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Home Travel The Guardian readers’ favorite early summer vacations: from Hamburg to Crete.

The Guardian readers’ favorite early summer vacations: from Hamburg to Crete.

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The main challenge faced in Vejer de la Frontera, south of Cádiz, is reaching your accommodation. It’s at the summit of an imperious hill, and the winding streets designed for horse and cart require pedestrians to press themselves against whitewashed houses when the occasional car bounces along the cobbles. The traditional apartments gaze over expansive plains where low clouds snake down to the coast every day. The town’s long Moorish period (711 until 1248) sees local bars neighbouring hammams and Moroccan restaurants, with tagines and slow-cooked pig cheeks both specialities.
Cameron Smith

We took an early summer trip to Rethymno, Crete, staying at the Veneto hotel (doubles from about €150 B&B) The weather was dramatic and storms at sea brought huge waves to the empty beaches. We navigated tortuous mountain roads with astounding views, spotting birds of prey and offerings of flowers at roadside shrines. Sometimes we stopped for sheep, bells announcing the appearance of a gnarly old shepherd. We walked miles every day, alone, discovering villages, ancient mills, gorges, monasteries and deserted beaches. The museums were open and peaceful, the palace of Knossos was quiet and the surrounding area was full of birds.
Kate Holbrook

Guardian Travel readers’ tips

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Albania is hard to beat in June, just before the summer season begins. The snow has melted in the Accursed Mountains (Albanian Alps), opening the beautiful hiking route between the villages of Valbonë and Theth. The northern city of Shkodër makes a great base, with a fascinating history, and restaurants serving delicious Albanian and Italian food. Further south, the coast is dotted with pristine beaches, some of them only reachable by kayak. Try the fabulous Greek cuisine served in the tavernas of Himarë, or seafood at the Mussel House in Ksamil, near the ancient ruins of Butrint. Your mussels are from the lake in front of you, and lunch for two with wine is about €30, which is expensive for Albania.
Chloe Hutton

We ventured to Damouchari on the Pelion peninsula in central eastern Greece in early summer. The tiny town, which appeared in Mamma Mia, has a harbour and a white pebble beach that makes the water look lusciously turquoise and tempting. The sun shone every day and the sea temperature was perfect. Take a mask and snorkel: the visibility is excellent and there’s plenty to see. The valley behind is steep and full of olive groves, and a short drive up the hill provides plenty of restaurant options. A visit to a 1,000-year-old plane tree in nearby Tsagarada is recommended, as the town square it resides in is beautiful, and there are lovely walks from Damouchari along the coast too.
Layla Astley

Off the southern coast of the Peloponnese is Kythira, an island that’s often overlooked by visitors. You’ll find charming villages, secluded beaches, hiking trails with hidden waterfalls, and stunning views from the Venetian castle in Chora. And the local cuisine is delicious, especially the seafood and homemade cheeses. If you’re looking for an authentic Greek experience without the crowds, Kythira is the perfect place.
Matthew Carter

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Hamburg, one of Europe’s greenest cities, is great to visit in early summer. Walk round the jewel at its heart, the enormous Alster lake and take a tour round the huge port. Walk along the mighty River Elbe and visit the deer park above its banks at Rissen. We used the ferries (included in the public transport ticket) to visit the beautiful area south of the river which has orchards and traditional houses. If there are a few spots of rain, there are plenty of museums where you can learn about tumultuous history of this great city.
Barbara Forbes

Early summer is the best time to visit northern Italy’s lakes. The sunshine, water and snow-capped peaks on the horizon sparkle like jewels that have been cleaned after a long winter. The morning and evening air is crisp and energising while during the day the mercury rises to the mid 20s – perfect for swimming, sunbathing or strolling the lakeside towns, gelato in hand. We had a lovely boat trip for a €15 day pass, starting at Lugano in Switzerland then zigzagging backwards and forwards to lots of pretty villages on the Italian shoreside at a leisurely pace. The boat trips Lakes Como and Maggiore are wonderful too, with day passes offering total freedom.

Early summer in Pisa is just perfect. Beautiful weather and uncrowded sites mean you can wander at will. We stayed in a traditional guest house and walked the city walls. The train from Pisa to Florence only takes an hour. Florence was amazing – every corner we turned brought another incredible building. My daughter and I also enjoyed a day trip to Chianti, San Gimignano and Siena, which is stunning. On our final day we took a hop-on, hop-off train trip to Cinque Terre, enjoying the colourful houses tumbling down the cliffside and a boat trip back to our starting point. Beautiful memories.

The Caminito del Rey, 40 miles north-west of Málaga, offers incredible guided hikes along board walks cantilevered hundreds of feet up along the cliff face, through tunnels in the rocks and across suspension footbridges high above a gorge. Once the most dangerous hike in Europe; it is no less dramatic now that safety measures are in place. Guides gently lead you through the trail giving details of the history of the paths and the flora and fauna along the way. Stunning views the entire 8km culminating in crossing the gorge by suspension bridge and descending to the river below by hundreds of steps. Not for the faint-hearted but still suitable for anyone between eight and 80 years of age. We visited it on an excursion from Seville with Naturanda (from €69).
Elizabeth Hodges

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