by Ellen Curham
It’s that time of year when holidays are on everyone’s mind. Unfortunately for some, football is also on the minds of many. Places like Spain, Portugal and Italy will be brimming with football fever come June as their teams fight it out for the UEFA Euro 2016 Championship. And if soccer isn’t your thing then bars packed full of loud supporters and a sea of gaudy jerseys can easily put a dampener on your holiday, no matter how hot it is.
If you want to escape the madness then why not head to a hot country that won’t feature in the Euros in 2016? Sun, sea, sand and a complete lack of football fever – sounds perfect!
Greece has previously done well in the Euros, having won in 2004, but this year didn’t make it past the group stages. And while their football skills might be a sight for sore eyes right now there’s plenty of other things you’ll want to see when you’re there.
In Greece you can witness some of the most incredible and important historical sites built at the hands of the ancient Greeks. Head to the antique citadel of Acropolis looking down over the modern capital of Athens and check out these intricate ruins. The city of Athens is also home to plenty of modern-day fun things to do. Although the country has faced huge economic troubles in recent years, the vivacious Greek capital is still home to a big cultural and social scene. Dine al fresco on the streets before heading to a club to dance the night away.
Then, when you’re done exploring the capital, it’s time to hit the beach. One of the top tourist activities in Greece is island-hopping. Greece includes around 6,000 islands, of which 227 are inhabited. Party on Mykonos, Santorini and Ios, relax in Zakynthos, Hydra and Corfu, take in the history of Delos and Patmos and eat delicious food in Crete and Karpathos. Island-hopping allows endless option and with so many choices to keep you entertained, football is bound to be a long-forgotten thought.
Malta may be small in size compared to other European countries, perhaps tarnishing its chances of scoring a spot in the Euros, but historically it has played a huge role. Due to its location between Africa and Europe, it served as a strategic naval base in the past. So much so that it’s the only country in the world to be awarded the George Cross for the part it played in WWII. In the capital, Valletta, you’ll find plenty of interesting museums dedicated to this. The city of Valletta was built by the Knights of St John and is itself a UNESCO World Heritage Site thanks to its fortresses and other 16th-century structures.
However, after a visit to Malta you’ll see that there’s more to this little country than history. To start, there’s the weather—the Mediterranean climate means that temperatures range from the low 20s to mid-30s in June and July. The coast of Malta is rocky and while it doesn’t present the sandy beaches some might expect, it does have spectacular swimming spots and amazing scuba diving opportunities. Take a dip in the sparkling waters of the Blue Lagoon or venture down to Lantern Point, an underwater diving tunnel. Non-football fans will find relief as watersports are the only activity you’ll want to be undertaking in Malta this summer.
Cyprus is another Mediterranean jewel that didn’t make the Euros this year. That’s unlucky for them but lucky for us, as the island is one of the best sun-soaked getaways out there. Interestingly, Cyprus is geographically in Asia but politically considered European. It has a troubled history with fighting between the two main ethnic groups on the island, Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, but violence has subsided in recent years and tourists are generally safe. This has also created a social divide on the island between the Turkish North and Greek South which tourists can experience by simply crossing the border. There are several pedestrian border crossings in Nicosia (Lefkosia), the island’s capital city. Sample Greek or Turkish delicacies depending on which side you are on (both equally delicious), listen to different styles of music and experience the positives of both cultures.
Aside from a melting pot of culture, Cyprus also has some stunning beaches on offer. Nissi Beach boasts world-renowned crystal-clear waters and the surrounding area of Ayia Napa is famed for its party scene while Episkopi Beach near Limassol is slightly wilder and popular with kite-surfers. Whether you’re looking for untamed ruggedness or luxury lounging, Cyprus’s many and varied beaches will give you a welcome break from the Euros this year.
Have any tips on travelling around Greece, Malta or Cyprus? Tell us in the comments below!