'Will you be heading off yourself?': 5 destinations to inspire a summer in Europe

Has all that lockdown walking prepped you for the Portuguese Camino? Or will a drop in the numbers of Instagrammers boost the appeal of Santorini for you?
'Will you be heading off yourself?': 5 destinations to inspire a summer in Europe

Church in Oia, Santorini, Greece

“Will you be heading off yourself?” — It’s the number one question I’m asked these days. Even though the Delta variant could see a delay to the July easing of our essential travel advisory, we are at least thinking about foreign travel for the first time, for some of us, in what seems like an eternal two years.

Although it’s a massively tempting prospect to wet my lips in the land of sweet of Rioja or break into an emotional Macarena on the plazas of Fuengirola, I’ve made the call to stay in more local climes this summer — partly due to vaccination waits and a rebooted staycation grá.

For those potentially leaving Ireland later this year, you may have to contend with a double whammy of holiday hurdles; namely following any regulations or advisories at their destination country in addition to any quarantine measures Ireland imposes upon return (hotel quarantine still being in place for those returning from Turkey is perhaps the main story here).

But for the majority heading for the Continent, the EU’s new Digital COVID Certificate, formerly known as the Green Cert, should fast-track much of the pandemic palaver.

And perhaps it’s little surprise that the tourism colossus — and Ireland’s favourite sun destination — España, is leading the PR charge to woo the masses.

“Spain is Ireland’s most popular international destination and it’s now possible to enter the country, from Ireland, with a negative PCR test (taken no more than 72 hours beforehand), a negative EU approved rapid antigen test, a vaccination certificate (complete vaccination no less than 14 days previously) or a declaration of having had and recovered from Covid-19,” Rubén López of the Counsellor Embassy of Spain in Dublin, told me this week.

“Crucially, and what will be a big relief to families, is that any travellers under the age of 12 will not need any of the above and can travel to Spain freely,” he added.

In terms of locations available to the Irish consumer, Dublin Airport will be offering flights to 120 destinations, while down south, Cork Airport is holding out for a much-awaited traffic burst before it hits closure hiatus in September for runway maintenance.

“We have some fantastic European and UK destinations that you can fly directly to from Cork Airport this summer with our airline partners Aer Lingus, Ryanair, KLM, Lufthansa, Air France and SWISS,” Kevin Cullinane of Cork Airport has told me.

That all translates to getaway options including Alicante, Malta, Palma de Mallorca, Faro — and Zurich, if you fancy more of an Alpine escape. For some inspiration, we’re looking at some flight and holiday deals across the continent.

Sláinte, santé and salud to those on a European getaways hopefully later this year. I probably won’t be too long behind you.

Spain

Roque de Agando on La Gomera in the Canary Islands
Roque de Agando on La Gomera in the Canary Islands

Many of the Spanish regions so popular with Irish travellers have got you covered, literally.

In the event of a positive Covid test, several regional authorities (including Andalusia and the Canaries) will cover your medical expenses, health repatriation and an extension of your hotel stay for up to two weeks.

To get there, Dawson Travel is offering week-long breaks from Cork to the Costa Del Sol from €350pps, while Cassidy Travel has a five-night deal in the popular Bajondillo Beach Cozy Inn in Torremolinos (dep Dublin) from €310pps.

spain.info

France

Château Les Carrasses
Château Les Carrasses

Self-catering breaks have become massively in demand these days, but self-catering in a French château is certainly taking it next niveau.

The Irish-owned Domaine & Demeure group is a luxury boutique collection of hotel, villa and self-catering accommodation in the South of France, offering budding bon vivants the perfect escape.

I’ve stayed in two of their properties — the highlight being the top floor apartment of their Château Les Carasses property featuring a bathroom in a turret.

The group’s third property, La Capitoul, is also opening in September.

Rates from €280 per night.

domainedemeure.com

Italy

Venice, Italy
Venice, Italy

Although one of Europe’s true urban pearls, Venice is a city I’ve never been to — the idea of madding crowds never quite floating my gondola.

But that might change.

Cruise ships may have started to return this month (albeit amid controversy as locals aim to crack down on day visitors) but with numbers at a fraction of the peak visitors number, you may never experience the floating city with such a low tide of tourists again.

Aer Lingus offers flights to the city from Dublin with summer fares teetering around a very decent €130 return.

Greece

When is Greek island-hopping not Greek island-hopping? When you fly directly from Dublin to Santorini that is. Aer Lingus’ new direct route from Dublin to the blockbuster island is perhaps the most exciting new travel route of the season.

One of the most iconic Greek islands, famed for its blue-domed churches, Santorini should also be shorter on Instagrammers this summer allowing you to enjoy those epic Aegean sunsets with a little less shoulder rubbing. Summer return flights from €170 at the time of publishing and you may not get fleeced when you land there either — stellar hotel options are available well south of €100 per night.

aerlingus.com

Portugal

Ponte de Lima, Portugal
Ponte de Lima, Portugal

If lockdown hasn’t acted as an accidental preparation for tackling the Camino, what could have? Trekking specialists, Follow The Camino, offers a series of walking and cycling getaways in Iberia including its alternative route to Santiago via the Portuguese Camino. The scenic stretch of the Camino de Santiago from Porto to Oia offers wanderers a go-slow slice of northern Portugal, with a wild Atlantic breeze that should offer relief to the Portuguese swelter. Trips from €646 per week.

followthecamino.com

For updated advisories on all destinations, see dfa.ie

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