This summer, try something different and explore Europe’s hidden gems! Traditional destinations such as Paris, Rome and Madrid have always been popular choices for a European summer holiday. Still, plenty of underrated spots on the Old Continent are just waiting to be discovered.
Find inspiration in these five destinations for a unique and unforgettable adventure.
Montenegro is the new star destination of the Balkans and the Mediterranean! You’ll find a mix of jet set glam, national parks and remnants of the former Yugoslavia. Montenegro’s popularity among travellers of all ages is probably due in part to the James Bond movie Casino Royale (even though it was filmed in the Czech Republic).
If you are a nature lover, you’ll be in your element! Make your way to Zabljak for a few days of camping or stay with a local and explore Durmitor National Park, a UNESCO world heritage site since 1980.
You can take breathtaking hikes and swim in crystal-clear lakes. Raft or zip-line in the 80-km-long Tara River Canyon, which at a depth of 1300 metres, is the deepest canyon in Europe!
Bohemian Switzerland National Park, Czech Republic
Make no mistake! You’re not in Switzerland but in the Czech Republic. The Bohemian Switzerland National Park is a region in the Czech Republic popular with lovers of breathtaking scenery.
The park is made up of spectacular rock formations and luxuriant forests, with panoramic views of the Elbe River and the Krušnohoří Mountains.
One of the best ways to discover the region is by following one of the well-marked hiking trails. Take the Pravčická brána trail, which will bring you to one of Europe's largest natural rock gates.
During your Czech Swiss escapade, be sure to explore Šaunštejn Castle, a genuine rock castle dating from the 14th century.
Travel to the heart of the Balkans! With its unique mix of eastern and western cultures, Sarajevo is a veritable cultural melting pot. This city has endured much conflict, but is still standing, strong and proud, with a rich history and a close-knit population.
Over the centuries, Sarajevo has proved resilient and has become one of the friendliest and most charming destinations in Europe. Let yourself be captivated by its lively cafés and its Ottoman architecture. You can also discover the remains of the Olympic Village and take in a fabulous view of the city.
If you want a different and moving experience, visit the Sarajevo War Tunnel, or Tunnel of Hope. With a guide who will explain the place’s fascinating history, you will walk down this secret 960-metre-long underground passageway used daily by 3,000 to 4,000 people between 1992 and 1996 to obtain necessary provisions from surrounding regions. This museum tells the story of the people’s resistance in the face of the longest modern siege ever documented.
Discover Shkodër, a lovely city in northwestern Albania, on the shores of Lake Skadar. This city is rich in history and culture, with numerous historical buildings and Byzantine churches dating from the Middle Ages. Shkodër is also known for its Ottoman architecture, its wonderful restaurants and its lively nightlife.
It’s the ideal destination for history and culture lovers, as well as those looking to relax and enjoy urban life.
You can also use this city as a base for hiking in the Albanian Alps! Travel from Shköder by minivan (pack some motion sickness meds for the windy road) up to the small magical village of Theth. You can camp inexpensively or stay in a guesthouse. Theth is the perfect starting point for a day of hiking on the Balkan Trail.
Walk up to the Valbona Pass for a spectacular view of the Prokletije Mountains, whose name translates to “Accursed Mountains” due to their rough relief. After some 8 or 9 hours of walking, you will arrive at the village of Valbona, where you can camp or stay with a local.
To complete the loop back to Shköder, take a ferry across the magnificent, brilliantly blue Lake Koman. This 2- to 3-day expedition is the perfect mix of off-the-beaten-track adventure and Albanian culture!
If you dream of sun and sand this summer, head for Alicante! This coastal city on Spain’s Costa Blanca is known for its golden sand beaches, party atmosphere, and year-round sunny weather. Travellers can enjoy long leisurely days on the beach, sampling tapas in the local restaurants and strolling along the seafront promenade.
Alicante’s old city is also a hidden gem, with its winding streets and historic buildings such as the Castillo de Santa Bárbara and the Castillo de San Fernando. Climbing up to the Castillo de Santa Barbara is a must for a magnificent view of the city and the Mediterranean Sea.
Top tip: There is no standard time given for climbing up to the Castillo de Santa Bárbara from the old city of Alicante. It all depends on each person’s physical fitness, how fast they climb and how often they stop along the way. In general, the climb can take between 30-60 minutes, depending on your climbing speed.
Choose less travelled spots that are worth a visit!
Whatever destination you choose, some lovely surprises await you off the beaten path! Start planning your next trip to Europe now.