Positano

An escape that needs no introduction, Positano consistently tops our list of the most stunning coastal villages in Europe. It is no surprise that this trendy village is a highlight stop on any trip to the Italian Amalfi Coast. Come here to enjoy amazing food, wine, views, beaches, and beautiful weather. We visited over a long weekend but generally recommend at least three days. If you have time, combine this stop with a trip to Naples and Capri.

The best way to arrive in Positano is through Naples. Most cities within Europe will have have direct flights in and out of the southern Italian city. To get to the Amalfi coast, we highly recommend renting a car or hiring a private transfer. Most car rentals and shuttles depart from Napoli Centrale, the central train station in Naples, and it is very easy to take the Alibus directly from the airport to Centrale (have euro cash on hand). The drive from Naples Centrale to Positano takes roughly 90 minutes. We have had mixed experiences with transfer companies.

Note that the Amalfi Coast is packed with tourists from all over the world during the summer months. If you want to visit between June and August, book accommodation several months in advance. The shoulder seasons, including the months of April - May, and September, are lovely and quieter times to visit this region.

EAT

Buca di Bacco 1916 A cafe in the harbor with amazing ocean views. Excellent choice for dinner or for an afternoon cocktail.

Collina Bakery Take away coffee, traditional baked goods, and gelato. Yes, please!

Next2 Simple yet elegant delicious cocktails and amazing food. This was one of our favorite meals in Positano. Opt for a seat on the terrace for a romantic setting.

Ristorante Bruno High street views overlooking the beautiful village of Positano. A more casual option with moderately priced dishes.

Ristorante La Sponda Recommended by a friend.

DRINK

Amalfi Coast is also well-known for the famous Amalfi lemons which are literally the size of grapefruits, maybe bigger. Be sure to try the local Limoncello as an after-dinner digestif.

Champagne Bar at Le Sirenuse Classy stop for pre-dinner drinks, great views over the village and sea.

Music on the Rocks Looking for an authentic disco and night club experience? The club offers excellent views and vibes with a mixed crowd of locals and tourists. Music can be hit or miss depending on the night but overall offers some nightlife in the village.

PLAY

The Amalfi Coast is best explored by boat. We highly recommend taking at least a day trip, if not longer, to explore the surrounding coastal villages and islands. Do not miss Capri and Amalfi during your stay! Capri is a small, chic island off the coast of southern Italy, and offers some of the best beaches and shopping. Capri can be reached by ferry from Positano (about 40 minutes). You can check out the ferry schedule is here.

Marina Grande Beach Relax and enjoy the sun at the main beach in Positano. Go early to get a lounger. They typically run about 10€.

Positano Boats We chose the Emerald Grotto & Amalfi Coast tour. We skipped the grotto and instead lounged on the boat. We definitely recommend exploring the village of Amalfi. Although touristy, we enjoyed checking out the local shops, wine bars, and gelato stands for a break from the sun.

Positano Village It is definitely worth an afternoon or a morning to enjoy the colorful village itself. Wander around the winding streets, enjoying the small boutiques and local Italian shops. Bring your camera as the views at every turn are picture-worthy. This village is a photographers dream!

Ralla Antonio Custom sandals in Positano! Although small, the shop offers a wide variety of styles and colors. The owners are friendly and the process of custom fitting is fairly quick.

STAY

We traveled with a group of friends so we stayed in an AirBnb on the hill close to Next2. Definitely book in advance to secure a spot within the village itself. While small and walkable, walking around Positano is not for those who have difficulties managing steps. There are incredibly steep stairs the higher up you stay in the village. If you are renting a car, also be sure to inquire about parking at your accommodation.


LOCATIONS NEARBY

Southern Corsica

Remote and rustic, Corsica is not yet as well known by the Anglo world as its southern neighbor Sardinia. The birthplace of Napoleon Bonaparte, for centuries Corsica was governed by the Italian Genoese, though the French eventually won the land grab. While an island in the Mediterranean, there is no party there. The Corsicans fought and won against development and today their island enjoys peaceful, Caribbean-grade beaches while avoiding the massive crowds of the Côte d'Azur. There are no hotel or restaurant chains here. Come to Corsica for real, off-the-grid rest and relaxation.

