After two years of Covid-related postponements, travel organizers are reporting that their clients are determined to go to Europe this summer, creating a flood of bookings that caused some favorite destinations to sell out early. “By March, the Amalfi Coast and Lake Como were already sold out, with prices skyrocketing to keep up with demand,” explains Julie Danziger, Managing Partner at luxury lifestyle and travel firm Embark Beyond. “We’ve never seen anything like this. It’s like the wild west! We are seeing the relentless demand that was in Miami and Arizona these past two years leap to the Mediterranean and clients are starting to panic and take what they can at any price!”
In some cases, though, Embark Beyond travel advisors have managed to steer clients to other spots in Europe that are solid holiday choices, but which have more available and affordable options. Here are five on their recommended list.
Southern Spain “This is the year to do Spain,” according to company travel advisor Sonia Shalom. “There is still great space and Ibiza, with its beach clubs and nightclubs, Marbella and the more bucolic Mallorca really complement each other. With crystal clear turquoise ocean waters, delectable cuisine and rich culture, there’s truly something for everyone—beach clubs, mountain biking, yacht charters, water sports, private food tours, spiritual excursions, tapas classes and historic site visits to name a few.” And for those who want some culture and shopping, stops in Barcelona or Madrid are easily added on the way home.
Where to stay: Shalom recommends Ibiza’s Six Senses Ibiza, which opened last summer, as the perfect antidote for revelers who don’t want to be in the middle of it all; It’s about 30 minutes from central Ibiza and as befits the wellness specialist company, has one of the most beautiful spas in Spain. For those who want to be in the middle of it all, Nobu Hotel Ibiza Bay is the place to stay. In Marbella, Marbella Club is the ultimate old-school luxury resort, while the tucked away Finca Cortesin is set in a sleepy suburb with a next-level Thai spa, acclaimed golf course and exclusive beach club. Mallorca‘s rolling hills are dotted with many beautiful mansions transformed into resorts such as La Residencia, A Belmond Hotel, or Finca Serena; or seaside, the bohemian Cap Rocat. In Madrid, she recommends the Mandarin Oriental Ritz Madrid, the reincarnation of the Ritz Madrid, just across from the Prado Museum.
Slovenia travel advisor Valentina O’Kane recommends this more off the beaten path country as a combination of the best of old-world classic destinations of Italy, Switzerland, and France with spectacular natural surroundings and charming cities. “Despite its tiny size, Slovenia offers beautiful mountains, friendly people, mineral water spas, deep history, unique culture, beautiful lakes and world-class wineries. Active enthusiasts can stay for a week without ever getting bored, with great spots for paragliding, ziplining, bungee jumping, rafting, and adrenaline parks. It also borders and is a short drive to Italy, Austria, and Croatia if you still want to pair it with a more classic European getaway this summer.”
Where to Stay: O’Kane recommends the Antiq Palace in the capital city of Ljubljana for its sense of place and charm, though the new Intercontinental Ljubljana is optimum for anyone who wants the most modern creature comforts. In the countryside, she recommends the charming Grad Otočec Castle Hotel in Lake Krka and the Kempinski Palace Portoroz Istria in the seaside resort town of Istria, which blends Croatian, Slovenian and Italian charm with a Mediterranean flair.
Prague, Budapest, Vienna “There has never been a better time to experience the great Imperial cities of Prague, Budapest and Vienna,” explains travel advisor Kari Angelo. “While so many of our clients are flocking back to the cosmopolitan cities of London, Paris and Rome, there is amazing value and space in these iconic cities. Vienna is one of the most underrated capitals of Europe, and arguably even more elaborate than Paris. Each of these destinations is incredibly different from each other, filled with history, beautiful scenery, unique cultures, food and incredible shopping!” Travelers can also pair them with scenic drives in the countryside through charming villages and past mountain ranges.
Where to Stay: Budapest’s crown jewel is arguably the Four Seasons Hotel Gresham Palace Budapest with a dead-on view of the famous Chain Bridge and an attraction in itself. In Prague, Angelo recommends Augustine, A Luxury Collection Hotel, Prague for its central location below Prague Castle. In Vienna, the luxurious, traditional Hotel Sacher Wien offers the ultimate sense of place in the historical center while the Park Hyatt Vienna offers a more contemporary option within the center, located in a historic former bank building.
Greece This perennial favorite, packed with tourists last summer as the first country in the region to open to international travelers, is always going to be a popular choice. According to travel advisor Katy Link, though, there is still space and with direct flights from Athens to many islands, it’s easy to get away to quieter gems such as Paros, a current favorite. “It is the perfect island for those who want more than stunning beaches, although there are plenty. The island has a gorgeous port town, spectacularly lush mountain valleys ripe for hiking, and the most fabulous local villages with amazing restaurants and boutiques that are totally chic but not the predictable name brands you have in Mykonos.” If travelers want to pair a visit with one to that marquee name island, Santorini or Crete, it’s easily done.
Where to Stay: Link recommends Cosme, A Luxury Collection Resort, Paros, set to open in June beachfront but near the charming, chic village of Naoussa. In Mykonos, the place to be is Kalesma Mykonos, an intimate all-suite, all private pool resort with less than 30 rooms and an ideal haven after being at a bustling beach club or night club. In Santorini, Canaves Oia Epitome combines the island’s famous caldera views with seclusion—not that common in this cliffside location-along with a rugged backdrop of volcanic rock. And in Crete, there is no better value than Blue Palace Elounda, A Luxury Collection Resort, Crete with private pool suites and a host of resort facilities.
Bodrum, Turkey “This beautiful fishing village is an amazing alternative to St. Tropez with vibrant night life in a gorgeous seaside setting, luxury hotels and white sand beaches set along the clear waters of the Aegean,” according to travel advisor Gretchen Chiappa. “The area’s hammams are also incredible as a wellness option. Other activities include an open-air jeep through the pine forest hills of the countryside visiting villages along the way, chartering a traditional Turkish sailboat to swim, snorkel and sightsee or doing a day trip to the magnificents of the ancient city of Ephesus. Then finishing the day enjoying fresh seafood or strolling through the bazaar.”
Where to stay: Couples interested in a party scene stay in the otherwise laid-back Macakizi while families and those looking for a more full-service resort love the Mandarin Oriental, Bodrum. For clients who want the ultimate escape, the secluded Amanruya with a private beach is an ideal choice.