Ask Simon Calder: the best Mediterranean escapes - Live coverage - The Independent

Ask Simon Calder: the best Mediterranean escapes

Ask our Travel Editor at Large Simon Calder about the best Mediterranean holidays from 1200 BST. Post your questions using the 'Make A Comment' button below or tweet them with the hashtag #AskCalder. This event is now closed, but you can read it as it unfolded below.

  • Hi everyone. We'll be starting at 12, but in the meantime please do post your questions for Simon above and check back later for his answers. Thanks!
    5/9/2011 9:55:36 AM
  • I've booked a budget flight to Palermo, in Sicily. I want to travel around and see Mount Etna and a few other sites. What's the best way to get around? I will be there for six days in August.
    5/9/2011 10:59:48 AM
  • Gazza,
    As the biggest island in the Med, Sicily has a vast amount to see and do – but it’s also a bit of a tricky place to get around. Where railways exist - in particular the wonderful ride around Etna, and down the eastern side - you should take them, but otherwise buses are the way to go; I also hitch-hike a fair bit and have never had any problems. For a different experience, forego the usual guidebook and use The Godfather instead.
    5/9/2011 11:01:34 AM
  • I want to see a few different Greek islands. Could you recommend a good short (7-10 day) mini cruise?
    5/9/2011 11:01:45 AM
  • Alice, the Greek island cruise I took last year - aboard the Thomson Spirit - provided an excellent range of islands for a reasonable price: £750 in mid-August, including flights to and from Corfu, though some last-minute buys paid £200 less. It takes in Corfu, Kefallonia, Santorini and Crete, as well as Piraeus (for Athens) and Marmaris in Turkey (for tax reasons). A great taster, but I must say it missed out my favourites, in particular the gorgeous island of Naxos.
    5/9/2011 11:04:02 AM
  • Hi Simon, is there any cheap way of staying in Ibiza? Having been before I know the hotels are extremely expensive, particularly at peak season. I would want to remain in the livelier districts if possible. Thanks
    5/9/2011 11:04:21 AM
  • Yes, Spicey, there are plenty of cheap ways to stay in Ibiza - but it's more a question of WHEN than WHERE. If you can travel now, or in June, or towards the back end of September, you'll find loads of deals from the big package-holiday companies (notably Thomson and Thomas Cook, which also owns Club 18-30). These tend to be in the east and north of the island, eg in Portinatx (where I found a formidably cheap deal - £50 for a week - with Thomson), but it's a small island and if you've paid a pittance then you can afford a few cabs. But if you're looking for San Antonio in mid August, be prepared to pay a small fortune.
    5/9/2011 11:07:17 AM
  • Ola. Where are the best places in the Med for a driving holiday? I'm looking for beautiful scenery, empty rural roads lots of little villages to explore. Is Sicily the answer? Gracias.
    5/9/2011 11:07:30 AM
  • Manuel, I wouldn't recommend Sicily particularly, because it's so big, but strongly recommend Mallorca and Corfu - so long as you go off season. Both have spectacular terrain and fascinating villages to explore, once you leave the coast. Equally good for mountain biking, by the way.
    5/9/2011 11:09:01 AM
  • I want to take a trip to Crete on my own this Summer but my friends have warned me that some areas might be dangerous for a solo tourist. Should I heed their advice and pick another destination?
    5/9/2011 11:10:01 AM
  • Claudia, the Foreign Office warns that British women visiting Greece that it is "one of the countries with the highest number of cases reported to our Consular staff of British nationals who were the victim of a serious sexual offence. In some of these cases those alleged to have carried out these offences were also British nationals. In many cases excessive consumption of alcohol by either the victim or the offender preceded the incident." Reading between the lines: there is a very disturbing incidence of assault but it appears to be concentrated on big, lively resorts, such as Malia. Many women travel solo entirely safely and happily around Crete and other Greek islands; as anywhere, local advice is your best source of information.
    5/9/2011 11:13:31 AM
  • Hi Simon, I am considering booking a holiday to Malta for the last week in May/first week in June. Is Malta a recommendation, (young couple, mid 20's, not looking to party much, just relax, sun, pool and sights) you can give? I have never been, but heard good things. Thanks in advance!
