For many, the words 'luxury holiday' conjure images of fancy hotels, gorgeous weather and an eye-watering price tag. However, that doesn't have to be true - it's possible to find truly lavish vacation destinations that don't break the bank. We'll prove it to you - here are three opulent, but affordable, getaway spots that are guaranteed not to disappoint.
Surrounded by azure waters, Crete is the perfect luxury holiday location for those looking to stick to a budget.
Unlike on the Greek mainland, and many of the smaller islands, most of the delicious produce you will eat during your stay is grown locally. This means that eating and drinking on the island can be done very cheaply - Cretan delicacies include:
- Rabbit and lamb dishes - In most restaurants these are likely to be significantly better value than meals made with imported beef or other meats.
- Gyros - You'll see the typical Greek gyros everywhere on Crete. As well as being very cheap they're a great on-the-go food for busy sightseers.
- Calamari and octopus - While seafood can be more expensive, locally harvested calamari and octopus are a mouth-watering way to keep costs down.
As well as its beautiful beaches Crete is best known for its history, and there's no better place to start learning about this than Heraklion Archaeological Museum in Iraklio. Here you can see how the island developed from the primitive Neolithic period to the decadence of the Roman occupation, for €6 (approximately $10) per person. Across the museum's two floors you'll find treasures such as sarcophagi, jewellery and frescoes from world-renowned sites such as Knossos and Amnissos.
In summer the museum is open between 8.00am - 7.30pm, and in winter between 8.30am – 5.00pm. However, between December and February the closing time is moved up to 3.00pm, and at all times of years the facility opens at noon on Mondays.
For those looking to get real value for money, you can combine the Heraklion Archaeological Museum ticket with a trip to Knossos itself for a total of €10 (just under $16) per person. This grand Minoan palace, which was built in 1900 BC, is the birthplace of the Minotaur legend and a walk through the maze-like ruins will show exactly why. If you don't know about this myth, there's your plane reading sorted!
Often overlooked by Aussies looking to 'do' Europe, Portugal is an affordable country that more than holds its own when compared with more traditional luxury destinations.
Despite being dwarfed by its Spanish neighbour, Portugal shows great diversity - from picturesque hillside towns like Sintra to the expanses of the Douro valley - there are locations to suit all styles of vacation. However, if luxury is the name of the game, here are our recommendations:
Lagos - Situated on the beautiful Western Algarve coastline, there has been human settlement at Lagos for over 2,000 years. As well as still being partly surrounded by Moorish walls, Lagos is home to the longest sand beach in the Western Algarve, Meia Praia Beach, which clocks in at 4 kilometres in length.
Walking the ancient streets down to the shore at sunset will show you why so many travellers fall in love with this town. Other activities include embarking on a dolphin safari or sampling the local viticulture on a wine tour. Regional vineyards offer tours and tastings (often accompanied by traditional tapas) for €20 (around $30) per person.
Alvor - For beach lovers, Alvor is paradise. The expanses of golden sand and glittering waters combined with the traditional white-washed houses look like a picture postcard. The reserved charm of this serene town is the perfect getaway for those looking to avoid the rowdy bars and nightclubs that have sprung up along many of Europe's coastlines.
Top tip - take a relaxing stroll along the elevated walkways in the Ria de Alvor nature reserve. As well as offering fantastic views of the river estuary, this is a great place for bird lovers to spot a myriad of different species.
Like much of Portugal, it's recommended to visit Lagos and Alvor in spring or early autumn. The country's famously long summers often start early and end late, making temperatures more than pleasant at times of year where you won't have to compete with throngs of fellow travellers.
While Cambodia may be best known as a backpacker destination, it's increasingly becoming a favourite for those looking for a luxurious getaway on a budget.
The real draw of Cambodia is its unspoilt scenery. Here you'll find resorts in rainforests, resorts on private beaches and resorts in the mountains, all benefiting from the peace and serenity of their natural surroundings. These are great places to base yourself for your Cambodian adventure.
When it comes to activities, the giant temple complex of Angkor Wat is the jewel in the country's crown. Supposedly the earthly representation of the home of the Hindu gods, the Cambodian kings each tried to out-do their predecessors' additions to the site.
Today, as a result, we are left with what's thought to be the planet's largest religious building. Angkor Wat is open all year round and exploring every corner of this incredible monument will easily take half a day. We advise visiting at sunrise or around lunchtime, when the larger tour groups head off to eat.
The colourful floating villages at Tonle Sap Lake are another must-see whilst in Cambodia. There are various ways to experience these amazing dwellings, and a popular option is a two-hour cruise through the waterborne houses, markets and schools. The lake is only 15km south of Siem Reap, and the best time to go is during the monsoon season when the water levels are at their highest.
Hopefully these destinations have shown you that you can experience luxury without breaking the bank. The next step is to book your trip - get in touch with your local Travellers Choice agent to find out how they can help you devise the itinerary of your dreams.