Europe puts on a sensational show for the smallest of crowds in spring. Head here to hike in quiet wonder to dreamy Mediterranean beaches that are all but empty, spot wildlife emerging from its deep winter slumber, and witness the seasonal eruption of wildflowers on mountain slopes, in verdant valleys, and along the coast. There’s a gentle buzz in the towns and cities now, as the weather warms and cafe terraces fill, but the big-hitter sights are nowhere near as packed as they are in summer.
Whether you fancy visiting Northern Mallorca’s honeyed hill towns, Norway’s waterfall-splashed Southern Fjords, or Pembrokeshire’s puffin islands, we’ve got you covered in our round-up of Europe’s 10 best spring break destinations – some familiar, some perhaps less so.
Western Algarve, Portugal
If the Algarve makes you think of cheap-as-chips package holidays, you’re missing a trick. Go west and you’ll see a thrillingly wild, less-touristy side to this chunk of southern Portugal. No high-rises just pretty whitewashed villages. Here cliffs nose-dive to the booming Atlantic and great arcs of butterscotch sand ripple through with dunes. And in spring, when the coast is freckled with wildflowers, you might get the beach all to your lucky self. The surfing here is sensational. Come in March to catch the monster waves at the tail-end of the winter season, or April and May for gentler surf.
The turning point is the lighthouse-topped headland of Cabo de São Vicente, the last fleck of land many Portuguese navigators saw before sailing into the unknown on their mighty caravels. Swinging north of here brings you to a necklace of gorgeous beaches: rugged Praia do Amado, surf-smashed Carrapateira, and crescent-shaped Praia da Arrifana close to the Moorish, castle-crowned town of Aljezur. You’re now in the heart of the Parque Natural do Sudoeste Alentejano e Costa Vicentina, a nature reserve of cliffs, wetlands, and salt marshes, home to wildlife including otters, wildcats, Iberian lynx, and ospreys.
São Miguel, The Azores
Middle of nowhere, you say? How about The Azores? Dropped like stepping stones across the mid-Atlantic, this cluster of lusciously subtropical volcanic islands are like a forgotten world, with their ragged, waterfall-draped cliffs, deep-blue crater lakes, and lichen-fuzzed…
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