Plan the Ultimate European Vacation
Europe’s many must-see destinations are inspiring, educational and life-changing. All of which make for the best adventures. But how to choose? We understand the complexities behind picking a destination, causing you to settle for a destination closer to home. We get it! That’s why we’ve created this guide to get you out of that rut and on your way to your European adventure.
The Gold Standard of Small Group Travel
There is nothing quite like the feeling you get while traveling with a small group of likeminded adventurers, sharing in the golden moments of a journey that so many of us thrill seekers search for around the world. Creating those eureka moments of travel in exotic locales around the world is the Austin Adventures gold standard. Austin Adventures has been running tours in Europe for over forty years. That’s longer than most adventure travel companies have even been around!
How to Use This Guide
This guide serves as a reference to the active traveler. You’re planning on traveling internationally, so why not Europe? What are the highlights and the must-sees? What are the necessary steps to plan for this trip? With so many distinct cultures living in proximity to one another, choosing a destination can seem overwhelming. What European adventures speak to you? Perhaps it’s a vigorous hike along the zesty green rolling coastline of Ireland, or paddling through the pure azure blue waters of the Adriatic, or maybe it’s riding a bicycle through the golden ages of historic Italy. Whatever your preference is, Europe offers something for everyone’s palette.
Scheduled tours versus small group excursions
There are many advantages to traveling with a small group in Europe. By sharing certain fixed costs, such as transport or regionally specific guides, you can drastically reduce the per-person price of a trip.
Taking advantage of years of relationships with some of Europe's best hotels and villas will also afford you better pricing and access to otherwise inaccessible properties.
The increased amount of care and comfort given by our vendors is the result of decades of carefully crafting mutually beneficial relationships. One of the most important features is our expert guides who will be with you every step of the way and whose regional knowledge and experience is priceless.
Once you’ve communicated your interests, let us do the rest of the work and design a European itinerary that fits your style of travel. Customizing your experience allows you to explore at your own pace and allows us to focus on the details to make your dream vacation a reality. This option offers a lot of flexibility, but typically comes with a higher cost per person.
If you’re planning your own European vacation, it’s good to prepare as much as possible. Schedule your reservations well in advance, and plan your itinerary as best you can before you arrive. Be ready to make backup plans in Europe as there are many holidays, sudden transit strikes, and changing weather conditions to consider in each region.
Bicycling is the perfect way to explore much of Europe. Nothing beats the rhythm of peddling through the open air, taking your time to enjoy each destination up close. Smell the fragrant flowers, hear the chirping birds, and revel in the unfamiliar views and charm of experiencing a new country.
Cycling in Europe is extremely safe. Most of Europe has a great network of dedicated cycling paths, and since most of the citizens are cyclists themselves, motorists give you plenty of space on the road to enjoy your ride. Cycle tourism is extremely popular and a longstanding tradition throughout the continent.
Europe has an amazing hiking culture and is very well set up for both long and short hikes. Every country in Europe has national parks and other interesting areas that could be considered a trekker’s paradise, depending upon the type of hiking you enjoy.
Hiking in the Alps and Dolomites, you’ll find well marked trails, excellent food and great accommodations. Hiking in the equally stunning Pyrenees, which is less developed, you’ll have to plan much more carefully. There are also many lovely coastal hikes.
Some routes are only accessible during low tide and require local guides. For some unique active France adventures, look into our Tour du Mont Blanc trip.
Europe offers an endless amount of opportunities to enjoy keeping active. The varied geography and climate supports a full range of outdoor pursuits from trekking, skiing, fishing, and mountaineering. Enjoy exploring while doing the things you love.
Multi-sport vacations combine travel with action, allowing you to explore well off the beaten track. This type of vacation also allows you to experience the activities that are best suited for each environment, and gives you a variety of interesting experiences in each region.
The best time to visit Europe depends on what you want to do and what your needs are. Spring, when nature abounds in color, definitely has its charm. Summer lasts roughly from June to September, and offers the most pleasant climate for outdoor pursuits in the Northern parts of Europe. In the South (the Mediterranean coast, the Iberian Peninsula, Southern Italy and Greece), where the summers tend to be hotter, you can extend that period by one or even two months, when temperatures may also be more agreeable.
