Rural accommodations map & highlights

Rural accommodations are champions of the countryside; opening up access to hiking and biking trails, showcasing local produce and bringing rural culture into the spotlight. You might prefer to hang out in a hammock with a book – in that case go wild - rural accommodations inspire that kind of freedom. It’s your choice to run, to play, to hike, or to simply relax. And for families, that freedom is unforgettable. Wherever you travel, by going rural you’ll also be supporting small local businesses, farmers and producers, creating much needed opportunities for jobs in rural areas. And by helping people stay in rural villages rather than leaving for towns and cities you’ll be contributing – in a small – way to maintaining rural culture and traditions.

1. Crete

Forget the beaches (although you’ll never be that far from the coast), stays in rural Crete take you into the heartland of its heavenly food – and almost up into the heavens too, along winding switchback roads into the White Mountains. From here, perched accommodations reveal spectacular panoramas, glorious hiking trails, breakfasts of locally-sourced sheep’s yoghurt and honey, and tasty, local tavernas.
Devon, UK

2. Devon, UK

Glorious in summer, when the rolling hills and winding lanes of the West Country give way to tucked-away coves of sparkling gold sand, but equally fun at other times of year – when cosy pubs welcome muddy wellies and wet-through dogs. Devon offers bucolic butterfly-filled rural retreats, with farm shops up the road and the wild expanse of Dartmoor to be explored on foot.

3. France

With towns and cities taking up only 22% of France’s beautiful, hexagonal land, going rural at some point is inevitable. Embrace it – the French countryside is where the best of the local markets lie, so why not pick up some freshly made goat’s cheese while cycling from Chateau to Chateau in the Loire. Or some hand-picked olives on hikes from your doorstep in rural Provence.

4. Italy

From Piedmont’s Alps and Abruzzo’s rugged wild Appennine peaks to the rolling farmland of Le Marche, rural accommodations in Italy give you access to mountain-top trails on foot or by bike, to charming medieval villages, swathes of vineyards and even the secrets of family country cooking, passed down through generations. Take a cooking class, join in the grape harvest or go wild swimming in an untouched mountain river.

5. Portugal

Head to the far, far north of Portugal and you’ll find its only national park, Peneda-Gerês, tucked against the Spanish border. Vacations here are as rural as they come – towering granite massifs hide ancient oak forests, waterfalls and lakes – and a Roman road perfect for off-the-beaten track walking and cycling. Alternatively discover the peaceful, Sintra-Cascais Natural Park, just outside Lisbon, with a myriad of hiking trails from your front door.

6. Romania

Steeped in fairy stories and folklore, Transylvania retains an other-worldly air –and one that’s simply magical in the deep snows of winter. The modern world has had little impact on this peaceful, traditional corner of Romania, so rural stays here are set among farming communities reliant on horse-drawn carriages not cars. Your local hosts can arrange horse-riding and hiking – or wild adventures to track wolves and brown bears.

7. Spain

Brit-infested beach resorts be-gone. You don’t have to travel far inland in Andalucía to reach rural bliss. Mountain trails lead from houses in whitewashed Moorish hamlets, or from traditional cortijos surrounded by almond blossom in spring. Head north, to mountain cottages in the little-visited Spanish Pyrenees – quiet even in the height of summer – for out-of-this-world walking. Or skiing and snowshoeing in the winter.

Responsible Travel recommends

Maggie Watson, owner of our rural accommodation, Wheatland Farm, which offers eco-lodge and cottage accommodation in Devon, UK shares her thoughts on why rural vacations beat beach breaks hands down:

Customer service

“Vacation time is so precious - I’d book somewhere where a host or proprietor is on hand to share their local experience, and where the reviews show a track record of customer service. And I’d head inland just a bit. A purely coastal vacation is great - until it rains! Will there be something to enjoy if the weather’s not entirely on your side? Personally, I’d rather take refuge in a teashop or pub where muddy boots are acceptable than eat ice-cream in a rain-swept beach car park!”

