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July 13, 2012 1:16 AM   Subscribe

What's a non-resort-y vacation spot on the Mediterranean (or barring that, somewhere else with nice weather/water)?

I'm having a really hard time figuring out a honeymoon/vacation destination. We want to go somewhere with cool stuff to see and nice enough weather that we can maybe swim/wade/snorkel or at least just get some sun in our faces. But, we're also trying to avoid anything terribly touristy or nightlife-y, and cool stuff with nice weather tends to attract a crowd.

We've both been to Europe (located in Pacific NW USA currently), but never together, so my initial thought was somewhere on the Mediterranean, especially since Euros are on sale. When I look into places I've heard about, it seems like I've only heard of places because they're monster party destinations.

We do like food and light-to-medium outdoorsy stuff (hiking or snorkeling, shy of varsity-level "Adventure-cation!"). Sun is a must and ideally water, since we'll be skipping out on a big chunk of the nicest weather back home. I've only ever lived on the west coast of the USA so I never get tired of visiting places whose history is actual historical. We don't have a super strict budget in mind, but cheaper is obviously appealing.

We don't like being... coddled I guess is the word? Pampered. Vacationing in order to feel like royalty. Schmancy resorts are wasted on us, and conversely, we can handle some really spartan accommodations. No ragin' ragers. We also don't care about shopping. We've got the middle of September blocked out for the trip, so it can't be any place so exotic that we need more than 7-8 weeks notice for visas or other travel arrangements. ...Apparently we are also adverse to planning ahead.

posted by vaaaase to Travel & Transportation (14 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
You might look at Piran, Slovenia. Very nice small walking town. Near Portoroz, which is more resorty, if you get bored. Actually, Slovenia in general is very nice. Bled is also worth a visit, but it's more alpine, so it will be cooler.
posted by leahwrenn at 1:26 AM on July 13, 2012

Croatia is beautiful and has plenty of great hiking and swimming. Since you like historical cities, the medieval walled city of Dubrovnik might be a good base for you. Temperatures in September run between average lows and highs of 65.7-77.7F.

According to Wikipedia-

The prosperity of the city of Dubrovnik has always been based on maritime trade. In the Middle Ages, as the Republic of Ragusa, also known as a Maritime Republic (together with Amalfi, Pisa, Genoa, Venice and other Italian cities), it became the only eastern Adriatic city-state to rival Venice.

Dubrovnik is also currently being used to represent the city of King's Landing in the HBO adaptation of George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series of fantasy novels.
posted by pickingupsticks at 2:23 AM on July 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Corsica or Sardinia? Less in yer face than the costas or balearics, but more expensive.
posted by ComfySofa at 2:25 AM on July 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'd recommend somewhere near Vejer de la Frontera in Andalusia. Lots to see and do - pretty hill towns in the hinterland like Vejer, historic and pretty coastline, sherry country, great food. The beaches are much less busy than on the other side of Gibraltar. Also - the weather should still be lovely in September.

One negative: quite windy (and therefore sandy) on the beaches. But great if you have a decent hotel pool. I would recommend this place.
posted by MuffinMan at 3:15 AM on July 13, 2012

Try Malta. Find a hotel in Valletta (itself, not the resorts/tourist haunts) and go exploring.
posted by manyon at 5:22 AM on July 13, 2012

We want to go somewhere with cool stuff to see and nice enough weather that we can maybe swim/wade/snorkel or at least just get some sun in our faces. But, we're also trying to avoid anything terribly touristy or nightlife-y, and cool stuff with nice weather tends to attract a crowd.

What you're describing is "the mediterranean." Outside of a few well-known vacation destinations (Mykonos, Santorini, Capri, package-resorts), the Mediterranean is just generally like this. Gytheio, coastal Messinia, and the area around Monemvasia are not "pampering" resort areas, but they are quite nice and have some interesting historical places to visit, and are by the water.

I liked Corsica quite a bit, actually-- there are a lot of different places to see, especially when you go further out away from Ajaccio. I didn't get a chance to see Bonifacio, but I want to head out there next time I visit the island.