Europe offers some of the most amazing accommodations on the planet: luxurious rooms in remote castles, to classic Tuscan villas with poolside views of vineyards and rolling hills. Swanky and chic modern hotels push the boundaries of design and fashion. You can find quaint chateaus where you can relax with a massage and a gourmet meal. There's nothing like having a blissful place to unwind after a full day of adventuring.
Book those popular destinations well in advance to save money. There are many popular websites to take advantage of to find reasonably priced accommodations. If you’re looking to spend less on hotels, there are other options.
Europe has campgrounds, hostels, and student accommodations that can help tighten up your budget. Cheap hotels are hard to find in Northern Europe, but guesthouses, pensions, and private rooms or apartments offer a good value.
Foodies could spend a lifetime getting to know the intricate tastes of the different regional cuisines in Europe. Michelin-starred restaurants dot the map of Europe. Enjoy the gourmet feasts created by world-class chefs. At most midrange restaurants in Europe you should budget about €25 for dinner, €20 for lunch, and €15 for breakfast. The cheapest places to eat in Europe are the self-service restaurants in department stores, University restaurants, and street kiosks.
In general, those that follow a vegetarian or have a gluten allergy, don’t need to worry about going hungry in Europe. Many restaurants have several options for those dietary restrictions. European menus tend to contain many vegetable dishes and salads. Transportation is extremely efficient in Northern Europe, but is also costlier, whereas Southern Europe might have lower prices, but service can be slightly less dependable.
Europe is well connected by train and is a great way to see the countryside. Travel by train is not cheap, however, be prepared to have security checks when traveling internationally.
If booked in advance; it’s easy to find a good price on airfare. However, beware of all the extra hidden costs associated with budget airlines. Strict luggage allowances could more than double the cost of your ticket price.
Europe’s push towards car free city centers have made parking fees skyrocket in Northern Europe. Car lanes tend to be smaller and cities can feel like a maze if you don’t know your way around. Make sure to know the various traffic rules and speed limits in the country you’re visiting before taking the wheel. A GPS unit is a great investment if you plan on driving yourself in Europe.
Do I need to learn the language?
When traveling in Europe, you’re bound to encounter people speaking (one or more) different European languages. Fortunately, English is widely spoken and understood. Your guide will also be fluent in the local language for any translation needs you may encounter.
Are there different standards of dressing and conduct in Europe?
Although dress standards are mostly informal in Northern Europe, your clothes may play a small part in how you’re treated in southern Europe. You can dress casually, but keep your clothes clean, and make sure to cover your knees and take off your hat/helmet when visiting churches, monasteries, or mosques.
Is tipping common in Europe?
In many European countries, it’s common (and it is even compulsory in France) for a service charge to be added to restaurant bills, in which case no tipping is necessary. In others, simply rounding up the bill is sufficient. Your hotel or wait staff will be a good resource if you’re not sure.
Each country in Europe offers its visitors hundreds, if not thousands, of years of history to examine. With each piece of the puzzle affecting the other one, the map of Europe has been in flux from the beginning. To this day, the borders are changing: from expanding and contracting empires to invading barbarian bandits.
What makes Italy so irresistible? Could it be the national sense of style and la dolce vita (the sweet life) of the Italians? Perhaps it’s the special charm that has been attributed to the art, the history, or the impossible beauty of its landscapes.
Whether visiting for the food and wine, the history, or the remarkable scenery, one could spend a lifetime exploring Italy and still not experience all this country has to offer. Each region of Italy offers its visitors a unique experience.
From the classic dishes of Naples to the modern cuisine of Rome, the renaissance of Florence to the Biennale of Venice, and from the beaches on the Amalfi coast to the ski slopes of the Italian Alps, you’ll soon discover that Italy has as many complex notes as you might savor from your favorite vintage wine.
Recommended travel months
April, May, and June are pleasant months to travel in Italy. July and August can often be too hot. Temperatures cool in September and October for the grape harvest.
Currency: € Euro
Italy boasts the most UNESCO World Heritage sites with 51, more than any other country in the world. Italians are said to eat 4 kg or nearly 9 pounds of gelato per year. The Venetian explorer, Marco Polo, is credited with bringing the first pasta to Italy from his adventures in China. Today, Italians consume more than 51 pounds of pasta per year.
