Secret Europe: 8 off-the-beaten-track stays in our favourite destinations

Photo of Steph MarinkovicPhoto of Steph Marinkovic
By Steph Marinkovic

2 September 20227 min read

Aerial view of the small inland village of Goudi in Cyprus' Polis Chrysochous valley

*Please note: this article is sponsored by our partners at Eliza was here. The links on this page will take you directly to the Eliza was here website.

Imagine joining the crowds holidaying in Europe's top destinations, then sneaking away to your very own secluded spot thanks to your ready-and-waiting hire car, which, by the way, also gives you the freedom to get even further off the beaten track.

Sounds good, right? That’s why we’ve teamed up with new-to-the-UK Eliza was here, a package holiday and car hire provider for travellers seeking unique and authentic experiences away from the tourist trail. So, for your next getaway, late summer escape or some winter sun, try one of these handpicked hideaways in places you’ve never thought to go…

1. Finca Mirador Bandama, Bandama, Gran Canaria

The little-visited northern side of this beloved Canary Island feels a world away from its busy southern shores. It’s where you’ll find rustic charmer, Finca Mirador Bandama. Panoramic valley vistas are the showstopper at this small and friendly stay in the heart of the Bandama wine region, and on a clear day, views stretch beyond the mountains and craters all the way to Fuerteventura.

The chance to disconnect from is a huge draw for this adults-only abode: each of the finca’s three cottages comes with a jacuzzi and private terrace and you’re smack bang in the middle of the protected Parque Natural Bandama. When you’re ready to re-join civilisation, Gran Canaria’s capital, a number of quiet beaches and the traditional town of Teror are all within a 30-minute drive.

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2. Leonidas Village Houses, Goudi, Cyprus

Tiny Goudi is hardly more than a handful of houses nestled together in Cyprus’ Chrysochous valley. It’s quiet in a good way, with a getting-away-from-it-all feel that carries through to the five-strong apartments at Leonidas Village Houses.

All natural stone and rich wooden interiors, this laidback self-caterer is a wonderful base from which to explore the lesser-known sides of this captivating island. The spectacular and remote Akamas Peninsula National Park, where turtles come to lay their eggs and hiking trails are scribbled across the landscape, can be reached in just 25 minutes by car. A string of pebble beaches are even closer at just 10 minutes’ away. History buff? Dive into the past and explore the fascinating ancient ruins of Paphos, around 30 minutes’ away.

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3. Avdou Collection Suites, Avdou, Crete

Deep in Crete’s lush Lagada Valley, at the foot of the Lasithi Plateau, is the historical village of Avdou. Thousands of years of history have been unearthed around these parts – the ancient Minoans have been linked to the area and pretty, frescoed Byzantine churches still fill the village.

While the village itself is old, the Avdou Collection Suites are anything but antiquated. Fourteen modern and oh-so-luxurious villas – all complete with a private pool and terrace – make up this small-scale complex. Luxe touches include an open fireplace and nespresso coffee machine.

If you can be dragged away from your sun-lounger, Avdou is ideal for outdoor adventures. Think horseback riding, paragliding and plenty of hiking trails. When you’re ready to get behind the wheel, get to know eastern Crete’s best resort towns: Heraklion, Malia and Sissi are all within a 40-minute drive from here.

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4. Casas Alberto, San Miguel de Abona, Tenerife

Leave Tenerife’s bustling southern resorts and head for the hills to the lovely San Miguel de Abona, where you’ll find gem of a stay, Casas Alberto. Far from the British-style fry ups and raging all-nighters of nearby Playa de las Américas, this boho oasis is a picture of traditional Tenerife.

Two painstakingly restored houses, which date back over 200 years, are the highlights of this property, as are its orange trees and resident chickens – and you’re welcome to help yourself to fresh eggs and fruit straight from the tree. Be sure to book into the Casas Alberto restaurant for a homemade Canarian meal packed with local organic ingredients.

As a base for exploring the island, it’s a great option. With your hire car, you can reach Teide National Park in around 40 minutes or be lazing on one of Tenerife’s loveliest beaches in under 30 minutes.

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5. Aresti Villas, Agios Dimitrios, Zante

A tranquil haven in the centre of Zante, the charming village of Agios Dimitrios is perfectly placed for secluded vibes without being too far from the action. Watersports hub Tsilivi Beach, the golden sands of Aylkes and Zante Town are all within a 20-minute drive of this remote retreat, and for oenophiles, there are a clutch of wineries in the area. Refreshing Verdea whites and bold Avgoustiatis reds are the local drops here.

Try them during your stay at the Aresti Villas, a sprawling family-owned property that takes in olive groves, vineyards and fruit orchards. The estate has belonged to the same family for some 100 years, and the villas that you’ll see here today were lovingly built from the natural stone of the property’s old mansion. Now, it’s pure luxury. There are 16 villas each with a private pool, gardens and fireplace – though you won’t notice your neighbours thanks to the lush greenery that separates each stay.

Discover Aresti Villas

6. Quinta do Tagus Village, Costa da Caparica, Portugal

Come summer, Lisbon is one of Europe’s busiest cities. Across the Tagus, Costa da Caparica is anything but. Just 20 minutes from the bustle, this riverfront area looks out to Belem and beyond, and it’s where you’ll find the Quinta do Tagus Village.

This modern, five-star sanctuary is easy to love and tough to leave, with airy Bali beds lining a sparkling pool, on-site massages and views of Lisbon many visitors to the city never see. Even the property’s restaurant, which serves up tasty sushi alongside classic Portuguese dishes, takes in the stunning panorama from its spot on the terrace.

Those river views may be mesmerising but turn towards the Atlantic and you’ll find miles upon miles of sandy beaches stretching from Praia da Cova do Vapor all the way to the huge, golden expanse that ends at Praia das Bicas, a 40-minute drive away.

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7. Finca Vista Salinas, La Hoya, Lanzarote

Timanfaya National Park is a Lanzarote legend, and the small town of La Hoya sidles up right next to it – a lucky get for an area that’s so protected only a handful of tours can guide visitors through it. Forget the beaches of Puerto del Carmen and Costa Teguise, this is the Lanzarote of the postcards.

At the modest Finca Vistas Salinas apartments, you’ll get a glimpse of its otherworldly landscape away from the crowds, as well as enjoy far-reaching views of the area's mirror-like salt flats. You’ll also have access to some of the loveliest parts of Lanzarote, with the Charcones natural pools and the five beaches that make up Playa de Papagayo just 30 minutes’ drive away.

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8. Hotel Quinta do Mar, Montinhos da Luz, Algarve

Brits flock to the Algarve for a dose of sun, sea and sand long after we’ve said goodbye to warm weather here at home. But avoid the stretch between Lagos and Albufeira and you’ll discover a different side to this package holiday haven.

Speck-on-the-map Montinhos da Luz, on the outskirts of Praia da Luz, gives you just that. You’ll find the Algarve’s characteristic golden sands still stretching west towards Sagres from here – but with a fraction of the crowds. Continue your journey to the even quieter, wilder beaches on Portugal’s Atlantic-facing coast.

As for your base in this tiny area, clifftop Hotel Quinta do Mar is a good pick. With a lounger-lined pool that overlooks the sea and lush gardens blooming with bougainvillea in the summer, it’s a lovely retreat away from the busy sections of this famous region.

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