    5/9/2011 11:13:36 AM
  • Malta is an island for almost everyone EXCEPT those who want to party ... it's got a few good beaches, mostly towards the north of the island; a fascinating capital, Valletta, which is steeped in history and intrigue (check out our latest 48 Hours in Valletta, from last October,; some fascinating sights, such as the old town of Mosta; and easy access to an even more intriguing island, Gozo. Furthermore, you are guaranteed some great prices in late May/early June (though try to avoid coinciding with the half-term holiday). Stay in St Julians for the best combination of ease of access and also for the best range of restaurants.
    5/9/2011 11:18:02 AM
  • Hello, thanks for your time. I'm 68 years old and from Manchester and for the last 40 years my husband and I have been holidaying every year on hotel resorts near the Mediterranean Sea. Sadly last year my husband died while on holiday and I've decided I'd like to explore a different side of the Mediterranean. I want to get away from the English holiday camp atmosphere and explore the area. Is there anywhere you'd suggest I try that will not be disrespectful to my husband's memory?
    5/9/2011 11:18:46 AM
  • Vera,
    The Italian islands should offer a very different experience; outside July/August even Capri is a quiet delight, but for more of an escape from the crowds then Sardinia is probably the answer; a vast and fascinating island that feels sometimes like a distilled version of Italy, and offers mountain scenery and pretty fishing villages in abundance. Even if you see only a fragment (such as Alghero in the north-west or Cagliari in the south), it should provide a valuable escape.
    5/9/2011 11:22:13 AM
  • Hi Simon - I'm thinking of going to Greece at the beginning of August, but I have no idea which of the islands to go to. I'd like somewhere with lovely beaches, not too expensive, with interesting old towns to explore, and not too many tourists. Can you recommend any in particular? Thank you!
    5/9/2011 11:22:29 AM
  • Gosh, Shelley, you're asking quite a lot - it seems to me that the best prescription is a spot of island hopping. Start with a cheap flight to Athens, but don't go into the city - instead, aim in the opposite direction to the port of Rafina. This will give you quick and easy access to the Dodecanese, where you can take your pick from a dozen, including Mykonos, Paros and Naxos - of which my choice for most of what you describe is Naxos, though for pretty towns then Paros delivers, and for beaches make for Mykonos.
    5/9/2011 11:26:30 AM
  • Hi Simon, was a constant visitor to Corfu in the 70's-80's. Last visit was 1990, will it of changed much ? Parts of island were then on slide.
    5/9/2011 11:26:35 AM
  • Dominic, I'm delighted to report that Corfu is actually a much more appealing destination now than in, say, 1975, which is when I first landed. The nastiness north of the capital known as Ipsos has been cleaned up, Corfu Town has never looked better, and many of the mountain villages are as unspoilt as ever. The one thing to watch for: big cruise ships, depositing 3,000-plus visitors at a time at the port just north of Corfu Town.
    5/9/2011 11:28:49 AM
  • Hi Simon, I also have been thinking of Greek Island for a holiday with the family i.e 2 kids aged 7 and 8 but can't seem to find a resort with sandy beaches they all seem to be peebles, am I doing something wrong? can you recommend a place.
    5/9/2011 11:28:58 AM
  • You want great sandy beaches? Go to Spain or Portugal (or indeed Britain). Greek islands, along with Croatian islands, don't deliver. But for a guaranteed good experience for children that age, get a cheap flight to Split in Croatia, take the ferry one hour across to Solta, and make your way to the wooded holiday village in the middle:
    5/9/2011 11:31:38 AM
  • Hello Simon – Which town or side of Santorini is best for this sunset that everyone always going about? Also, which town is best to stay in for a couple in their 50s? You know, stuff to do like eating and shopping but no bloody 18-30 people. Cheers.
    5/9/2011 11:31:56 AM
  • Sunset in Santorini is a great experience - but only in winter, when you won't be jostling for position with ten billion other tourists who join you on the cliff top facing into the volcanic caldera. Come December, you'll have the place to yourself; enough hotels and restaurants are open to sustain a trip, and the sense of wonder at the immense natural calamity is intensified by the absence of other gawpers. Worst time to be there: a day in summer when three or more cruise ships are moored offshore.
