Top destinations to explore on holiday

Inspiration, Road trips

Making The Most Of Your Car Hire


For those of you looking for a getaway to ‘get away from it all’, read on! In this post we’re shining the spotlight on some of our more secluded villas – the ones marked on our website as ‘car essential’. These gems are set off the beaten track; perfect if you want to relax and unwind away from the world.

That doesn’t mean however that you’re out of touch from civilisation! With a hire car parked outside your villa, it’s ready to go when you are. You’ve got the freedom to explore all of the wonderful sights at your leisure. You could say this is a holiday when you’re in the driving seat. Let’s take a look at what you could see in some of our favourite destinations…

What to see in Kefalonia


Kefalonia is the Greek Island beauty chosen as the filming location for the Hollywood movie Captain Corelli’s Mandolin. Its inland roads are easy to drive; the lush, green landscape opens up to reveal some of the island’s 300 villages, scattered with medieval castles, churches and beautiful monasteries.

You can take a drive into Fiscardo and enjoy some yacht watching at the marina, or journey out to Mounda Beach, a protected and unspoilt stretch of coastline where volunteers gather from all over the world to help protect the eggs of the Giant Sea Turtles, preserving the hatching sites and providing a safe passage for the turtles to reach the sea.

Other must see beaches are Myrtos, Antisamos, Lourdas and Skala. Last but by no means least, add to your Kefalonia bucket list the Melissani Caves. They have a unique acoustic echo which has inspired many opera singers over the years – try it for yourself!

Where to stay…

Villa Olive Grove, Kefalonia

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What to see in Madeira

madeira old town

To spend time in Madeira without a car would be to miss out on the experience of a lifetime. Organise a trip to the capital, Funchal, and spend a carefree day ambling the Old Town, taking in the architecture and the colourful market. The finishing touch to a wonderful day? Stroll down Rua de Santa Maria to see the fascinating street art made by local artists.

Keep your eye out for a family-owned ‘Sabor a Fado’ – a small, six table restaurant serving typical Madeiran cuisine. Not only will you be served a delicious meal, you’ll be accompanied by the family taking turns at singing fado!

If you drive to the northwest of the island to the village of Porto Moniz you can take a dip in the natural sea water swimming pools, framed by the black volcanic rock. You could also follow the coastal road around the island across the clifftops and enjoy the spectacular views of the Atlantic.

Talking of clifftops, why not visit the Cabo Girão Skywalk? It’s nearly 600m high and is Europe’s highest cliff skywalk – the second highest in the world after the Grand Canyon! Imagine the feeling you get when you walk across the glass floored platform that juts out into the abyss and look down at the sea…

Where to stay…

Villa Casa de Sonho, Madeira

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What to see in Umbria

Umbria Italy

Chocolate! But more of that in a moment. Perugia is Umbria’s capital and is the largest city of the region. Expect to find museums, galleries, churches and palaces galore, not to mention the Duomo. Don’t worry about where to eat either; Perugia is crammed with excellent restaurants, bars, cafeterias and gelaterias. Any jazz fans should make a mental note of July, when the Umbria Jazz Festival takes place.

While you’re touring, there are some towns that you really shouldn’t miss. Assisi is one of the most famous for being home of Saints Francis and Clare, two of the most important saints in Italian history. There’s also Gubbio, built on calcareous stones and called the “grey city” – the most ancient centre of the region. Finally, there’s Todi; this elegant medieval town is one of the most charming cities in Umbria.

For a change of scene, seek out the Marmore Waterfall just a few kilometres from Terni. The Romans created this 165m artificial waterfall to drain the River Velino. The Clitunno Springs are also a favourite Umbrian attraction and run from Spoleto to Foligno for 60km, ending into a tributary of the Tiber. A beautiful nature reserve that has inspired many poets and writers, it was believed that Clitunno the god lived in the waters.

And before we forget, the chocolate! Perugia has its very own chocolate factory where the Perugina Baci chocolates are made. Even if you don’t manage a visit, look out for the shiny blue wrappers wherever you go in Italy.

Where to stay…

Villa Timo, Umbria

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What to see on the Silver Coast, Portugal

Silver-Coast Portugal

The Silver Coast is the ultimate location for relaxing and enjoying nature, while only being an hour from Lisbon. One of Portugal’s treasures, there are miles of stunning beaches to enjoy and wide open countryside perfect for exploring. Dotted with historical towns and villages full of fascinating monuments, it’s also a cultural extravaganza!

To the west of Lisbon and perfect for a day trip is the UNESCO World Heritage site, Sintra. The hilly location really makes for some stunning views of the countryside, the nearby coast and the historic buildings in the area. Walk the streets and marvel at the 19th century Romantic architecture or visit one of the three national palaces. Round off your day with a picnic in the beautiful Serra de Sintra, part of the Sintra-Cascais Natural Park.

For another day’s adventure, a drive along the coast to Nazare will take your breath away as you watch the pros surf the 90 foot waves and perfect supertubos of the North Canyon.

Another very different experience is a visit to the inland town of Fatima, steeped in mysterious and controversial history. 100 years ago three young children returned home after tending the sheep in the hills above Fatima. They said that a lady in white had appeared before them and had given them a message from God. Said to be the Virgin Mary, her predictions have proven to be uncannily accurate and the saga transformed the sleepy village of Fatima into a centre of pilgrimage visited by millions of devotees every year. Watch out for the events planned this year to celebrate the centenary.

Where to stay…

Villa Lisa, Silver Coast

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Top destinations to explore on holiday

Marianne Weekes

Marianne Weekes is a Social Media Executive at James Villa Holidays.

Official family holiday planner and expert map reader, I have guided our family up and...

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