While the summer busy season is the second half of July and all of August, the island is still lovely in June and September. We recommend planning a trip longer than just a 3-4 day weekend, as the airports in the south are an hour or two by car from the best beaches.

Flights between the UK and Corsica run a few times a week, mostly on the weekends. Flights run much more frequently during the busy season between mainland France and Corsica. For easy access to the south, the closest airports are in Ajaccio and Figari. Alternatively, fly into Corsica’s capital, Bastia, which also has the island’s largest airport. However, Bastia is in the north and approximately a 2-3 hour drive south.

A rental car is absolutely needed in Corsica. Drivers take heed as the roads are winding and not for the faint-hearted. Public transport exists (though we didn’t see it), but bus routes are likely few and run far between. Many of Corsica’s prettiest beaches are remote and downhill a long, bumpy, unpaved road.

EAT

Chez Ange Swanky spot at the beautiful Plage Rodinara. The road down to the restaurant and beach is long but the view was worth it. Go for lunch and try one of their decadent salads.

Chez Dume A nice, shady spot for an informal lunch in the tiny hamlet of Sainte-Lucie-de-Tallano. Ask to sit on the veranda to admire the mountain view. This orange-roofed village makes for a sweet stop between Sartene and Zonza on the route through the Alta Rocca.

Hotel la Terrasse Quiet, romantic restaurant in Zonza with a beautiful view of the mountains and valley. Food is traditional Coriscan and delicious.

La Cave à Huile d'Olive While lunching in Sainte-Lucie-de-Tallano don’t miss a stop to this little olive oil producer.

Rotisserie chicken This road-side delicacy seems to be the unofficial national food of Corisca. Food trucks are everywhere and the value for money really can’t be beat.

Rotisserie Chez de Franky, north of Porto Vecchio, is one such reputable truck. Pick up a rotisserie chicken with jus and sautéed onions, and a side of pommes de terre, for a casual picnic dinner.

U Arniella Cute-yet-casual beach-side restaurant in Porto Pollo. Great seafood and pizzas. Stay for drinks and the DJ after dinner.


DRINK

Domaine de San Michelli While this winery does have a small shop in Sartène, it unfortunately doesn’t offer tastings yet. However, the wine is good (if you like juicy reds!) and can be found at most restaurants and supermarkets on the island.

Pietra Try the local beer! Order a “pression” (draft) of either blonde or amber.

PLAY

Alta Rocca This mountainous region of southern Corsica features tiny, orange-roofed hamlets, stunning vistas of sharp, rocky peaks, excellent hikes and sparkling gorges. Take a break from the beaches and spend one to two days exploring Corsica’s interior.

Bonifacio Old Town This medieval fortress town overlooking the southern-most cliffs of Corsica has stood for hundreds of years, being passed back and forth between the Italians and French. Its location is incredibly dramatic, as the Old Town and citadel are built high above what appears to be a fjord leading from the Mediterranean several miles inland. While touristy, the Old Town is adorable and quintessentially medieval. Worth a few hours of exploration and an overnight in one of the romantic boutique hotels overlooking the cliffs.

Beach hopping Corsica’s beaches are world class and we spent a perfectly relaxing vacation visiting one to two beaches each day. We’ve listed our favorites below by location:

West Coast Cupabia (quiet and family-friendly), Porto Pollo (small but is connected to a sleepy little beach town), Propriano, Campomoro (hands down our favorite and worth the trek to this western tip of the island) and Roccapina (while the drive down is treacherous, the beach is beautiful. But bring supplies as there are no facilities).

North of Porto Vecchio Favone, Pinarello (stunning, quiet and family friendly)

South of Porto Vecchio Palombaggia, Rodinara, Santa Giulia (near to Porto Vecchio, each of these were definitely the busiest beaches we came across and the most glamorous in terms of clientele)

Boating There is nothing like viewing Corsica from the water. We spent a day with Crosiere Exclusive on this day trip, visiting the islands of Lavezzu and Cavallo, and the remote coastline of southeastern Corsica.

Cascades de Polischellu Natural pools within the Alta Rocca mountain canyon that runs along the D268. Park along the side of the road and find a more secluded spot to enjoy a swim and picnic lunch after hiking in the area. This is a good stop on the D268 between Zonza and Solenzara.

