If you’re chasing the sun to Europe this summer there’s undoubtedly a plethora of holiday options including a smattering of go-to haunts for Aussies: Paris, Santorini, London…you get the drift. BUT savvy travellers (yes, we’re pointing at you), ‘sheep’ – we are most certainly are not!
There are islands and highlands to discover across almost 50 different countries that make up Europe; and that’s why we’ve put together a handy round-up of our faves to get you out of your comfort zone and onto the road less travelled.
PLITVICE LAKES NATIONAL PARK, CROATIA
Fern Gully, eat your heart out. Plitvice Lakes National Park, a 2.5 hour bus ride from Zagreb, is the stuff that fairy movies are made of: hiking trails and boardwalks interweave through 16 terraced lakes joined by waterfalls. It’s nothing short of magical. The rest of the world has caught on quickly so you won’t be sharing such a mesmerizing place alone. Our tip is to stay a night or two at one of the park’s three hotels so you fall asleep to the sound of waterfalls and explore early in the morning or when the crowds thin in the evening. Note: Swimming is strictly prohibited but you can take to the water on a cruise or in a row boat.
The spectacular Greek Island is dotted with beaches and opportunities to soak up the sun, and can be conveniently reached via domestic and international flights. Zakynthos’s most famous attraction is undoubtedly Navagio (Shipwreck) Beach where the water is a vivid shade of blue (no filter needed for this bad boy!). The island has it all, from restaurants plating up authentic Greek cuisine to late-night hotspots if you’re keen to let your hair down. Our top sight-seeing tip to is to jump on a cruise that navigates around the entire island.
Top and Bottom pics: De Grieske Gids at justgreece.com
Foodie alert! Just a two hour train ride from Paris is Lyon, better known as France’s food capital situated at the base of the Rhône-Alpes region. The city centre is nestled between two rivers, and in summer it’s a fantastic spot for alfresco dining, wine sipping and shopping sprees; and it’s also a convenient gateway to the stunning Beaujolais & Burgundy wine regions. Lyon is the undisputed kingdom of outstanding cuisine and there are literally streets and streets of restaurants, cafes and bars but you can’t visit without trying a traditional bouchon (traditional French eatery) or one of the fourteen Michelin star restaurants. The city, with a population of 500,000, is a comforting size and after just a few days you’ll be declaring “I could live here!” Keen to learn more about Lyon? Check out our article here.
Pics from top to bottom:: Otourly, Jade Just, Geoff Wong
ISLE OF SKYE, SCOTLAND
The island in Scotland’s north is a sight for sore eyes with its rugged mountains and breathtaking scenery. You definitely won’t be short on photo opps here. The dramatic, mountainous landscape of The Cuillin Range is unmissable with plenty of on-foot experiences to be had, plus the island’s mild weather is an ideal change-up from the Mediterranean climate further south. Besides the vistas at every turn, there are castles, cozy pubs and arts to be discovered.
Pics from top to bottom: Stefan Krause, David Iliff.
The colourful waterside city of Bergen is huddled between two mountains at the entrance to the world-renowned Fjords and is the perfect introduction to Norwegian culture. There’s plenty to love about Bergen from the narrow, cobble-stoned streets, thriving fish market (seafood lovers, rejoice!), cheerfully painted buildings and countless walking trails. Sounds almost too good to be true, right? The only downside – even more pronounced with our current economy – is that Bergen is quite pricey (take note if you’re travelling on a budget).
Top and bottom images: en.visitbergen.com
Brush up on your Italian, ladies because you’re in for an authentic adventure in Sicily. The Italian island is well-known for its untamed landscape, mouth-watering Sicilian cuisine (think: arancini, cannoli, Sicilian pizza) and genuine culture. Many Sicilians can’t speak a word of English but it doesn’t stop them from being incredibly welcoming, especially if you give the standard Italian phrases a crack. Sicily is the ultimate destination to ‘do it how the locals do’ so don’t be afraid to do some sticky-beaking to uncover the best local boutiques, street vendors, wine bars and coffee shops.
Top and bottom pics from: www.sicily-tourism.com
Porto is a charming city with an abundance of quirks and a healthy dose of personality. Along the Ribeira are market stalls and alfresco dining opportunities but it’s best to take a stroll down the windy streets to check out its true character…keep your eyes peeled for quirky facades, towers covered in tiles and quaint buildings. As you’ll quickly learn, the more tourist-focused restaurants and shops are along the Riberia but moving away from the river down the old streets are independent boutiques, vintage stores and cafes. A trip to Porto without a sip of Port Wine would be a crying shame so be sure to take in a glass (or many) during a cellar tour.
Top and bottom pics: visitportoandnorth.travel
While most people put skiing and Switzerland hand-in-hand, we think that summer is one of the best seasons to visit. ‘Pretty’ is the perfect way to describe Mürren: a remote mountain village surrounded by three mountains that form its stunning backdrop. By remote, we mean it’s not reachable at all by public road so you’ll need to take trains and cable cars to reach it. If you’re not handy with a camera (yes, even the one on your phone!) it’s impossible to take a bad photo of Murren’s scenery, especially since the hotels, restaurants and bars take in the looming, snow-capped peaks. Nature lovers will relish the chance to tackle plenty of hiking trails so be sure to pack some decent shoes.
Written by Jade Just – Contributing Travel Editor