Mention of Summer in the Mediterranean generally conjures images of endless stretches of sandy beach, hazy sunny days, olive-scented air and sun-kissed skin. And while this all sounds rather dreamy, there is so much more to this glorious corner of the world than just beaches. The historic focus of tourism on the sandy stuff means large chunks of this region remain overlooked by travellers, from its beautiful rolling hills, mountains and volcanoes to charming villages and historic cities. Not to mention that scattered throughout are exquisite relics of past inhabitants, with everyone from the Ottomans to the Romans, Greeks and even Napoleon having had a bite of the (quite delicious) Mediterranean cherry. So if it's on your holiday list this summer, here are a few of our favourite alternative Mediterranean marvels...
Valletta is having something of a moment. A pocket rocket of a historic city with everything from ostentatious palaces to humble churches packed in to just 135 acres of land. There are few places on Earth, let alone in the Mediterranean, that have such a wealth of history crammed into every nook and cranny with Baroque, Mannerist and Neo-Classical influences on display. Valletta is perfect city break territory for anyone with an iota of interest in culture and history. Equally it goes beautifully with a trip to neighbouring Gozo, which is home to some fabulous diving.
The Troodos Mountains, Cyprus
Secluded mountain villages, isolated medieval monasteries and cool, pine-scented air - this is Cyprus but not as you know it. If you're staying on the coast but fancy a day away from the beach, the Troodos Mountains are the perfect spot. Think gentle hiking, picnics in the hills and exploring local villages. The perfect combination.
Sicily is a destination apart both physically and culturally. Although part of Italy, the differences with the mainland are quite striking, from the dialect to the food and the noticeable influence of the island's historic rulers, which reads like a who's who of European imperialism, including Vandals, Greeks and Arabs. Sicily's countryside is also littered with temples, theatres and churches while its cities are furnished with perfectly preserved Norman and Baroque architecture and art.
Mallorca has seriously upped its game in the last few years; gone are the days of its exclusive association with package holidays, now it's all about chic boutique hotels and a more discerning clientele. This Spanish island has beaches aplenty but is also home to some of the finest mountain scenery in the Mediterranean, and plenty of trails on which to explore it. Then there's the delightful city of Palma which has also had something of a revamp, transforming it into ideal summer city break territory.
Italy's second mention, Sardinia, is iconic for the extravagance and exclusivity that pervades along the Costa Smeralda. Yet the rest of the island remains surprisingly untouched, making for a perfect holiday combination of glamour and rusticity (definitely a real word). Head inland to the hills and mountains and you'll find some truly beautiful walking trails, which will feel a world away from the hedonistic luxury of the coast.