There are just as many colors in Tuscany as there are on an artist's palette. In the beautiful soft light and golden clay colored hues of the rolling hills, you’ll discover what artists have known for centuries: Tuscany is a masterpiece. The burnt sienna crayon in your Crayola package will take on a new meaning as you explore the city’s complex neighborhoods or contrade.
Take in life like a local as you sit poolside sipping your favorite beverage after a day’s worth of stunning views cycling through the exquisite beauty of the region's rolling hills and sprawling vineyards. Dare you try one of the delectable tarts from that quaint bakery you passed earlier in the day? The to-die-for almond cakes, exceptional biscotti, or a homemade gelato from the villa Scacciapensieri? You probably deserved it after biking in Chianti from winery to winery, right?
Few places in Italy rival the vista you’ll have the pleasure of enjoying as you ride up to the medieval village of San Gimignano by bicycle. You’ll be traveling through vineyards in a patchwork of misty pink, gold, and green framed by the famous towers that dominate the region’s skyline. There is no better view than from the balcony of our hotel as we take in a perfect Tuscan sunset.
Feel like a powerful member of the historic Medici family as you stay in a former family villa overlooking Firenze, or Florence, as it’s known in English. Ponder what the statue of David is thinking about on the Piazza della Signoria, which must be one of the most stunning squares of Europe.
Abbazia di Monte Oliveto Maggiore
Have you ever wanted to visit an abbey run by wine making monks? The picturesque abbey is framed nicely from the village of Chiusure above, where having a bowl of the local pici pasta and sipping a glass of the local Chianti is worth a visit on its own. Walking through the abbey you might get to hear heavenly voices from chanting monks echoing off the cracked paint of the famous frescoes that line the walls. A wine tasting here is a must, along with a walk through the crumbling wine cellar that dates back more than 800 years.
If you’re looking to explore the Italian Alps, there’s no better view than the breathtaking backdrop of the limestone mountains of the Dolomites. Whether you’re interested in biking, trekking, mountaineering, or skiing, the Dolomites have what you’re after. Unwind after a long hike by wandering in the lush gardens of the aristocratic spa town of Merano.
Bigger isn’t always better. Visitors to The Netherlands, also known as Holland, will agree that there is much more to this country than just windmills, clogs, tulips, and cheese. This highly resourceful mercantile country has not only produced great artists such as Van Gogh, Vermeer, and Rembrandt, but many other scientists, designers, explorers, and musicians that have changed the world.
Experience the opulence of Dutch Golden Age as you walk through the old cities of the Dutch East India trading company, the world's first publicly traded corporation. At one time in the world one in every three ships on the ocean raised a Dutch flag on its mast. Masters of moving the earth, the Dutch have reclaimed forty percent of their land from the water. At one time, there were over 40,000 windmills pumping out water to drain the landscape. In fact, the word landscape comes to us from the Dutch word landschap. Having the benefit of being mostly flat, this country is ideally suited for cycling and activities on (or in) the water.
Recommended travel months
Depending on winter temperatures, the tulips can arrive anytime in the months of April and May. Spring temps can range from cold in the morning to warm during the day. The summer months are mostly cool but there can be a heat wave that will push temps into the 90s. Temperatures can remain pleasant until late October.
Currency: € Euro
Fun facts: There are more bikes than people in the Netherlands, and a quarter of all journeys are done by bicycle throughout the country. The Dutch are the tallest people in the world. Perhaps it’s because they consume over 30 pounds of cheese per year? Holland is an area in the Netherlands that today is made up of the provinces of North Holland and South Holland. Historically Holland was the area that contributed the most to the Dutch economy and wealth, thus becoming a common name to indicate the entire country. Now the two have become synonymous.
There’s a saying in Dutch that you should live in The Hague, work in Rotterdam, and party in Amsterdam. It’s not by coincidence that Amsterdam has a reputation for being the most open city in the world. After the count of Holland waived tolls on locks and bridges for its citizens, the young port of Amsterdam started growing quickly, but also intelligently.
The ambient canals that have become synonymous with the city were designed in such a way where a trader could dock directly in front of their home in order to load goods on or off their ships. Clever design solutions have now become a way of life in the Netherlands.
Roaming the streets of the city, you’ll notice the functional, yet beautiful architecture persistent through several centuries of innovation. The medieval cityscape has been modified to fit cars, trams, boats, and bicycles abound. Attention to detail has left the population feeling content, allowing its citizens to concentrate on the finer things in life.
