Nazarizal mohammad k5 Z2 Ahn Rw T8 unsplash

On the water's edge - Inspiration

Seek out your own slice of paradise beside, on or in crystal-clear waters, and blend Mediterranean cuisine and cul ture wit h anyt hing fr om surfing to sail ing. By Jo Davey


Once the summer resort for European royalty and celebrities during the war, this beloved fishing-turned-resort town overflows with history and excellent food and is just a 25-minute drive west of Lisbon. On the food front, Cascais’ speciality is small, sweet slipper lobsters, but you can also dine on incredible octopus, fish and other shellfish. Pop into Michelin-recommended Cantinho do Avillez for some contemporary local cuisine in a bright, beautiful setting. But what brings most people to Cascais is the clean white-sand beaches and pristine water, and a bay largely protected from Atlantic winds. With the weather on Portugal’s southern corner wonderful through much of the year, it offers sunshine, surf, calmness and undulating coastline that make it a stand up paddleboarding (SUP) destination for all levels.

Choosing the right spot to paddleboard from over 800km of Portuguese coastline may seem like a challenge, but there are few better places than Cascais, which has the perfect conditions for the sport. Learning to SUP is simple; shaped like a surfboard but far more buoyant, the boards keep you nicely balanced while you find your sea legs. Beginners can start out sitting, gradually learning to kneel and stand before exploring the wider sea. For experts, SUP boards can also be used to surf some of Portugal’s famously fierce breaks. If you’re familiar with paddleboarding and
looking to try something new, book in for a meditative session of SUP yoga, where the two sports are combined into one, on larger boards designed to keep you afloat as you get into your flow.

From the water-lapped quiet of your SUP, you can take in the gorgeous clifftops, speckled with a huge variety of birds, and spot plentiful fish below your feet. Though you can SUP on your own, tours will take you under bridges and on to beaches, to the natural lagoon at Farol De Santa Marta lighthouse, and to the Palácio dos Condes de Castro Guimarães, the town’s iconic pastel-hued castle on the water’s edge. A short hop eastward and you come to Praia da Rata, where the reef breaks the waves and there’s a jetty known for jumping off, if you’re feeling brave. Five minutes further and you’ll reach Parede, a prime spot with long, rolling surf.

Michel silva NNSI22x W3c4 unsplash

Travel Details

Book SUP lessons and hire boards with Surf N Paddle, and stay at Villa Cascais; doubles from £247.


Hanging halfway between Athens and Izmir, Naxos is the largest of the Cyclades, a paradisiacal island group in the shimmering Aegean. It keeps a relatively low tourist profile compared with some of its more famous neighbours like Santorini and Mykonos, but it’s replete with history and culture. Naxos holds jaw-dropping Greek, Venetian and Frankish ruins, as well as traditional Cycladic architecture in pretty seaside towns. The island’s greatest claim to fame, however, is its full self-sufficiency; all food is sourced locally without import. The green and fertile landscape here produces exceptional cheeses, meats, butter, olive oil, spices, honey and potatoes.

Naxos is also small enough to easily combine sightseeing with sport. You’re never far from towns, restaurants, cafés and hotspots, making it ideal for groups with mixed interests and sporting abilities. The island isn’t internationally renowned for wind/kitesurfing, yet it has some of the best winds to ride in the Mediterranean. Loved by locals and those in the know, Naxos is a brilliant spot for skimming and swooping in the sea breeze. But it doesn’t just come down to weather; the most important thing for these watersports is the location – you need a mix of conditions, a forgiving environment free of hazards, and preferably stunning scenery. Naxos combines them all across multiple spots, with strong winds and sunshine all year round. In particular, the seasonal meltemi wind whips across the Aegean from May to
September and on hot summer days, Naxos’ beaches are dotted with windsurfers, its skies sprinkled with colourful kites.

The best winds blow in the west. Naxos Town (also known as Chora) is in the north-west, where the main beach Agios Georgios bustles with surfers and swimmers. Sliding southwards brings you to Laguna Naxos: a protected turquoise lagoon that’s the ideal place to learn. Beginners start on shallow, calm waters before tackling smaller waves to practise jumps. These flat seas are also the best place to speed-sail, but intermediate windsurfers can also cross over the lagoon to the offshore reef for breakers and bigger waves to slalom and loop. Arcing around the green hills of the northwest headland, the west coast has a wealth of surf spots. Mikri Villa beach is a calm, rarely crowded 1.5km stretch with a good mix of free riding, racing and flat waters. Just above, Orkos Beach not only has great kiting conditions but also a live-music beach bar for sinking feet into sands, a glass of kitron liqueur in hand, after a hard day.

