Travel Tales with Fergal: My 'Top Five' of lesser travelled European holiday destinations

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Fergal O'Keeffe

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Fergal O'Keeffe

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This is the time of year when people traditionally start planning summer holidays. Tour operators and travel agents would normally have over 50% of their bookings by April but this year will be different as people adopt a wait and see approach.

The distribution of the Covid-19 vaccines in Ireland is getting faster with each passing week so it now looks possible there may be some travel possibilities later in the year.

While travel will look different in 2022, travel experts are optimistic. When looking at where to travel in 2022, a huge factor will be minimising the risks of potential exposure. Therefore, many people will pick lesser known or less densely populated locations.

I have picked a bucket list of five lesser travelled destinations taken from recommendations of guests on my Travel Tales with Fergal Podcast series.

The one stipulation was they all had to be short haul destinations to make it easy to get back home if cancellations happen or travel restrictions change in these uncertain times.

Psychologists have said that the emotional benefits of looking forward to a holiday can be as good for our wellbeing as going on the actual holiday.

The anticipation brings its own joy. Therefore planning a holiday for even next year can help people get through these difficult times.

An option that could become popular will be renting a large villa and forming a travel bubble with close family or friends. This can provide a safe environment with less interaction outside the bubble, but still provide a luxurious holiday experience but the cost is shared between families.

1. Stockholm Archipelago

Irish journalist Philip O’Connor, who lives in Stockholm, picked the stunning and lightly populated group of 30,000 islands off of Stockholm, on the Travel Tales with Fergal Podcast as his favourite place. They can be combined with a trip to Stockholm and the first island is just a short boat ride from the city centre so it could not be easier. There are around 200 inhabited islands to choose from, some with lively communities and others with nothing but serene rocky landscapes and stunning views of the Baltic Sea.

2. Sardinia and Corsica

Sardinia and Corsica are two of the most beautiful islands in the Mediterranean and a great way to combine two vastly different islands and cultures in one holiday. There is a short ferry ride from northern Sardinia to southern Corsica and it is a lovely way to go from Italy to France. Sardinia has many great Caribbean style beaches, but Corsica has quaint mountain villages, world class hiking trails and gorgeous secluded coves. You can fly direct to Alghero in Sardinia from Dublin and I will cover this holiday in detail next week.

3. Chamonix and Lac Annecy

Outdoor holidays could become more popular this year and a great option is Chamonix, the birthplace of modern mountaineering, which is only an hour from Geneva. Chamonix is in the middle of the Alps so it is a great base for day walks or longer treks to stay in huts overnight to really experience the tranquillity of the mountains. The town is full of guides to help and is buzzing at night in summer with events like the world climbing wall championships. This holiday can be combined with Lac Annecy which is 44km in circumference and dotted with beautiful Alpine villages with man-made beaches. The lake is surprisingly warm and full of water sport activities.

4. Puglia

This beautiful but less crowded region down the heel of Italy has everything going for it – great food, history, medieval hill towns, olive tree covered countryside and some of the best beaches on 800km of coastline on two seas, the Adriatic and the Ionian. Both Aer Lingus and Ryanair fly into Bari. Aer Lingus has a new route this year into Brindisi opening the spectacular bottom tip of Puglia.

5. Santorini

This is not the cheapest or the quietest of the magical Cyclades islands in Greece but there is a new direct flight from Dublin with Aer Lingus this summer.

They say we are due another “Roaring 20s” and these islands will be the epicentre of the fun when the world gets back to some sort of normality.

The Cyclades islands were picked by three guests on the podcast as their favourite place. Tourism is crucial to the Greek economy, so the Government has put a huge emphasis keeping Covid-19 numbers down and tourists safe. Santorini is the ultimate romantic getaway famed for its sunsets and whitewashed walled town.
This is the quintessential Greek island and is a great base to visit nearby Mykonos and Ios on the island ferry network which runs hourly.

Fergal O’Keeffe is the host of Ireland’s No.1 Travel Podcast Travel Tales with Fergal which is a weekly interview series listened to in over 70 countries.

The Travel Tales is available on all podcast platforms. The website is https://shows.acast.com/
travel-tales-with-fergal.