Sartène 16th century town that lies at the entrance to the mountainous interior, with sweeping views of the valley below. It’s is worth a drive by and stopover for an hour or two of exploration. Wine from the Sartène AOC is also renowned on the island.

Zonza Outdoors enthusiasts will delight in this tiny, traditional mountain town in the Alta Rocca region. While the streets role up at night, it is a quaint, quiet spot from which to base oneself for mountain hikes, biking and more. Our biggest regret was not spending another night here to enjoy an extra day hiking in the mountains and swimming in the gorges.

STAY

The south of Corsica is large and the drive from the west to east coast through the Alta Rocca, from roughly Propriano to Solenzara, is about two hours. On either side of the island there are many beach towns and remote beaches dotting the coastline. Corsican towns are also quite small, exempting Bonifacio and Porto Vecchio, so be prepared to relax with long dinners and early-ish bedtimes. We are enclosing a mix of suggestions for a well-rounded road trip.

Bonifacio As previously mentioned, worth staying overnight at one of the hotels overlooking the cliffs and ocean.

Porto Pollo We loved spending two nights in this quiet beach village. The 3-star Auberge Kalliste Hotel Eolabel was a cozy, unassuming option with excellent breakfasts and a two minute walk from the beach.

Porto Vecchio area While there are lots of hotels and Airbnbs close to the city center, for a peaceful retreat closer to the beaches north of Porto Vecchio, check out the 3-star resort Le Kilina. It has a pool, bar, bocce court and restaurant on-site, and its rooms are shaded by tall beach pines.

Zonza As mentioned above, we wished we had stayed another night in this Alta Rocca town. While there are several options to choose from, we enjoyed the boutique Clair de Lune, a short walk from the main street and featuring a small pool.

LOCATIONS NEARBY

Scottish Highlands

Scotland’s Highlands are not for the faint-hearted, with their rugged mountains, prehistoric stone circles, crumbling castles and incredible Scotch whisky. Those in search of a truly remote and rustic retreat will appreciate these lands, previously home to fierce warriors and tribal clans. Outlander fans, take note: the magic of the Highlands is real!

Scottish weather is notoriously temperamental, and its winters are bitter cold and the days short, given its high geographical latitude. We recommend visiting during the summer months, where temperatures in the Highlands can still hover at around 15 degrees Celsius (60 degrees Fahrenheit) during the day, and drop even lower at night.

To reach the Highlands there are a few options. Inverness is the region’s capital and accessible via plane from most UK cities. Check out the overnight New Caladonian Sleeper Train, leaving from London Euston station at around 9pm and arriving into Inverness the following morning before 9am, for a magical experience. Alternatively, fly or take the Virgin train from London directly into Edinburgh, Scotland’s de facto cultural capital, and travel northward from there. The Highlands are vast and a rental car is an absolute must for getting around. Be warned, however, as Highlands roads are generally winding, single-lane roads.

The Highlands are expansive and it can feel overwhelming to try and cram the remote, westerly Isles into the same trip as the central Cairngorms and eastern coastline. Both Inverness and Edinburgh are at least a few hours from many of the sites. Unless planning a long weekend to a specific area, take your time and plan a road trip over a series of 5 days to two weeks.

EAT

Bean for Coffee Cute cafe in Ballater for breakfast. Delicious scones.

Chalmers Bakery Known as “The Queen’s Bakery”, they have incredible savoury pies and doughnuts. Pick up a few baked goods for lunch before heading off on a hike.

Fern Cottage Mediterranean food in Pitlochry. A quiet, romantic place for dinner.

Walker’s Shortbread Factory If you are in Speyside tasting whisky, don’t miss a visit to the Walker’s factory in Aberlour. Scottish shortbread is buttery and sugary delicious-ness, and makes a great gift for friends and family back home.

DRINK

The Dores Inn Have a pint over a sun downer at this pub on the northern shores of Loch Ness. Highly recommended by the locals.

Scotch Whisky The Highlands’ fresh, clean air and mountain springs contribute to the production of incredible whisky (take note, Scottish whisky is spelled without an ‘e’, unlike its American cousins). The Highlands and Speyside (a Highlands region just east of Inverness with a high concentration of distilleries) make up two of the five prominent Scottish whisky-making regions. In Speyside, we recommend tastings at Balvanie, Glenfidditch, Glenlivet and Macallan. If traveling to Pitlochry, do not miss one of the last traditional distilleries in all of Scotland, Edradour, where you can do a full tour and tasting.