Though if I were in your position, I'd make a Slovenia/Dalmatia/Montenegro trip.
posted by deanc at 5:22 AM on July 13, 2012

Croatia is very nice - tons of islands and beautiful, crystal clear water:

The prices also tend to be quite reasonable - whenever I go there, we usually find an apartment with a kitchen, living room and bedroom. Often also a washer and dryer.

With all of the islands, you could choose to visit several different places - maybe up around Split, then down toward Dubrovnik and a short trip into Macedonia. If you want a break from the sea, there's a nice national park in Croatia called "Plitvice Lakes National Park" (Nacionalni park Plitvička jezera). Another possible outing would be to take one of the ferrys across to Italy for a short visit.

I recommend Brač, close to Split, as far as islands go. It's less touristy and has some very nice beaches (including Bol). Hvar is another island that's nearby - more of a party destination. There are plenty of islands to choose from, though, depending on what kinds of activities interest you. You'll run into more tourists in Dubrovnik, but it's worth a visit, and the water's also nice there.

The islands have a great Mediterranean feel. Rent a cheap car or scooters to zip around to all the towns on whatever islands you visit - some towns are quite small but simply beautiful - charming.

I've been to Croatia several times, and have enjoyed it every time.
posted by syzygy at 5:24 AM on July 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

I meant 'Montenegro' when I wrote 'Macedonia' above.

I bet you'd like the apartment-style vacationing. I've stayed in several very reasonably-priced apartments. All were comfortable and clean, but not luxurious. It was great to have our own kitchen, where we could store food in the fridge, freeze big water bottles so they'd stay cold all day on the beach, and make our own meals when we grew tired of restaurant fare.

The apartments we stayed in ranged in cost from around 35 Euros per night up to 80 Euros per night - very reasonable prices for nice (if not luxurious) accommodations.
posted by syzygy at 5:29 AM on July 13, 2012

The peak season for warm holiday destinations in Europe tails off sharply at the end of August when the people of France, Germany, Scandanavia, Italy and other countries head back to work. As somebody arriving in mid September there are two knock on effects to be aware of:

1. Places which might have been unbearably crowded a month earlier are not comfortable.
2. Everywhere is a quite a lot cheaper.
3. If you go to somewhere that might have been quiet in the peak season you might find that it is too quiet for you when you visit - places, travel links and attractions may start to close up.

Don't discount the Greek Islands. The most popular might be too crowded for you - but you might like the more unusual ones. People have speculated about whether Greek's economic problems might disrupt their holidays - so check your insurance is OK - but the risk is not too great and the country needs your custom. An interesting option would be to fly to Athens and then catch a ferry to your destination.
posted by rongorongo at 5:52 AM on July 13, 2012

I though Barcelona was awesome. Tons to see and do.

Palma Mallorca was lovely, especially up in the hills.

Sardinia is a wonderful place to take a house and do nothing. Not much to sitesee, but very relaxed.

St. Tropez was adorable, with markets, and colorful stores. Beaches are famous, I suspect you can do as much or as little as you like.

Naples, the village was quaint, and the trip to Pompeii was life changing. It's so much more than you can imagine.

Now mind I saw all of this from a Medditeranian cruise that we took in October. It seemed very uncrowded and unhurried no matter where we went.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:58 AM on July 13, 2012

There are so many good options this question is almost unanswerable without further information. Literally every single idea above is a good one in general, but we need to know more about you. what kind of beach do you want? Rocky, Sandy, Deserted, With services close at hand? What kind of food do you like? What languages are you the most comfortable with? What is crowded to you, what isn't? What sort of accommodation do you want? Hotel? Rented Apartment? Freestanding house? Do you want to have to rent a car? Would you prefer to hit markets and cook at home mostly or do you want a nice restaurant selection? How big is your budget?
posted by JPD at 7:02 AM on July 13, 2012