This pursuit of all things gezellig is essentially a national philosophy. Gezellig, meaning convivial or cozy; is an ideology that aims to make you feel warm and fuzzy. Whether it’s a gezellig(e) night out with friends and family, or the pleasant ambiance you feel from a well decorated corner pub that plays great music, gezelligheid (cozyness) is all about having a great atmosphere to enjoy.
In Holland, there’s nothing more gezellig than a great party. King's day is the king of all parties in Holland. Visit Amsterdam in late April and you’ll be swallowed into a sea of orange clad people spilling onto the streets and canals, in honor of the House of Orange.
The traditions of tolerance have been challenged in recent years in Holland, but the temperament of the society remains overall accepting. Excluding petty crime such as bicycle theft, the Netherlands remains one of the safest places in Europe.
“I struggle and I emerge!” is the motto of the mostly below-sea level Dutch province of Zeeland. A fitting motto, which in many ways is appropriate for the entire nation of the Netherlands. Having emerged from wars, floods, fires, and famine, the Dutch have been crossing off their fears one by one.
After a catastrophic flood in 1953 the Dutch constructed a series of impressive engineering feats known as the Delta works. A team of 100,000 people work year-round to maintain this national defense against water.
One of the impressive projects to emerge from the Delta works was the construction of the world's largest robot known as the Maeslantkering. When a storm surge of over three meters is detected, the robot’s storm barrier closes automatically.
Investment in public health is a long-standing tradition in the Netherlands with successful projects such as car free city centers, safe cycle routes to school for children, entire villages designed specifically for the handicapped or people suffering from illnesses like Dementia, and not to mention the strategy to improve worldwide climate, with all Dutch trains now running on wind power. These have all become commonplace in modern Dutch society.
For hundreds of years Friesland was its own country, populated by hearty people, with its own language and own way of life. Now, a province in the Kingdom of the Netherlands, the traditions and language remain the same.
The Dutch love coming to Friesland for their outdoor pursuits. A Province riddled with waterways, the Frisians have come up with clever ways to enjoy their seemingly endless canals.The famous eleven city tour is a 200km race on ice skates that contestants have 24 hours to finish.
The competition has only taken place 15 times over the course of its hundred-plus year history, but when it happens the race captivates the entire nation. Sailing is also a longstanding tradition in the province. Every summer, students from across the country arrive on school field trips to learn how to sail in its waters.
Perhaps one of the best ways to characterize the Frisians is through one of its most interesting sports, Fierljeppen, or canal jumping, which involves running and jumping onto a pole in a canal, then climbing it while trying to control the lateral movements so as to be able to leap from the pole as far as you can into the sand on the other side. This is just one of the many amusing things to learn about while spending time in the eccentric province of Friesland.
The Keukenhof Gardens
After the introduction of the tulip bulb into the kingdom of the Netherlands from Turkey in the _bth century, a frenzied period known as ‘tulip-mania’ occurred.
The Dutch became so intoxicated with the flower that some rare bulb varieties started commanding prices higher than most canal-side homes in Amsterdam. Eventually the bubble burst with many individuals losing entire life fortunes on their floral investments. Ever since, the tulip has been synonymous with Dutch culture.
The Dutch see themselves as a nation of artists with their national masterpiece the Keukenhof gardens. Celebrated as a crown jewel of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, the Keukenhof garden is the world's foremost tulip garden. With more than one thousand varieties of tulips on display it’s not just a garden, it's an art exhibit.
Great works of artistry are planted in the soil, which come sparkling to life as the flowers bloom. In years past, for example, depictions of Big Ben and the London Tower Bridge were etched in the ground, by planting over 60,000 brightly colored tulips.
It’s amazing to consider that a staff of only 30 gardeners plant and maintain over seven million bulbs. All that work, for a garden that is only open for six weeks each spring! During this brief stint, the garden becomes one of the most amazing spectacles of art in the world.
Perhaps no other country in Western Europe has such a fascinating past. This mix of history, in combination with ample outdoor activities, excellent beer, sensational wines, a strong culinary influence, offer you the ingredients to make an unforgettable vacation. With the fresh air of alpine mountains, the enchantment of thermal spa villages, and picturesque old towns Germany is an outdoorsman's paradise.
