For most, a holiday in the Mediterranean conjures up images of sandy beaches, glorious sunshine and glistening, turquoise seas… For some, however, a holiday should also include the chance to go beyond the beaches and explore the culture and history of the country you’re visiting. With the breadth of Mediterranean cruises available from P&O Cruises, you’re able to have the best of both worlds.
So to that end, here are three of the more unusual ports of call on some of our Mediterranean Cruises, to highlight the lesser-known gems just waiting to be explored. (For more Mediterranean Cruise deals click here.)
The beautiful city of Kotor…
Located on the coast of Montenegro, the view as you arrive into Kotor will take your breath away. Your cruise ship will sail
through a 17-mile stretch of water which, thanks to the stunning mountains lining either side, has become known as Europe’s southernmost fjord. Be sure to look out for the early morning glow of the sun illuminating the two tiny islands at the mouth of the bay, it’s worth getting up early just to capture this site alone.
Kotor was an ancient trade centre and is now a UNESCO World Natural and Historical Heritage Site; once ruled by Venice, the beautiful architecture of the town has clear Venetian influences. The Old Town has a well-preserved collection of buildings, churches, squares and stone streets, dating back to the Middle Ages.
If you would prefer to go on an organised shore excursion, we have a number to choose from, including the Kotor Walking Tour. This excursion will enable you to get close to the cultural heritage of the city; you’ll visit the Cathedral of St Tryphon and pass by the Church of St. Luke, the Prince’s Palace and Napoleon’s Theatre. You’ll also visit the Maritime Museum and have some free time to explore on your own.
Durres in Albania
Another jewel in the Mediterranean crown has to be Durres. Founded in the 7th century BC, the port became an important merchant centre on the route linking Rome with Byzantium, today however, it is a popular beach resort – the 10.5km beach is the biggest and most visited in the country.
Durres is also a fascinating city of antiquities, museums and theatres. The amphitheatre, dating back to Roman times, is one of the largest in the Balkans and is just one of many interesting ruins you’ll find from this era.
The city is also home to the Royal Villa of Durrës. Built and given as a symbolic gift to King Zog by the merchants of the city in 1926, the palace was used as a summer villa by the Albanian Royal family and remains as a symbol of the Monarchy in the city. After World War II it was used as a government reception building, and its guests include former US president Jimmy Carter, who stayed there during the ’90s.
Nessebur in Bulgaria
This pretty town, located on a small, rocky peninsular in the Black Sea, is made up of narrow cobblestone streets, period wooden houses and medieval churches. Truly picturesque, the rich history of the town dates back two millennia.
The old quarter is UNESCO protected and the ornamental facades of its many beautiful churches decorate the town beautifully. One of the oldest sanctuaries is the Basilica, which dates back to around the 5th century, whilst the most impressive is the 25 metre long Old Bishop’s Residence. The remains of the fortress walls can still be seen and there are also many museums and beaches to explore.
There are several shore excursions available here too; for example, the Nessebur and Folkloric Show tour, the Church of St Sophia and the magnificent church exteriors of St John the Baptist and Christ Pantokrator. You’ll also have some free time to explore before being taken by coach to the Bulgarian resort of Sunny Beach.