No-fly holidays for every kind of traveller

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Whether you just don't like flying or - like an increasing number of travellers today - you're concerned about your carbon footprint, there are plenty of options for no-fly holidays.

Ferries, trains and cars make ideal alternatives to flying, not only because they have a lesser impact on the environment, but also because the experience can be infinitely more enjoyable.

Brittany Ferries flagship, the MV Pont-Aven - photo courtesy of Brittany Ferries
Brittany Ferries flagship, the MV Pont-Aven - photo courtesy of Brittany Ferries

Share the driving with someone and you could take a breezy road trip across the continent, or even spend some time train-hopping around Europe. Forget all those queues and ridiculous luggage rules - whatever your preference, these are the best no-fly holidays for every traveller.

No-fly road trips

If you can share the driving with someone you love, road trips can make the best no-fly holidays. Either pack up your own vehicle (be sure that you've got the right kit for European roads), or hire a car from the likes of Avis, Holiday Autos or Sixt, and the country and continent is your oyster.

Taking the Eurotunnel* from Folkestone or a car ferry from Calais, you're in a prime position for exploring northern France and the Flanders region. Stop off in the city of Lens to get your art and culture fix.

There's the Musée du Louvre-Lens - a smaller, more manageable outpost of the Parisian giant - as well as the Parc Naturel Régional Scarpe-Escaut, complete with tiny chapels and old abbeys surrounded by forests, wetlands and farms.

Crossing the Channel by car on the Eurotunnel Shuttle © Iain Cameron - Flickr Creative Commons
Crossing the Channel by car on the Eurotunnel Shuttle © Iain Cameron - Flickr Creative Commons

Plus, this region of Europe is known for its many fantastic beers. Hop over the border to Mons, Belgium to drink in some traditional pubs, or drive over to Abbaye de Chimay where monks have been brewing trappist beers for decades.

Alternatively, staycation in the UK and take a road trip around Britain's finest countryside. South Cornwall has gorgeous fishing villages and bays perfect for quiet seaside escapes (we love Fowey, Mevagissey and Falmouth), and while the roads are winding, they often curve around to reveal some of the finest sea views in the country.

Or, head to the Brecon Beacons in Wales, where roads traverse gorgeous valleys and you can stop for hikes with glorious views of the undulating landscape.

No-fly beach holidays

Just because you aren't flying doesn't mean you can't make it to warmer climes. There are plenty of ways to have a glorious beach holiday without getting on a plane. Ferries depart from Plymouth and Portsmouth for the northern Spanish coast, with Brittany Ferries mooring in Santander after an overnight journey.

There are a number of gorgeous stretches of soft yellow sand here, from the central Primera Playa del Sardinero to the Playa de Somo across the bay. Head over to Bilbao for mesmerising architecture and artwork at the Guggenheim, and for a spectacular foodie experiences right on the coast, beeline for San Sebastian.

The expansive La Concha Beach, San Sebastian © KSL -
The expansive La Concha Beach, San Sebastian © KSL -

Did you know it's also possible to get to Barcelona without flying, too? From the UK, just hop on the Eurostar from London or Kent, arriving in Paris just two and a half hours later. Then, trains leave Paris Gare de Lyon for Barcelona Sants daily.

Stock up on some good cheese and a bottle of wine in the station and watch the French countryside whizz by as you make for Spain's sexiest coastal city. In Barcelona, you have the best of both worlds: a fabulous wide sandy beach for lazy days by the sea, and in the city centre, a fascinating array of Gaudi architecture and art museums well worth tearing yourself away from the sunbed for.

No-fly city breaks

There are tens of cities in Europe you can visit without having to fly. For starters, the Eurostar now runs direct between London and seven compelling cities, including Paris, Brussels and Amsterdam (which is also served by overnight cruises with DFDS).

We love little Lille - a small but special city with old cobbled streets, picturesque squares and an intriguing cathedral with an almost Brutalist facade. Plus, there's great beer in this Flemish-speaking part of France, too, and plenty of wines on offer from across the country.

Montpellier is another French favourite, with its elegant architecture and graceful boulevards. An exciting metropolis, come here for excellent shopping, lively nights out - the students give the city a young, playful feel - and gorgeous, luxury hotels. Plus, there are some stunning white-sand beaches within a few miles of the centre.

Cosy bar in the centre of the old town of Antwerp © Ekaterina Belova -
Cosy bar in the centre of the old town of Antwerp © Ekaterina Belova -

Branch out beyond the Eurostar hubs, though, and there's a continent of possibility. Antwerp (change at Brussels) is a brilliant little Belgian city for a long weekend.

The city's old town has a medieval vibe, there are some spectacularly cosy traditional pubs with excellent Belgian beers, and to the north of the city the Museum aan de Stroom offers a fascinating look at the region's history, as well as glorious views from its rooftop.

There's beautiful artwork on display at the Rubenshuis, and fascinating fashion exhibits at the ModeMuseum - best paired with an afternoon of window shopping in the city's many boutiques.

No-fly rail holidays

There's something about rail travel that feels romantic. Seeing the city fade away and watching the countryside whoosh past your window has an allure that has captured travellers since the railways began. And in the UK, there are plenty of exciting adventures to be had on the tracks.

Dining car on the Venice-Simplon Orient Express © FORRAY Didier, SAGAPHOTO.COM - Alamy Stock Photo
Dining car on the Venice-Simplon Orient Express © FORRAY Didier, SAGAPHOTO.COM - Alamy Stock Photo

Great Rail Journeys* runs entirely UK-based train trips, exploring hidden corners of the Highlands of Scotland, to fortnight-long grand tours of Britain taking in London, York, Edinburgh and Inverness, meaning you don't have to even go near an airport if you don't want to fly.

But there are adventures abroad too. The Premium Trans-Siberian Express* trip takes you from London, via Berlin, to Moscow, then onto Vladivostok on the Golden Eagle - a luxury train with ensuite cabins and spectacular onboard dining.

Take a Grand Tour of Italy* from Rome to Florence and Venice, by train from London, or even travel overland by train from London to Madrid, then down to Seville and across to Morocco*.

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Lottie Gross

Lottie Gross

Article updated on Friday 15th April 2022 in: Beach City Europe

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