It’s that time of year again—school is out and you’re headed on your ultimate summer vacation. Whether you’re traveling with friends, family, a partner, or solo, these 10 affordable summer destinations won’t disappoint. They may even leave you some extra money to save—or spend while you’re exploring the world.
Some general tips for affordable summer destinations: Travel on Tuesday or Wednesday for the cheapest fares; July 9 is considered the most expensive day to fly of the summer; airfare to Europe is cheaper than ever this summer.
1- Barcelona, Spain
If you’re headed to Europe this summer, Barcelona should be on your list as one of Europe’s most affordable summer destinations. With great weather and short, inexpensive flights to hotspots like Mallorca and Ibiza, it’s the perfect spot to spend summer. Yes, you’ll encounter some crowds, but prices are so low this year it’s still the perfect time to go.
Why It’s a Steal: According to KAYAK, flight prices to many Spanish cities have decreased this summer—Barcelona flights are 35 percent less than last summer, and median airfare is $695. An Airfarewatchdog search yielded flights from New York City to Barcelona under $500 for the months of August and September on Air Berlin and TAP Portugal, so check these airlines first for deals to one of Europe’s most affordable summer destinations.
On the hotel front, things are shaping up in travelers’ favor as well this summer in Barcelona. U232 Hotel has an average nightly rate around $200 for summer stays, according to Wander. Hilton Diagonal Mar Barcelona, only a 10-minute walk from the beach, is offering a pool package for those looking to relax in the sun. And, Generator Hostel Barcelona offers even cheaper nightly rates if you’re willing to share a room.
2- Belfast and the Causeway Coast, Northern Ireland
Belfast’s transformation over the past two decades has been remarkable. The rusting old docklands are now the vibrant Titanic Quarter, home to fancy apartments and a sensational museum. Beyond lies the Causeway Coast, whose timeless beauty and high-grade distractions – golf, whiskey and some of the world’s most famous rocks – are more popular now than ever.
‘Along the Causeway Coast, the Giant’s Causeway is the big attraction – but Harry’s Shack in Portstewart is an altogether more earthy pleasure,’ says Lonely Planet’s Fionn Davenport.
‘Inside this National Trust– owned wooden shack is one of Northern Ireland’s best restaurants, the perfect destination after a round of golf on the stunning Portstewart links; it’s not as famous or as expensive as the links at Royal Portrush just down the coast, but it’s every bit as beautiful.’
Summer (June to August) is the most popular time to visit, when Ireland’s unpredictable weather is usually at its best. But September often delivers long sunny days that stretch into the evenings and fewer crowds.
3- Tavira, Portugal
Tavira is a delightful fishing town, which is situated on the much calmer eastern Algarve. While many towns of southern Portugal have succumbed to mass tourism, Tavira has barely altered, retaining its distinctive character and charm. Tavira was an important fortified town during the North African Moors era (9th century) and later was a bustling port. This varied history is all played out along the cobbled streets and small plazas, where ancient walls stand next to baroque villas.
To the south of Tavira are pristine sandy beaches, which are protected from development by the Ria Formosa Nature Park. For a mature and relaxed holiday destination, there is no better choice than Tavira, and for a guide to Tavira please click here.
4- Kefalonia, Greece
The largest island of the Ionian is most well-known for its stunning beaches, lush forests as well as being the setting for the book and film Captain Corelli’s Mandolin. But there is much more to it than that. Now on reaching the airport you will find a wine map of the island that was created last summer.
Local families with long traditions of winemaking on the island have joined forces to promote indigenous varieties such as Robola, and also create experiences that go well beyond wine tasting. For example, the Haritatos Vineyard, a 19th country estate decorated with antique furniture and oil paintings, hosts music events in the summer as well as outdoor wine and move nights with films screened in the garden. The latter are organized in cooperation with the SeaΝema Open Air Film Festival which, over the last three years, has been organizing screenings of critically acclaimed films by the sea.
Kefalonia is also home to the Saristra Festival, an annual event for fans of indie and electronic music. Launched in 2012, the festival has become a mainstay, held in the ruins of the mountainside village Palia Vlachata which was abandoned after it was severely damaged in the earthquake that leveled much of the island in 1953. As much a tribute to the old villages and communities of Kefalonia as it is a boundary-pushing creative undertaking, the Saristra Festival fills the empty village with music, dancing, exhibitions and all manner of creative expressions.
