20 Best: September sizzlers
Summer may be over, but that doesn’t mean the holidays have to end. Pól Ó Conghaile rounds up the best last-minute sun specials — and some early mid-term offers, too
Mobile roaming ... at Lake Garda
Lake Garda is a bona fide Italian treasure; a dazzling, Alpine lake carved into the mountains halfway between Venice and Milan. Hotels here can be pricey, but who says you have to stay in one? Crystal Alfresco specialises in mobile-home holidays throughout Europe, and has a lakeside package using a direct charter to Verona next Saturday.
The 1,500-plot Bella Italia Park comes with a large pool, play areas and direct access to a small beach, and it's just a short drive from all the ritzy fishing ports, jaunty amusement parks and fancy hotels that Lake Garda is famous for.
Details: Crystal Alfresco (01-433 1027; crystalholidays.ie) has this seven-day package, including direct flights to Verona, from €349pp based on September 11 departures.
Apartments... in the Algarve
Irish holidaymakers love to self-cater, and the Algarve is only too glad to oblige. Most apartments here come wrapped up in package holidays, but if you want a little bit more freedom, why not book flights and accommodation separately?
In September, Holiday Homes Direct has special offers on Casa Cian, a two-bed duplex (sleeping four) overlooking Praia da Luz, and 301 Sagres, a three-bed apartment sleeping six in Lagos.
301 Sagres comes with a rooftop sun area and access to resort gardens, cafe, pool and tennis courts.
Details: Holiday Homes Direct (01-284 6653; holidayhomes direct.ie) has Casa Cian from €350 per week, and 301 Sagres from €650 per week. Ryanair and Aer Lingus fly to Faro.
Tropical treats...in Thailand
September is a strange month for long-haul travel, with hurricane season under way in the Caribbean and rains throwing a dampener over many Indian Ocean resorts.
Thailand can be wet in autumn too, but there's an upshot in its ridiculously low prices. This month, Tropical Sky has 14 nights at the five-star Centara Grand Beach Resort in Pattaya (pictured) from just €999pp (the hotel, laid out with a Lost World theme, has direct access to Wong Amat beach). For a twin-centre package, TravelMood has a four-star special featuring two nights in Bangkok and eight nights in Hua Hin from €928pp.
Details: Tropical Sky (01-807 7996; tropicalsky.ie) has this package for selected departures in September and October. TravelMood (01-433 1040; travelmood. ie) departs in September.
Crash out...on the Costa Dorada
Golden beaches and mountain scenery are the selling points of Spain's Costa Dorada, which begins just south of Barcelona along the Catalonian coast. The laid-back fishing villages that once dotted the sandy strands here have long since grown into thumping resorts and theme parks, of course, but look hard enough and you can still unearth the odd hidden gem.
Joe Walsh Tours has a seven-night package in Salou from €329pp, and Home Holidays Direct has three-bed villas at Les Oliveres Beach Resort in L'Ampolla from €600 per week, sleeping seven.
Details: Joe Walsh Tours (01-241 0816; joewalshtours.ie) has this package from September 17. Holiday Homes Direct (01-284 6653; holidayhomesdirect.ie) has villas throughout September.
Kicking back...in Cyprus
Cyprus is a choice sun holiday. Plonked at the end of the Mediterranean, tussled over by Greece and Turkey, and a near-neighbour of Africa and the Middle East, it's an island with a unique identity.
Lastminute.com has a three-star studio apartment in Ayia Napa starting at €639pp, the four-star Elias Beach Hotel in Limassol from €799pp, and the five-star Adams Beach Hotel in Ayia Napa from €1,079pp. In September, Cyprus is still awash in summery sunshine.
Details: Lastminute.com has these packages based on September 12 departures. Concorde (01-775 9300; concordetravel.ie) also has four-star self-catering in Paphos from €574pp.
Magic in... Malta
Fancy a last-minute sun escape with a dollop of culture? Why not make for Malta during the Notte Bianca on September 25? The all-nighter sees all kinds of buildings and events in the historic capital of Valetta open to the public free of charge, with enough music, theatre and dance to keep you going into the wee hours.
Ryanair flies to Malta four times weekly, and the Irish-owned Phoenicia Hotel in Valletta is currently running specials specifically tailored to Irish visitors.
Details: Ryanair has flights from €49.99 one-way in September. The Phoenicia Hotel (00356 2291 1023/4; phoeniciamalta.com/irl) has three nights' B&B plus one dinner from €200pp.
