6 sun-soaked European destinations for the August bank holiday weekend

Aug 11, 2020

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Summer is starting to draw to a close already, but there’s one more long weekend to enjoy before we start wondering how it got dark so quickly again. The August bank holiday is traditionally one of the busiest travel weekends of the year. Many travellers book their trip away many months in advance so, normally, booking just a few weeks before will see you paying sky-high prices for everything from flights to accommodation to car hire.

The COVID-19 pandemic has introduced a whole new set of rules for travelling — there are plenty of places that are off-limits right now. The upside is that there are dozens of countries you can still travel to and unlike other years, you can expect far fewer tourists and cheaper prices. There are some absolute bargains to be had this summer.

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Crete - Courtesy of Shutterstock
Gorgeous Crete — one of the destinations on the list. (Photo by el lobo/Shutterstock)

Related: Flights to some popular European holiday spots are up to 77% cheaper than this time last year

Normally, a list of the best places to travel in August would include Spain and Portugal. I’ve omitted them from this list because, as at the time of writing, both countries are currently on the U.K. government’s do not travel list. For this list I’ve looked for:

If you haven’t booked a bank holiday away, it’s not too late. Here are 2020’s top picks.

Related: 7 August bank holiday long weekend breaks from £18 return

In This Post

1. Cornwall

Staycations are hugely popular this summer, with British travellers keen for a summer holiday, but not quite ready to travel abroad while government advice continues to change. Cornwall really ticks the boxes — there are lovely beaches, weather about as good as you can hope for in the U.K., cute little villages to wander through and plenty of fish and chips.

If you’re heading there from the south-east of the country, it’s quite a trek, whether that is by road or train — you would spend a good chunk of your long weekend travelling back and forth. Fortunately, British Airways has launched seasonal service to Cornwall’s Newquay Airport (NQY) from London Heathrow (LHR), meaning it’s just a very short flight away. As a new route, flights are very affordable right now and don’t forget to check Avios availability, too. As at the time of writing there’s Club Europe availability each day over the long weekend, along with a smattering of Euro Traveller availability.

Cornwall is extremely popular this summer, so ensure you have checked accommodation options before locking in flights as it’s all getting snapped up quickly.

Related: 8 top holiday homes to rent in Cornwall

United Kingdom, South West England, Cornwall, Port Isaac, view of the harbour and the village
Port Isaac, Cornwall. (Photo by David Clapp/Getty Images)

2. Sardinia

Endless sunshine: tick. Beautiful beaches: tick. Incredible food: tick. While Rome or Milan might be a bit much to bear in August, the gorgeous island of Sardinia delivers everything you love about Italy, just swapping the crowds with beaches. The island is huge — it will take you several hours to drive from one end to the other. It’s so big it has multiple airports.

Related: Sardinia: What to know before you go

It’s advisable to hire a car, especially if you only have a long weekend there. Spend days discovering beautiful little beaches, watch the sunset with a spritz in hand, perhaps snacking on a salumi plate of cured meats. Later (Italians do enjoy a late dinner), wander into the little towns and enjoy a quiet, delicious authentic pizza, pasta or both. Being an island there’s also plenty of seafood around.

Related: Capri, Sicily and beyond: Which of the hundreds of Italian islands is best for your summer holiday?

Italy's Spiaggia Rosa translates to Pink Beach (for obvious reasons). Photo by Luca Picciau/ REDA & CO/UIG via Getty Images.
Italy’s Spiaggia Rosa. (Photo by Luca Picciau/ REDA & CO/UIG/Getty Images)

3. Corfu

Think Greece is too far away to travel for a long weekend? The Greek island of Corfu is located closer to the U.K. than mainland Greece, off the coast of Albania — meaning a shorter flight time. You can enjoy all the best parts of Greece in Corfu — quiet beaches and wonderful seafood. While the largest town of “Corfu Town'” does not have the white-washed iconic Greek island look of Mykonos or Santorini, you will find a very pretty old town perfect for a quiet, socially distanced wander this bank holiday.

Another great thing about Corfu is the location of the airport to the town. You can literally walk from the airport to your accommodation.

Related: The best ways to get from London to the Greek Islands

Porto Timobi beach, Corfu, Greece. Photo by Alexander Spatari/Getty Images.
Porto Timobi beach, Corfu, Greece. (Photo by Alexander Spatari/Getty Images)

4. Riga

Fancy something a bit different this bank holiday? The Latvian capital has a lot going for it. It has very bearable weather (it rarely rises above the mid-20s in summer), affordable everything and the city is very close to beaches for a refreshing dip if it does feel a little warm.

Riga is not as well known as nearby Tallinn, but having visited both in the past, one after the other, I think I preferred Riga because it was much quieter and more peaceful. You’re unlikely to be battling any crowds there this bank holiday, instead, you can enjoy wandering through a picture-perfect old town and stopping for an astonishingly cheap pint of beer or glass of wine.

Related: UK government adds 5 more countries to travel corridor list

Latvia. Riga. Landscape. (Photo by: Hermes Images/AGF/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
Latvia, Riga. (Photo by Hermes Images/AGF/Universal Images Group/Getty Images)

5. Split

Croatia is an increasingly popular destination, especially Dubrovnik, thanks to Games of Thrones. If you want to enjoy everything Croatia is known for (try the octopus salad everywhere you can), try Split. There’s a pretty port town awaiting your arrival, or else you can catch a ferry to nearby islands.

TPG U.K.’s Daniel Ross has just come back from the island of Hvar, which he absolutely loved. If you want somewhere even quieter and with fewer people for your socially distanced break then try the island of Korcula.

Related: Why you shouldn’t pay to fly Club Europe during the pandemic

Split at sunrise. (Photo by RudyBalasko/Getty Images)
Split at sunrise. (Photo byRudyBalasko/Getty Images)

6. Crete

If you have some annual leave up your sleeve following all those months of lockdown and want to extend your bank holiday trip a little, try the popular Greek island of Crete. It will be a slightly longer flight time than the other destinations in this list, although once you’re there, it’s worth the trip. It’s a big, spread out island with plenty of tiny villages you can stay in and barely see anyone else.

Miles of beautiful beaches, plenty of sunshine and great food and drinks. Crete will usually be very busy (and hot) in August, though with COVID-19 travel nerves, you can expect fewer people than normal.

Related: From Crete to Croatia: 11 best hiking spots in Europe

Lagoon of Balos, Crete, Greece (Photo by Evgeni Dinev/Getty Images)
Lagoon of Balos, Crete, Greece (Photo by Evgeni Dinev/Getty Images)

Bottom line

This bank holiday will surely be a unique one. The usual summer hot spots like Spain and Portugal are now on the government’s do not gravel list, and big cities are probably not ideal for a weekend right now. If you want to enjoy some chilled beach time and not have to deal with crazy crowds, you may have to think slightly outside the box.

Featured image by Paolo Marras/EyeEm/Getty Images

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