Ask the Experts: beach holiday without the tourists

Our panel of Travel Experts return for another week of travel sleuthing, as they step forward, scratch their huge travel-filled brains and come up with answers to your travel related questions. We’ve got our longest standing Expert, Sarah Jones from our store in London’s Covent Garden; South Africa fan Claire Whittington from our store down in sunny Brighton; and our newest recruit Jessica Ambrose, representing the north from our store up in Leeds Vicar Lane.

These lovely ladies are here each week to answer your questions, so don’t be shy – email us with your travel related query, and we’ll put them to the Experts to answer right here on the STA Travel Blog.

So, without further ado, let’s here from this week’s inquisitive traveller – it’s Olivia in Surrey! Olivia, tell us what’s on your mind:

I desperately need to lie on a beach for 10 days! Where can I go that’s not full of the usual package holiday crowd? Olivia in Surrey

A great question, and one that I’m sure is at the forefront of many people’s minds this summer. So, what have our Experts got in mind for Olivia’s beach holiday with a twist? Read on, and find out which destination in Africa ticks all the boxes; where to go sailing in Europe to get the ultimate beach fix; and why Sarah has a double whammy lined up for you this week…

Jessica Ambrose from STA Travel Leeds Vicar Lane says…

If you’re looking for a bit of beach time with a cultural twist, whilst staying away from the package holiday restraints, Olivia, why not check out Zanzibar?

This amazing island has some of the best beaches I’ve ever seen, with crystal clear waters and golden sand and a nice bit of culture thrown in for good measure.

You don't get much more beach paradise than Zanzibar

Flights into Dar Es Salaam start from £578 so you can check out this bustling seaside port and walk around the fresh seafood market (remember to breathe through your mouth!). You can then catch a ferry across to Zanzibar. Alternatively, fly straight into Zanzibar and make the most of your beach time.

Check out the Mnarani Beach Bungalows for your accommodation right on the beach. If you’re looking for something a bit more stylish, try the Z Hotel with their beachside infinity pool and the Re-boot spa.

If you get tired of relaxing on the beach (hey, it could happen!), you can go visit Stonetown and explore the history of this diverse island. The spice tour is definitely worth checking out – you get a guided tour around the plantation and can have a taste of the different spiced teas and fruits.

If you’d like to keep your adventures as close to the sea as possible, then why not try swimming with dolphins? Take a sail in a traditional Dhow boat, or even become a PADI certified diver.

If you’re looking for something to do with your evenings head to a fresh seafood restaurant or hang out at the beachfront bars – they even have full moon beach parties on the island. What more could anyone need?

Claire Whittington from STA Travel Brighton suggests…

Ooh great idea Jess, Zanzibar is an awesome suggestion. However, if I were you, Olivia, not only would I avoid the packge holiday crowd, I would also avoid restricting myself to just lying on one beach and chill out on deck of a sailing ship instead.

So head to Europe’s hottest destination, Croatia, for a relaxing holiday with a difference. Why have one beautiful beach when you could take our 8-day Croatia sailing trip and take in 6 stunning stops. And think of all that sailing time to lie back and top up that tan.

Experience sights like this on a sailing trip in Croatia

With stops in Hvar, Bol and Makarska there will be plenty of “me” time on the beaches, but with a wealth of history and some amazing National Parks to explore.

Your first stop is Mljet where you will spend time in its famous National Park, which has a huge lake just perfect for swimming in (with water warmer than the sea!). Or you can take a boat out to the island of St Mary to visit the secluded Abbey.

Next stop is the island of Korcula where, by day, you can wander round the medieval town and, by night, get to know your sailing mates a bit better, with cocktails at Massimo rooftop cocktail bar, perched on the top of a medieval fort turret with jaw dropping views over the island.

There are plenty of stops along the way where you can cool off by jumping straight from the boat into the crystal clear Adriatic. Throw in a happy hour on board the boat and a stop at the glamorous Dalmatian Coast port of Hvar and you may just be in holiday heaven!

The next day you can hunt for some of the tiny hidden bays where you can spend the day doing absolutely nothing except marvelling at your beautiful surroundings! The final few days will pass in a haze of swimming, relaxing and a Pirate Party (obviously), before you a farewell dinner in Split to say bye to your sea-faring friends. All that’s left to do is head home, relaxed and glowing, armed with plenty of sailing stories to make everyone at home incredibly jealous.

Sarah Jones at STA Travel Covent Garden throws this into the mix…

Awesome suggestions, Jess and Claire! Hmmm, how do I top that…I know, I’ll give you not one, but two potentials for pure, unspoilt beachy goodness for 10 care-free days.

Option number 1 is Sri Lanka. It’s a winning choice for many reasons: its got vibrant culture, rich history, yummy cuisine and an awesome coastal scene. With Sri Lanka’s 1340km coast line (!) and its year long pleasant climate you will definitely find a beach or 10 to relax on.

Sri Lanka Birthday Retreat - Talalla Beach Resort - Sunrise 03

What's not to love about Sri Lanka? | Image by Sistak

We can hook you up with a 7-day beach break in the beautiful Bentota coastal area. Prices start from £340 for the duration in an intimate 14 room hotel called Wunderbar, moments away from lush palms and the ocean. Just the place for a perfect escape from it all.

As Sri Lanka is around the same size as Ireland, it’s very do-able to explore much of the island in 10 days. If you’ve had enough of beach action head inland to Sigirya and marvel at the Fortress in the Sky, an UNESCO World Heritage site and generally pretty marvellous.

Or, for something completely different, what about Albania? Its coastline is one of Europe’s few remaining hidden gems. Adjacent to both the Adriatic Sea and the Ionian Sea, the country offers scenes of beautiful Mediterranean bliss.

Why not rent a car and take a drive down the coast from Vlora to Seranda, home to handfuls of coves and beaches. Dhermi, halfway down the coast, is a great spot as is Ksamil just beyond Seranda.

A plethora of options there, thanks Experts! Do any of the choices above tickle your fancy for a beach escape with a difference? Or perhaps you’ve got a few ideas of your own. Either way, let us know your thoughts in the comments thread below!