A friend of mine has just returned from a 70th birthday trip to Italy, Athens and the Greek Isles. He made no reservations and played it day-by-day for 44 days. Luckily he blogged all the details, including costs and notes about the accommodations. Pretty current I'd say.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 8:26 AM on July 13, 2012

Best answer: I would fly into Nice and then take a ferry to Calvi in northern Corsica (6 ferries/week, 6 hour crossing) Then I'd work my way down the west coast of Corsica over about a week. The west coast of Corsica is just about the most beautiful place I've ever seen especially the Scandola Nat'l Park area just south of Calvi. There is a tiny town called Girolata where you can stay in varying degrees of roughing it, from camping to simple hotels. You can rent sea kayaks and hike. It is stunningly beautiful.

While you are on Corsica you should make it to the very southern end to see Bonifacio as that is also beautiful but in a different way from Scandola. There you could catch another ferry and make it to port closest to Rome (Civitavecchia) and fly out of Rome or spend longer on the ferry and fly out of Genoa (stop in Elba on the way). Or bite the bullet and fly off the island.

It should still be pretty nice by mid-Sept but it will be quite empty.

I'd also agree w/ Croatia and Montenegro. If you go to Croatia there is a beautiful little town called Cavtat just a few miles south of Dubrovnik. Great places. Also, Croatia is mostly a summer destination. I've been in freezing weather there in mid-September.

I'd stay away from Malta in the summer unless you like white baked rocks. Malta might be a destination more suitable in April / May or October.
posted by pandabearjohnson at 11:06 AM on July 13, 2012 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Great stuff.

I should have said that I was leaning away from Croatia because the longest I've been abroad was to the Dalmatian coast... with an ex. And it's the only time I've been there, so it seemed maybe not ideal to risk recreating any of that trip. I love all the recommendations for it though, and I really enjoyed my trip there. It's at the top of my "non-honeymoon" someday travel list.

And speaking of what I should have led with -- JPD, I take your point. This is my first post so I was a little nervous about a bunch of prolix jibber jabber, especially right after poring over the legion of other "hey where should I honeymoon" posts and worrying that some hive mind doppelganger already covered my exact preferences. Also we're pretty easy going, and we've tended to enjoy whatever we end up doing, so it seemed safe to test the waters by leaving it more open ended.

More preferences:
-Beach character: rocky beach is great as long as it's not torturous to go barefoot on it.
-Food: I have never encountered cuisine I didn't like, so maybe that was unhelpful because I suppose food in some form is everywhere.
-Language aptitude: We both know enough Spanish to be able to handle written stuff in Spain for the most part, and maybe some simple cognates in other Romance speaking countries, but probably not enough to tune in to a Euro Spanish accent very well. Because of that I was kind of thinking of Southern Portugal or Andalucia some. I had enough college Russian to fumble through buying stuff in Croatian markets, and some (Attic) Greek, so while I know nothing of modern dialect, the alphabet won't be, um, Greek to me. groan.
-accommodations: apartments sound pretty great to me. I like the idea of getting groceries if we're feeling frugal.
-car rental. I've only rented a car a few times, and never out of the country, but I'd be willing to. I can drive standard fine.
-budget: I really don't know. We have a honeymoon registry but we haven't done a final reckoning on what the wedding will end up costing, and how generous our guests will be. I'm guessing somewhere around $5k on the conservative side.

I was looking at Malta, but it seems like it'd take a while to actually get to. I guess that was another factor I should have mentioned early on. Since we have a limited window in which to travel, some place that's so off-the-beaten-path that it takes 50 hours to get to might be less appealing, at least for this trip. I'll revisit that list for our one year anniversary, when we're, you know, fantastically rich and living completely care free... Looking over all this stuff, I feel like Corsica sounds pretty cool, along with "unusual" Greek islands. And the southern Iberia that I mentioned farther up.

rongorongo: I don't understand your point #1 -- do you mean that the locals will just be tired of tourists after a busy season? Or that a place that's built up to accommodate a bunch of tourists will feel a little tumbleweedy when not at capacity?
posted by vaaaase at 5:35 PM on July 15, 2012

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