10 alternatives to the busiest destinations

When it comes to our holidays, no track is better than the short hop south to the sunny Mediterranean. But it’s an unbalanced migration – half of this fabled sea remains largely unaddressed.

Like its European counterpart, the African side of the Mediterranean offers golden sands, cities steeped in history and exceptional cuisine. But in Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Egypt, beach crowds are rare. You can have entire stretches of coastline to yourself, lie on beaches devoid of loungers, and enjoy secluded swimming spots with no cliff-jumping queues. The region’s ancient Roman, Egyptian and Greek sites – unlike those further north – are also shockingly under-visited. And locals here are always happy to see new faces, not resentment – as can be the case in places that suffer from overtourism, like Mallorca and Dubrovnik.

In addition, prices in the North African Mediterranean remain reasonable. Luxurious all-inclusive resorts, design-focused boutique hotels, and beachfront villas are all affordable options — and compared to Italy and France, the overall cost of living is low. It’s an obvious answer for vacationers looking to tighten their belts.

Here are 10 attractive destinations on the less heralded side of the Mediterranean that offer all the beauty, history and culture of the more famous half, without any of the downsides.

Sidi Bou Said, Tunisia

With its stacked white buildings and cobbled streets lined with bougainvillea, Sidi Bou Said could easily be mistaken for Santorini. This seaside town is just half an hour from downtown Tunis – making it a perfect option for those who want to combine the city with the beach – and just 15 minutes from its international airport. Flights from the UK usually cost around £120 return, and a new direct route from Stansted has made the region even more accessible.

When you can’t top up your tan, you can shop for Arabic artwork at hassle-free markets, sip rich coffee at seaside cafes, or explore some of Africa’s finest ancient ruins. Among the great names of Antiquity, Carthage, a stone’s throw from Sidi Bou Saïd, rivals Rome and Athens. There are six archaeological sites to visit, including the remains of the baths and villas of the city’s elite.