Beat the heat: eight Mediterranean adventures for off-peak travellers

<span>By travelling in the ‘shoulder season’, holidaymakers can avoid summer extremes.</span><span>Photograph: Kosamtu/Getty Images</span>
By travelling in the ‘shoulder season’, holidaymakers can avoid summer extremes.Photograph: Kosamtu/Getty Images

In the height of summer, the Mediterranean positively sizzles, but choose a trip in the “shoulder seasons” of spring and autumn and you’ll find the region transformed.

Visit these eight spots and you can still enjoy endless sun and blue skies, along with local festivals, perfect hiking temperatures and fabulous floral displays.

Magical Malta

Malta is a lovely blend of ancient history, golden beaches and delicious cuisine, with more than 300 days of sunshine a year – ideal for an off-season retreat. Mild temperatures are perfect for exploring the capital Valletta’s baroque architecture, the medieval city of Mdina and the island’s megalithic temples, as well as soaking up the cultural events along Valletta Waterfront promenade in the autumn.

Where to stay
In the east-coast fishing village of St Julian’s, just 15 minutes from Valletta, Hilton Malta offers a beautiful seafront setting, sparkling outdoor pools, a heated indoor pool, and a state-of-the-art spa. There are plenty of dining options, including alfresco lunch at the Aqua Bar. To the north-west of the island, in the seaside resort of Qawra – a great spot for island boat tours – DoubleTree by Hilton Malta has two outdoor pools, and a private beach club (opening in September, for some post-summer sunshine). As well as a hotel bar, there’s a grill and enoteca, with a wide selection of wines.

Captivating Crete

One of the warmest places in Europe year-round and home to wholesome and varied Cretan cuisine, this charming Greek island is ideal in the shoulder season. Hike mountains, gorges and rugged coastline, explore pretty old towns and archaeological sites ranging from the palace of Knossos to Greco-Roman Gortyn, as well as trying raki, the famous Cretan tipple. Visitors in May can immerse themselves in nature with the spring flower festival in Chania – there’s a grand parade with flower-adorned floats.

Where to stay
With sparkling views over Mirabello Bay and just a few sandy steps from beaches and crystal-clear water, Domes Aulus Elounda, Curio Collection by Hilton is a peaceful coastal retreat. Among the dining options, the striking new poolside restaurant offers barbecued meats and exotic salads. Chania Flair Boutique Hotel, Tapestry Collection by Hilton is located by Nea Chora harbour, with a sea-view pool, rooftop terrace and restaurants, bars and shops nearby. Alternatively, escape to adults-only Numo Ierapetra Beach Resort Crete, Curio Collection by Hilton, an exquisitely designed haven set against a mountain backdrop on the island’s south coast, while The Royal Senses Resort and Spa Crete, Curio Collection by Hilton is great for families, with a sparkling private beach, just a short drive to the medieval streets of Rethymno.

Sardinia in spring

Even outside the peak summer months, the golden sands and aquamarine waters of Sardinia are bliss. You can combine quiet beach days with hikes in the verdant hills, in May, June and September. If you visit in May, check out the historical Cavalcata Sarda, with its vibrant horse parade, while September’s Autumn in Barbagia festival showcases wine, food and handicrafts in central Sardinia.

Where to stay
In the north, Sulia House Porto Rotondo, Curio Collection by Hilton offers rustic-chic whitewashed design amid lush green hills, with beaches a short drive away. On the south coast you’ll find gorgeous cottage-style rooms and suites, a private beach and garden restaurants at Baia di Chia Resort Sardinia, Curio Collection by Hilton. Also on the island’s south coast, Conrad Chia Laguna Sardinia is the perfect stay for families with young children – it runs a dedicated kids’ club from April to September, and is also well-placed for award-winning beaches. The newest addition to the Hilton family in Sardinia, Mangia’s Santa Teresa Sardinia, Curio Collection by Hilton is set on the bay of Santa Reparata, perfect for hiking the local landscape before slipping into bliss by the hotel’s infinity pool.

Venice vistas

This lagoon-side city, crisscrossed by canals and sprinkled with palazzos is best explored without the heat and crowds of summer. An out-of-season break gives you the space to savour it all at a slow pace, leaving you to take in the historic wonders at every turn, such as Doge’s Palace, dating from 1340.