Recommended travel months
Summer is the best time to visit Germany. Spring and autumn are also great options, particularly May and September when there is little rainfall and the temperatures are agreeable.
Currency: € Euro
Fun facts: Over 800 million curry-wurst are eaten in Germany each year. A curry-wurst is a popular sausage served with a spicy curry sauce. There’s even a museum in Berlin dedicated to the popular snack.
Try to get to Munich for the Oktoberfest, one of the continent’s biggest and best parties, running from the last Saturday in September to the first Sunday in October. Reserve accommodations well in advance and don’t forget your lederhosen. The Oktoberfest takes place at the Theresienwiese grounds southwest of central station. No entrance fee is charged but most of the fun costs something. There are carnival rides, food stands, and a lot of beer tents.
Exploring the vineyards and wineries of the Mosel Valley is an ideal way to get a taste of German culture, people, and of course the wonderful wines. The many historical sites and beautiful towns built along the river below steep rocky cliffs planted with vineyards, make this one of the country’s most scenic regions.
Do not miss a visit to Burg Eltz at the head of the splendid Eltz Valley. Towering over the surrounding hills, this awe-inspiring medieval castle has frescos, paintings, furniture and ornately decorated rooms. Your first views of the castle after emerging from a lush wooded valley won’t easily be forgotten.
Discover for yourself why Austria is one of the most popular destinations amongst Europeans. Could it be the endless opportunities for outdoor pursuits, its fine wines, the rich cultural heritage, or the unforgettable scenery?
The period of unprecedented prosperity has come and gone, but it’s left a grandeur that leaves you feeling statesmanlike just by being there. Never have the epic classical music ballads made more sense than while visiting this grandiose country. Is it any wonder it’s the birthplace of the waltz?
There’s probably no place on earth where music has shaped a city more so than it has in Salzburg. The birthplace of Mozart, and the surrounding hills that brought to life the Sound of Music, will also be music to the ears of outdoor enthusiasts. The strategically positioned Hohensalzburg fortress is the perfect place to see all the area’s opportunities for adventure. Surrounded by mountains, rivers, lakes and valleys Salzburg is a buzz with an energy all its own.
Often neglected by visitors, the Carinthia region offers mountains, lakes, varied cities, and interesting influences from the neighboring countries of Italy, Slovenia and Hungary. Having been rebranded as one of Europe’s top eco-tourist destinations, discover for yourself how Carinthia and Austria are pushing the threshold of sustainable tourism. Thermal springs and mineral baths are only a few of the surprises you’ll fall in love with from the region.
This former seat of imperial power during the reign of the Habsburg dynasty, Vienna now has a more modest and humbler feel. Remaining are the grand structures, world renowned museums, and covetable musical traditions, but gone are the grandiose political past that dominated Europe for centuries. Modern day Austrians may still prefer the waltz, but in recent decades they’ve pursued some of Europe's most radical socialist policies.
Anybody with an interest in the arts will love this city, just as Strauss, Mozart, and Beethoven would have during the city's ‘golden years.’ Any one of the city’s many riverside cafes is the perfect place to ‘take it all in’ after a day of exploring the banks of the Danube.
Zell am See
If you’re looking for one place that offers the best of Austria, look no further than Zell am See. Enjoy life in, and around the water and come to rest in the mountains of this health resort community. Hiking, biking, music, food, and culture are waiting for you in this green paradise. After a day of play make sure to try the local favorite of Speckknoedel, or bacon dumplings. You won’t be disappointed.
The ideal time for visiting Austria depends on your reasons for visiting the country. The enjoyment of winter sports can continue from December to April. The mountains and forests are also very pleasant in summer in-between the odd shower or thunderstorm. Visiting Vienna and Salzburg is very pleasant in autumn or spring.
Currency: € Euro's
Fun facts: Hollywood actor, and former Governor of California Arnold Schwarzenegger comes from Austria. The founder of Red Bull comes from Austria and, also, set up area 47 which is an extreme sports adventure park in Tirol.
It's easy to feel like you're in one of Hans Christian Andersen's fabled fairy tales while travelling in Denmark. After being whisked away to some of Europe's most spectacular castles and its world class restaurants culture, you too might feel like the storied Princess and the Pea (only with a softer mattress).