PLAY

Cairngorms National Park The UK’s largest national park is home to the Cairngorms mountain region in the eastern Highlands. These rolling, barren hills of the Cairngorms are breathtaking and home to isolated lochs, walking paths, forests, rivers, tiny villages, whisky distilleries and remote castles.

Castle hunting Scotland has hundreds of crumbling castles dotting its lands, and it can be helpful to better understand the brutal history of its clans by visiting a few. Our favorite was Balvenie, an incredibly well-preserved 16th century castle where Mary, Queen of Scots, once stayed overnight. Others in and around the Cairngorms, Inverness and Pitlochry include Ballendoch, Balmoral (The Queen’s home in Scotland), Blair, Corgarff and Urquhart (on the shores of Loch Ness, it dates over 1000 years and its ruins are worth a morning visit before the crowds come later in the day).

Clava Cairns Pre-historic burial temples and rock circles just 10 minutes east of Culloden. Outlander fans will delight in the inspiration for Craig na Dun.

Culloden Battlefield The site where Bonny Prince Charlie’s Jacobite army of Highlanders made its last stand against the British. After Culloden the British took back the Highlands, disbanded the clans and outlawed the speaking of Gaelic, forever changing the Highlander way of life. Check out the visitors’ center exhibit and walk across the lonely grounds and burial sites. Purchase tickets in advance.

Inverness The small Highlands capital is worth a visit or overnight on its own.

Loch Ness Spend a day searching for Nessie, the famed Loch Ness Monster! Spots along the roads encircling the Loch include the beautiful Falls of Foyers (a steep hike to view the falls), Fort Augustus (a charming, loch-side town and stop for lunch), the beautiful Loch Mhor, Urquhart Castle (noted above) and Suidhe Viewpoint (for sweeping views of the surrounding countryside).

Pitlochry While touristy, this village south of the Cairngorms is a great overnight stop to soak in some quintessential Scottish hospitality. We enjoyed a three mile hike that featured stops at the Black Spout falls and Edradour Distillery (see above).

Speyside Cooperage While in Speyside, do not miss a tour of this local whisky barrel-making cooperage, home to an ancient and dying art. Call in advance to schedule tours.

DAY TRIPS

Given the expansiveness of the region, we’ve grouped spots referenced above into suggested day trips.

Cairngorms National Park and Ballater Castle

Inverness, Culloden Battlefield and Clava Cairns

Loch Ness, Urquhart Castle and surrounding area

Pitlochry, Blair Castle and Edradour Distillery

Speyside Whisky Trail, Speyside Cooperage and Balvenie Castle

STAY

Cairngorms National Park While there are bed and breakfasts aplenty within Ballater or the National Park, we stayed several nights at the Hilton Grand Vacations at Craigendarroch resort. The Hilton was within driving distance of the Cairngorms and Speyside.

We heard great things from a friend and locals about the small villages of Elgin and Lossiemouth along the northeastern coast, also not far from Speyside.

Inverness We were with family and loved this two bedroom apartment about a 15 minute walk from the high street and main sites. It was also convenient for street parking and easy access out of town to Culloden.

Pitlochry Check out the Westlands (4-star), McKay’s Hotel and Fisher’s Hotel (budget, 3-star), all on the main high street.

LOCATIONS NEARBY

Whistler Blackcomb

The twin peaks of Whistler and Blackcomb are one of the largest ski and snowboard resorts in North America, and just 120 kilometers north of Vancouver.

The mountain offers quite the winter playground with over 200 marked trails. Ski season runs from November through May and lift tickets can be booked in advance to save on the peak price. Alternatively, visit the mountains in off-season for excellent hiking and mountain biking.

Getting there: The closest major airport is Vancouver International (YVR), approximately a 2.5 hours drive to Whistler. We recommend renting a car at the airport or in the city if you plan to spend a few days in Vancouver as well.

EAT

Creekbread Wood-fired pizza.

COWS Whistler Amazing ice cream… treat yourself!

Earl’s Kitchen American-style bar with food. Go for happy hour.

