Three of Europe’s unspoilt havens

Vihula Manor in Estonia © Alamy
Vihula Manor: a sumptuous eco-spa in Estonia

Lahemaa coast, Estonia

Estonia’s Lahemaa coast looks in places “like the aftermath of some wild geological party, its clearings scattered with glacial erratics as big as cars”, says John Gimlette in The Guardian. “The storks (now winging their way to Africa) had left behind great shaggy nests, and everything was dusted in ice.” The stillness in the Kõrvemaa forest to the south, where Gimlette and his family hired snowshoes for a trek, is “mesmerising”.

It’s where Russian tank regiments used to train. Before them came the Finns, leaving their place names, and the Vikings, their loot. But it was the aristocratic Germans, who came as medieval crusaders, staying until 1918, who best left their mark, “embellishing the forest with their outlandish pastel-coloured palaces”. One of the most sumptuous is Vihula. It has its own vodka distillery and collection of Soviet limousines. “After years as a collective farm, it now has a new life, with 73 stylish rooms, an eco-spa and a tempting menu that includes an elk tartare starter.”

Abruzzo, Italy

The Italian region of Abruzzo, east of Lazio and north of Puglia, is synonymous with disaster, says Lisa Fogarty in The Independent. Earthquakes and avalanches have wreaked devastation in recent years. Yet Abruzzo has much to offer. It has “unspoilt national parks, pristine sandy beaches, Roman remains and quiet villages”, and is often described as “the greenest region in Europe”.

Film-maker Walter Nanni leads a project to make Uno Spot L’Abruzzo – a crowdfunded, TV show to explore “the sights and showcase the peerless views of the underplayed region”. “We want tourists to discover a unique place, washed by the sea, with two majestic mountains set just a few kilometres from the beach, and with an ancient food tradition that’s full of flavour”, Nanni tells Fogarty. “A holiday in Abruzzo is one away from tourist traps.”

Surf Club Keros, Greece

Lemnos, Greece

You need to hire a car to explore this beautifully unspoilt Greek island. From the moment you reach Lemnos, “it’s immediately obvious this is not a mass-market tourism experience”, says Johnny Goldsmith in the Daily Mirror. We were staying on the east coast at Surf Club Keros in a safari tent (pictured above) – “more luxurious than it sounds”. There’s air conditioning, internet, private bathroom and decking, for starters, and a range of water sports on offer, such as wind- and kite-surfing.  On the west coast, at the capital, Myrina, there is a castle, built high up on a rocky peninsula. It’s free to visit, and “it’s the perfect place to take a sunset walk”.

There are also restaurants and bars in town, and there’s no shortage of local charm. In fact, in the neighbouring village of Kaspakas, the streets are so narrow, a special slender ambulance is required to navigate them. If it’s relaxation you need, you won’t do better than with a natural hydrotherapy bath at the Therma Spa, near Myrina. The spa has existed for thousands of years, where the water is pumped from hot springs, which, according to myth, were created by Hephaestus, the god of fire. “This lesser-known Greek island is worth a visit before everyone else finds it.”

Huis Ten Bosch capsule, Japan

Become a modern-day Robinson Crusoe

“If Robinson Crusoe holidays are your type of thing, you’ll want to know about a new hotel concept that’s about to take Japan by storm,” says Liz Connor in the Evening Standard. Huis Ten Bosch, a theme park on the edge of Nagasaki in Japan, is to build a fleet of floating hotel rooms to ferry guests around its 39,000 square-metre uninhabited island.

The bubble-shaped GPS-guided “sea taxis” will take their passengers around its unspoilt coast through the night while they snooze, waking up to find themselves in a new spot each morning. Sleeping up to four, and costing around £200 a night, the split-level capsules pack in a compact bathroom and a bedroom with lofty windows through which to watch the world go by.

Merryn

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