Europe and the Mediterranean are teeming with colourful, coastal towns and rocky, mountainous outlooks all waiting to be explored. But, many of these locations are lost in the shadows of their famous capitals and popular tourist relatives.
From lost Portuguese islands to quaint fishing towns off the coast of Malta, there are a multitude of beautiful locations across the globe that many of us are unfamiliar with. In this article we uncover five destinations that you’ve probably never heard of, that should definitely be on your travel bucket list.
The Dolomites, Northern Italy
The Dolomites are in the north of Italy and dominate the surrounding landscape. A popular destination for those looking the hit the snowy slopes in the winter months, summer brings a somewhat peaceful and tranquil serenity to the mountainous location. Enjoy sublime hiking and fresh, clean air unlike any other as well as views that only selected travellers have witnessed.
We spoke to Kat, the face behind Wandering Bird, she loves visiting the Dolomites and couldn’t recommend it enough to those who are thinking of visiting:
“We've been lucky enough to travel to some incredible countries. One of the most beautiful destinations we've ever visited is the Dolomites in Northern Italy. The Dolomites are spectacular. Jagged mountains unlike anything else I've ever seen, beautiful valleys, lakes so blue they look fake and some of the best roads we've ever driven.
“You could spend years exploring and hiking and still not see it all. We loved the remoteness, yet the Dolomites are only 2 hours from Venice and the incredible Italian coast! Easy to reach on a day trip if you choose. Picking a destination can be tough as there are so many places to see! But if you enjoy road tripping in mountains, nature and breathtaking scenery, this is the place for you.”
The Venice Simplon-Orient Express that is available to book with us is the perfect way to get to experience the Dolomites. Enjoy 2-night pre or post-cruise train adventure from Venice to London, travelling through Austrian Valleys, and sweeping Italian countryside.
Sao Jorge, The Azores
One of the islands that make up the Azores, Sao Jorge sits pretty alongside Horta in Faial and Pico to the west of mainland Portugal. An island that only reaches 7km at its widest point, Sao Jorge is known for its pretty villages that perch on the edge of the rugged coast formed by volcanic explosions thousands of years ago. Landslides have changed the landscapes drastically over the years but visitors to the island can expect to experience rocky formations, taste world-famous cheeses and maybe even catch a glimpse of migrating whales as they pass by the island.
Docking in Horta, there is a ferry service that can take you right to the heart of Sao Jorge, disembarking at Velas to the north of the island. We spoke to Greta Omoboni, who blogs at Greta Travels, she tells us a little more about Sao Jorge:
“If you're looking for beautiful destinations that are still off the beaten path, you have to add Sao Jorge to your bucket list. The Azores Islands as a whole aren't very touristy, and that is part of their beauty. Here you can expect to find rugged natural landscapes, natural rock pools, tall cliffs and lush green vegetation. Sao Jorge especially is, in my opinion, the most stunning of the Azores Islands. The island is quite narrow and very mountainous, meaning that there is a huge variety of landscapes in a very small area. If you're looking for epic hikes, great views, beautiful natural rock pools and quaint little towns away from the tourist crowds, Sao Jorge is the place for you.”
A town ruled by the river, Kotor is a hidden gem in Montenegro and extends up the mountainous landscape that surrounds it. Disembark at the base of the city and wander through the pretty cobbled streets, dotted with churches, ancient palaces and local cafes before heading to the top for a view unlike any other. Reach the top of the city and gaze over views that’ll allow you to see for miles and vast hillsides that are divided by the deep-blue river that runs between.
Cora Varga blogged about her experience in Kotor on her blog You Could Travel, she describes it: “The breathtaking Bay of Kotor is one of the most beautiful off the beaten path places in Europe. Located by the Adriatic Sea in Montenegro, one can almost be forgiven for thinking they are admiring postcard-perfect fjords. Bay of Kotor, also known as Boka Bay is a relatively narrow inlet with steep rugged cliffs towering the medieval towns located by the shores.”
One of Europe’s best-preserved cities, every corner you turn, a new beauty will appear. Explore the stunning churches and cathedrals that have sat in location for thousands of years, or head out on a local boat tour for a totally different view of this magnificent location.
One of many quaint fishing spots in Malta, Marsaxlokk is a haven for fish-eating and seafood lovers and the colourful fishing boats bobbing in the harbour are a testament to the beauty of the fish and the views. Take a 30-minute journey from Valetta, the main port in Malta, and you’ll be surrounded by low-rise traditional stone houses, exquisite seafood restaurants and photo-ready views out over the harbour.
Marsaxlokk is a small, time capsule of culture and ancient traditions, the tourist-popular Sunday fish market is no exception. Wander down the lines of local produce and get a feel for the workmanship and craft that makes this location a one of a kind.
An underrated coastal destination to the north of Poland, Gdańsk is an ancient city steeped in history and mystery. A port city that changed drastically at the outbreak of WW2 in 1939 when large buildings and impressive sights were destroyed by the opposition. Some of the historic magic still remains as you wander the cobbled streets and pass the deep red-brick buildings.
When people think of Gdańsk they often think of a land-locked town in Poland, but it is actually part of Poland’s Tri-City situated on the Baltic Sea, which means it’s a great coastal destination for those who love visiting the beach. Quaint shops are dotted along the coastline making it the perfect stopping point to watch the sunset over the horizon.
We spoke to Karolina who blogs all about her travels over at The Lazy Travel Blog, she told us a little more about the hidden beauty Poland’s coastal gem: “Gdańsk is one of the world's most underrated cities. Located in Poland now, it was a part of Germany for many years. There are many amazing things to do in Gdańsk including throwing the coin to the Neptune's Fountain, wandering around the Old Town, and taking a cruise down the Motlawa River. Don't forget about going to the beach while in the city, as Gdańsk is located on the Baltic Sea!
“The prices in Gdańsk are ridiculously low, comparing to those in Western European countries such as Germany or France. The quality is just as good though. This city is not only the most beautiful place in Poland but also one of the hottest destinations to visit in 2020, don't overlook it as other tourists do.”
We offer an amazing selection of Mediterranean, European and late cruise deals that make visiting these beautiful locations a reality.