11 Charming Fishing Villages for a Different Seaside Holiday

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While you’re unlikely to see much evidence of the tradition now, many of today’s most popular holiday resorts—including Benidorm, Albufeira and Paphos—were once humble fishing villages. If the thought of witnessing local anglers mending their nets or returning with the day’s catch is more your kind of ambience than high-rise hotels and glitzy cocktail bars though, then there are plenty of seaside towns out there where fishing boats still bob alongside strolling tourists…

Tavira, Portugal

 

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The Algarve is dotted with fishing villages turned holiday resorts, but head east towards the Spanish border and you’ll discover somewhere quite different. Tavira is a charming small town set where the Gilão River meets the Atlantic Ocean. It was once a major port for the Algarve, and the petite harbour that remains is still active today—at low tide, you might spot fishermen still searching the shallows for clams.

Years of rich history have left their mark here, from Islamic decoration brought by the Moors to Gothic churches and brilliant blue azulejos tiles. The seven-arch bridge crossing the river is thought to be the first to have been constructed in the Roman period. You’ll find inviting beaches located the other side of the peaceful Rio Formosa lagoon, and you can even catch a ferry to Ilha de Tavira—a 14-kilometre-long sand island which stretches out as far as the eye can see.

Torba, Turkey

 

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Despite being just six kilometres along the coast from bustling Bodrum, tiny Torba retains the feel of a secluded, upmarket fishing village. Set on a sheltered bay, the village consists of a few hotels and restaurants set next to a pebbly beach and marina where gleaming yachts are moored alongside fishing boats. In the evenings, candles flicker as the restaurants serve up freshly-caught seafood alongside other traditional Turkish meze dishes.

This relaxing Mediterranean pocket also offers plenty of potential outdoor activities—you could hike through lush hills cloaked in pine forests and olive groves, then explore the ruins of an ancient Byzantine monastery which overlooks the village.

Calella de Palafrugell, Spain


One of the low-key gems of the Costa Brava is the small fishing village of Calella de Palafrugell (not the same as larger Calella, which is further south). It’s located on the Cap Roig headland and boasts access to several Blue Flag beaches, as well as smaller, enchanting coves, which are all connected by car-free pathways. Take the coastal walk to neighbouring (and also charming) Llafranc, and you’ll pass several fine examples of these bays.

Although the village has become more of a tourist destination over the last few years, it’s still a rather upmarket affair, with restaurants and boutiques filling the traditional whitewashed buildings and the local fish and produce markets still thriving.

Loggos, Greece


Since Greece has 227 inhabited islands and countless notoriously beautiful white-washed villages, finding a picturesque fishing town is pretty easy no matter where you’re staying. We do hear however, that Loggos on the peaceful island of Paxos is particularly charming. Here, the colourful harbour and its pastel-hued houses are home to no more than 200 residents. This number swells in the summer when visitors come here to enjoy the sleepy atmosphere, pretty bays and waterfront tavernas.

Essaouira, Morocco

Essaouira is a fortified town rather than a small village, however it still features an authentic, working port. The grand medina is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and inside you’ll find Morocco in all its unapologetic glory—think narrow alleys, bustling bazaars, spice-laden air, intricate tiled walls and hurtling motorbikes. The beach is broad and windswept and is a mecca for kite-boarders and windsurfers, yet with its lack of shiny holiday resorts, this town remains reassuringly unspoilt…

Boscastle, UK

 

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We can’t forget about the UK’s own fishing villages! There are wonderful examples of British fishing heritage all over the UK, but one exceptionally beautiful stretch of coastline can be found around the tiny port of Boscastle, which is set in a natural harbour on the Cornish coast. So celebrated is this traditional settlement that most of it is now owned by the National Trust. Wander through streets lined with thatched and whitewashed cottages and perhaps dabble in the dark arts at The Museum of Witchcraft and Magic…

El Puerto De Santa Maria, Spain

El Puerto De Santa Maria had the good fortune to be surrounded by Cadiz, Seville and Jerez de la Frontera. With so many famous towns attracting the limelight, El Puerto De Santa Maria has slipped under the radar and remains a quiet Andalucian fishing town.

This is especially impressive when you consider all the things El Puerto De Santa Maria has going for it. It’s the home of Osborne sherry, as well as several other sherry bodegas. The cobbled old town streets are lined with orange trees and hide the delightfully preserved Castillo de San Marcos, which dates from 1264. On top of all this, there are eight golden-sand beaches, including one, Muralla Beach, which is inside the city walls.

Last, but by no means least, there’s the seafood. You shouldn’t miss the experience that is Romerijo restaurant: you choose your fish at the counter and can either take it away or have them fry it fresh. It’s something of an institution in this town; come too late, and you’ll be queuing around the block!

Vernazza, Italy

 

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From afar, the village of Vernazza appears as a collection of colourful buildings, precariously stacked against an impossible cliff face. It’s one of five towns that make up the Cinque Terre National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and as the only one with a harbour, it has been described as one of the truest fishing villages of the Italian Riviera.

To visit is to wander higgledy-piggledy streets, stopping for ancient churches and tiny piazzas. The surrounding scenery is especially dramatic. You’ll get amazing views of the rugged cliffs overlooking cobalt sea on the 19th-century train line, which is pretty much the only way of reaching this inimitable village.

Reine, Norway

 

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If you’re not looking for warmth, just plenty of charm and tradition, then journey north to Reine, which is set on the Lofoten archipelago inside the Arctic circle. It’s a stunning part of Norway, surrounded by stark rock formations and mirror-like waters.

Visitors tend to stay in one of the cheery red fisherman’s huts and take part in activities including fishing (naturally…), whale watching and hiking. Days are neverending in the height of summer, but if you do visit when the sun sets, you may be rewarded with breathtaking northern lights display.

Marsaxlokk, Malta

We’re debating how to pronounce it, but what we do know about Marsaxlokk, which is tucked into a south-east corner of Malta, is that it’s famous for its fishing. Brightly-coloured boats known as luzzus pack out the harbour and most are painted with decorative eyes said to protect the fishermen while they’re at sea. The town has taken on a slightly industrial feel now, but it’s still the place to go in Malta to get a taste of a traditional fishing village—and its delightfully fresh fish! The Sunday fish market draws crowds from across the island.

Latchi, Cyprus

 

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Like many places in Cyprus, the village of Latchi is steeped in mythology. This is where Aphrodite, the goddess of love, fell for her lover, Adonis. The remains of the Baths of Aphrodite lie to the west of the village, which is also the start and end point of the popular walk, the Aphrodite Trail.

But for the most part, day-to-day life in Latchi is simply that of a low-key fishing village. Boats keep the harbour busy, and there are excellent tavernas that provide cosy suppers. The often crowd-free beach is desperately pretty, with warm shallow waters framed by a pine forest, making for an idyllic and authentic Cypriot getaway.