The icy blue coast of Mallorca

Planning a scorching hot summer break? Check out our suggestions for August getaways, from beach-laden Mallorca to ancient Matera.

For beach bums

Short haul: Mallorca

Situated in the warm Mediterranean Sea, Mallorca is the largest of Spain’s Balearic Islands. Its blue-flag beaches are lapped by azure waters, golden sands and breathtaking cliff views. Alcudia Beach is the most popular and family friendly of the beaches, where you can lounge all day in the sun and cool off in the shallow waters. Although it gets crowded during the summer, it is also the ideal spot for a half-day catamaran cruise that includes delicious tapas, paella and sangria.

If you want to escape the tourist crowds, head over to smaller beaches like Cala D’en Borgit in the southeast of the island or Cala Llamp Bay in the southwest, where you can explore rocky cliffs and swim in calm waters. Those who prefer to be immersed in the tepid waters should head southeast to Cala Barca Beach, an ideal spot for snorkelling and diving.

Be sure to catch the Sant Bartomeu Fiesta (23-24 August) in the hilltop town of Montuiri. This pagan-like ritual celebrating female fertility features traditional dances from men dressed in brightly coloured costumes, who escort a 'devil' around the streets.

Long haul: Outer Banks, North Carolina, USA

Cape Hatteras-OuterbanksThe tallest lighthouse in America, Cape Hatteras Lighthouse
Creative Commons / bumeister1

Off the coast of North Carolina lies a string of some of the most beautiful sandy beaches on the America's East Coast. With its southern charm and quaint living, Outer Banks is the ideal spot for a relaxing holiday. Hatteras Island is the most popular area and is renowned for its deep blue waters and unspoilt beaches. Avon Beach is favoured by locals; during the day here you can surf, and by night enjoy a picnic beside a campfire and marvel at the picture-perfect sunset.

For a bit of adventure, rent a jeep and explore the unspoilt beaches of Corolla and see the wild horses in the Spanish Mustang Reserve. Must-sees are the area’s lighthouses, among the tallest in America: these include the red-brick Currituck Beach Lighthouse and the black-and-white-striped Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, which are both open to visitors. To escape some of the tourist crowds, hop on a free ferry to Ocracoke Island and enjoy quiet walks, fishing and biking around the village. And immerse yourself in some history at Kill Devil Hills, where you can check out the Wright Brothers National Memorial where the first flight was made in 1903.

For culture vultures

Short haul: Matera, Italy

MateraExplore the ancient town of Matera
iStockphoto / Thinkstock

Relatively unknown to tourists, Matera is one of the oldest continuously-inhabited settlements in history, dating back to the Palaeolithic period. Three hours away from Naples, it is one of eight UNESCO World Heritage sites in southern Italy. The city is known for its ancient town, Sassi di Matera, where extraordinary stone houses and churches have been carved out of honey-coloured limestone cliffs. Stay in one of the city’s several hotels that have been dug into the rocks, like Sextantio le Grotte della Civita, for a unique and memorable experience. Visit the area’s Rupestrian churches, (where monks settled as early as the 7th century) and tour the church of Santa Maria de Idris, where you can walk through a passage richly decorated with 17th-century frescos.

Long haul: Québec City, Canada

QuebecCityTake the funicular to the colourful Upper Town
Creative Commons / David Paul Ohmer

Canada’s Québec City is the only walled city on the North American continent, and is a pocket of cultural riches. Old Québec is a major draw thanks to its European charm and fascinating history; it features a thicket of spires and a web of cobblestoned streets frequented by horse-drawn caleches and boasts charming bistros and a grand copper-roofed hotel overlooking the St Lawrence River. Another alluring landmark is the Citadel, a star-shaped fortress dating back to 1820 that took 30 years to build. Pick up souvenirs at Quartier Petit-Champlain, then climb up the 59 steep steps of the Breakneck Stairs (Escalier Casse-Cou), one of 30 sets of stairs linking the upper with the lower town. Your reward will be stunning panoramic views of the river.

From 7 to 11 August, visitors to the city can take in the SAQ New France Festival, which features an opening parade of locals dressed in costumes reminiscent of the city’s European past that's followed by fireworks and live music.

For adventure seekers

Short haul: Gower Peninsula, Wales

GowerPeninsulaRock climb the cliffs of Gower
Creative Commons / Marcela Guimaraes

With outstanding natural beauty and an unspoilt, wind-swept coastline overlooked by dramatic limestone cliffs, the Gower Peninsula is the perfect spot for adventure lovers. Located in South Wales, the Gower Peninsula offers a string of beautiful beaches – Langland and Caswell are among the sought-after spots for families and surfers. Alternatively, enjoy a private stand-up paddle boarding lesson (that involves standing on a surf board using a paddle to propel forwards), or try your hand at kite surfing or kite buggying.

For a non-aquatic adventure, spend half a day rock climbing or horse riding – the charming hunting lodge turned bed and breakfast, Parc-Le-Breos B&B House, offers visitors either a half- or a full-day of horseback trekking over cliffs and down to deserted beaches for the most incredible views.

Long haul: Natal, Brazil

GenipabuNatalRide the dunes on Genipabu beach
Creative Commons / deltafrut

Natal, the capital of Rio Grande do Norte on Brazil’s northeast coast, is always popular with Brazilians as a holiday spot. So if you want to avoid the crowds, the best time to visit is during the country’s winter months between June and September; the sun shines all year in Natal and average temperatures are a consistent 28°C (83°F).

Natal is renowned for its sand dunes and there's no better way to explore them than by dune buggy: these can be rented at almost any beach or hotel. Genipabu beach is the best for dune bugging; it’s a thrill to ride on these giant roller-coaster-like dunes. But the most famous beach is Ponta Negra, dominated by Natal’s highest sand dune, which is a staggering 120m (394ft) in height. Although it's forbidden to climb it, visitors can still enjoy walking around its trails. If it gets too hot and sweaty, rent a surfboard and ride the waves along the stunning shores. On Thursday nights, be sure to attend the “Forró com Turista” where, for a small fee, you can learn to dance the traditional forró dance amongst the locals.

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