Gone are the days of the pillaging vikings who've now been replaced by a kinder, gentler folk who tend prefer all things hygge. This Danish philosophy of enjoying the pleasure of the little things in life tends to rub off on its visitors.
No matter what the weather, the Danes love to be outdoors. Walk by any bakery or café in the morning, and you might be surprised to see several strollers with sleeping babies left unattended. From birth children are put outside even in sub-zero temperatures; ask any Scandinavian and they'll tell you: “Everyone knows that outdoor babies sleep”. If you've ever wondered how the seemingly coldest countries always make it to the top of the ‘World's Happiest Report’ each year, now you know, they get outside!
How do you turn a zero-emissions garbage burning power plant into something beautiful? By turning it into a year-round ski slope of course! Perhaps we should come to expect these types of innovations from the country that brought us the Lego. Aiming to be the world's first carbon neutral city, Copenhagen is well on its way.
Copenhagen is one of the best examples of what a city can be like when you design it for people, instead of for cars. Take a stroll down Nyhavn crossing the ‘kissing bridge,'walking past the world’s best restaurant Noma, on your way to the Papier island's street food scene and you won’t encounter a single car.
You’ll have to watch out for cruising bicycles and the jumping children on the random public sidewalk trampoline park of course. Then there’s Freetown Christiania the district known as ‘the social experiment’ by locals. The community of squatters housed in the city's former barracks has lived more or less outside of the government since 1971. A fascinating mix of the fringes of society is on display in this makeshift village, which has also managed to turn itself into the fourth most visited tourist attraction in the city.
The city of Odense is the birthplace of children’s author Hans Christian Andersen. His fairytales come to life in the form of statues across the city, but there’s no need to be embarrassed for ‘The Emperor with no Clothes’ or ‘The Ugly Duckling’ in this city. Odense is perhaps the only place in Europe where you can cycle past lions, tigers, and bears (Oh my!) as the city's ‘yellow brick road’ or bike path, winds through the middle of the zoo.
Odense is situated in the heart of the island of Fyn, whose cities of Faaborg and Svendborg also beg to be visited. Perhaps the major highlight of the island however is a visit to the perfectly manicured Egeskov Castle. Complete with a maze and ropes course, classic car and creepy doll collections, and an ideal grounds to enjoy a tasty picnic while sitting moat-side and reflecting on the castle visit.
‘Something is rotten in Denmark’ could be changed to ‘Something is awesome in Denmark!’ after paying a visit to the city of Helsingor. The Kronborg Castle situated on the coast of Helsingor inspired ‘the house of Elsinore’ in William Shakespeare's Hamlet.
An amazing castle in its own right, the Kronborg pales in comparison to the regions other châteaux. The royal palace in Fredensborg is not only gorgeous, but it also has an unforgettable statue garden that depicts what common citizens might have looked like through the many eras of Danish history.
The Frederiksborg castle in nearby Hillerod not only has some of the best gardens in the country, it also houses one of the country’s most important museums. If modern art is your thing, then make sure to check out the Louisiana, which sits on amazing grounds along the coast, with Sweden visible across the strait of Øresund.
Denmark has a very pleasant climate, more so than the other Scandinavian countries, due to the influences of the Gulf Stream. The winter sees temperatures of around freezing point, and during the summer, temperatures may reach the 80s. Rains are fairly frequent in summer, and the sea water temperature never exceeds `b degrees Fahrenheit. May and September can be good months to visit Denmark when it is bright and cool. Avoid the months between October and April when the days are extremely short with wind and low clouds.
Currency: Danish Krone
Fun facts: The word Lego comes from the Danish word 'Leg Godt' which means play good. Lego was founded in Denmark in the year 1932.
Discover why lovers of the great outdoors come to Croatia specifically for its adventure-sports activities. Spend your days in the dreamy deep blue sea sailing, scuba diving, or sea kayaking. Or choose the rugged mountains, rafting, mountain biking and rock climbing. Until recently, only Europeans considered Croatia their own private playground.
Slowly, however, the rest of the world is discovering Croatia’s charms: its wealth of Roman ruins, medieval hilltop castles, and endless natural wonders. If the beach you're at seems too crowded, simply wander down the endless stretch of coastline to claim a plot of your own.
Croatians take pride in their fresh regional ingredients, and it shows with every delectable bite. You may never want to leave after sampling the local food and wine.
