Take the ferry to Europe's summer holiday hotspots

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It may be the ideal option for people planning a quick and easy break to France or Ireland from the UK, but ferry travel also allows passengers to visit a host of exotic and perennially popular summer holiday destinations throughout Europe.

From the sun-soaked and scenic coastlines of Spain to the luxurious islands of Greece, the range of ports and countries served by ferry operators ensures that every taste and interest is catered for.

Furthermore, travelling to your destination by sea means you can forget about congested and stressful airports, airline delays and uncomfortable flights and focus on sitting back, relaxing and enjoying your holiday.

Spain

Spain has long been one of the most popular overseas countries for UK travellers, owing to its combination of good weather, attractive destinations, excellent food and culture.

Holidaymakers heading to the country by ferry can explore its north coast, which is home to cities like Bilbao, where visitors can see art exhibitions at the spectacular Guggenheim museum or take in sights including Gothic churches and historic plazas.

People visiting this region can also see the coastal cities of Santander and San Sebastian. The latter is famous for its beaches, with locations like La Concha and La Zurriola highly popular among swimmers and surfers.

One of the benefits of ferry travel is going on holiday with your own car, meaning travellers sailing to the north coast of Spain can plan journeys to cities such as Santiago de Compostela, a World Heritage site and Christian pilgrimage destination in the north-western region of Galicia. Visitors can also drive to the north-eastern coast to see one of Europe's most famous cities, Barcelona, or head south to Valencia.

One of the benefits of ferry travel is going on holiday with your own car

Getting there

The most direct sea services between the UK and Spain are provided by Brittany Ferries. The company operates ferries from Portsmouth to Santander and Bilbao, as well as a route from Plymouth to Santander.

See our UK to Spain, and Spain to UK pages for more details and the latest prices.


Balearics

The Balearic archipelago is comprised of several islands, the largest and most popular of which - Mallorca, Menorca, Ibiza and Formentera - can all be reached by ferry from the Spanish mainland.

Visitors are offered a combination of city and beach experiences in destinations such as Palma, Mallorca's capital and main port. Attractions not to be missed include the spectacular cathedral in the city centre, Bellver castle and the historic Banys Arabs baths complex. Families can head to the Aqualand water park or spend some days relaxing on some of the many beaches along the coast.

Sun seekers heading to Menorca can visit the Blue Flag beaches of Cala Galdana in Ferreries, Arenal d'es Castell in Es Mercadal and Cala en Blanes in Ciutadella. The island also offers attractions such as Salort palace in Ciutadella and Fort la Mola in Mao, as well as activities including golf, cycling and hiking.

Formentera is a good option for holidaymakers looking for some peace and quiet who would be interested in going snorkelling to see some of the colourful marine life found in the surrounding waters, while visitors to Ibiza will find that the island has much more to offer than bars and nightclubs, namely secluded beaches, mysterious coves and beautiful countryside.

Formentera is a good option for holidaymakers looking for some peace and quiet

Getting there

Travellers interested in exploring the Balearics can choose from a range of sea crossings from the mainland. Acciona Trasmediterranea sails to Palma de Mallorca from both Barcelona and Valencia and also provides services to Ibiza and the port of Mahon on Menorca.

Alternatives are provided by Balearia, which operates sailings on the Denia to Formentera, Valencia to Ibiza and Barcelona to Ciutadella routes, among others.


Italy

Just like Spain, Italy boasts a rich mix of culture, cuisine and enviable lifestyle that keeps holidaymakers coming back year after year.

It is home to a varied selection of destinations that are accessible by ferry, such as the island of Sardinia, which seems tailor-made for a luxurious and relaxing summer holiday. People sailing to Olbia will have easy access to Costa Smeralda, a popular coastal area in the north-east that is known for beaches such as Liscia Ruia, Cappriccioli and Romazzino.

Other experiences worth seeking out in Sardinia include seeing the Punic and Roman archaeological sites of Nora and Tharros, and visiting quaint fishing villages and towns like Bosa and Stintino.

Travellers visiting Italy for the first time might be interested in seeing some of its iconic tourist attractions. The ferry port of Civitavecchia serves as the gateway to Rome and landmarks like the Colosseum, St Peter's basilica and the Pantheon.

The world famous Collosseum in Rome
The world famous Collosseum in Rome

Tuscany, which can be reached via the port of Livorno, boasts some of the country's most scenic stretches of countryside, as well as the historic and fascinating cities of Florence, Pisa and Siena.

The ferry port of Civitavecchia serves as the gateway to Rome and landmarks like the Colosseum, St Peter's basilica and the Pantheon

Getting there

Italy and its islands are served by several ferry operators, including Corsica Ferries, which sails to the Sardinian port of Golfo Aranci from Livorno and Civitavecchia on the mainland. Moby Lines also provides a service from Genoa in north-west Italy to Olbia, Sardinia.

Grimaldi Lines sails to both Civitavecchia and Livorno from Barcelona, while companies such as Grandi Navi Veloci, SNAV and Tirrenia provide access to other regions ripe for exploration.


Greek islands

Greece is home to an impressive collection of islands scattered across the Ionian and Aegean seas, which provide enough experiences and activities to keep even the most energetic traveller occupied.

Among the isles worth exploring is Corfu, which offers beaches such as Sidari, Dasia and Kassiopi. Visitors can also check out the Aqualand water park and other attractions such as the palace of Achilleion and the coastal villages of Roda and Lakones.

Ferry passengers can sail to Crete to visit an archaeological museum in Heraklion and see the ruins of the ancient Minoan civilisation in Knossos, as well as other impressive sights like Samaria gorge and the Lasithi plateau.

The ruins of Knossos, Crete
The ruins of Knossos, Crete

Greece's islands offer many more experiences that will add a memorable element to a summer holiday in the region, such as watching the sun set from Oia on Santorini, exploring narrow streets that wind past whitewashed buildings in Mykonos Town and seeing the ancient castles, medieval sites and fortifications of Rhodes.

Greece's islands offer many more experiences that will add a memorable element to a summer holiday in the region

Getting there

Those interested in exploring Corfu can reach the island from the ports of Patras and Igoumenitsa with Anek Lines.

Crete is home to the ports of Heraklion, Kissamos and Chania, which are served by operators including Blue Star Ferries and LANE Lines. Crossings to other summer holiday hotspots in the region are available with companies such as Aegean Speed Lines Cyclades Fast Ferries, Minoan Lines, Superfast Ferries and Endeavor Lines.

Also don't forget that ferries are great for breaks nearer home too as you take your car and carry as much as you like. With great offers on AFerry from companies like Irish Ferries, My Ferry Link, Brittany Ferries and many more, you can find everything you need on AFerry.