Experiencing an ‘off-the-beaten-track’ escapade is often only a once in a lifetime experience, however, on a luxury small-ship cruise with operators such as Azamara or Seabourn you can visit places many travellers only dream about.
Secluded coves, picturesque harbours, islands drenched in historical character are often hidden from the well-explored paths trodden by the masses.
There is nothing more exciting than the expectancy and anticipation of visiting somewhere for the very first time and this is where the small ship, luxury cruises excel.
We have explored some of our personal favourite ‘off-the-beaten-track’ destinations, giving you a little insight into what awaits you, and a tempting taste of what to expect.
Situated in the Cote d’Azur, Bandol is a sheltered harbour bay often referred to as ‘ville tranquille’. Deserving of its moniker, the town is a one of the oldest seaside resorts in France, cradled by hills and protected from the wind, making it the perfect hideaway for enjoying the pleasant climate of the Mediterranean.
Though it may be small, Bandol is a varied destination. The vibrant harbour is a hive of activity, with pastel painted houses, chic bars and restaurants, and a palm-lined promenade that makes a great spot for people watching. Markets decorate the town centre, offering the freshest produce and flowers, along with the opportunity to soak up the rustic atmosphere.
Bandol is famous for its wine, and vineyards have existed in the area since 600BC. Lovers of a good red will relish the opportunity to sample the offerings available, with red wine making up 70% of production in the area. Bandol AOC is one of the most internationally recognised wines of the Provence region, and is characterised by its dark colour and rich flavours of black fruit, vanilla, cinnamon and leather. In order to create this immense flavouring the wine requires at least 10 years of ageing to fully develop, and prior to release it ages for a further 18 months in oak.
If you would rather spend your day onshore with your toes dipped in the ocean, Bandol has three sandy beaches to choose from, along with countless calanques (smaller inlets and creeks) to tentatively explore. Enjoy the beautifully clear blue waters and if time allows, perhaps participate in some of the island’s fantastic water sports, including water-skiing, sea kayaking, scuba diving and even deep sea fishing.
Positano is a vertical village expanse set within the cliffs of the stunning Amalfi Coast; it is a breathtaking destination that attracts an elite and fashionable crowd, all seeking solace within the peace and serenity of this panoramic location.
History is rich in Positano and the architecture reflects this; the cliff sides are littered with the ruins of sumptuous villas built by the Ancient Romans. Steep narrow roads, fortified walls and watchtowers provided defences following the Pisa invasion of 1268, but now remain as a reminder of the past and an opportunity to explore. The shining golden majolica dome of Collegiate Church of Santa Maria Assinta is visible from every corner of the town.
The beaches and mountain districts of Positano simply must be visited. Spiaggia Grande beach is one of the largest on the Amalfi Coast at almost 300m long, whilst the more peaceful Formillo beach can only be reached via a coastal path.
If time permits, a climb up the steps and footpaths in the town will take you to some of the most beautifully secluded mountain districts in the area. Montepertuso ‘Oasis of Vallone Porto’ can only be reached by climbing what seems like a million steps, or by carriage if you prefer, however the view at the top is worth the effort, with waterfalls, rare plants and animals. Just a little further, the tiny isolated hamlet of Nocelle offers one of the most stunning views of the Amalfi Coast.
The harbour city of Bonifacio lies at the southern tip of the island of Corsica, building into the edge of imposing limestone cliffs. The view when approaching the island is so spectacular, that tours into the sea are run purely with the intention of viewing the cliffs alone. Unspoilt beaches retain their natural charm, with turquoise waters and white sands on both the southeast and southwest coasts.
There are two sides to this city; the first is the Old Town, a labyrinth of narrow streets and historic buildings, and medieval houses, all teetering on the edge of the imposing limestone cliffs. Quite the opposite of this area is the fashionably cosmopolitan marina, with its impressive yachts, bars, restaurants and elegant clientele lending an air of exclusivity to the resort.
Consistent winds at the tip of the island attract windsurfers and kite surfers, whilst the stunning waters make for a great opportunity to snorkel, swim and dive.
Cruising on the smaller and often more luxurious ships affords you the opportunity to experience destinations such as Bandol, Positano and Bonifacio, often visiting many off-the-beaten track destinations along the course of your trip. Relax in absolute luxury on board, while experiencing new and exhilarating worlds when heading ashore.