Sometimes, holidays don’t provide the desired rest and relaxation because you spend your whole trip trying to avoid tourist traps.
Here are seven places in Europe where you can have a truly unique experience, escaping crowds and tourist traps, and really immersing yourself in the destination.
One of the most evocative places in the world, Santorini is a dream destination for many. Crescent-shaped Thira is part of a group of islands that are still volcanically active. The island’s picturesque white buildings, come complete with blue domes that match the deep blue of the sea and are unlike any other travel destination.
One of the best things you can do here is absolutely free – sunsets are a jaw-dropping and memorable experience. Santorini also offers pristine volcanic beaches and ancient ruins. Visiting Santorini is a truly unforgettable once in a lifetime trip.
The Algarve, Portugal
Southern Portugal’s Algarve is the country’s answer to the tourist-thronged South of France. More than 150 beaches, complete with blue waters and white sands make it the perfect place to spend a few days sunbathing and forgetting about the world. If you’re lucky enough, you might even have one to yourself, but that’s not the only reason to visit.
Gastronomy and wine are other major draws for the Algarve, with a number of Michelin-star restaurants being established here in recent years.
If you’re a more adventurous traveller, you’ll be pleased to know that there’s great hiking and wildlife spotting in Ria Formosa National Park.
Often overlooked by tourists who prefer the likes of Barcelona, Madrid, and the sun-drenched costas in the south, this untamed and wild province is one of Spain’s best-hidden delights.
Mysterious villages dot the lush green countryside between historical cities like Santiago de Compostela, where the Camino de Santiago ends, and Lugo, which is surrounded by the only complete Roman Wall in the world.
Galicia is the perfect destination for many different types of holidays – city breaks, surfing, hiking, and many more are all covered in this beautiful corner of Spain.
The majority of visitors to the UK congregate in the cities in the south of England, like London and Brighton. Those brave enough to head further north are often found in Liverpool or Manchester, taking in pop culture from the Beatles and Oasis.
But what about getting away from cities? Try Northumberland. Tiny villages, quaint pubs, and some of the friendliest people in England will make for a memorable trip. A large area of Northumberland is a national park, and it’s great for hiking and connecting with nature. The county is home to deer, badgers, foxes, and other elusive wildlife.
Finally, Northumberland’s beaches are to die for. Miles long, dotted with ruined castles, and several great spots for the British classic, fish and chips.
Lake Bled, Slovenia
On the border of Triglav National Park, Lake Bled is one of Eastern Europe’s most picture-perfect locations, but you might be surprised to learn that tourism isn’t as prevalent as withsimilar lakes throughout Europe. In fact, there are several parts of the lake that are untouched.
There are a lot for adventures in the area surrounding too – visit Bled Castle, St Martin’s Church, or even take a boat trip over to the island on the lake. For adventures, there are some great spots nearby for canyoning too.
Tarn region, France
What comes to mind when you think of the South of France? Yachts, casinos, fast cars? The Tarn region offers none of this. However, the area known as the Tuscany of France offers sublime gastronomy, fine wine, and endless green landscapes dotted with rustic stone farmhouses and barns.
Step back in time with a visit to Cordes-sur-Ciel, a Roman town built on a hill which rises out of the mist every morning. The town is built around a concentric city, meaning that the village winds down the hill from the main square at the top. There’s also Albi, where the red-rock cathedral is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and the most important Catholic building in France. You’ll also find the largest Italian renaissance painting in France here.
Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina
A country where tourism wasn’t even thought of 20 years ago, Bosnia and Herzegovina has made a stunning recovery from the brutal Balkan War. This small country’s indefatigable spirit is embodied nowhere more than the capital city of Sarajevo.
Nowadays, it’s a thriving metropolis full of bazaars, cafes, art galleries, and museums where you can learn about everything from the Balkan War, to the shooting of Archduke Franz Ferdinand which was the trigger for World War I.
Culturally, it could be compared to a mini-Istanbul where east meets west. Take the cable car up for a stunning view of the skyline where minarets stand side by side with traditional Austro-Hungarian architecture.
Rebecca is a translator by day, and a traveler mostly at night. She is an expert on living with jet lag – and packing in tiny suitcases. You can read more of her exploits at RoughDraft.