday apartments available this summer visit: