When you think about travel to Europe, visits to France, Spain, Italy, and the Netherlands are probably high on your bucket list of destinations. Indeed there is plenty to see and do there but you may end up standing in long queues at the most popular attractions. Paris, Barcelona, Rome, and Amsterdam attract throngs of tourists throughout the year and as a result, hotel and restaurants tend to be expensive and flights during holiday season are booked well in advance.
Although you could certainly take the holiday of your dreams if you won the American Mega Millions lottery, you can enjoy a wonderful vacation in less popular European destinations. Although these countries may be off the beaten path they will surprise you with their untouched natural beauty, colourful traditions and culture, picturesque villages, and tasty local cuisine.
This Adriatic country has more than 1,000 islands, most of them uninhabited, but Croatia’s real treasure sits at its southernmost tip. Known fondly as the Peal of the Adriatic, Dubrovnik has a stunning Old Town marked by architecture dating back to the Baroque and Renaissance periods. The best views of the town can been seen from atop the city walls. Huge cruise ships dock in the nearby harbour but despite the day trips offered to their passengers, it is easy to escape the crowds on Dubrovnik’s narrow streets.
Also on the shores of the Adriatic Sea, Montenegro used to be known as a magnet for the wealthy but now it’s a very appealing destination for all. The country’s name means Black Mountain and that is due to its forested mountain ranges which reach nearly all the way to the coastline. There’s plenty of natural beauty to explore in the Durmitor National Park and the nearby Black Lake. Skiing is a main attraction in the winter months especially around the small town of Žabljak. The Tara River Canyon is the deepest canyon in Europe. You don’t have to be a white water rafting enthusiast to enjoy its scenic beauty.
It’s hard to imagine that this small Atlantic island could be part of Europe because it is full of other-worldly landscapes. While visits start in Reykjavik, the capital, the best sites are in the countryside where you will discover geothermal springs, glaciers, and active volcanoes. The most beautiful scenes in Iceland, however, are in the sky. The Northern Lights create spectacular green skyscapes from September to mid-April. To fully enjoy the heavenly experience make sure to drive to some remote area far from the lights of Reykjavík.
Bulgaria is an underrated destination which is a surprise, because visiting is quite affordable. Travelers usually arrive in Sofia, the capital, but the country’s main attractions are in the countryside. The mountains attract hikers in summer and skiers in winter. If you’re not such an active traveller you can enjoy a holiday at the Black Sea resorts. The Bulgarian cuisine, with its signature Shopska Salad, is surprisingly nutritious and delicious.
Belgium might be a strange choice for this list of European countries worth visiting but if you consider that the country has more to offer than just business-minded Brussels, you will understand its selection. A short train ride out of the capital will take you to Ghent and Bruges, two cities which proudly display their medieval architecture. Another reason to make a visit is Belgium’s rich beer culture, with 1,000 varieties brewed by some 180 breweries. Beer tasting in the Bruges Beer Museum will be a pleasant, although alcoholic way to enjoy your visit.
There are many other European destinations worth exploring as well. Safe travels!