Lazing... in Lanzarote
Lanzarote is the first-choice Canary Island for many Irish holiday-makers, with just the right mix of beaches, landscape and culture (principally, the architecture of César Manrique) to while away the time on a sun holiday.
Departing on September 25, Topflight has seven-night self- catering packages at the Las Lilas Apartments in Puerto del Carmen from €459pps, and seven nights at the four-star Fariones Hotel (pictured) from €799pps. Over mid-term, the Las Lilas Apartments are available from €599pps.
Details: Topflight (01-240 1700; topflight.ie) has these departures from Cork.
Sunshine city break... in Nice
Elton John has a house there. Bono and the Edge live down the road in nearby Eze.
And you could be soaking up the late summer sunshine in Nice too, courtesy of a three-night city break from USIT.
The package includes flights, a three-star hotel and excursions to Eze and Monaco, and prices start at €648pp (customers of USIT do not need to be students).
In Nice itself, after preening along the Promenade des Anglais, don't miss the Matisse and Chagall museums, and of course the old town -- Vieux Nice.
Who says you can't do bling on a budget?
Details: USIT (01-602 1906; usit.ie) has this package available for departures in September.
Savings.. in Santa Ponsa
Santa Ponsa's beaches, amusements and clubs could make for seven sizzling days in Majorca -- and the prices are cheap as chips too.
This month, Falcon has a week for two adults and two children at the Vista Club Apartments from €1,176 (though you might want to check the Trip-Advisor critiques before you travel).
Over the October mid-term break, Joe Walsh Tours has the (more favourably reviewed) Jutlandia Apartments from €1,316. Don't expect luxury. But it could be great fun.
Details: Falcon (1850 946 164; falconholidays.ie) has this offer based on a September 18 departure. The Joe Walsh Tours package (01-241 0816; joewalsh tours.ie) departs October 23.
Fly/cruise... on the Med
Whilst hurricane season can ruffle the feathers of cruise passengers in the Caribbean, September and October are the perfect time to sail the Mediterranean. There's still warmth in the air, prices are lower than the peak summer months, and the ports of call are less crowded. Tour America has a seven-night fly/cruise offer that could suit the mid-term break nicely, sailing from Barcelona on NCL's Norwegian Jade (activities range from waterslides to Nintendo Wii on a two-storey screen) and taking in Monte Carlo, Livorno, Civitavecchia and Palma.
Details: Tour America (01-817 3535; touramerica.ie) has this cruise from €789pp for adults and €699pp for children, departing October 24. Price includes flights, meals and entertainment.
Dreaming of... the Dominican Republic
There are some fantastic five-star deals to be had this autumn, and nowhere more so than in the Dominican Republic, where Sunway has seven nights (all- inclusive) at the Ocean Blue and Sand Golf & Beach resorts from €1,199pps.
From the urban bustle of Santa Domingo to the gated resorts strewn along its Caribbean coast, the Dominican Republic has done a steady repeat business from Ireland over the years, and these two resorts are located about 35 minutes from Punta Cana airport.
Details: Sunway (01-288 6828; sunway.ie) has this package for September and October.
A taste of... Turkey
Turkey has rapidly transformed itself from new kid into old fave in the sun-holiday brochures, thanks to a combo of low prices, Mediterranean coastline and unique culture.
Bodrum (pictured) is always there or thereabouts with package-holiday picks, and Falcon has a seven-night deal featuring accommodation in the Gardenya Aparthotel from €359pp. Set 600m from the resort centre, it's an affordable base within a short hike of the beach and the sights and sounds of Bodrum itself.
Details: Falcon (1850 946 164; falconholidays.ie) has this package for September 16 departures.
Family fun... in Florida
Orlando has a theme park for every day of the week, and autumn brings a very sociable sunshine to enjoy them in.
If your kids can sacrifice a week's school, Tour America has seven nights at the bargain basement Econo Lodge Hotel from €579pp (€2,316 for a family of four). Or, if you can hang on until after mid-term, when prices peak, American Holidays has seven nights at the new four-star Coco Key Hotel & Resort from €495pp (€1,980 for a family of four).
Accommodation can be hit and miss, especially at the budget end, but Orlando is one of the top family destinations in the US.
Details: Tour America (01-817 3535; touramerica.ie) has this package on September 21. American Holidays (01-433 1009; americanholidays.com) has theirs on November 3.
