Europe is home to plenty of iconic cities, but there are lots of off the beaten path destinations to visit too! While hotspots like Rome, Paris and London are all well worth visiting, they are some of the busiest tourist destinations in the world. Getting off the beaten track not only allows you to see a different side of Europe, but also provides you with the welcome opportunity to escape the tourist crowds! Figuring out which lesser-visited destinations are worth your time can be complicated though, especially considering there are so many to choose from. To save you the hassle, we asked travel bloggers to give their recommendations of the 20 best hidden gems and off the beaten path destinations to visit in Europe during 2019!
Want to get off the beaten path elsewhere? Check out our article on the best off the beaten path spots to visit in Asia!
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De Haan, Belgium
De Haan is a coastal municipality in the Flanders region of Belgium, about 13 kilometres away from Bruges. Tucked away from the tourist crowd, this fairytale land was an accidental discovery on our Europe trip. With the beach on one side and the dune woodlands on the other, the quaint little town offers a perfect escape from city life.
The pretty sidewalks lined with trees and the stunning architecture of the houses made us fall in love at first sight. This is not a place where you can go site-hopping and tick off some famous places in your bucket list. This is a place where you can relax and unwind, enjoy the calmness and pure beauty of nature. De Haan is a place of undiluted beauty because it is still not up there on the tourist map. The farmlands, the white sand beach, the dune woodland – everything looks untouched and divine.
De Haan beach is the longest beach across the North Sea in the Flanders region. One side of the beach is throbbing with typical beach activities like paragliding, skiing, and jet-boat riding, while the other side remains quiet, with families sitting enjoying quality time with their kids and some joggers. As you move towards the west in this 12 kilometre long beach, it gets busier and at the far west lies the only nude beach of this coast.
The dune woodland of De Haan is a nature park that spans 152 hectares and consists of trees that were planted more than a century ago and a separate track for horse-riding. This place is a photographer’s delight where you can spend hours just walking and bird-watching.
A famous spot in De Haan is Villa Savoyarde, the house where Albert Einstein stayed during the Nazi Regime shortly before he left Europe. Some other points of interest are the Town hall of De Haan and the picturesque tram station Spioenkop.
Contribution by Backpack & Explore.
Bansko, Bulgaria is known as a ski resort town, but it’s nice to visit during summer too – especially if you’re into hiking and trekking. It’s a great base to explore Pirin National Park – one of Bulgaria’s 3 national parks. What I saw in Pirin National Park exceeded my expectation. I didn’t expect Bulgaria to have such forbidding and incredible mountain ranges.
There are plenty of hiking trails to explore in the National Park. A particularly popular and challenging option is to hike along the Koncheto Ridge. The ridge connects Vihren Peak and Kutelo Peak, and has steep drop-offs on both sides. Even though there is a cable to guide you, it has some hair raising moments. At one particularly narrow part of the ridge, I had to go down on my butt and go one butt scoot at a time. Recommended for sure-footed adventurous hikers only.
Other than exploring Pirin National Park, you can take day trips to visit Rila Monastery as well as hike in Rila National Park (the most famous hike is to see the Rila 7 Lakes). If you like wine, a daytrip to the Melnik region will introduce you to Bulgaria’s burgeoning wine industry, as well as some very unique wine that can only be found in Bulgaria.
How to get here: You can get to Bansko by taking a bus from Sofia (3 hour ride). You can find all sorts of accommodation at all price levels in Bansko, and apartment rentals in the summer is affordable. The downtown area has a lot of cafes and restaurants housed in traditional Bulgarian stone buildings, and provides a nice place to stroll about in summer evenings. The town itself is small enough that you don’t need a car to get around. If you’re looking for something outdoor friendly and off the beaten path, Bansko is worth checking out.
Contribution by Jack and Jill.
Travellers visiting Croatia often overlook the historic city of Sibenik in favour of Split and Dubrovnik. As a result, it’s one of the more off the beaten track cities to visit in Croatia.
Perhaps surprisingly, Sibenik is the only city in Croatia home to 2 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The first of these, St James’ Cathedral, is found in the city’s Old Town. It is considered the architectural masterpiece of the Dalmatian coast, and the cathedral dome towers above surrounding buildings, making it visible from many spots in the city.
Sibenik is known for its fortresses, with 4 of them found across the city. It is one of these fortresses, St Nicholas’ fortress, which is the second UNESCO World Heritage Site in the city. Built at sea with only a narrow path linking it to the mainland, this fortress is truly unique. It was only declared a World Heritage Site in 2017 and as of yet there is no entrance fee – but this is likely to change in the future. The cities other 3 fortresses – Barone fortress, St Michael’s fortress and St John’s fortress – are also impressive.
One of the nicest things to do in Sibenik is just wander the narrow cobblestone streets of the Old Town. Allow yourself to get lost amongst the many streets and enjoy the charm of the stone walled buildings.
Sibenik is also brilliantly located for visiting some of Croatia’s most famous and beautiful spots. Although these spots aren’t off the beaten path, if you simply visit as a day trip from Sibenik you know you won’t be amongst the crowds for long. The beautiful Krka National Park, famous for the Skradinski buk waterfall, is just 10 kilometres from the city, while the Plitvice Lakes National Park is only a 2-hour drive away. Other options for day trips include Split, Trogir and Zadar. These spots may be busier, but they are all lovely to visit and it’s definitely worth doing as you’re nearby!
If you’re looking for a more off the beaten path city to add to your Croatia itinerary, then Sibenik is a brilliant option!
Olomouc, Czech Republic
Olomouc is a lovely city in the Czech Republic’s Moravia region, located in the east of the country. Even though it’s the 6th largest Czech city, it still lies very much off the beaten path.
You’d be surprised by how picturesque Olomouc is and what there is to see. The city centre features a charming Old Town, with baroque and gothic buildings. Some buildings date back as far as the 12th century, which is the case of the St. Wenceslas Cathedral, a.k.a. the Olomouc Castle.
The heart of Olomouc is dotted with baroque fountains, most of them beautifully preserved. There are 6 of these baroque fountains, plus one modern fountain.
Olomouc even has its own astronomical clock. Yes, you read that right – Prague’s astronomical clock is not the only one! Olomouc’s clock looks different, but is still powered by a similarly intricate mechanism.
The Upper Square, dominated by the Town Hall with its astronomical clock, has another major landmark: the Holy Trinity Column. It’s so large that it houses a little chapel at the bottom. The Holy Trinity Column is the only monument in the city to be declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In my opinion, the whole city centre should be a World Heritage Site!
Olomouc belongs to students – they make up 20% of the city’s population of 100,000. So if you decide to go out in the evening, there are plenty of places to go. Everywhere you go you can be sure you’ll be surrounded by young people.
Olomouc is famous in the Czech Republic for its original stinky cheese. Olomoucké syrečky, or Olomoucké tvarůžky, is a ripened soft cheese that smells pretty bad. I don’t even like the taste, but many people do. In Olomouc, most restaurants have at least one meal on the menu featuring the cheese – and it’s usually a lot better than its raw form.
Olomouc is surrounded by beautiful nature and you can take plenty of day trips to nearby castles and lakes. Right behind Olomouc’s border, there’s a Holy Hill with an exquisite Baroque Basilica sitting on top. I highly recommend you visit it too, especially at sunset!
Contribution by Travel Geekery.
Newcastle upon Tyne, England
Due to its location in the far north of England, the city of Newcastle upon Tyne doesn’t get as many visitors as it probably should. People rarely venture further north in England than Manchester and Liverpool, instead prioritising places such as London, Oxford and Cambridge. This makes Newcastle a brilliant destination if you’re looking for an off the beaten path city in the UK.
The streets in the city centre showcase some of the best Georgian architecture in Europe. Grey Street is particularly charming, and has previously been named one of the most beautiful streets in Britain. At the end of the street you’ll find Grey’s Monument – a statue of Early Grey atop a 40 metre high column. Once a month between April and September it’s possible to climb the monument for lovely views of the city, but advance booking is essential!
One of the nicest areas in Newcastle is the Quayside. It’s a nice spot for a stroll along the River Tyne, where you can see the famous Tyne Bridge as well as the Gateshead Millennium Bridge – which is a lovely sight when lit up at night. The Quayside is a great nightlife spot and is home to a number of restaurants and bars.
There are plenty of other spots to visit both in and around the city. Visit Newcastle Castle to discover the spot that gave the city its name or explore the Victoria Tunnel – a 2.5-mile underground tunnel built in the 1800s. Alternatively, visit the towering Angel of the North – an impressive 20 metre tall steel sculpture of an angel, with a wingspan of 54 metres. Another option is to take a day trip to Hadrian’s wall. The wall is almost 1,900 years old and was built by the Romans to keep the Scottish out.
If you’re in the city during a matchday, it’s well worth getting a ticket to watch Newcastle United play. Geordies are, without question, the greatest football fans in the country, supporting the team passionately come what may. The football stadium, St James’ Park, has a capacity of over 52,000, with tickets selling out for almost all league games. Even if there isn’t a game on, you can take a stadium tour or simply admire the ground from the outside and visit the statue of Alan Shearer – the top goalscorer in both Premier League and Newcastle United history.
Kinsale is a charming town in Ireland located in the County of Cork. It was originally a medieval fishing port, but now is one of the most picturesque and historic towns on the southwest coast of the country.
Kinsale has a beautiful setting of long waterfront, yacht-filled harbour, medieval fortresses, and brightly painted galleries, shops and houses. A combination of these things plus the amazing architecture and seascapes make this town one of Ireland’s must-visit spots!
Among the best things to do in Kinsale are visit the impressive Charles Fort, admire the rugged coastline of the Old Head, and wander the pleasant town centre. Charles Fort is a 17th century star-shaped fort and is one of the most significant forts in Irish history. The Old Head is a beautiful headland with formidable cliffs dramatically protruding into the Atlantic Ocean. There is also a popular golf course at the Old Head, which boasts stunning views of the ocean. The centre of town is quite popular due to brightly coloured shops and houses, which is a trademark of Kinsale.
Churches are also popular landmarks in Kinsale, with St. Multose Church being the most significant. It was constructed during the 12th century and it was here that Charles II was proclaimed a king.
There are some great family friendly activities in the town too. A great option is the ghost tour, which thankfully is more fun than horror! Alternatively, take a harbour cruise to get a different view of Kinsale and its lovely harbour.
As for the best time to visit Kinsale, after summer is ideal to avoid the local tourists flocking this charming town during summer.
Contribution by Ireland Travel Guides.
Calascio lies high up in the hills in L’Aquila province in Italy’s Gran Sasso e Monti della Laga National Park. A 45-minute drive from the nearest main town, L’Aquila, takes you up into the Apennine hills to the tiny village. A decade or so ago, it was abandoned and the only way to get there was to hike up from the hill town below. However, it is slowly being reclaimed and renovated, and you can now drive straight up to the edge of the village.
Wander through the narrow streets, past houses – some rebuilt and some still abandoned shells – up stone steps and along a path around the hill. As you round a corner, you will be rewarded for your uphill efforts by the dramatic sight of Rocca Calascio (Calascio fortress), a well-preserved ruined watchtower from the 10th century. The fortress, which is not visible from the village below, is actually the highest fortress in the Apennines and stands watch over these enormous hills rolling to the horizon. The scenery is splendid and the clouds are so close that it feels like you are closer to the gods. The fortress is fairly small and easily explored in a short time.
Continue around past the fortress and along the path for another few minutes and a second surprise awaits. Santa Maria della Pietà, an octagonal church from the seventeenth century, is a tiny Renaissance folly standing alone in the mountains. The day was dark and stormy when we were there, but the clouds cleared and the sun shone right down on the church just as we set eyes on it. As the church glowed in the golden sunlight, it truly seemed like the heavens had shone down directly on it.
This is a great place for a picnic. Although it can be windy, the scenery is splendid and these two abandoned buildings from completely different eras make the perfect backdrop. Return back past the fortress to Calascio village where there is a small restaurant serving food, wine and hot chocolate. Calascio is off the beaten path – you will encounter very few tourists – but this is Italy, and culinary comforts are never too far away.
Contribution by Travel Collecting.
Vilnius is the capital city of Lithuania – one of the three Baltic States in the Eastern part of Europe. This city is perfect for those who are looking to experience Europe without spending too much and having to brave a crowd in every corner of a city. Vilnius already has some tourists, however, it is still very new to many travel enthusiasts. I visited this city through a very convincing story from a friend of mine who is also always on the move to find less travelled destinations. I arrived around five in the afternoon and was worried about the traffic since it’s the peak hour. However, I was surprised to see very thin to no existing traffic. The buildings, the weather, and the smell of the fresh air remind me of every central European city in an early summer, but the big crowd is nowhere to be seen.
Whether you have just a few days or more than a week to explore Vilinius, there is so much to see. Learn about the dark but very eye-opening history of the city by visiting the war museum and the genocide museum. The Uzupis neighbourhood is a free, open and arty area of the city. Not far from Vilnius, you can visit the wonderful Trakai Castle all-year-round. If you like exploring the city without spending too much, you can rent city bikes and ride along the bike lanes found all over the main city centre. You can also swim in the Green Lakes during summer and rent a kayak for as cheap as €6 per hour for two people.
If you are a food and drink lover, you should try the local dish called Zeppelin, taste local ciders and beer, and of course warm up with beetroot soup. These are only a few of the things to enjoy if you’re wondering what to do in Vilnius during your first visit. Once you get there, you will see how this city can capture your heart and give you a fun and memorable holiday.
Contribution by A Mary Road.
Chisinau, Moldova is one of the best off the beaten path destinations to visit in Europe during 2019. According to multiple sources including USA Today, Moldova is one of the top 3 least visited countries in Europe and so it’s certainly one of the most offbeat countries to visit. Its capital city, Chisinau, is a quiet, green and nice city that makes a perfect weekend break from pretty much anywhere in Europe.
Moldova has a unique mix of cultures: it used to be part of the USSR and a lot of the population still speak Russian. Moldova borders Ukraine and there are a lot of Ukrainians living in Chisinau. And finally, there are a lot of Romanians living there too. The official language of Moldova is Romanian, however, pretty much all the people speak Russian as well.
Moldovan cuisine is a mix of Romanian, Ukrainian and Russian. The restaurants in Chisinau have quite extensive menus that include the best of all the cuisines and the prices are very low! Chisinau is definitely one of the cheapest cities in Europe and it’s a paradise for budget travellers, as you can afford luxury for less there. For the price of a coffee and cake in London, you can have a meal for two people in a nice restaurant with 1 litre of wine. Moldova is really famous for its wine and one of the best wineries (Cricova Winery) is located in Chisinau and is definitely worth visiting.
Accommodation is also very cheap and you can definitely afford a 5 star hotel for the price of a very average 3 star hotel in a wealthier country in Europe. Another good reason to visit Moldova is that the weather is absolutely amazing – it’s already very warm in April and around the end of May you can expect around 30 degrees celsius – perfect weather to head to the lakes or the towns located on the Dniester River for a swim.
Contribution by Tripsget.
Montenegro is one of those countries that is still relatively unknown because up until recently, the Balkans were considered an unstable region in which we should avoid unnecessary travel. While the stunning Adriatic coast of Montenegro attracts big crowds in the summer, for a true off the beaten path experience, head northeast towards the town of Zabljak for dramatic landscapes and fresh mountain air.
What to do in Zabljak?
Durmitor National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is famous among adrenaline lovers for its range of extreme activities. You can pick from hiking/trekking, canyoning, mountain biking, white water rafting in Tara River and even ziplining across the Tara Canyon, the deepest canyon in Europe. Its imposing beauty can be viewed from the Tara Bridge, a majestic arch bridge originally opened during World War 2.
There are 18 spectacular glacial lakes that can be found in the National Park, which can be accessed from various walking trails. Black Lake, which can easily be reached from the town centre, is the most popular day trip option for visitors. There’s a short 4 kilometre loop surrounding the shores of the lake, where you can swim, have a picnic, rent a small boat or just relax and admire the scenery. Another beautiful lake, a bit further from the tourist trail, is Jablan Jezero, flanked by towering cliffs. If you’re lucky, you’ll get the place all to yourself!
In order to really appreciate the Montenegrin culture, it is imperative to indulge in their traditional cuisine. At Konoba Restaurant, you’ll enjoy a no-frills, rustic experience where you can try the local plate of smoked ham and unpasteurised cheese as an appetiser and a delicious slow-cooked meat and potato meal as a main. Another classic dish is the ‘burek’ – a pastry stuffed with cheese, spinach or meat. At about €1 a piece, it’s the cheapest trekking snack you can get! Visit the bakery behind the grocery store for the best bureks in town.
Don’t miss out on Zabljak when planning a trip to Montenegro. The breathtaking Black Mountains in Durmitor National Park will charm any nature lover.
Contribution by Nomad Junkies.
The Netherlands is a country that is mostly known for the city of Amsterdam. But just like any capital city, Amsterdam is not a good representation of the whole country. If you want to get off the beaten path in the Netherlands, then Nijmegen is a wonderful city to visit.
There are plenty of things to do in Nijmegen. Take your time to wander the beautiful streets, and if you visit in the middle of July you may be able to witness the International Four Day Marches – the largest walking event in the Netherlands. There are also various museums, such as the Afrika Museum, as well as beaches on the edge of the Waal river.
You can even find the oldest shopping street of The Netherlands in Nijmegen, de Lange Hezelstraat. The best part is that you can find a lot of local boutiques in this area of the city too.
