Europe is known for having some of the most iconic sites in the world. From the picturesque canals of Venice, the standing stones at Stonehenge, to the lavender fields of Provence. It’s easy to find yourself on a merry-go-round of repeating travels. But you can still find amazing places off the beaten path… the places not known yet to tourists. And with the help of Classic Journeys, you’ll find that Europe is full of them!
Here you’ll find six of the best-kept secrets in Europe. Which one will you visit first?
Slovenia + Croatia’s Istrian Peninsula
Just a generation ago, Slovenia and Croatia’s Istrian Peninsula were part of Yugoslavia. Now, they’re two of the great under-the-radar and off-the-chart destinations in all of Europe. These unspoiled next-door lands sit right at the top of the Adriatic Sea just east of Venice. The scenery is so insanely perfect that you don’t want the walks to end. Think vineyards rolling into olive groves sweeping to the Adriatic and mirror calm mountain lakes reflecting snow-capped Alps.
A museum sheathed in titanium. Wild horses that eat baguettes. Villages with names in three languages—Basque, French and Spanish. Farmers on tractors yield the right of way to fierce but friendly pelota games in village squares. Garlands of brilliant red pimientos dry in the sunlight… then show up on a dinner plate stuffed with seafood. You’ll be surprised at the richness of Europe’s oldest culture that few have had the chance to experience.
Sardinia + Corsica
Travel between the isles of Sardinia and Corsica and you'll only venture eight miles...but they're worlds apart. Corsica—part of France, but defiantly non-French—is blanketed in fragrant herbs and dotted with quaint villages. Sardinia seeks adventure. Travel through the island and see how it's rustic, mysterious; with a few thousand years of Phoenician, Spanish and Italian blood in its veins. Together, these two gorgeous islands are some of the least-touristed spots in Europe. When you leave behind the yacht-studded harbors for the mountains, pastures and vineyards of the interior, you have the rarest of privileges—to see and experience countryside and culture that seem to have stood still in time.
How will you explain Montenegro to your friends who haven’t been (and that will be 99.9% of them)? Do you start with its Adriatic coast, where golden stone villages nestle on secluded, palm-lined bays? You can’t leave out the wild mountains with their sheer canyons and whisper-quiet lakes. You’ll certainly have stories about the hospitable Montenegrins… the olive growers, grappa-makers, shepherds and artists. You’ll fall in instant love with this compact Balkan land because it’s still so undiscovered, unexpected and unforgettable.
Prague to Budapest
The journey from Prague to Vienna to Budapest is one of Europe’s best hidden gems. These one-time capitals of the Habsburg Empire, with its spires and castles, create the continent’s most inspiring skylines. Out in the countryside, the sights are spectacular. Powder-blue cathedrals leap up from the heart of valley towns. Incredibly intact villages are so perfectly preserved that the U.N. recognizes them as World Heritage Sites. Vast farmlands make it feel as though you’ve stepped back into feudal times. This is a rich slice of Europe’s life and history that most travelers never see.
When we ask our Italian guides where they'd most like to take our friends who think they know Italy on a walking tour we get one response: Apulia. And then they use their hands. To paint a vista of gnarled olive trees silhouetted against a lapis lazuli sea. To express the amazing sunlight. To sketch the saw-toothed skyline of a village comprised entirely of trulli—the conical stone roofs unique to the region. Best of all, Apulia (pronounced ah-pooh-lya) passes the most important Classic Journeys test—it offers fine leisurely walking, elegant accommodations, and a glimpse into a region and culture that's not quite like any you've encountered before.