Nagomi Sushi Good sushi in a cozy Japanese restaurant. Convenient if you are staying in the upper village.

DRINK

The Fitzsimmons Pub Neighborhood bar with craft beers and board games.

Garibaldi Lift Co. Bar & Grill Après-ski bar with an outdoor patio.

Merlins Bar & Grill Après-ski bar at the base of Blackcomb.

PLAY

Ski, snowboard, hike, etc. The mountains have it all! The PEAK 2 PEAK Gondola allows easy access between Whistler and Blackcomb. Ticket prices and timelines change based on season, so please check here for the official website.

High Note Trail Take the Whistler Gondola and Peak Chairlift to the trailhead, which begins at the top of Whistler Mountain. At the top, you have 360 degree views of the mountains and iconic snow covered peaks. Distance is 9.4 kilometers (moderate difficulty).

For more information on this hikes and others in the area, check out the Whistler trail map here.

Joffre Lakes Trail Hike near Pemberton A 10 kilometer hike through forests and the surrounding lakes offers incredible views of the glaciers high above the mountains. This is an intermediate hike, and we recommend hiking shoes. Parking is available right off of Duffey Lake Road where you can start the trail.

Relax and unwind After a day on the mountains enjoy one of the many spa options in the villages.

STAY

Upper Village and Whistler Village are both easily accessible by car and have their own lifts, making both locations desirable. They are also both connected by a pedestrian walkway (5-10 minute walk).

Whistler Village is more commercial with more restaurants, bars and shops. There are also several Airbnb options in the area which we opted for as we prefer the space. With regards to hotels, we have been recommended the Four Seasons Resort Whistler or Fairmont Chateau Whistler, which has ski-in ski-out access.

Provence

France’s southern region of Provence is celebrated internationally for its rosé wines, lavender products, sunshine, stunning landscapes with medieval villages, and it’s proximity to the glamorous Côte d'Azur. With so much to see and do, it is easy to spend a week exploring the region.

If traveling to Provence in the summer, you will almost surely cross paths with tourists. The lavender is in bloom in June and July, and is typically harvested in mid-July (this varies by farm). We visited in late June and while some fields were still early, others were in perfect purple splendor. If the lavender fields aren’t at the top of your list, we recommend avoiding the tourists by traveling during the spring or fall shoulder season.

Provence is a large region and our travels have covered only portions. The region is best accessed via the Marseilles or Nice Airports, and for full flexibility on schedule and timing we recommend renting a car. Choose one area to base yourself from or plan a road trip, staying somewhere new each night. We’ve highlighted our favorite towns and routes in the recommendations below.

Attempt to speak French, no matter how rusty it may be! While many in the hospitality industry will have some basic English, this is more difficult to find in smaller towns. It is easy to get by with a mixture of French, English, Google translator, and well-meaning hand gestures, but attempts at their language will go a long way with the locals.

EAT

La Fleur de Thym This gem of a culinary experience was recommended by our bed and breakfast hosts. It’s an unassuming space in the unassuming village of Flayosc, but the fish and meat dishes were fantastic. Try the three course menu.

La Guinguette du Lac This market nearby Plage Galetas and the Lac de Sainte-Croix is a good place to stock up on food stuffs and water before heading to the beach and lake.

Lavender ice cream Nothing quite like it! Find a small stall in Moustiers-Sainte-Marie featuring a non-dyed variety (many glaciers use a purple food die in their lavender ice cream, and while it looks nice it’s not necessary).

DRINK

Restaurant Le Styx at the Hotel Le Provence This restaurant and hotel in La Palud-sur-Verdon is the perfect stop for un café au lait, un biere, or snacks before continuing to or from the Gorges du Verdon. Pleasant outdoor seating in a quiet space.

Rosé wine Provence is one of the world’s top producers and exporters of rosé. There are numerous wineries and vineyards dotting the region, but if you are looking for a special tour or visit we have heard good things about Chateau d'Esclans and Domaine Rabiega. We also recommend Château d'Estoublon. We visited the Chateau while staying in nearby Les Baux-de-Provence. The winery has a selection of reds and rosés, and a delicious olive oil!