After you’re done with shopping, it’s time to let your taste buds enjoy the food the city has to offer. Nijmegen may only be the 10th biggest city in the country, with slightly over 174,000 inhabitants, but nevertheless you can find plenty of great restaurants, cafes and bars that have influences from other countries. You can find great food in restaurants such as De Firma or De Meesterproef, as well as one of the oldest cafes in the country – Café in De Blaauwe Hand.
And when you’re done with the eating and exploring I recommend you visit the nature reserve De Ooijpolder. This nature reserve can be found just outside of the city. While Nijmegen is, in general, a calm city, it can also be very busy. When you want to get away from the crowds and get your thoughts together, then visiting the reserve De Ooijpolder in Nijmegen is the best thing to do.
In conclusion, Nijmegen has plenty of things to offer and that means that you won’t get bored quickly. It’s a city definitely worth visiting if you want to explore the real Netherlands, but without the tourists.
Despite being the capital city of Romania, Bucharest is still largely off the beaten track – especially when compared with cities like Barcelona, Paris and Amsterdam. While there are signs of tourism in the city, it’s actually the case that a large number of tourists are actually from Romania, Hungary and Bulgaria. This means that unless you’re Romanian, Hungarian or Bulgarian, Bucharest is one of the more off the beaten path destinations in Europe!
Despite being regularly overlooked as a travel destination, there are plenty of amazing things to do in Bucharest. A great place to start is the city’s Old Town – the main area in the city to survive both World War 2 and the communist rule in Romania. As a result, there are a number of historic buildings and sights to see in the area. Make sure to visit the stunning Stavropoleos Church and Monastery as well as the beautiful indoor passage known as Pasajul Macca-Vilacrosse. Come nightfall, the Old Town is a vibrant entertainment district, with plenty of restaurants and bars to choose from.
Outside of the Old Town there are still plenty of wonderful places to visit. Bucharest’s Palace of the Parliament is the second largest administrative building in the world and is a spectacular sight thanks to the beautiful architecture. You should also take the time to visit Revolution Square – one of the most significant landmarks in all of Romania. It is here where communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu made his final speech before the fall of communism in the country. A short walk from the square you will find the remarkable Romanian Athenaeum – one of the most beautiful buildings in the city. If that’s not enough for you, Bucharest even has it’s own Arch of Triumph (Arcul de Triumf), which is a truly impressive sight.
If you’re looking for picturesque spots for Instagram look no further than Carturesti Carusel and Umbrella Street. Carturesti Carusel was a 19th century bank that has now been converted into a bookstore. The wonderful interior makes it an extremely photogenic spot. Pasajul Victoria is the location of the Umbrella street – one of the most colourful spots in Bucharest with decorative umbrella suspended above the street.
With so many wonderful spots to explore, Bucharest is definitely a European destination on the rise, and so it may not be off the beaten path for long!
If you’re an architecture fan, a visit to Subotica – rhymes with pizza – will be the highlight of your trip to Serbia. Sadly the city is often given a miss because it’s a bit off the beaten path, unless you’re headed to or coming from Hungary. But, at only a few hours north of the Serbian capital Belgrade, there’s really no excuse for staying away.
The wonder of Subotica hits you as soon as you leave the train station: as you turn right, you’ll see the Raichle Palace, built by architect Ferenc Raichle in the Art Nouveau style of the turn of the 20th century. Locally, Art Nouveau was tinged with curlicues and carnations – a Hungarian ‘secessionist style’. Subotica is so close to the Hungarian border that you’ll hear at least as much Hungarian on the streets as you will Serbo-Croat.
Another of the city’s impressive buildings is the Synagogue, also dating from the early 20th century and recently renovated to its former glory. Europe’s second largest synagogue, it’s also the only one in this unusual Hungarian style and speaks to the diversity of Subotica, a mostly Catholic city which welcomed Jews until Hungary’s annexation during World War 2. Most of the city’s 6,000 Jews were arrested, deported and murdered, many of them in Auchswitz.
Intriguingly, Subotica is known as the City of 200 Names, which changed often as a result of its turbulent history and many migrations. Most recently, it was part of Yugoslavia until that country disintegrated as part of the wave that dethroned Communism.
These days it’s hard to imagine that a gun was ever drawn in anger in the delightful streets of this city, lined with trees and fairy-tale buildings, of which the Synagogue and the Raichle Palace are only two of the most famous. Others include the City Hall, the water tower, the Domotor Palace and the former Savings Bank, to name just a few.
