Bounded by over twenty countries, the Mediterranean Sea fills the void between Africa and the Middle East to the south and Europe to the north. Together with the smaller bodies of water which subdivide it, such as the Adriatic, Tyrrhenian, Ionian and Aegean, the region captures the imagination of millions of visitors each year. Its extraordinary mix of rich history, diverse culture, fabulous beaches and sunny weather attracts tourists in their droves. If you’re planning a trip but need inspiration, we’ve whittled it down to eight adventures you have to experience in the Mediterranean.
Hang Out With the Barbary Apes on the Rock of Gibraltar
If the Straits of Gibraltar are the gateway to the Med then the Barbary apes are its security guards. These furry creatures are usually found in North Africa, but came over with the British garrison. In fact, legend has it that if these primates disappear, the British will leave Gibraltar, which is probably why their less-than-perfect antics are tolerated with good humor. Take photos, by all means, but remember, though they look cute, they bite. Keep a safe distance, don’t be tempted to feed them and stay calm if they decide to use you as a climbing frame.
Explore Venice from the Water
Tucked away in the northern reaches of the Adriatic, it’s hard to think of Venice as a Mediterranean destination, but this unique city was once its most important trading power. A gondola ride is the ultimate way of exploring the city’s canals, but traghetti and vaporetti are budget-friendly alternatives. Tick off major sights like St Mark’s Square, the Doges Palace, Rialto Bridge and islands like Burano and Murano, but allow plenty of time to get lost in the back alleys of Cannaregio, low key Santa Croce and Dorsoduro, once home to the city’s cotton mills.
Drink Mint Tea in Tangier
The ferry from Tarifa in Spain takes just one hour to make the crossing to the Moroccan city of Tangier, but the difference in cultures on either side of the water couldn’t be more marked. Give yourself time to adjust and hole up in one of the many café terraces with a view of the Mediterranean. Order a pot of mint tea and plan how you’ll explore this fascinating and exotic port city as you sip the delicious hot liquid from your glass.
Climb the Towers of Cádiz
The merchants of Cádiz made their fortunes from the sea, hauling cargoes of spice, sugar, silver and tobacco from the West Indies and shipping out oil, wine and textiles from Spain. Such wealth manifested itself in the construction of watchtowers, of which more than 120 remain today. Climb the Torre Tavira for views across the city and the sea beyond. Built in the 18th century, it’s the highest point in the old town and houses Spain’s first Camera Obscura. Objects outside are magnified: from your lofty vantage point you can spy on the city’s oblivious residents going about their business on the streets below.
Explore Roman Ruins Outside of Rome
The Roman Empire once encircled the Mediterranean and many archaeological sites from that period are located within sight of the sea. Book a tour with a specialist company such as Andante Travels and let your expert guide lead you 2000 years back in time to reveal the stories behind grand amphitheaters, streets ridged with cart ruts and homes where the wealthy once commissioned intricate mosaic floors. Carthage, Durrës, Paphos, Arles – you’ll be spoilt for choice by a host of modern day cities whose roots are still firmly in the past.
Walk Dubrovnik’s Historic Walls
An essential port of call for Games of Thrones fans, a stroll along the two kilometers of walled fortifications that enclose Dubrovnik’s characterful old town is a must. Gaze out across the terracotta rooftops to the glittering waters of the Adriatic for one of the region’s most spectacular views. Duck down to the cobbled streets below to reveal centuries-old monasteries, palaces and fountains as well as a liberal scattering of cafés and restaurants perfect for people-watching.
Watch a Volcano Erupt in Italy’s Aeolian Islands
An eruption of Vesuvius wiped out Pompeii and Herculaneum in 79AD and Etna’s caused chaos and heartache to the citizens of Sicily for as long as the island has been settled. But the best show in town is without a doubt that put on almost nightly by Stromboli, in the Aeolian Islands. It’s one of the world’s most active volcanoes, ejecting fountains of lava which, silhouetted against the night sky, are one of the Med’s most memorable sights. Boat tours depart daily from Milazzo in Sicily.
Learn to Sail in the Eastern Mediterranean
To truly experience the Mediterranean, you should take to the water. But don’t be fooled into thinking that sailing on this almost-enclosed sea will be a cinch. While you might expect its waters to be flat as a millpond, winds can whip up the waves to create conditions that will challenge even experienced sailors. Take comfort in the fact that the calmest waters are to be found in the Ionian Sea near some of Greece’s most captivating islands – try Ithaca, Lefkas, Corfu or the Peloponnese peninsula if you’re a beginner.