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Hidden treasures

02/01/2014

Leave the well-trodden path behind and explore some of the Mediterranean’s spectacular, lesser-known destinations

Montserrat, a mountain-top monastery in Catalonia, Spain

Montserrat in Catalonia, Spain

Looking for a change from all the most familiar names on the tourist map? Why not try one of these more unusual Mediterranean shore excursions:

 

Climb to a mountain monastery

Just an hour-and-a-half’s drive from Barcelona, Montserrat offers a fascinating slice of Spanish culture. Find the Benedictine abbey perched on a ledge with the River Llobregat gushing 731m below, and ride the Sant Joan funicular to experience the spectacular views at a hair-raising 1,236m.

Shore excursion: Montserrat by Rail (from Barcelona) >

 

Immerse yourself in art

One of the oldest towns on the French Riviera, Saint-Paul de Vence is a veritable shrine to modern art and an antidote to the bustle and glamour of the rest of the region. Stroll through the lovingly preserved medieval town and imagine how the quaint cobbled streets inspired artists from Pablo Picasso to Marc Chagall. Arty types won’t want to miss the town’s studios, galleries and antique shops, while the Fondation Maeght museum is home to one of Europe’s foremost collections of 20th-century art.

Shore excursion: St Paul De Vence (from Cannes) >

 

Find romance

Forget Paris or Rome – Verona is the true city of lovers. The setting for Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, you can even leave a love note on ‘Juliet’s Balcony’ at the Casa di Giulietta, then check out the city’s rich history at the Piazza delle Erbe or climb the 84m-high Torre dei Lamberti for spectacular city views. And don’t miss the Arena, a finely preserved Roman amphitheatre that was once capable of holding the city’s entire population.

Shore excursion: Verona On Your Own (from Venice) >

 

Discover an Andalusian gem

Forget any preconceptions you might have of the Costa del Sol. Amid the tourist hot spots, this traditional, whitewashed town nestled among pine forests high on the mountainside has retained its old-world Andalusian charm. Take in the panoramic views of the Mediterranean and explore the cobbled streets, checking out crafts and paintings by local artists as you go.

Shore excursion: Meander Through Mijas (from Malaga) >

 

Tickle your taste buds

Take a momentary break from the stunning scenery of the Adriatic coastline to sample the region’s fantastic food and drink. In the charming village of Orasac, you’ll find out about the Croatian tradition for producing olive oil and sample locally made cheese and ham. Then you’ll head to Ston, known for its long defensive walls and also the oyster capital of Croatia.

Shore excursion: A Taste of the Adriatic (from Dubrovnik) >

 

Step back in time

Leave the bustle of Lisbon behind with a visit to Óbidos – a location steeped in almost a thousand years of history. Its maze of quaint cobbled streets, brightly painted houses and overflowing flowerpots are picture perfect, while its striking medieval castle was recently voted one of the ‘seven wonders of Portugal’. When you’ve finished exploring, ease back into the present with a stroll down the Rua Direita, where traditional shops sell hand-painted azulejo tiles and local liqueurs.

Shore excursion: Charming Óbidos (from Lisbon) >

 

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