North­ern de­lights

A stun­ning range of hol­i­day prop­er­ties is avail­able to rent for a sum­mer spell next to the sea in Europe

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - TRAVEL 2013 - AOIFE O’RIOR­DAIN

SPRING is in the air in Europe and it is time to dream about the per­fect sum­mer re­treat. The tra­di­tional Mediter­ranean re­sorts top most wish lists. But new des­ti­na­tions, in­clud­ing Croa­tia and Mon­tene­gro, are grow­ing in pop­u­lar­ity, of­fer­ing equally stun­ning scenery, of­ten bet­ter value, and qui­eter beaches.

“The Mediter­ranean has seen a resur­gence this year with ex­cel­lent value. Greece and Spain have been high­lighted as the best des­ti­na­tions to make your money go fur­ther,” says Fran­cis To­rilla, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor at villa spe­cial­ist CV Travel.

Joanna Wild, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of Thomas Cook’s re­tail net­work, says: “Many of our cus­tomers, in par­tic­u­lar fam­i­lies and groups, value the in­de­pen­dence a villa hol­i­day brings and book early to guar­an­tee a favourite villa.”

Menorca and the Al­garve were the top sellers, but Corfu, Crete and Zante were at­tract­ing more in­ter­est, Wild said.

There’s a be­wil­der­ing ar­ray of op­tions for those look­ing for a villa, in­clud­ing com­pa­nies that of­fer ren­tal-only or package deals with flights and car hire. There are web­sites that put you in touch with own­ers, such as homeaway.co.uk, own­ers­di­rect.co.uk or more des­ti­na­tion-spe­cific web­sites such as spain-hol­i­day.com.

Many web­sites have vet­ting pro­cesses but, if you do de­cide to book di­rectly with an owner, make sure you do a bit of ex­tra re­search.

Erica Chang, re­gional di­rec­tor for homeaway.co.uk, says: “When book­ing, we sug­gest you read guest re­views for the prop­er­ties you like and get in touch with the own­ers to find out more. If you make a book­ing, it is wise to re­quest a ren­tal agree­ment from the owner that cov­ers pay­ment, can­cel­la­tion poli­cies and house rules.”

Rep­utable com­pa­nies such as homeaway. co. uk and hol­i­daylet- tings.co.uk also have se­cure pay­ment sys­tems to as­sist you when hand­ing over cash – be cau­tious about send­ing money by wire trans­fer or bank draft. Re­mem­ber that hol­i­days with in­di­vid­u­ally booked el­e­ments are not pro­tected in the way that pack­ages are.

Corfu is a jus­ti­fi­ably pop­u­lar spot, es­pe­cially among fam­i­lies.

This year, CV Travel (cv­travel.co.uk) has sev­eral new prop­er­ties, in­clud­ing three vil­las over­look­ing pic­turesque St Stephano. Efti­hia sleeps six, has its own pool and the beach is just five min­utes away. A week’s ren­tal from June 3 costs £1 585 (R21 730).

As the mer­cury rises, so do the prices, peak­ing be­tween the end of July and the end of Au­gust. Shoul­der sea­sons – May, early June and Septem­ber – of­ten of­fer ideal weather and bet­ter value.

New for this year, Free­lance Hol­i­days (free­lance-hol­i­days.co.uk) has added Menorca to its port­fo­lio of Mediter­ranean is­lands.

The Think­ing Trav­eller is one of the go-to agents for vil­las in the Ital­ian re­gions of Si­cily and Puglia, and has launched into Greece with Think Io­nian Is­lands (thinkio­n­ion is­lands.com).

It has 17 vil­las on the pic­turesque is­lands of Le­fkada and Me­gan­issi.

The new Cool Ren­tal Guide (cool­rental­guide.com) has a host of out- of- the- or­di­nary prop­er­ties to rent across the Med.

The Healthy Hol­i­day Com­pany ( the­healthy­hol­i­day­company. com) has launched its Healthy Villa con­cept. Guests can ar­range be­spoke ex­pe­ri­ences – daily fit­ness classes, healthy meals, hik­ing, morn­ing yoga – in lo­ca­tions in­clud­ing Ibiza, Mal­lorca and Si­cily.

