Every year an estimated 15 million Americans visit Europe, and if you do visit some of the continent’s most popular destinations – London, Paris, Rome and Venice – they can seem rather overcrowded. However, this fascinating continent does boast some little known destinations for those who wish to venture off the beaten track. A little investigating can go a long way when embarking on a trip such as a vacation to Europe. The following information includes some suggestions, although many more can be made by doing your own fact-finding. Experiencing a little known destination is romantic and memorable.
France is one of Europe’s most visited countries; and if you have already seen Paris and the Cote d’Azur, the country still offers some relatively unknown areas. The Quercy and Lot regions offer visitors plenty of historic towns, beautiful scenery and a wealth of outdoor activities. However, these areas are among the least visited parts of France. Also, the beaches of France may be world famous, but there are still miles of coast just north of the Spanish border, that are not yet affected by mass tourism.
Another country which attracts millions of visitors every year is Spain; most tourists concentrate on Madrid, Barcelona and the country’s beaches. But Spain has several regions which are relatively undiscovered, including Asturias, an area tucked away in the north of Spain. Asturias offers visitors some of Europe’s most dramatic coastal scenery, fascinating prehistoric cave paintings; and a wide variety of outdoor activities in the picturesque Los Picos de Europa Mountains.
Tuscany is anything but undiscovered, but if you take the time to get off the beaten track, you can still find many beautiful and unspoiled hill towns that haven’t yet been overrun by tourists – Pitigliano, Sovana and Massa Marittima. Italy’s Amalfi coast can feel crowded too, but hidden away is the town of Atrani, a relative oasis of calm amidst the bustle of the larger resorts. And if you really want to experience Italy without the crowds, visit Apulia, the region in the heel of Italy’s boot – a highlight here is the town of Lecce, often described as the “Florence of the south”.
Prague is a beautiful city and has justifiably become one of the most popular cities in Europe, attracting around 20 million visitors annually. However, many visitors to the Czech Republic don’t venture outside Prague, which is a shame as they will discover a fascinating country – historic towns, spectacular countryside and in many areas, a way of life that hasn’t changed for centuries. The region of Moravia still clings to many of its old traditions; it’s also a great place to taste authentic goulash.
Three countries tucked away in the northeastern part of Europe appeal to those who are looking for something different – Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. All three of these small countries offer beautiful countryside, historic towns and cities, a distinctive culture and unique traditions – and all three declared their independence from Russia as recently as 1990. These Baltic States are increasingly popular destinations for UK travelers, but are still a mystery to many Americans.
Most people could not locate the tiny European country of Slovenia on a map; it’s one of the few countries left in Europe that is still virtually unheard of. Visit before Slovenia is discovered, as this country – half the size of Switzerland – boasts dramatic mountain scenery, fairy tale castles and spectacular underground caverns. Its capital, Ljubljana is just as attractive as Prague, Vienna or Budapest. It’s also one of the safest and most stable of the countries that comprise the former Yugoslavia.
Another country that most people don’t know too much about is Luxembourg. This small country is tucked away between Belgium, Germany and France and offers a variety of sightseeing options. In the south of the country is the beautiful wooded Ardennes region; and the country’s capital boasts picturesque medieval houses, narrow cobblestone streets and cozy cafes. The country also offers plenty of places to enjoy fine dining – Luxembourg boasts more Michelin star restaurants per capita than any other country in the world.
Some of Europe’s beaches are legendary, but the continent still has plenty of beaches where you can perhaps be the only tourist for several miles. The Adriatic coast, especially Croatia, boasts many miles of undiscovered beaches – and this area is safer than most people think. Italy’s Cinque Terre region is well known, but not far from the touristy towns are small beaches known only to the locals. In fact, many small beaches in Europe are accessible only from the water; and an enterprising boat owner will usually take you there for a small fee.
One other tip is to try to visit some of Europe’s more popular destinations in the off season. You won’t have the crowds, and you may not have the best weather – but you may just enjoy your trip that much more.