Adventures await by rail and sea.
With Christmas a distant memory and the cold, dark days continuing to stretch out ahead, a lot of us will be thinking about escaping to sunnier climes this summer. And for many of us, in the past that meant hopping on a plane.
But a week in the sun comes with a hefty environmental price. Return flights for a family of four to Florida, for example, pump more than nine tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere – that’s the same as charging nearly 1.15 million smartphones! Meanwhile, new research from The Guardian shows that taking even a relatively short flight – to Rome, say – produces a carbon footprint (234kg of CO2) bigger than that created by citizens in some countries for an entire year. The aviation sector is one of the fastest-growing polluters, and emissions from this sector could triple in the next three decades.
So what’s the solution? Do we all just stay at home and be content with an annual jolly to Bognor Regis? Nope. There are loads of sun-drenched holiday spots to be reached without having to fly – and some of them might surprise you!
If you’re after a little glitz and glamour as part of your well-earned break away, look no further than the South of France. The playground of the rich and famous, this sunny cosmopolitan region boasts some of the most fabulous shopping, nightlife and restaurants in the world – with ocean-side celeb spotting to boot.
And it’s extremely easy to get there. Take the Eurostar to Lille or Paris and then let the TGV whisk you all the way to Marseilles and along the coast.
If you’re more of a culture vulture, Portugal’s capital of Lisbon is a must-visit. Here, cobbled alleyways, ancient ruins and gothic cathedrals sit nestled among rolling hillsides, vast Atlantic coastlines and smaller, character-packed towns and villages bursting with Portuguese colour – all waiting to be explored.
Lisbon can be easily reached via Europe’s comprehensive network of trains, and, seat61.com does a fantastic job of answering every question you might have about this way of travelling. Alternatively, if you’d like the independence of your own wheels, take your car (or hire one) and hop on a ferry to France or Spain, then road trip your way down to the Portuguese city.
Roman relics, sun-seekers and party people, Italy’s Rimini is a lively resort town for pleasure seekers that are also in the market for some history and culture. While often bypassed by tourists heading for Bologna or Florence, this seaside town is a hit with staycationing Italians, so expect to be immersed in authentic Italian life.
Again, hop on the Eurostar and once in France connect to Europe’s sprawling network of clean, comfortable and reasonably-priced trains. You’ll only need to make one change after Paris – at Porta Susa – and then it’s onwards to Rimini in a total journey time of under 14 hours. Rome2Rio lays out the details.
Greece almost certainly isn’t the first destination you think of if asked to consider a no-fly holiday, but there’s no reason why it shouldn’t be. With ancient sun-bleached ruins, piercing blue skies, balmy seas and a culture alive with passionate food, music and people, Greece has something to offer even the pickiest traveller.
The quickest, cheapest and most comfortable way to get to Greece from London without boarding a plane can be done in less than 48 hours! Take a morning Eurostar from London to Paris and an afternoon high-speed TGV from Paris to Milan. Stay overnight, then take an air-conditioned Frecciabianca train all along the Adriatic coast to Bari in southern Italy. Modern cruise ferries sail overnight from Bari to Patras in Greece, for the train to Athens.
Read more about getting to Greece plane-free again at seat61.com, a brilliant blog that covers all the nitty gritty of no-fly travelling.
The gateway to Africa, Morocco is a vibrant, colourful country of dizzying diversity. Epic mountain ranges, ancient cities, curious souks and sweeping deserts serve as a breath-taking backdrop to a rich cultural heritage and some of the warmest hospitality you’ll find on the planet.
And it’s not difficult to reach this magical land without setting foot on a plane. Take the Eurostar to Paris, the TGV to Barcelona, and then the high-speed AVE to Algeciras, followed by the FRS ferry to Tangier town. From Tangier, you can access all of Morocco’s major towns and cities via train or (reasonably priced) private transfer. Check out seat61.com’s step-by-step guide to no-fly travel to this Arabian marvel.
The bottom line
Everyone deserves a holiday now and then, and no-one would blame you for wanting to escape the cloudy skies of the UK. But before you book those environmentally-damaging no-frills flights, consider a no-fly destination instead. As demonstrated, you can travel further than you might think, and unlike the several hours you’d spend cooped up on a crowded, stressful flight, the spacious, relaxed journey to these places is an adventure in itself!
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