If you’re not architecturally inclined, Subotica is the perfect walking city, with something to see on every corner. While parts of it have been modernised, much has either been left alone or restored, making it easy to imagine the city as it was a century ago. Sit in a cafe and sample a coffee or pastry, buy some borek on the street or have a plush meal at Boss, whose three dining rooms are as huge as the decor is enchanting. Spend the night if you can – that’s when the city really wakes up. A bit out of the way, but very much worth the detour.
Contribution by Women on the Road.
Most people who visit Slovakia venture little beyond Bratislava. But Košice, the capital’s counterpart in eastern Slovakia and the country’s second largest city, offers a less commercial, more authentic insight into Central European culture. A mere 5 hours away from Bratislava by train, or a more manageable 3 from Budapest, the city of 245,000 inhabitants has the most notorious (in a good way) downtown in Slovakia.
There’s the city’s Seven Wonders, as voted on by the residents. The main attraction is the St. Elizabeth’s Cathedral, one of Europe’s easternmost Gothic cathedrals. Climb the tower for a splendid 360 view of the downtown, including a few other places on the list: St. Michael’s Chapel, the State Theatre beyond the Singing Fountain, whose jets and colourful lights at night follow the music, all on the splendid Main Street.
Runners love the first Sunday in October when Europe’s oldest (and world’s second oldest, after Boston) marathon takes place. The route weaves through the Old Town and adjacent developments, offering a quick, if not long and taxing, sightseeing tour.
Košice was one of European Capitals of Culture in 2013, which put the city on the continent’s cultural map. Many venues and events remain from the big year of arts and culture, including Tabačka Kulturfabrik, a former tobacco factory with a concert space, exhibition hall, and restaurant; and the Kasárne Kulturpark, a former military barracks where you’re more likely to catch an alternative theatre performance or a modern-art piece. White Night in October brings out throngs to see light installations scattered around the Old Town.
A number of microbreweries and craft beer pubs delight beer lovers. Visit Golem, a Prague-themed brewery next to the city’s oldest building, the Dominicans’ Church, for the best brews, and Red Nose Pub, off Main Street, for a large variety of Slovak (and Czech) microbrews on tap.
Visit Košice and you may just have the entire town to yourself.
Contribution by I Heart Slovakia.
Strbske Pleso, Slovakia
Strbske Pleso is a picturesque mountain resort hidden in Slovak High Tatra mountains. Located at about 1,340 metres above sea level, Strbske Pleso is actually the highest village in Slovakia. Despite the altitude, it is very easy to get to this beautiful mountain resort – you can either drive by car on road 537 or travel by electric tram called Tatranská elektrická železnica. There are four parking lots in this mountain resort.
The biggest attraction in Strbske Pleso is a scenic post-glacial lake. It is the second-largest lake of glacial origin in the Tatra mountains. The surroundings of the lake are perfect place for photography lovers, Instagram influencers and all other nature lovers. The lake is surrounded by High Tatra peaks which creates amazing landscape.
Strbske Pleso is also a perfect place for hikers. If you don’t want to strain yourself, you can stroll on a circular path around the lake. The whole walk takes about one hour – making it a perfect option for families with children. An added bonus is the informative boards located along the path, informing you about the flora and fauna of the Tatra mountains as well as about the history of Strbske Pleso village.
For more experienced hikers, there are lots of exciting trails for you to explore the spectacular High Tatra mountains:
- Yellow trail leading to Skok waterfall – a 2-hour hike that is definitely worth the effort.
- Yellow circular route leading to Bystra Lavka pass. The highest point on this trail reaches 2,300 metres. It passes Skok waterfall and leads you into the mountains to admire Capie Pleso lake and the soaring peaks of Furkotsky Stit, Hruby Vrch and Strbsky Stit. Some chains are installed near the pass to facilitate the hike.
- Blue trail leading to Chata pod Soliskom mountain hut – located 1,830 metres above sea level.
- Red trail leading to Popradske Pleso mountain hotel, which is located by a picturesque lake
- Red/blue trail leading to Rysy peak (2,503 metres) – an option for experienced hikers.
Strbske Pleso is not only a hiking paradise – in 1970 it hosted the Nordic World Ski Championships. Thanks to this event tourist infrastructure developed in this small and little-known village.
There are 9 kilometres of ski runs, 26 kilometres of cross-country trails and a snow park. Besides ski slopes, there are two ski jumps. Generally, winter in Strbske Pleso lasts long – the lake freezes at the end of November and remains frozen for over 150 days.
Contribution by Overhere.
