Paris’ Eiffel Tower, the picturesque canals of Venice, and London’s Buckingham Palace are some of the most popular attractions in Europe. While visiting those destinations are on many travelers’ bucket lists, there are countless others that you should consider too. From the cerulean seas of the Greek Islands to the northern lights of Tromso, Norway and beyond, these European travel experiences are sure to be calling your name.
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Sail Through the Greek Islands
You know all about Santorini, one of the most popular Greek Islands that’s on just about every traveler’s bucket list. But what about those lesser-known islands? While you may want to see Santorini’s stunning caldera, one of the best ways to enjoy a mix of some of the country’s most famous islands along with alluring destinations that aren’t loaded with tourists, is to sail.
Sailing has been a part of Greek life since prehistoric times, and with some 6,000 islands here, each with their own distinct character, you’ll find practically an endless number of ports to stop in and nearly as many sailboat chartering options departing from Athens and other cities too.
Drive Ireland's Breathtaking Slea Head Loop
The Slea Head Loop drive is not only one of Ireland’s most breathtaking drives, it’s one of the world’s most spectacular. Start in Dingle and wind around the rugged coast with golden beaches edged by an azure sea. The 26-mile-long route is best experienced by making multiple stops along the way, including the Iron Age ruins of Dunbeg Fort, the beehive huts, views of the Blasket Islands, and time for sipping a hot beverage in one of the little coffee houses that overlook the Atlantic.
Watch For the Loch Ness Monster in Scotland
The Scottish Highlands not only offer some of the planet’s most jaw-dropping scenery with soaring mountains, cascading falls, glistening lakes and ancient castles, but this area is home to the country’s most famous loch of all – Loch Ness. Here, you can relax at water’s edge and try to catch a glimpse of its notorious Loch Ness monster, head out on a boat tour and visit the ruins of Urquhart Castle. While only the ruins of the medieval fortress remain, it makes for picture-postcard photographs and by climbing Grant Tower, you’ll get a great view of the iconic lake as well as the chance to look into the prison cell that was said to have once held the legendary Gaelic bard Domhnall Donn.
Throughout the U.K. and Ireland, there are multiple castles available for overnight stays, but Thornbury Castle is arguably one of the best. Situated near the edge of the famously picturesque Cotswolds just east of the Welsh border, you can live your fantasy of sleeping like a king or queen in the only Tudor castle that’s been opened up as a hotel. The luxurious rooms feature canopy beds, aged tapestries and stone walls, that truly feel as if you’ve gone back to medieval times.
Walk the Streets of the Cinque Terre, Italy
Italy’s Cinque Terre region is one of its most scenic, made up of five towns along the Ligurian coast. Each one is unique yet equally stunning, as if it’s a living postcard. Protected as a national park, one of the best things to do here is to simply wander the paths along the cliffs, stopping for a gelato in a cozy cafe or dining on mouth-watering cuisine paired with local wine, while surrounded by the vibrant-colored houses that edge the sea.
Gaze Up at the Northern Lights in Norway
The “Paris of the North” as Tromso is sometimes referred to, is one of the best destinations on the planet for gazing up at the northern lights, thanks to its location above the Arctic Circle, an experience that everyone should enjoy at least once in a lifetime. The shimmering green or multi-colored lights frequently dance after the long days of summer have passed. This picturesque town also boasts some impressive 18th-century wooden buildings, and a surprising number of museums as well as a thriving nightlife scene.
Glide Across the Tranquil Waters of Lake Bled
With a backdrop of the often snow-capped Julian Alps, tranquil emerald-green Lake Bled and its tiny islet that houses a pretty church is surely one of the world’s most picture-perfect scenes. While you can take in the scene from the shore, get out on the lake by riding one of the traditional, 16th-century pletna boats that shuttle passengers to the church with skilled oarsmen at the helm.
Take a Hot Air Balloon Ride in the Swiss Alps
If you’re into mountain scenery, the Swiss Alps offer some of the most dramatic in Europe, along with colorful wildflowers and lush, green meadows in the summer. By soaring over in a hot-air balloon with Alpine Ballooning, you can get a bird’s-eye view of this magical landscape that includes charming villages and Swiss chalets that lie under the shadow of the looming jagged peaks of Gstaad.
Soak in Iceland's Blue Lagoon
Iceland has become one of the hottest travel destinations on the planet in recent years, boasting everything from roaring waterfalls with rainbows in the mist and jet-black sand beaches to towering snow-capped peaks and hot springs. Soaking in the milky-turquoise, mineral-rich waters of the famous Blue Lagoon has become one of the top bucket list experiences anywhere. You can even get an in-water massage, skin treatments and a drink at the bar, all in the soothing warm water.
Cycling and Wine Tasting in the Loire Valley France
France’s Loire Valley is renowned for its wine, meandering rivers and magnificent chateaus. The Loire River weaves past many vineyards which produce some of the highest acclaimed French vintages, like crisp sauvignon blancs and smoky cabernets. You can rent a bike and roll across the country roads to enjoy tastings and tours, picking up a bottle and perhaps some local produce and cheese, sold at one of the many shops along the way for a picnic on the banks.