As countries start to end their lockdowns and open their borders to international travel again, many of us, who have been stir crazy during the last year of lockdown, are looking to get out and travel. One of the most popular destinations for Americans is the Mediterranean. Mediterranean vacations make us think of tranquil waters, great food, beautiful weather, historical sites, and nature. But Mediterranean vacations also have a reputation for being expensive. Is this reputation deserved? The truth is that it’s more than possible to have an unforgettable Mediterranean vacation on a budget. Here are the top five Mediterranean vacation destinations for travellers on a budget.
5. Menton, France
Considered one of the best-kept secrets in French tourism, this small city in the south of France is an ideal destination for the budget-conscious traveller. Year-round warm and sunny weather make Menton a perfect destination for off-season travel, when hotel prices are lower and crowds are sparse. Not that Menton gets very crowded, even during peak traveling months.
While other travellers flock to more well-known cities like Nice, Cannes, and Saint-Tropez, Menton, which is just 30 minutes away from the Nice airport, is much more secluded. Plus it has something to offer for everyone. From its white sand beaches and beautiful, beachfront hotels, to its historic, Medieval architecture, palaces, and museums, to the mountains and natural beauty that surround the city, Menton has much to offer.
Must see sites in Menton include its world famous gardens, including the Jardin Serre de la Madone, the Jardin botanique exotique de Menton, the Fontana Rosa, and Les Colombières. Plan a day trip to the historic old town, founded in the 13 century, the Palais Carnolès, and the Regional Prehistoric Museum. Stop by Menton’s historic markets to pick up great food and souvenirs. If you happen to be travelling to Menton in February, make sure to check out the Fête du Citron, or Lemon Festival.
4. Samos, Greece
A hidden gem among the Greek islands, Samos is a beautiful destination for anyone looking for Mediterranean vacation destinations that won’t break the bank. Featuring beautiful sandy beaches, picturesque villages, breathtaking landscapes, and incredible food, Samos is a destination you won’t want to miss. Accessible by plane or by ferry, this island has something for every traveller.
For the foodie, Samos has some of the best, most authentic Greek cuisine, seafood, and wine available anywhere in the world. Its beachfront restaurant boasts some of the freshest ingredients and tastiest recipes you’ll ever try. The island is also world famous for its vineyards, and wine production, so you’ll be sure to enjoy high-quality wine at the restaurants and vineyards, if you choose to take a tour.
Samos features a wide array of gorgeous, beachfront hotels and airbnbs that can accommodate guests for as little as $50/night. Choose one hotel for your whole trip, or book a couple of different airbnbs to hop from town to town, to get the full Samos experience.
Spend your whole vacation on the beach and in the world-famous wineries and vineyards, or explore Samos’s natural beauty on the ferry, on diving trips to the local reefs and old shipwrecks, or on hiking expeditions to Samos’s caves, waterfalls, and historic ruins. Samos has something to offer for every traveller.
3. Split, Croatia
When you think of Mediterranean vacation destinations, you may not think of Croatia. But, Croatia has some of the nicest beaches, most beautiful landscapes, best food, and most breathtaking historic sites of anywhere on the Mediterranean. And a Croatian vacation is often more affordable than other Mediterranean vacation destinations. Though you wouldn’t know that by looking at Split.
Split is a historic city in the Dalmatia region of Croatia, which is a beautiful region on the Adriatic Sea, right across from Italy. A former Roman territory that today houses many ancient ruins, including Diocletian’s Palace, St. Domnius Cathedral, and the historic old town, it may be hard for some travellers to believe that they’re not in Rome or Florence when they first land in Split.
Aside from the historic sites, which are more than enough to occupy multiple days of sightseeing, the natural beauty and hiking and biking trails around the city, on the Marjan Hill and other hills in the area, are a must-see. A walking tour around the city and through the harbor can take a full day, and introduce you to some of the best restaurants and wineries in the entire Mediterranean. The cuisine in Split includes amazing seafood and grilled meat, incredible Italian-influenced dishes, and excellent ice cream and coffee.
Split’s world famous beaches, like Bačvice Beach are less than a 10 minute walk from the city center, and are an amazing place to relax and enjoy a drink–especially after a long day of sightseeing.
2. Haifa, Israel
The third largest city in Israel, Haifa is a gorgeous port city in the north of the country. Built on and around Mount Carmel, Haifa has some of the most beautiful landscapes and breathtaking views of any city in the world. From its natural splendor to its historic sites, to its white beaches and blue waters, Haifa has something to offer every traveller.
All the usual historical suspects–Caananites, Persians, Romans, Phonecians, Byzantines, Crusaders, and more–have left their mark on this city, making its historical sites alone more than enough for an entire vacation. Visit the Bahá’í Gardens, which are the holiest pilgrimage site for the Bahá’í faith, and plan a trip to the Cave of Elijah, Stella Maris, the German Colony, the Crusader fortress, Atlit Fortress, and Caesarea National Park.
The coast features beautiful beaches and boardwalks with cafes and restaurants that are open all day and late into the night. Enjoy famous foods such as shawarma and falafel, or excellent shellfish and other seafood. Accommodations are more than reasonable, and Haifa is considered to be a hidden gem among Mediterranean vacation destinations. This is in part because the city had a longstanding reputation for being a serious city, full of workers, with the phrase “Haifa works, Jerusalem prays, and Tel Aviv plays” being commonplace. This reputation is changing, and Haifa is seeing more tourists, but it remains an off-the-beaten-path destination that is perfect for budget-conscious travellers.
1. Antalya, Turkey
A historic city on the beautiful Turkish Riviera, also known as the Turquoise Coast, Antalya is a destination you’ll never forget. First settled in around 200 BC by the Greeks, Antalya has changed hands from Greeks to Romans to Byzantine, Ottomans, and Turks multiple times. The city is covered in ruins from each era, and more ruins are being discovered in Antalya and the surrounding areas every year. Famous ruins in the city include Hadrian’s Gate, Hıdırlık Tower, Aspendos Theatre, Perge, and more.
Getting there is easy, with frequent flights from Istanbul for as low as $50. Once you’re in the city, there are bus and walking tours that will take you to see the major sites, as well as hop-on-hop-off tours if you prefer to go out on your own. With beautiful weather year round, Antalya is always an excellent destination.
The signature foods to Antalya include Turkish classics, like piyaz and shish kofte, as well as Mediterranean dishes served with olive oil, and fresh fish. The restaurants are extremely affordable, with full meals costing around $5-10 and much of the staff of restaurants and the rest of the service industry speak English and provide amazing service.
The city has a vibrant nightlife and the beaches are a must-see, and perfect place to relax, especially after a day of exploring the city and sightseeing.