Piran is a little town nestled between Portoroz and Izola on Slovenia’s Adriatic Coast. It may not be rife with things to do like some places, but it is definitely worth visiting. Piran is one of the best preserved historic towns in the Mediterranean. It sits on the end of a peninsula in the Adriatic Sea. I would recommend avoiding summer if possible because it can be busy, but September is a great time to visit the area.
As far as things to do in Piran, you can take a boat (or bus) trip to see the other coastal towns, which I would highly recommend. They are all full of that perfect Mediterranean charm. Go for a swim on one of the ‘beaches’ or rocky areas on the shore or simply bike around the town and shore. Visit the Church of St. George and climb to the top of the bell tower for lovely views of the town. Check out the main Tartini Square and just relax at a cafe with a nice coffee. Another great thing to do is to try the wine, salt, and olive oil from the area. Lastly, wander the cobblestone streets and twisting alleyways, making sure to admire the buildings and doors, which are really cool here.
There are plenty of ways to get here from bus to car to ferry, it just depends on where you are coming from. Just don’t plan to take a bus on Sunday because they may not be running. You can always visit as a day trip from Bled or Postonja or vice versa and make Piran your base to do day trips. Either way, make sure you visit this cute little town.
Contribution by Red Around the World.
La Garrotxa, Spain
One of the most beautiful destinations in Catalonia is La Garrotxa. Although it is popular for locals to visit on weekend and day trips from Barcelona, Girona and the nearby French border, La Garrotxa is yet to be discovered by mass international tourism and so is one of the best kept secrets in Europe.
What makes La Garrotxa worth visiting is an incredible combination of natural landscape and man made places. La Garrotxa is volcanic: there are more than 40 extinct volcanoes in the area, which is excellent for nature and adventure lovers as it is packed with hiking trails. The Pyrenees also provide more hiking and even climbing opportunities, with an infinity of paths. The ones on the Puigsacalm are quite hard, and shouldn’t be hiked alone. With so many hiking trails, La Garrotxa is perfect for those looking for an unspoiled destination in Europe.
La Garrotxa is also home to some lovely small cities and medieval villages. Olot, the main city, is packed with beautifully preserved Art Nouveau buildings, and is home to some very interesting and unique museums, such as the Museu del Sants. Santa Pau is a tiny medieval village where time seems to have stopped. The views of the Old City from the terrace at the entrance of the village are gorgeous. Besalù is the most popular village in the region, the one that gets the largest influx of foreign tourists. It’s a perfectly kept village where a romanic bridge connects two sides of the river.
Adding to this already incredible scenario, there’s a multitude of tiny Romanesque style churches, most of them blissfully isolated and requiring a hike to visit. The church of Sant Miquel de Castello is on a mountain from where there are gorgeous views of the Vall d’en Bas. Santa Margarida was built at the center of a crater of an extinct volcano.
Last but not least, this part of the country is famous for its food. Lots of restaurants have now joined a network that strives to serve strictly local ingredients, with dishes that are now considered to belong to the “volcanic cuisine” style of the region.
Contribution by My Adventures Across the World.
Asturias is officially known as The Principality of Asturias. It is a small province in the north of Spain and is often overlooked. People who travel to Spain tend to concentrate on the more popular and well-known cities like Madrid and Barcelona, and with good reason – these cities are magnificent. But there are other, lesser-known areas with natural beauty, history, and regional cuisine that will amaze you. Asturias is one of those places. This wonderful province is the most underrated area of Spain.
The first thing you notice about Asturias is the weather. It differs from most areas in the Iberian Peninsula. It is more lush, greener and cooler due to higher rainfall. This produces thick, dense forests and mountains crisscrossed with rushing rivers. Some of the most spectacular national parks, like Picos de Europa, are found here. The area is a hiker’s paradise. One of the best hikes is the Cares River trail. This challenging but scenically rewarding hike crosses two provinces, Asturias and Leon. Grab a block of cheese, a chunk of bread and a bottle of water and head to the Cares River trail to see native wildlife, soaring mountains and hanging bridges precariously swinging over gaping gorges.
Asturias’ capital city, Oviedo, features Roman structures from the 1st Century and medieval monuments. The main square is surrounded on all sides by the cathedral, medieval structures and charming cafes and tapas bars. Off the plaza’s side streets are art galleries and museums featuring exhibits representing all eras of Asturias’ history from prehistoric to modern day.
If great food is a must-have on your trip, Asturias does not disappoint. The province is a powerhouse of outstanding gastronomy where you can find regional dishes such as Fabada Asturiana, a hearty stew with white beans and vegetables.