Johnny africa cdl JO2q AU unsplash

Travel Details

Book lessons and hire wind or kitesurfing equipment with Ride with the Gods, and stay with sister company Strémma; one-bed villas from £157.


It doesn’t take long to see why so many become enamoured with Gozo. A place of rural tranquility, Malta’s little sister is an island of agriculture and fishing, where local life moves with the seasons. But while Gozo is small, it packs a punch with its sun-bleached panoramas and prehistoric sites.

This peach-coloured spritz off the north-west tip of Malta and the southern coast of Sicily is steeped in mythology and archaeology. Supposedly a legendary island in Homer’s Odyssey, visitors find mystery in its old stone churches, medieval citadels and the phenomenally preserved prehistoric Ġgantija Temples. Villages and towns scattered across lush greenery serve up Gozitan delicacies like sheeps’ milk cheese, pastizzi pastries, zalzett coriander sausages and ħobż biż-żejt – bread, tomatoes, anchovies and cheese – and the zeppoli doughnuts found across both Malta and Gozo.

The place where Gozo really shines, though, is under the surface. Its sparkling waters are home to some of the best diving in the Mediterranean and beyond. Clarity here is striking, with visibility often over 30m, and you can explore caves, corals and wrecks
with ease, regardless of ability. Being so petite means travelling between Gozo’s shore and boat dives rarely takes more than ten minutes – with no time wasted getting to and from sites, visitors get to enjoy more of the island between beautiful descents.

Caves, grottoes, chimneys and sea stacks abound in the sea, with marine life idly mooching between the towering natural formations. Immerse yourself in the popular Blue Hole on the west coast – the Azure Window leading to it collapsed in a storm in 2017, and is now a dive site in its own right – and spot shoals of barracuda and jacks at the Coral Gardens. There are also looming wrecks to discover, such as the old P31 patrol boat off the west of Comino, the three wrecks of Xatt l’Ahmar, and the Karwela, a one-time ferry deliberately sunk to create a submarine park for scuba and sealife alike.

Shutterstock 1182827095

Travel Details

Book individual dives, courses or multi-day outings with Scuba Kings, and stay at Quaint Boutique hotels; doubles from £70.


The colourful port cities and small myrtle-flecked hamlets of Sardinia are home to one of Italy’s most interesting food scenes, so when combined with its national parks and sublime coastline, there are few better places for a summer stay. Its gastronomy paints quite a picture of the island, with regional menus of meats, cheeses and seafood that change with the scenery. Breakfast on pardula pies filled with lemon, ricotta and saffron; for lunch, try the traditional snails that are a local delicacy in the north-west, usually simmered in tomato, garlic and spices. When dinner comes, opt for the Catalan-influenced lobster stew that’s popular in Alghero.

Taking in remote beaches, clear coves and dramatic arches under your own steam is a phenomenal way to work up an appetite. Spreading out in an arc of caves, crags and cliff sides around Sassari, the unbeatable north-west coast takes in multiple national parks like Asinara and Porto Conte and the region is a seaside playground for kayakers who row and rove on the Med. Here, on this 24,000sq km island, kayaking can be a single morning’s excursion or an entire week’s itinerary.

Porto Conte is known for its sandy beaches and sheer cliffs, covering 60km of Sardinian shoreline. To its north, you’ll see Monte Doglia, a smooth slip of hill overlooking the park bay, while to the south, Calich Lagoon is an oasis for seabirds, fish and native plant species. From your kayak, you’ll take in the creamwhite curve of Punta Giglio and the extraordinary pitched ramps of Punta Cristallo, lacquered in Sardinia’s dark green scrubland. A kayak can also bring you to the fluorescent waters and white beaches of Porticciolo, Cala d’Inferno and Cala Viola, where you can shore up and spend an hour bathing in the blistering sun, snorkelling and swimming. These calas, meaning coves, are an ideal spot for laying out a picnic lunch. Some of the more accessible have shops and cafés, where you can pick up ice creams and cold drinks for the onward journey.

Boats are also the best way to get up close to the caves of Capo Caccia, a limestone promontory that looks down to Alghero. Beneath its salmon-hued stone is Neptune’s Grotto, a remarkable cave system of melting rock formations and karst. Over two million years old, these caves stretch for 4km, and visitors can explore a 1km stretch. Inside, you’ll find an uplit stage of stalactites, a vast subterranean salt lake and cavernous rooms.

