10 amazing car-free villa holidays in Europe
Let’s face it: hiring a car adds a serious complication to your holiday. Firstly there’s the stress of hurtling along motorways and creeping up perilous hills on the “wrong” side of the road, in an unfamiliar vehicle. Then that second glass of a zingy albariño is suddenly out of the question. Finally there’s that nagging sense of anxiety that any slight bump or dent on the chassis could end up costing you as much as your trip.
And this summer, securing a vehicle has become even more stressful than usual. A perfect storm in the car hire market – a combination of the rising number of people travelling, car hire companies reducing their fleets during the pandemic, and a lack of new cars being manufactured – means that holidaymakers are having to fork out considerably more than in the pre-pandemic era.
Research by Which? Travel earlier this year found that the average cost of seven days’ car hire had gone up from £119 in 2019 to £280 in 2022. Among the most eye-watering prices it found were a charge of £734 for a Skoda Octavia hired from Rome and £764 a week for a Ford Escape in Florida. Both those prices were back during the Easter holidays; they are likely to be even higher in the peak summer season.
Hire cars have traditionally come into their own for classic European villa holidays. You land, pack the family into a shiny Seat Leon and potter off to somewhere splendidly isolated, with a sea view, a pool and a supermarket within driving distance. However, with car hire charges suddenly making that look considerably less affordable, it’s time to consider properties that you can stay in without the faff of four wheels.
The selection on this list spans sleek villas just a short walk down to laidback fishing villages and options on car-free Greek islands. Others offer more diversions, set on the outskirts of French wine towns, Dubrovnik or on the banks of Lake Como. Read on for your stress-free no-car summer holiday.
Villa Clarisse, Costa Brava, Spain
This Grand Designs-style villa on the Catalonia coast is perfect for a no-car holiday, sitting just a 10-minute saunter down to the harbour village of Tamariu. A popular weekend escape for wealthy Barcelona residents, its blue flag beach is surrounded by chic cafés and open-air restaurants. Back at the villa, each of the four bedrooms opens out onto a sun terrace that looks over to the pool and pines beyond. You will need to book an airport transfer as Girona is an hour away, or peruse the local bus schedules.
The details: Sleeps seven. From £3,298 for seven nights (vintagetravel.co.uk).
Villa Eugenia, Meganisi, Greece
There’s no need for cars on Meganisi – this diminutive Greek island is only a couple of miles wide. The closest airport is Aktion (which has direct UK flights), and from here you can get a boat transfer directly to the island. Once there, the main harbours of Vathi and Spilia are the places to head for seafront tavernas and there are plenty of secret coves to discover. Villa Eugenia is a plush option with a saltwater swimming pool, sea views and earthy interiors. For a group of up to 30, there are two other villas on the same estate, each with a pool and access to a private beach, a three-minute walk away.
The details: Sleeps 10. From £5,100 for seven nights (fishandpips.co.uk).
Hydra View, Hydra, Greece
Hydra has long had its admirers – Leonard Cohen wrote some of his most beloved songs while living on the Greek island with girlfriend Marianne Ilhen. And who wouldn’t fall in love with an island where the transport is provided by donkeys and water taxis. As the name suggests, Hydra View offers some excellent vistas out to sea and is only a 15-minute walk from the harbour – the main hub of activity. The ferry from Athens takes an hour and a half.
The details: Sleeps eight to 10. From £2,819 for seven nights (theluxurytravelbook.com).
Villa Dubrovnik, Dubrovnik, Croatia
With no motorised vehicles allowed inside the walls of its Old Town, Dubrovnik is a great location for a car-free break. Villa Dubrovnik is a set on a hillside in an upmarket private residential neighbourhood, only a 10-minute walk from the historic centre. Meanwhile, the sandy beach of Saint Jakov can be reached in just five minutes. Guests will enjoy views of Lokrum Island, the City Walls and the harbour from every public room, terrace, balcony and bedroom, including sea-view bathrooms.
The details: Sleeps 12. From £5,748 for seven nights (theluxurytravelbook.com).
Villa St Émilion, St Émilion, France
Villa St Émilion has an unbeatable location, just a short stroll from the vaunted vineyards of its village namesake. After exploring the vines and delights of the mediaeval town, cycle out to the famous wineries of Pomerol and beyond. Back at the house, open a bottle on the attractive open-air terrace, or indeed another spot in the 2,500-square-metre garden. Bordeaux is an easy 30-minute train ride away, with the airport a further 35 minutes.
The details: Sleeps 10. From £9,616 for seven nights (akvillas.com).
Villa Roma, Amalfi Coast, Italy
Though you may have visions of driving along those hilly roads in a vintage convertible, a holiday to the impossibly glamorous Amalfi Coast doesn’t require a car. Villa Roma is just a five-minute walk outside the former fishing village of Praiano, while the coastal bus stop for the likes of Positano, Sorrento and Amalfi is also close by, as is a pathway and stairs leading down to the coast and the pretty beach of La Praia.
The details: Sleeps eight to 10. From £9,455 for seven nights (theluxurytravelbook.com).
Villa Venus, Kalkan, Turkey
Book a villa in the buzzy resort of Kalkan on the Turquoise Coast and no car is required. The modern Villa Venus is set on the hillside above the town’s waterfront and is only a short walk from the beach clubs, bars and restaurants. Balconies and an infinity pool make the most of sea views and the house still has availability in June and throughout September.
The details: Sleeps eight. From £2,088 for seven nights (simpsontravel.com).
Callista, Corfu, Greece
This impressive waterside property is perfectly placed to explore Kassiopi, the largest village in the upmarket northeast of Corfu. The attractive Bataria beach is a short walk away, while there are plenty of shops and restaurants down in the village. If you do want to explore further, why not hire a little motorboat to zip the various coves and old-school tavernas down the coast.
The details: Sleeps eight. From £1,028 per person (based on maximum occupancy) for seven nights with flights included (cvvillas.com).
Villa by Lake Como, Lake Como, Italy
Try a no-car villa holiday in the always-appealing Lake Como, which can be reached in just 45 minutes by train from Milan. Opt for this five-storey traditional villa is set in the little village of Carate Urio, home to a deli plus a few bars. Throw open the wooden shutters in the morning, pick fruit from the garden and take a dip in the pool before heading down to the lake to explore. For keen walkers the Via Verde is a must, an old mule path that runs six kilometres from Laglio to Moltrasio.
The details: Sleeps 10. From £1000 per night (sawdays.co.uk).
Villa Meynot, Duras, Lot, France
Another option for wine lovers in France is Villa Meynot in the Lot region. Set within walking distance of Duras (king of the local wine scene), guests can book tours and tastings at local vineyards and visit the wine museum. The pretty town also has an impressive château and an evening market on Thursdays, where you’ll find local food pop-ups and live music. The villa is a good choice for multi-generational families as there’s a separate self-contained studio for two, plus availability this July and August.
The details: Sleeps eight. From £2,550 for seven nights (vintagetravel.co.uk).
Do you have any tips for travelling without a car? Share yours in the comments section below
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