Villas with vision... in Corsica
Coastline is a UK company offering high-end villas, all of which, it says, boast best-in-class standards, private pools and are within easy access of spectacular beaches. Sounds like the makings of a sun holiday all right. In Corsica, Villa I Vaddi, a hillside hideaway near Cala-Verde, sleeps eight at £349/€423 sharing. Elsewhere, the more intimate, vine-clad Bergerie Olivella sleeps four at £495/€600pp.
Details: Coastline (0044 844 557 1020; coastline.co.uk) has these seven-night packages based on September 19 departures. They include return flights from Gatwick.
Cruise the Canaries... from Dublin
Three cheers for Cruise & Maritime, whose Ocean Countess departs Dublin for North Africa in October. The 13-night cruise takes in Plymouth, Agadir, Lanzarote (Arrecife), Tenerife (Santa Cruz), San Sebastian, Madeira (Funchal) and Porto. You have to make your way home from Plymouth, but after two weeks catching rays in the Canaries, that may not seem a big deal.
Details: John Galligan Travel (01-207 6555; jgt.it) has cruises with the Ocean Countess, departing Dublin on October 18, from €1,099pp. Flights home will cost roughly €75 extra.
For long-haul sun holidays, there are those who advise ruling out the risk of wet weather in Southeast Asia and heading instead for the dry, 25-degree averages of Mauritius. And who are we to argue? The pick of Trailfinders' September packages is a seven-night stay at the Veranda Paul et Virginie, a three-star resort boasting two pools, free non-motorised watersports, a PADI dive centre, wellness lounge and a floodlit tennis court (for cooler evening matches). Accommodation is on a half-board basis.
Details: Trailfinders (01-677 7888; trailfinders.ie) has this package from €1,289pp, valid for departures up until October 3. There are no book-by deadlines.
Make the most of.. Mexico
Although it has recovered admirably from last year's swine flu outbreak, Mexico still faces a battle to entice holidaymakers back in volume.
For savvy travellers, that means some great deals, typified by an 11-night offer TravelMood has at the four-star Occidental Grand Xcaret, near Playa del Carmen, from just €1,241pp.
If you want to go for all-out luxury, you can do that too. WeTravel2 has a week at the five-star Secrets Capri Riviera from €1,569pp. Both holidays are all-inclusive.
Details: WeTravel2 (01-240 1788; wetravel2.com) has this package for departures until the end of October.
The TravelMood (01-433 1023; travelmood.ie) package is for travel in November.
That Morocco doubled as Abu Dhabi in 'Sex and the City 2' was one of the worst-kept secrets in Hollywood around the time of the movie's release. It would be a shame, too, if Abu Dhabi hoovers up the girlie getaways inspired by Carrie and Co, because Morocco has raised its game hugely in recent years.
"Exotic, colourful, inspiring, difficult, incredible, unimaginable and memorable," is how Sarah Jessica Parker described the country, which was included on 'Lonely Planet's' Top 10 to Visit for 2010. And departing Septem-ber 25, Lastminute.com has a week in Agadir from €349pp.
Details: Lastminute.com has seven-day packages to Agadir from €349pp (at the three-star Intouriste Aparthotel), €569pp (the four-star Amadil Beach) and €799pp (the five-star Atlantic Palace).
On the cheap... Costa del Sol
Budget Travel is back (albeit under the stewardship of Club Travel), and with it some of the crazy prices we thought were a thing of the past. Among its September specials, Budget has seven nights for two adults and two children in the Costa del Sol from €1,118.
Accommodation is at the reasonably reviewed two-star Las Rosas De Capistrano apartments in Nerja. Other bargains include two adults plus one child in Salou for €760, and in Majorca from €861.
Details: Budget Travel (01-435 0024; budgettravel.ie) has this Costal del Sol package for departure on September 24, Salou on September 21 and Majorca on September 22.
Self-catering...on the Costa del Sol
The global spotlight shone on Marbella recently, when Michelle and Sasha Obama stopped by for a flying visit. The Costa del Sol resort has long been a hit with Irish holidaymakers, of course, and there's no shortage of offers to choose from this month. Colina del Paraiso is a hillside resort located between Marbella and Estepona, with three pools and a children's playground among the facilities.
Selfcatering.ie has three-bed apartments (sleeping six) here from €629, with townhouses also available from €729 and penthouses from €829 per week.
Details: Self-catering.ie (1850 200 236; self-catering.ie) quotes these prices for departures in September. Aer Lingus and Ryanair fly to Malaga.