It is summer season, which means it is that time of the year when you probably want to tick off a few places from your travel bucket list. Much like the famous ‘Infinity stones’ in the Avengers movie series, the concept of hidden gems is slowly fading away with the growth in tourism in hitherto unexplored locations. I believe it is better to be among those that visit the hidden gems before they evolve into popular tourist hotspots. The ongoing summer makes Europe a great place to visit at this time of the year. Here are five non-mainstream places to visit across Europe that are sure to make this vacation season an unforgettable one.
CROATIA Croatia has close to 1250 islands and a number of lakes which are best explored through a cruise. The Elafiti Islands Cruise for example takes you along a cluster of 14 islands in the country. The city of Dubrovnik, located in southern Croatia is famously known as ‘The Pearl of the Adriatic’. You can also stop on the way to snorkel and swim at Lokrum Island. This previously offbeat place is beginning to gain popularity as parts of Game of Thrones were shot in Dubrovnik which tourists can explore through a GoT Extended tour.
HUNGARY Hungary has a large number of thermal spring spas which can be found within medieval bath structures. Its capital, Budapest houses the Hungarian Parliament, which boasts of breathtaking neogothic architecture. Do not miss out on a cruise along the Danube River. Additionally, if you plan your travel around the right time, you can even catch the Sziget Festival (that happens in August). Budapest also has the ‘House of Terror’, which is both a memorial for victims and a museum that encapsulates the fascist and communist regimes of the 20th century. The caves of Aggtelek Karst National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, are also a must-visit site.
ESTONIA Estonia’s capital city Tallinn is well known for the old town area and a number of museums. This includes the Estonian open-air museum, which transports you back to historical times, and the ‘Kumu’, Estonia’s biggest art museum. Estonia also has beautiful waterfalls and lakes, which include Keila, the Narva Cascades, Lake Võrtsjärv and Kurtna Lake District. If you have the time, you must visit the Alpakafarm in Parnu, one of Estonia’s biggest alpaca farms.
SLOVENIA Slovenia is known for its ski culture and outdoor adventure opportunities. The most popular attractions are Lake Bled, Postojna Cave and the Predjama Castle, all within reach of the capital Ljubljana. However, what is a real must-visit is the Triglav National Park. It is the largest protected area in Slovenia and makes up a significant percentage of the total area of the country. The park also houses Slovenia’s largest glacial lake called Lake Bohinj, as well as Lake Krn and Savica Waterfall.
Also do visit the Church of the Holy Trinity in Hrastovlje to watch the ‘Danse Macabre’ or the Dance of Death - it will take your breath away (hopefully not literally!).
PORTUGAL While in Portugal one should definitely go for the Kayak Tour of Ponta da Piedade Caves and Beaches. In Lisbon, you can head to the Restauradores Square, Rossio Central Station, and Liberdade Avenue. But for something truly special, Sortelha village and Sintra are two ‘secret’ places with the most beautiful castles, palaces and views. Another place to definitely visit is the village of Monsanto, which is built around rocks. Places like Braga, Amarante and Porto are also must-visit places in Portugal.