UK rural escapes

“There’s something about exploring a landscape and taking in the big to the small scale. Britain’s countryside has great vistas, which are even better if you’re not stuck in your car! Then there’s finding that fabulous coffee shop, sampling local food, or simply appreciating something beautiful right where you are, whether it’s wildlife, a local feature, or a human kindness. Plus there’s no expensive flights, no airports delays, you’re not a ‘tourist target’ - so what’s not to love!”

Finding that rural bliss

Stew Holland, owner of our rural accommodation Casa del Fiume in the Majella National Park, Abruzzo, shares his advice and insights on rural vacations in Italy:

Serotonin blast

“My favourite thing to do is to walk down the garden through the walnut groves to the fast-flowing River Aventino. Then sit on a rock with my feet dangling into the cold water. It’s bliss. The turbulent waters produce negative ions that release serotonin in the brain and suddenly you just feel happier. Swimming in an unpolluted mountain river is just wonderful. Just jump in!”

Local hosts

“Italians like beach vacations and they like to be all together, so places near the beach are always expensive and always crowded. We know a beach that even in August is not totally packed; but it is so good to come back to the countryside in the mountains! We live here on-site we (my wife Ruth and I) have a total of 45 years experience living and working in Italy; 26 years of which has been here developing what we do at Casa del Fiume.We try to tailor each vacation according to the needs and wishes of our guests, most of whom do not speak much Italian. So we organise things for them so that they get the very best experience of Abruzzo during their stay with us. Eg booking wine tastings, restaurants, rafting, cookery lessons/chef for lunch on-site, and yacht trips. We can also advise on self guided walks, book guides for hikes in Majella mountains, as well as recommend best places to visit, places to shop and the best beaches”
Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about Rural accommodation or need help finding a vacation to suit you we're very happy to help.

Rural accommodation travel advice

At Responsible Travel, we think the best people to advise our travelers are often... other travelers. They always return from our tours with packing tips, weather reports, ideas about what to do - and opinions about what not to.

We have selected some of the most useful rural accommodation travel tips that our guests have provided over the years to help you make the very most of your vacation - and the space inside your suitcase.
Ensure there is plenty of space in your suitcase to bring back as much lovely local goats cheese and other lovely French stuff!
– Valerie Guihen
“Borrow bikes from the cottage owners and leave the car behind, even just for a day - cycling in this part of the country is very rewarding as the roads are quieter than in the more touristy parts of the Loire. However it is worth remembering to stock up on provisions regularly as many villages have no shops, or only a simple bakery with very limited opening hours.” – Katy Fifield

“When choosing a car to rent, avoid the cheapest models. The climbs to and around Panokosmos are steep in places and our Toyota Aygo sometimes had to be coaxed up the steepest sections. It's worth it when you get to the top, though.” – David Jamieson
Borrow bikes from the cottage owners and leave the car behind, even just for a day
– Katy Fifield
“You might wish to bring a few basics to get you started, but otherwise there are many opportunities to support the excellent local food shops, and good farm shop just minutes away (best eggs ever!). The view from the cottage's main bedroom out over the pond, with Dartmoor in the distance, is stunning.” – Julia Key

“Consider going slightly out of season, it was nice a quiet and not crowded everywhere. Don't leave it to the last minute to find somewhere to eat / get petrol though!” - Naomi Simcox

“Ensure there is plenty of space in your suitcase to bring back as much lovely local goats cheese and other lovely French stuff! Bring your walking shoes. Use the bikes and leave the car behind as much as you can.” – Valerie Guihen
Written by Sarah Faith
Photo credits: [Page banner: Ranloth] [Crete: Jan Fidler] [Devon: Greg Jeanneau] [France: Ella Olsson] [Italy: Ray in Manila] [Portugal: HSLow] [Romania: Petrisor lonel] [Spain: Graeme Churchard] [Finding that rural bliss: Matteo Leoni] [Review 1: Darren Coleshill] [Review 2: Gary Butterfield]