    5/9/2011 11:34:39 AM
  • Hi Simon, I'm off to Palermo for a week from this Friday. Can you give me any recommendations of nearby things to see and beaches to go to, either in Palermo or around the area? Also I'm a little concerned about how safe Palermo is after receiving a few warnings, I will probably stay in my hotel at night time for the most part but it is just myself and a female friend travelling, are we likely to be okay as long as we act responsibly? Thanks.
    5/9/2011 11:34:48 AM
  • Palermo is a city that deserves several days of attention: depending on which street corner you turn, it veers from a gracefully decaying Mediterranean city to a refined, sophisticated 21st-century metropolis. In my experience it is a very safe and friendly place to be. If you don't plan to return to Sicily, then you should make for the east of the island, and in particular Mount Etna and the hill town of Taormina.
    5/9/2011 11:38:35 AM
  • Sorry but in your answer to Shelley you mentioned the Dodecanese when you meant the Cyclades (Kyklades) - also August is the most unpleasant time to travel in the islands since the whole of Greece is also on holiday - that said, the islands recommended are great, Naxos being less busy than some others.
    5/9/2011 11:38:49 AM
  • Thanks Colin, you're quite right. And thanks also for reinforcing the recommendation: if you don't HAVE to go on holiday in August, then don't. From crowds to cost, it's sub-optimal!
    5/9/2011 11:39:53 AM
  • Hi Simon, my husband and I wondered about going to Albania on holiday to escape the crowds and in search of walking, clear sea, friendly people and interesting food. We went to a deserted Croatian island Lestovo last year and had a great time and would like something similar. We don't mind basic accommodation and can travel off season. Would be great to know if you think this is good plan or not!
    5/9/2011 11:39:56 AM
  • Albania makes for hard-core travel: it's the one place in Europe where I find I'm not entirely sure or comfortable about what's going on. But for a taster - fly to Corfu and take the ferry across to Sarande for the day to test it out. For the things you're describing: well, the best walk on any Mediterranean island is the GR20 long-distance footpath across Corsica.
    5/9/2011 11:41:50 AM
  • I'm thinking of going to Hyeres and the islands just across from there - it seems Hyeres is a pretty big place with the main town quite a long way from the port .Is this correct, because I think I'd need ot stay in Hyeres as accommodation on the islands is impossible. Also is the ferry crossing expensive - any suggestions/advice welcome.Thanks
    5/9/2011 11:42:40 AM
  • French island hopping is a fine idea, jane, and Hyeres is exactly the place to start. First, get a cheap flight to "Toulon" - whose airport is actually in Hyeres. A cab to the port will cost around €5. From here, the "îles d'Or" are offshore, and the best one to visit is Port-Cros - a national park, which is naturally very beautiful and also has some old ruins of forts and similar. Last time I was there, the single hotel was very much in business, but expensive; the solution is to stay in the old town of Toulon, which has a quick train connection to Hyeres.
    5/9/2011 11:47:36 AM
  • Hi Simon, is there a cheap way to do Corsica as a family that does not involve camping? We had our honeymoon there 15 years ago but are normally strictly giteurs in Normandy budget. We'd love to show the children the Ile de Beaute. Thanks!
    5/9/2011 11:47:43 AM
  • No. I wish I could be more optimistic, but Corsica's problem (or blessing) has always been that it is short of mass-market and therefore cheap-ish accommodation. Looks like Normandy again - though I'm also a fan of the Pas de Calais and the coast of Belgium.
    5/9/2011 11:49:18 AM
  • Thanks for all your excellent questions - sorry I haven't been able to tackle them all. Back again soon for more. Meanwhile, check out the new Saturday i - complete with travel section.
    5/9/2011 11:50:50 AM
  • Thanks for the comments everyone, and sorry we didn't get to all of them. We'll be back next Monday for another live q+a with Simon.
    5/9/2011 11:52:16 AM
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