Europe has always been one of the most popular and satisfying destinations to travel. This beautiful continent attracts wanderers from all over the world, 365 days a year. Whatever you’re into, you’ll find it here. Colourful, historic, charming cities full of rich culture, culinary diversity and breathtaking coastal havens with some of the most immaculate landscapes. A place where you’ll never get bored of the scenery and are always a mere train, plane or car ride away from your next travel adventure.
Personally, I love the summers there, but there is one major problem with that time of year; the tourists, the line-ups and the crowds! I don’t know about you, but personally, that’s not my vibe when I’m vacationing. I like to take my time, explore, discover, get lost at my own pace. Social, yet secluded, and not feeling rushed or waiting in lines for the next tourist trap. I vowed to never go back during those summer peak seasons. Instead, succumbed to the late spring and fall months. There was only one problem with that. I was missing out on the beautiful summer weather and all the fun outdoor activities that came with it.
I decided to look at it a little differently. Instead of avoiding summer months, I’ll start going to places where no one else thinks to go, but still have all the required ingredients of a perfect European escapade. What I discovered is that there are some truly amazing hidden gem destinations that everyone should be adding to their bucket list. And now I’ve decided to share these with you (while secretly hoping that not too many of you actually go ;p). Only kidding, of course.
So the next time you’re planning your European vacation, choose your travel partners wisely and take a look at these 6 marvelous regions that are yet to be congested with international tourists.
1. Perast, Montenegro
I’ll admit, the Adriatic coast is a new discovery for me. It’s the epitome of a hidden gem for those of you who have not yet visited. Perast is a small town of about 400 (very fortunate) people that is a must-see bucket list region. The town oozes charm with one main winding road that connects the gorgeous churches the place is known for. It is capped off with the star of the show, Our Lady of the Rocks, only a short boat ride away. Prepare to make your friends envious of the photos you take with these insanely breathtaking backdrops.
While you’re in the region, do yourself a favour and also visit Kotor – the second largest port of Montenegro. It’s a very cool walled city set in the Boka Kotorska bay. It’s around 5 kilometres long with city walls that climb up to the hill. When you venture up to the highest point, you’ll experience the most majestic view of the bay. Get lost in the Old Town of Kotor, home to many captivating medieval churches, cathedrals, palaces, museums and narrow streets.
2. Azores, Portugal
The Azores is a fascinating region of Portugal composed of nine volcanic islands off the North Atlantic Ocean. It’s 1,400 km west of Lisbon, about 1,500 km northwest of Morocco, and around 1,900 km southeast of Newfoundland, Canada. If you’re really adventurous, you can even sail it from St. John’s, but I should warn you, this option is reserved only for the experienced, able-bodied sailors where timing and seasons must be researched and planned.
There are nine major Azorean islands and the neat thing is that all vary in cuisine, culture and traditions. All of the islands have volcanic origins, although some, such as Santa Maria, have had no recorded activity in the time since the islands were settled several centuries ago. The island of Flores is a paradise and not frequently visited by tourists because it’s situated on the northernmost part of the Azores archipelago. One of the best places for hikers, nature lovers and adventure seekers. And for all you foodies that bragging rights, make sure to try the guava jam the locals boast about.
I can go on about the Azores regions, but one notable sight to see is the Islet of Vila Franca do Campo. This will be the icing on the cake of your stay in the Azores. Crystal clear waters and a small beach await you in this authentic little paradise. Only 1 kilometre from the coast, the island is actually the visible part of an incredible underwater volcano.
3. Varna, Bulgaria
Let’s take you to a more cosmopolitan place. The European city of Varna has managed to stay out of the spotlight, yet is completely underrated. Varna is a seaside resort town lined with beautiful beaches and a lively cultural scene. Locals consider it the Jewel of the Black Sea, yet most people outside of Bulgaria haven’t even heard of it. Maybe because it’s not very convenient to get to, it has remained an underestimated hidden gem city for so long.
Familiar to many Bulgarian local tourists who visit frequently in the summer, it still attracts far less of the masses of other more popular coastal cities. Located on the shores of the Black Sea in eastern Bulgaria, it’s about a 5-hour drive or 2-hour flight from Bulgaria’s capital and only 266 km from Bucharest, Romania. I suggest taking this route only because along the way, you’ll pass through Transylvania, a historic and mountainous region that any traveler should see – I mean you’re already there, so why not.
4. Calella de Palafrugell, Spain
Located roughly 100 km from Barcelona, this is one of the best hidden gem escapes in Spain on the Costa Brava. A picture perfect destination for those who want to get away from the city. Enjoy a day of sublime laziness in this old fishing village famous for the beauty of its coves and small beaches. No large hotels here to attract mass tourists, makes it less busy then the other Costa Brava village resorts. With its intact architecture, Calella de Palafrugell is one of the most beautiful villages in the Costa Brava.
This quaint destination will captivate you as you explore the enchanting narrow streets, abundant white houses and rustic wooden boats scattered along the beach. Ease your way into serenity at the beaches of Calella where you can enjoy sunny days and dips in the Mediterranean Sea. Finally, make your way over to the ‘Las Vueltas’, to indulge in the region’s eclectic cuisine from several restaurant terraces overlooking tantalizing views of the sea.
5. Amasra, Turkey
Turkey is a vast country with some of the most diverse cultures and unique settings. While you may be more familiar with places like Antalya or Ankara, the town of Amasra is considered one of the most beautiful destinations in the Black Sea Region. Get off the beaten path and indulge in this gorgeous bijou seaside destination.
A blissful place of relaxation that Turks in the know escape to unwind and recharge. Amasra is a perfect destination for a holiday off the beaten track. Enjoy fresh seafood at one of the town’s restaurants, whisk yourself away on a boat trip or just take a long walk to soak in all the rich history and culture.
As for beaches, the Küçük Liman, which is a remote cove located close to the Amasra Castle offers amazing landscapes. Büyük Liman, close to Amasra’s city center, is another wonderful sandy beach with translucent waters. If you are a culture fan, visit the Amastra Museum, awarded the title of the most beautiful small museum in Turkey.
6. Polignano a Mare, Italy
If I haven’t given you enough to think about, it’s time to cap the list off with Polignano a Mare – an absolute shining gem on the southern Adriatic coast of Italy. You could argue that this destination town is quite popular and “touristy”, however I doubt it would be the first thing on your radar when planning a trip to Italy.
Polignano a Mare is set around 40 minutes south of Bari, along the stunning coast. The town is nestled with immaculate whitewashed houses hanging on the side of a cliff and quaint restaurants offering bellissimo seafood options. Here you’ll find remarkable turquoise seas to ogle at and sea caves galore. Get lost while you wander the town and water alike while all your troubles just melt away.
You now have no excuse to wander outside your comfort zone and create amazing lifelong travel stories to share with all your friends and family. If you do happen to make it to one of these magnificent European hidden gems, please hit me up on Instagram – I would love to hear about it.