Dubrovnik sits regally atop its jagged cliffside perch, like a prized fighter that can't be beaten. The undisputed champion of the dalmatian coast is Dubrovnik. Staggering but not toppling, the city survived a siege that many never recover from. Although the city walls make it seem imposing from the outside, you'll find the people to be relaxed and friendly, enjoying their Mediterranean lifestyles. Perhaps these resilient citizens have been toughened by war, but you'd hardly notice it nowadays while people watching in Gundelic Square.
The main event in Dubrovnik however is the unmatched beauty of the city itself. Traversing through the city streets and back alleyways carved from stone limestone that gleams from the polishing it gets from the hundreds of years of visitors. Views from every angle of the city are breathtaking, especially during sunrise when things are still quiet and the light is golden. Climb the surrounding hillsides, kayak around it, walk the length of its city walls; each view seemingly better than the next.
Life doesn't get much more relaxed than on the island of Korcula. An island time seems to have forgotten, like a sunbleached postcard that you can no longer tell which decade it's from. This feeling of timelessness is perpetuated while wandering the ancient boyhood village of Marco Polo. Walking in the footsteps of a man who has had more trekking adventures than most is exhilarating. Retracing his path across the islands hiking trails is not only a journey through time, but through the senses. Fresh garden herbs grow haphazardly trailside, infusing with the salty seaside air and the squawking of seagulls. It's easy to imagine a young Marco Polo making similar discoveries on this pathway, on his journey which has inspired countless generations of adventure travelers.
The island of Hvar could be considered the center of the hive of Croatia's island life. Hvar city is abuzz with backpackers, yachtsmen, and tourists from around the world. Famous for its active pursuits by day, and its party scene by night Hvar island is the perfect place to experience all that Croatia has to offer.
With some of the world's most underrated cuisine and wine's, Croatia is still a great value for food and wine lovers alike. One bite of Pag cheese made from the goats that have been happily grazing on salty herbs might be all you need to be won over by Croatia. Whether it's the wine, warm weather, clear blue waters, or the relaxed atmosphere; Hvar should be on the radar of almost every adventure enthusiast.
Recommended Travel Months
The best time to visit Croatia is between May and October. July and August the beaches are packed with both locals and tourists along the coast.
Currency: Croatian kuna
Fun facts: The necktie, the Dalmatian dog breed, and Nikola Tesla all originate from Croatia.
Everyone should visit France at some point in their life. Whether it's the rolling hills of the north or its endless Mediterranean beaches of the south, its snowy peaks of the alps or its historical towns and cities, you'll soon be sharing in what has made France so magical for centuries; it's joie de vivre.
Almost every visitor agrees, the French seem to know how to enjoy life. Maybe it's the many world-famous museums, galleries, wineries, cafes, or restaurants that keep the populace content. Or perhaps it's the stunning natural beauty that inspired such artists as Van Gogh, Gauguin, and Monet? Whatever it is, France offers its visitors endless opportunities to revel in its delights. Offering endless regional variety through its tastes, flavors, landscapes and cultures; there might be no place on earth more enchanting than France.
Since Napoleon III commissioned work to be done on the city center of Paris in 1853, a revolution of city planning began that continues to this day across Europe. Ordered to bring ‘light and air’ into the city center; Architect Georges-Eugene Haussmann's work began the age of designing cities towards the health and wellbeing of its citizens. Until then the city center of Paris was a dark and decaying city where disease was running rampant.
Now Paris is arguably the most beautiful city in the world. Visit during any time of year and you'll be left with similarly enchanted by its impressive public buildings, unforgettable museums, parks, gardens and esplanades. Of course, there are the icons we've all come to know of the city, the Eiffel tower, Notre Dame, the Louvre, the river Seine. Like colors on a palette or notes on sheet music, each element has gone into composing Paris, the city of light.
What could be known as the valley of Chateau, the Loire valley is a favorite destination amongst tourists seeking architectural proof to the splendors of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. Nestled in an already stunning natural location, the river Loire is home to one of the most aesthetically pleasing regions of France thanks to the dozens of ornate Chateaux sprinkled across the region.
Add to that the regions impressive wines, unbeatable gardens, and scrumptious cuisine; it's hard to beat the Loire valley's beauty. Best seen on the seat of a bicycle, the flat and winding river valley offers hundreds of kilometers of pedal packed explorations.