5- Interlaken, Switzerland
Nestled between Lake Thun to the west and Lake Brienz to the east, Interlaken is one of Switzerland’s most popular summer holiday resorts. In the center of town, Höhematte is a marvel of urban planning with 35 acres of open space. Flower gardens, hotels, and cafés surround the Höheweg, the main boulevard through here with breathtaking vistas of the mountains. The mighty peaks of the Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau tower above the town providing excellent opportunities for alpine adventures. Hiking, climbing, abseiling, and kayaking are prime pursuits.
More than 45 mountain railways, cable cars, chairlifts and ski lifts transport visitors into the surrounding countryside. In the winter, skiers and snowboarders can take their pick from the surrounding resorts and cross-country ski along the extensive trail network. In the summer, paragliders launch from Beatenberg-Niederhorn. To admire the scenery from lower elevations, hop aboard a paddle steamer for a cruise around the lakes.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Interlaken
6- Plitvice Lakes, Croatia
Located about halfway between the Croatian capital Zagreb and Zadar on the coast of the Adriatic Sea, Plitvice Lakes are a magical world of living, moving water surrounded by ancient forests, 16 lakes linked by waterfalls, bridges natural and man-made, and 300 square kilometers of wild beauty full of bears, wolves, boars, and birds.
The difference in altitude between 1,280 meters at the highest point and 280 meters at the lowest creates a seemingly endless number of falls, big and small, that permanently fill the air with spray and fog. Wooden and natural walkways and hiking trails spin around and across the lake and a ferry on Lake Kozjak shuttles people between the upper and lower lakes. The lakes are beautiful all year round, but especially when mirroring magical fall colors or the lacy frozen branches of the surrounding trees.
7- Sidi Bou Said, Tunisia
You could be forgiven for thinking that you’d made the hop across the Med to the islands of the Greek Aegean as you enter the vibrant interior of Sidi Bou Said town, sat just 20 kilometers from bustling Tunis.Yep, the sky-blue and whitewashed color scheme here is more than reminiscent of towns in Santorini and Mykonos.
However, this one’s interesting hues were actually started by the French musicologist Rodolphe d’Erlanger.He first plastered the stucco walls of his home with the endearing tones in the 20s, and his palatial mansion at the Ennejma Ezzahra is a now a museum to his legacy.
8- The Geirangerfjord, Norway.
The Seven Sisters and numerous other waterfalls run down steep mountain sides that end in the clear, blue water of the 15 kilometres long Geirangerfjord. Here, you’ll find the natural peace and quiet of one of the world’s top nature attractions.
Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, it is even more present off season.The immediate surrounding regions also have a lot to offer the whole year round.
The Geirangerfjord is one of the most remarkable places in Norway. Here you will feel the eternity of life and the Universe itself. You will understand that Paradise exists here, in Gejranger! GEIRANGER will modestly show the beauty of its waterfalls and snow-tops to you.
9- Turks and Caicos
Scuba divers can sometimes find cheaper flights to the South Pacific for a world-class dive vacation than to the crystal-clear waters of the Turks and Caicos, thousands of miles closer. But late in 2017 Southwest Airlines began service to Providenciales, and now flights that routinely topped $750 can be had for under $300. Suddenly the white sandy beaches of Grace Bay and the abundance of marine life along the wall at West Caicos are within reasonable reach.
With its stunning celebrity-owned mansions, picturesque sunsets, and plentiful dining hotspots, the Southern California beach town makes for a pleasurable June getaway. “It’s at once glamorous and laid-back, boasting over 30 miles of perfect coastline,” says Lohan, who adds that the area is seeing a surge in boutique hotel openings. One of her favorites? Native, a colorful overhaul of a beloved motel on the Pacific Coast Highway. “The 12 bungalow-style rooms are bright and cheerful with custom art. Plus it’s just steps away from Zuma and Point Dume Beaches,” she says. Be sure to check out A-list haunts like Nobu Malibu (book well in advance) and Soho House’s Little Beach House Malibu.
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