The Côte d’Azur ap­peals for lots of rea­sons, not least its stylish re­sorts. In the Ro­que­brune-CapMartin area, Villa Eger­ton (vil­laegerton.com) will be avail­able to rent for the first time in May. The Belle Epoque villa once hosted Coco Chanel and could be yours for a hefty 45 000 (R531 347) a week for up to 14 guests.

Near St Tropez, An­glo French Prop­er­ties (an­glofrench­prop­er­ties. com) has in­tro­duced Le Mas de Fau­con. The stun­ning Provençal-style villa in the hills just out­side Co­golin sleeps 10. A week in July or Au­gust costs £ 6 890 ( R94 449). Bal­four France (bal­fourfrance.com) has prop­er­ties start­ing at £2 670 (R36 600) a week.

Simp­son Travel’s (simp­son­travel.com) Turk­ish se­lec­tion in­cludes Waterfront Cot­tage, on the Bozbu­run penin­sula near Sogut. It sleeps two and has a pool. In May, it’s £850 (about R11 700) a per­son for seven nights’ ren­tal, car hire and re­turn flights from Lon­don.

Ex­clu­sive Es­capes’ ( ex­clu­sive es­capes.co.uk) new Turk­ish prop­er­ties in­clude town­houses on the Kas penin­sula. Seven nights at the Is­land Vil­las, on Meis, cost from £900 (R12 337) a per­son based on 10 shar­ing, with re­turn flights to Dala­man from the UK, 4x4 hire, a wel­come ham­per and maid ser­vice.

Croa­tia and Mon­tene­gro are en­joy­ing in­creased at­ten­tion. On Croa­tia’s Is­trian coast, Lu­cia is a pretty four-bed­roomed stone house near the for­ti­fied hill town of Mo­tovun, known for its an­nual film fes­ti­val (July 27-31; mo­tovun­film fes­ti­val.com). It sleeps eight and costs from £1 450 (R19 876) a week in June with Vin­tage Travel (vin­tage­travel.co.uk). James Villa Hol­i­days ( jamesvil­las. co. uk) also has prop­er­ties in Croa­tia.

The Budva Riviera is a spec­tac­u­lar sea­side stretch of Mon­tene­gro, with the re­stored fish­er­men’s vil­lage of Sveti Ste­fan.

Ex­plore Mon­tene­gro (mon­tene­gro­hol­i­days.com) has the Crna Gora villa, a two-bed prop­erty with a pool in a scenic hill­side set­ting. A week from June 16 costs £426 (R5 839) a per­son, in­clud­ing re­turn flights from Gatwick to Ti­vat.

Casetta Bianca, from Coast­line Vil­las (coast­line.co.uk), is a twobed­roomed pad on Cor­sica with di­rect ac­cess from garden to beach. The house has a pool and views across Porto Vec­chio Bay. Ren­tal starts at £635 (R8 704) a per­son, based on four shar­ing in Septem­ber, which in­cludes flights from Heathrow and car hire. Cor­si­can Places (0845 330 2113; cor­sica.co.uk) also has an ex­ten­sive col­lec­tion of vil­las and apart­ments.

In Tuscany, quiet beaches are the norm. Tom­bolino Bol­gheri is a his­toric villa set in ver­dant grounds near the bucket- and- spade- style re­sort of Ma­rina di Bib­bona. There are sev­eral prop­er­ties on the es­tate, in­clud­ing the Casa de Pineta, which sleeps six, and Orangerie, which sleeps four. Beach ac­cess is along a 100m pri­vate path. Both cost 2 200 (R26 000) a week in June, July and Au­gust through Trust & Travel (tru­stand­travel.com).

At Monte Ar­gen­tario, a scenic crag jut­ting into the Med, La Mad­dalena is a farm­house with fab­u­lous views and a pool. It sleeps six and costs £4 868 (R66 000) a week in peak sea­son – through Tuscany Now (tus­canynow.com).

Many com­pa­nies of­fer chefs, nan­nies and shop­ping ser­vices. – The In­de­pen­dent

PIC­TURES: SHUTTERSTOCK

SCENIC: Sveti Ste­fan is a small islet and ho­tel re­sort in Mon­tene­gro.

BLISS: Peace­ful hol­i­day re­sorts line the south coast of Menorca and a string of quiet fish­ing vil­lages are along the is­land’s rougher north­ern shore.

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