There's a softness to the subtly rolling landscape of Normandy that contrasts the harshness of the of the regions violent history. Even the region's name derives from the Norsemen Vikings that conquered this area centuries ago. Normandy also home to the Second World War's most dramatic and decisive battles is arguably the region's top draw.
A visit to the D-Day landing beaches is a must, but visitors will find many other surprises that might have them returning for years to come. Famed for its dairy products and cheese, apples and cider brandy (Calvados), Normandy is sure to leave a good taste in your mouth.
Basking in over 300 days of sunlight per year, it's no wonder artists were drawn to Provence where its light captivated generations of the world’s greatest artists. From the Azure coast of the sexy French Riviera, to the famous fields of lavender, along with famed bottles of classic red and white wines Provence is awash with color and flare, combining the best of nature with classic medieval villages.
Burgundy is the region of France where we not only get the name for the spectacular class of wines but also fittingly the name for the deep red color that goes along with this intoxicant. Visitors of the region will also be intoxicated by the wondrous culinary delights and striking scenery of its river valleys.
Combined with some of France's most spectacular palaces, churches, and museums it's easy to get swept up in all things Burgundian. The urban city centers of Lyon and Dijon also offer visitors some of the world's finest dining experiences on the planet.
Recommended Travel Months
The seasons are usually very marked, with cold winters, warm summers, dry-seasons and rainy periods. The rugged terrain of the country adds to the general climate of local variations: cold winters in the mountains, spring and autumn and warmer on the sunny Mediterranean and Atlantic coasts, cooler weather in the North, and sometimes scorching summers in the South.
Currency: € Euro
Fun facts: With over g^ million visitors France is the most visited country on the planet. Officially home to the world's oldest ever human being; a woman, by the name of Jeanne Calment, who lived to be more than 122 years old.
The people are relaxed and fun-loving, the beaches long and sandy, and the food and drink easy to come by. Culturally, the country is littered with superb old buildings, from Roman aqueducts and Islamic palaces to Gothic cathedrals and medieval castles.
And let’s not forget the more recent architectural masterpieces by the modernistas (Gaudi) in Barcelona and the spectacular Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao. Spain has been the home of some of the world’s greatest artists: El Greco, Goya, Dali, Picasso, and has museums and galleries to match. It vibrates with music and fiestas of every kind. ¡Ole!
Recommended Travel Months
Like most of the Mediterranean countries, the best time to discover the country is between April and June or September and October, which allows you to enjoy comfortable temperatures while avoiding the influx of tourists in the middle of summer.
Currency: € Euro
Fun facts: The Spanish prefer lunch at 2pm afterwards a short siesta. Dinner starts late, and if you show up for a party before midnight you'll be considered early.
Spain has 44 UNESCO world heritage sites and is second behind Italy with 53. Spain produces over half of the world’s olive oil over 1.5 million tons. It is the world’s third-largest wine producer, behind France and Italy.
The fiercely independent region of Catalonia has its own language, is the wealthiest province, and many don't consider themselves to be Spanish. Probably the most scenic region of Spain, Catalonia has a lot to offer. With some of Europe's most secluded mountains, hikers will fall in love with the great walking, especially in Parc Nacional d'Aigues Tortes i Sant Maurici. There is also the wild coastline known as the Costa Brava or 'Brave coast' because of its cliff-covered rocky coastline. There are also some of Spain's most fascinating city centers and interesting festivals taking place in this region.
If you only have time to visit one city in Spain, it should be Barcelona. Situated on a beautiful section of the Mediterranean, the unhurried city center is a great place to take in the inspiring creations of Antoni Gaudi, among them la Sagrada Familia church and Parc Guell. From the cafe culture in the cities plazas, to the laidback atmosphere of the surrounding beaches, it's the perfect place to experience the rich food culture, sample the region's big wines, or just get lost amongst one of Europe's most livable and lovable cities.
Discover why Napoleon, the Romans and the Moors all wanted to invade this medieval gem of Girona. Known as the city of a thousand sieges, the city's old quarter is best discovered by foot with its steep alleyways, narrow lanes, and ancient stone houses. Cross the timeworn bridge across the Onyar River to get some of the finest views of the city's ramparts.