What are your summer plans? Do you dream of lounging on the Amalfi Coast (and posting about it on social media, because you know, if you don’t post..)? Biking through the canals of Amsterdam? Washing down oysters with Champagne in the sweltering heat of France’s capital among the perfectly put together Parisians? Those are all great plans, and to say otherwise would simply make me a hypocrite. But there are alternatives. Europe in the summer without masses of tourists? It exists. Here are three slightly off-the-beaten-path destinations where you can get the benefits of summering in Europe, all while avoiding the crowds (and the inflated prices that often accompany them.
Albania is known for its stunning natural scenery, rugged mountains and picturesque lakes. The country is home to several national parks, such as Butrint National Park and Llogara National Park, which offer breathtaking views and opportunities for outdoor activities like hiking. And then there are the beaches; Albania sits just across the Adriatic sea from Italy and it boasts some of the most beautiful and unspoiled beaches in the Mediterranean, with crystal-clear waters and stunning scenery. The Albanian Riviera, in particular, is known for its beautiful beaches, such as Dhermi, Saranda, and Ksamil.
If you’re a history buff, Albania’s got you covered there too. From ancient ruins like the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Butrint to Ottoman-era architecture in cities like Berat and Gjirokastra, Albania offers a wealth of cultural experiences for travelers. And then there is the food — produce and seafood are fresh and abundant, plus there are the classic dishes: byrek, qofte and of course, baklava. Looking for a Mediterranean getaway? Consider Albania.
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Bosnia and Herzegovina has a rich and diverse history, with influences from Ottoman, Austro-Hungarian, and Yugoslav periods. The country has a mix of religious and cultural heritage, with beautiful mosques, churches, and synagogues coexisting together. And while many associate the country with civil war, it’s long since recovered from those days. Bosnia has stunning natural beauty, with mountains, rivers, and lakes, as well as charming historic towns and villages. The country’s landscapes are perfect for outdoor activities such as hiking, rafting, and cycling. In fact, travel blogger Nomadic Matt calls Bosnia one of the most underrated destinations in Europe. And nothing stays a secret for too long, especially in Europe (remember when Croatia wasn’t a vacation destination?)
Bosnia itself only has a tiny sliver of coast (ahem, Croatia), but it’s easy enough to hop over to Montenegro for those wanting some beach time.
Another country the travel crowd calls — even if it makes them cringe — an undiscovered gem. And honestly for good reason. The Balkan nation is where east meets west and it boasts a rich history and culture: Serbia has a long and fascinating history, with influences from the Byzantine, Ottoman, and Austro-Hungarian empires. The country is full of historical sites, such as the Belgrade Fortress, Studenica Monastery, and Sremski Karlovci, that offer a glimpse into its past.
It’s also chock full of natural beauty, including favorites like the Djerdap Gorge, Zlatibor, and Tara National Park. Serbians are known for a few characteristics, like their hospitality and warmth, but also their partying ways; the country has some of the best nightlife in all of Europe.
Again, we get it. Rome is tempting. Everyone is hanging out in Lisbon. And island hopping in Greece doesn’t sound half bad. But if you’re still finalizing your summer itinerary, consider one of these less trodden countries that has just as much — if not more — to offer visitors.
Have you been to Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina or Serbia? We would love to hear about your experience at firstname.lastname@example.org.