From the glamorous French Riviera to the vibrant Spanish Costas, from sun-bleached islands to the romantic canals of Venice: these popular destinations are all lapped by the beautiful blue waters of the Mediterranean Sea.
Starting in the eastern Mediterranean there are pine-clad Greek islands and pristine Turkish beaches which attract throngs of sun-seekers, although the area is equally rich in cultural attractions like ruined temples and ancient fortresses.
For hundreds of years the Venetians controlled the trade routes through here, leaving their distinctive mark on towns like Split in Croatia and Kotor in Montenegro which are all now UNESCO World Heritage sites.
Take to the seas as the Venetians would have done: a Mediterranean cruise is surely the best way to approach Venice itself, a serene city which seems to float atop the waves. With canals instead of streets and gondolas crossing the water instead of taxis, Venice is a beautiful maze which rewards visitors willing to become lost.
Mountainous islands like Corsica and Sardinia beckon with their gorgeous beaches and hilltop towns, but visitors should not pass up an opportunity to visit the Eternal City. Although several miles inland, Rome is reached easily by excursions from nearby Civitavecchia, which is a port of call for several cruiselines such as Royal Caribbean Cruises.
In Rome you can walk in the footsteps of the emperors at the Imperial Forum, join the crowds being blessed by the Pope at the Vatican and see some of the world’s most renowned artworks in sumptuous settings such as the Galeria Borghese. After overdosing on all this history and culture, be sure to sit by one of Rome’s many fountains while enjoying a scoop (or two!) of refreshing gelati.
Further west, prepare to be starstruck by the French Riviera where dazzling Saint-Tropez and glitzy Cannes have long been the favoured hotspots of the jet set. The lavender fields of Provence, perhaps France’s most beloved region, can be reached on Mediterranean cruises from lively ports like Marseille or Toulon.
Barcelona is probably the most welcoming city of Spain and is world-famous for its eclectic architecture, sophisticated cuisine and esteemed arts pedigree. Tree-lined boulevards, an atmospheric old town and miles of beaches encourage equal amounts of exploration and relaxation in the largest city on the Mediterranean’s shores.
Further down the Spanish coast the Mediterranean meets the Atlantic, with Europe and Africa less than ten miles apart. Here, strategic Gibraltar has been a British outpost for centuries and feels like an English beach resort, albeit one whose red telephone boxes sit next to palm trees overshadowed by the distinctive arch of a mountain simply called The Rock. Reached by cable car, the top of The Rock is a playground for Barbary apes. The stunning views of Morocco and the open ocean beyond make visitors realise why ancient sailors feared they had reached the end of the world. These days it’s smooth sailing wherever your Mediterranean odyssey takes you.