Related: Ribollita to risi e bisi: a regional guide to Italy’s cuisine – what to eat and where to stay

Where to stay
Perfectly placed between Venice’s historic centre and its airport, the Hilton Garden Inn Venice Mestre San Giuliano is a contemporary hotel in a quiet location. The hotel’s outdoor pool is perfect for sunny afternoons, while the centre of Venice is just a 10-minute bus ride away. Or, there’s the stunning Hilton Molino Stucky Venice, in a fully restored flour mill on the tranquil shores of Giudecca Island. Just a short boat ride from Piazza San Marco, it offers elegant rooms and the highest rooftop bar in the city, set alongside a pool with a dreamy view.

Monaco marvels

It might be the world’s second-smallest country, but Monaco packs in a lot. Visit in the spring for blooming flowers in its multiple gardens, as well as sporting events such as the Monaco Grand Prix (26 May) and April’s Monte-Carlo Masters tennis tournament. Come autumn, when the sun is still warm, the National Day celebration brings the principality to life on 19 November, and international stars gather for the Monte-Carlo Jazz festival.

Where to stay
Columbus Hotel Monte-Carlo, Curio Collection by Hilton, is a boutique retreat perfectly placed opposite the Princess Grace rose garden, in the centre of Fontvielle. It’s also a short walk to the Prince’s Palace of Monaco. Guests can enjoy some Monte-Carlo glamour at the hotel itself, with an elegant heated outdoor pool and views of the rose garden and the sea from most of the rooms. The airy Tavolo restaurant offers Mediterranean cuisine with seasonal ingredients and there are cocktail classics to sample at the bar.

Algarve adventures

Visiting the Algarve in spring and autumn means enjoying pleasantly warm temperatures, without the summer crowds. Perfect for beach trips or exploring the wonderful coastline by bike or on a hike, it’s also an ideal time to enjoy the region’s many golf courses.

Where to stay
Set in lush grounds in Quinta do Lago, Conrad Algarve is an ideal base for exploring the islands and lagoons of Ria Formosa nature park. Enjoy sunny beach days, a round of golf with a PGA-qualified pro and fine dining at the hotel’s Michelin-starred restaurant, Gusto by Heinz Beck. Set in landscaped gardens with eucalyptus and stone pine trees, Hilton Vilamoura As Cascatas Golf Resort & Spa has six pools to choose from, with cascading waterfalls – there’s also a kids’ club and the impressive 7 Seven Spa with thermal pool.

Blissful Balearics

For a relaxing Spanish holiday, taking in tapas, some vitamin D-boosting sunshine, and salty sea air, visit Mallorca or Ibiza in shoulder season. If you fancy something a tad more active, you’ll find your cycle tribe among the sharp ascents of Mallorca’s Tramuntana mountains, while Ibiza’s calendar is dotted with marathons and triathlons.

Hiking routes on both islands are at their most fragrant with early spring’s blooming almond blossom. In May, explore Ibiza’s Medieval fair, or sample local wines during the wine harvest in Mallorca in September.

Where to stay
In Mallorca, the Hilton Mallorca Galatzo is just a 10-minute drive from the glittering marinas of Andratx and Puerto Portals and 20 minutes from Palma, with palm-dotted gardens and sea views, as well as an outdoor pool, restaurant and bars.

In Ibiza, try The Club Cala San Miguel Hotel Ibiza, Curio Collection by Hilton to the north of the island, which reopens for the season on 25 April. Just 10 minutes by car from the magical sands of Cala Benirrás and only 30 minutes from Ibiza’s old town, the hotel serves up local cuisine at a variety of restaurants and bars. Also in the north of the island is Cala San Miguel Hotel Ibiza, Curio Collection by Hilton – it opens at the end of May and is just steps from the shores of the Mediterranean. Both hotels are adults-only.

Cyprus sensation

Whether hiking the trails of the Troodos massif or spotting sea turtles nesting on sandy beaches, visiting Greco-Roman ruins or exploring the east-meets-west culture of divided capital Nicosia, Cyprus is a delight outside peak summer season. Visit in spring for meadows blanketed in wildflowers, while autumn is ideal for swimming with turtles in the still-warm waters.

Where to stay
A contemporary spot close to the centre of the capital, Hilton Nicosia is ideally located for exploring the old town – tucked within the Venetian walls – and the archaeological wonders of the Cyprus Museum. Retreat back to the cool decor of this sleek hotel, with its lagoon-like pool and spa, and choose between the three distinctive restaurants and two relaxed bars.

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