Asturias may be off the beaten track today, but it is quickly finding a fan base that know a good thing when they see it.
Contribution by Travels with Talek.
During our last visit to Spain we spent a lot of time in the north of the country and discovered for ourselves the beautiful and diverse Cantabria region. Cantabria is located in Northern Spain, between the Basque Country, Asturias and Castilla y Leon, between the Cantabrian Mountains and the Cantabrian sea. The capital city of the region is Santander – a beautiful beach city with a lot to do and see – which is a good starting point for exploring the area. Besides its beautiful beaches and walking trails with stunning views, Santander boasts delicious food; local seafood and fish dishes, traditional Spanish tapas, pastry and famous churros with chocolate. Another beach city to visit in Cantabria is Gijón. Like Santander it has beaches, a beautiful Old Town, the impressive Laboral University complex building and many tapas bars.
We really enjoyed visiting the cities but the best part of Cantabria for us was its charming small towns and picturesque walking trails. Our favourite town to visit in Cantabria was Santillana del Mar – a tiny town built around the monastery, 5 kilometres from the sea and 2 kilometres from the famous Altamira Cave, making it a great place to come for a weekend. Another cozy little town is Comillas. Unlike Santillana del Mar, Comillas is located by the sea, so you can combine a beach holiday with exploring narrow cobblestone streets, visiting palaces and museums. You can also visit the impressive Pontifical University, Gaudi’s Capricho or simply enjoy a cup of coffee in one of the many street cafes.
If you prefer bigger towns, Castro Urdiales is a great choice, located by the sea it boasts long sandy beaches, a colourful harbour and beautiful historical centre with several interesting sights to visit. There are more nice towns to visit on the Cantabrian coast – Laredo, San Vicente de la Barquera and Somo to name just a few. There are many spots in Cantabria where you can practice water sports like surfing, kayaking, kitesurfing as well as several walking and cycling trails along the coast or in the mountains.
The best and the easiest way to explore the region is by renting a car and driving from town to town. It’s possible to walk all the way across Cantabria along the coast through all the mentioned above towns and past many beautiful beaches. The coastal route through Cantabria is a part of the Camino de Santiago network, called Camino del Norte. The route is well-marked, safe and easy to follow. It should take about a week to cross Cantabria on foot. You can walk from town to town, stopping for a night or two in some of them, sightseeing on the way and enjoying delicious food and breathtaking scenery. Cantabria is a real Spanish hidden gem with a lot to explore and discover – a real paradise for outdoor and history lovers.
Contribution by Stingy Nomads.
Most international visitors to Sweden head straight to Stockholm, a definite must-do in this beautiful Scandinavian country. But you should also head down to the country’s southernmost archipelago and the 17th-century planned city of Karlskrona.
The UNESCO World Heritage town was created in 1680 by King Karl XI as the country’s new naval base. He planned every detail of the new town, and much of it has changed little since then. Founded on 33 islands in the centre of the archipelago, it was perfectly situated to be the home of the Swedish navy, its approach protected by hundreds of small islands.
Start your experience at the town’s spacious central square, dominated by the Town Hall, the Concert Hall, a statue of Karl XI, and a unique water tower that resembles a fort. The Fredrick Church and the German Church also reign over the square. Not far from the magnificence of the main square is the completely contrasting neighbourhood of Björkholmen, full of low wooden houses built by ship carpenters from the navy yard for themselves and their families. Most of the 300-year-old houses were built with hard oak lumber “liberated” from the shipyard and are still sturdy and strong today.
Don’t leave Karlskrona without a visit to the very impressive Marine Museum on the island of Stumholmen. It tells a fascinating story of the Swedish navy, including the submarine HMS Neptun, where you can climb aboard and get a good sense of what life lived underwater was like. The museum also has an especially good buffet restaurant with gourmet-quality food and its own house-brewed beer.
To see and learn more about the naval fortifications, you can also take a boat to visit the fortress at Kungsholm, which has guarded the entrance to the town and naval base for more than 300 years. You can also enjoy life on the water from your own kayak, rentable at the jetty at Fisktorget, near the ‘Fiskargumman’ (Fisherman’s Wife) statue. Or take a sail around the archipelago, perhaps with a stop at the island of Brändaholm with its 43 red wooden cottages with white trim and Swedish flags and pennants flying. It dates to the 1920s.
Karlskrona is a lovely getaway from Stockholm or a perfect stop while exploring southern Sweden.
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