Strolling along The Champs-Elysées. Sipping a coffee in Vienna. Exploring Venice from a gondola. If you’re planning a trip to Europe, you may have your sights set on these iconic experiences. But make time to visit the places tourists have yet to discover.
Here’s a look at eight hidden destinations in Europe to evoke your sense of wanderlust.
1. Camogli, Italy
It was only a few years ago when the Cinque Terre topped lists of undiscovered destinations. While the five villages remain a great option for your itinerary, Camogli, an hour to the north, enjoys fewer crowds and just as many opportunities to explore. Located on the western side of the Portofino peninsula, Camogli is one of the oldest fishing villages in Italy. Pastel-colored buildings peer down upon the pebbled beaches and brilliant blue waters of the Ligurian Sea. A small church sits right on the water, flanked by moored fishing boats. Heading south from Camogli, a stone path will take you up winding stone cases and under boughs of myrtle and laurel. If you go the entire way, you’ll reach the abbey at San Fruttuoso. Camogli is easy to reach from Genoa, Milan, or Florence.
2. The Loire Valley, France
With unparalleled cycling routes, bright, crisp wines, and more châteaus than you can count, the Loire Valley is an ideal destination for any traveler. Leonardo da Vinci spent the last three years of his life in Amboise, and his influence helped earn the valley the reputation as birthplace of the French Renaissance. Explore the sophisticated cities of Orleans or Tours, or head to the Château de Chambord—the largest and most-visited castle in the Loire Valley. You can reach the valley in about hour from Paris.
3. Morar and Arisaig, Scotland
Situated on the western coast of the Scottish Highlands, these areas invite you to immerse yourself in the slow pace of village life while exploring the coastal wilds. Look out over azure waters to see the country’s smallest islands, Rum, Eigg, and Muck. Go on a wildlife excursion, visit Europe’s deepest freshwater lake (Loch Morar), or walk on the Silver Sands of Morar—the filming location of portions of the Highlander movies. You can drive there after flying into Edinburgh or Glasgow, or take the Jacobite Steam Train. The latter connects Fort William, the largest town in the Highlands, with Mallaig, a fishing village where you can take a ferry out to the islands. An added bonus: the train travels over the 21-arched Glenfinnan Viaduct, popularized in the Harry Potter films.
4. Saxony, Germany
Located in the eastern part of Germany, Saxony is known as the country’s cultural capital. Anchored by Dresden, the capital city, this region is a must if you’re interested in opera, theater, or classical music. Dresden offers stunning architecture, most of which emerged following the city’s near-destruction during WWII. Further out, see the Königstein Fortress, one of the largest of its kind in Europe that was once a military fortification and prison. Saxony National Park brims with towering rocks and historic stonework bridges. Bad Schandau, a tiny spa town, is a great place to detox. Fly into Dresden and use the regional trains to get around Saxony, or connect to the region via train from other German cities.
5. The Principality of Asturias, Spain
If you have a passion for outdoor adventure, head northwest from Madrid to the Principality of Asturias. You’ll discover jagged coastline, uncrowded beaches, colorful fishing villages, pre-Romanesque architecture, and the soaring peaks and valleys of of the Picos de Europa. Unspoiled wilderness abounds here, as one-third of the region enjoys national protection and six biospheres within the principality are UNESCO-listed. Be sure to make time for Covadonga Convent, one of the most important historic locations in Spain.
6. Mt. Pelion, Greece
Greece is famous for its islands, but the region surrounding the 5,300-foot Mt. Pelion is a great place to get off the grid on the mainland. Mt. Pelion is located in central Greece on a peninsula that juts into the Pagasetic Gulf. It boasts spectacular ocean views and handful of rustic villages that lie peppered across the landscape. If you’re looking for pristine isolated beaches, outdoor adventure, and significant archaeological sites, you’ve come to the right place. The city of Volos sits about halfway between Athens and Thessaloniki, and offers a vibrant restaurant and nightlight scene. In ancient times, Jason and his Argonauts sailed from Volos in search of the Golden Fleece. These days, people come during all seasons to swim in the gulf, ski down Mt. Pelion’s slopes, and tour the nearby monasteries.
7. Lozere, France
Sparsely populated and quite rural, Lozere includes the dramatic Gorges du Tarn—a canyon dominated by limestone plateaus and nearly vertical cliffs. From many places in the area, you’ll have 360-degree views of the French Alps, the Pyrenees, and the Massif Central. Hike, you can bike or even ride a horse through unique landscape that, at times, feels and looks nothing like France. Visit the cliffside village of Sainte-Enimie or head to the spa town of Bagnols-les-Bains. Mende is the primary town, located about six hours south of Paris.
8. Gargano, Puglia, Italy
The Gargano Promontory juts into the Adriatic Sea, creating the spur of Italy’s boot. Though it’s not exactly a hidden destination in Europe (the area is very popular with Italians), it is certainly worth a visit. Vieste and Peschici are top spots, as is Monte Sant’Angelo with its medieval sanctuary. The majority of Gargano belongs to a 30,000-acre national park, which contains some of the oldest trees in Italy. The gateway to the region is Manfredonia, which you can reach from Rome in about four hours.
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