Staying among the bright terracotta of Alghero is ideal, where each active day ends amid cafés, restaurants and nightlife. Maison Bienestar is a beautiful new boutique hotel set just at the eastern edge of the old town centre, decorated with stylish simplicity, rooms feature stone walls, wooden ceilings and cooling tiles, with city-facing balconies. Enjoy a glass of Alghero Bianco – a semi-dry DOC white from the island’s north-west – in the bar that melds traditional architecture and modern style.

Shutterstock 198556997

Travel Details

Book your sea kayaking experience with Much Better Adventures, and stay at Maison Bienstar; doubles from £150.


White turns to teal then electric blue on the south-west coast of Türkiye, before the ombré of the coast dips and dives towards darker waters, where taut white triangles skim along the sunlit horizon. Göcek, across from Rhodes, is one of the finest places to sail in the Med, the bay between Göcek in the north and Fethiye in the south providing protected, smoother seas ideal for first-timers.

Naturally, a sailing trip in Mediterranean waters involves plentiful opportunities for rock diving, swimming, snorkelling and exploring caves. If you’re lucky, you can spot turtles in the water and perhaps even see them at Ekinçik’s Iztuzu Beach, also known as Turtle Beach, home to hundreds of the creatures during breeding season. Göcek Bay is blessed with glorious sunshine and dependable prevailing winds (force 3-4) well into spring and autumn. After a long day on board learning the ropes, moor up at restaurants only accessible by boat where you can experience Aegean cuisine like döş dolması (stuffed brisket), tarhana soup, and kefal dolma, stuffed fish.

Whether you’re looking to learn, improve or just sit back and let someone else rig, hoist and tack, the Turkish scenery steals the show. Surrounded by the wooded Taurus Mountains, Göcek’s small town is backed by dense pines and dotted with traditional seaside houses. The bay itself curves around 12 unique islands of forests, hills and coves for sailors to weave and wend their way around. One of these is Göcek Island; anchor up and head to its secluded, near-secret beach where you’ll find a small café.

Göcek has been built around sailing, with five world-class marinas and three sailing resorts, so there’s a wealth of experiences to choose from. Weekend visitors can hire yachts or guides for the day, before returning to town to find fresh citrus fruits and bananas at the Sunday market and a shoreline littered with excellent seafood restaurants. But the best way to see this small crescent of Türkiye is on a multi-day trip, where you can get to grips with your boat and get some nautical miles under your belt.

From Göcek, sail to Kapi Creek to spot the influence and ruins of ancient civilisations and rove among olive groves. Then head towards open sea to Ekinçik Limani, where hot springs and Dalyan mud-baths await. At historic Fethiye, visit the bustle of the bazaar, the famous Blue Lagoon and sunken city of Kekova. Further south, Byzantine mosaics and Lycian tombs line the viridian landscape.

Turkey 5 May 280 copy

Travel Details

Book your sea kayaking experience with Much Better Adventures, and stay at Maison Bienstar; doubles from £150.


Ibiza sits undulant and abundant some 90km off Spain’s east coast. One of the Balearics’ two Pine Islands, Ibiza is alive with teeming restaurants, wine-filled bars and traditional foods. But the island is also one of the oldest urban settlements in the Mediterranean’s west. Occupied since 2700BC, Ibiza brims with ancient heritage, such as cave paintings, church-fortresses and Unesco sites. Tradition isn’t confined to its countryside, though. Off the spectacular coast, you can experience one of the world’s most ancient watersports: freediving.

Practised across the globe for centuries, freediving needs no equipment other than your body. This singular sport is as physical as it is mental – it’s about fighting your natural instinct to breathe. In doing so, you strengthen lung and oxygen capacity and increase your fitness and energy. The relaxation and concentration techniques needed also help to lower stress. Although some indigenous people and professionals are able to hold their breath for up to eight minutes under water, beginners have to start out small – and with guidance. Take in Ibiza’s most ethereal underwater scenery with Saltfish, the island’s longest-running freedive school, where Master Instructor David Phillips can coach you from your very first dive up to professional standards.

Experiencing the sea in such a way is entirely unique, with your body and brain honed in the unearthly, isolated blue. Accompanied by the pound of your own pulse, you’ll visit the hazy turquoise glow of Cala Llonga’s underwater Cathedral, the aptly named Cave of Light and the Pillars of Hercules.

With mornings and afternoons dedicated to the sea, spend lunch in Ibiza’s main town at tapas hotspots like Re.Art and for dinner, head to Atzaró hotel’s luxury 13ha estate; its restaurant uses local produce, with many ingredients sourced its own grounds.


Travel Details

Book a freediving experience with Saltfish and stay at Atzaró; doubles from £283.

Get Premium access to all the latest content online

Subscribe and view full print editions online... Subscribe