PLAY

Lavender Fields The Valensole plateau in Provence has a high concentration of lavender fields, with lavender distilleries (check out Terraoma Jaubert and Lavandes Angelvin) dotting its roadsides. Start just east of Manosque at the intersection of the D4 and D6, and take the D6 east towards Valensole. From Valensole turn left onto the D8 and head northeast. You’ll past a myriad of fields along this route, and we’ve pinned our favorite one just before the intersection of the D8 and D953.

Gorges du Verdon and Parc Naturel regional du Verdon The Gorges du Verdon are considered Europe’s Grand Canyon, and a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts. Come here for hiking, biking, white water rafting, kayaking, swimming, and more. Also visit the nearby icy, turquoise waters of the Lac de Sainte-Croix, where the gorge begins. The nearby village of Moustiers-Sainte-Marie is built into the craggy mountainside and located within the Parc.

Pont du Gard This relic remaining from the Roman occupation of France is a first century AD aqueduct. It is considered the highest of all Roman aqueduct bridges and remains one of the best preserved today, so much so that it was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is a magical experience to walk across the bridge and marvel at the skill of Rome’s early engineers, and admire the view across the countryside.

Provence’s many medieval villages Make time to explore! Some of the ones we’ve passed include Aups, Comps-sur-Artuby, Moustiers-Sainte-Marie, La Palud-sur-Verdon and Villecroze. Stop and spend an hour in a traditional Provençal market, often held one day during the week and one day on the weekend.

DAY TRIPs

Arles and Pont du Gard Formerly a provincial capital of ancient Roman, today the sunny city of Arles retains temples and vestiges of its earlier days. Tucked up against the banks of the Rhône River, its charming streets served as inspiration for the painter Van Gogh. We highly recommend an overnight stop here, to or from your way to the Pont du Gard.

Cassis Warranting a weekend visit, this fishing village is known for its beaches, bistros and beautiful calanques. Take a boat tour of the calanques (coves formed from dramatic limestone cliffs that line the Mediterranean coast). We bought tickets the day-of at the ticket stand toward the left of the Port. The 5 Calanques tour was the perfect length! The calanques can also be explored by foot via hiking in the area or by kayak. Eat at Le Grand Bleu, located central in front of the port. While in Cassis be sure to try the local rosé and Provençal mussels.

Gorges du Verdon, Lac de Sainte-Croix and La Palud-sur-Verdon This area could easily be broken down to 2-3 days, for an easier pace. The road leading in and out of La Palud-sur-Verdon, D952, has stunning views of the Gorges far below. For a really wild ride, take the steep and craggily D23 for even more panoramas. Warning, we only recommend this route for experienced and confident drivers! The villages of Aups, Comps-sur-Artuby and Villecroze are adorable and not far from these main sites. Stop for a few hours at one of the beaches along the Lac de Sainte-Croix. We loved Plage Galetas, where we rented a paddle boat for two hours to explore the lake and gorge, and swim.

Les Baux-de-Provence One of the most beautiful villages in France, Les Baux-de-Provence sits between Arles and Saint Remy de Provence. This medieval village rests atop the hill within the Regional Park of the Alpilles, and offers charming store fronts, scenic terraces, and delicious local cuisine. We stayed one night at the bottom of the village at the 4-star Benvengudo.

Valensole Plateau and Moustiers-Sainte-Marie See above under lavendar fields. Moustiers-Sainte-Marie is a great stop for a late lunch after a long morning on the D6 and D8 visiting the lavender. Stay overnight night here and then head into the Parc Naturel regional du Verdon the next day to visit the Gorges du Verdon.

STAY

Make the most of a visit to the region by road-tripping and staying in a few places. We would recommend overnight stays in some combination of Arles, Moustiers-Sainte-Marie, La Palud-sur-Verdon and Draguignan. Choose a well-reviewed French bed and breakfast for a truly delightful experience with local jams and marmalades, and homemade baguettes and pastries.

We adored our overnight at Bastide des Selves, a quiet country retreat a few miles outside of in Draguignan. Run by a local couple, this small B&B has four spectacularly decorated rooms and serves up a delicious breakfast. We would come back to use Bastide as a base for a longer visit to enjoy the region’s wineries, the nearby Parc Naturel regional du Verdon and beaches of the Côte d'Azur. Both are approximately 40 minutes away by car.

LOCATIONS NEARBY