Five Countries We Can't Wait to Visit in 2022 - Mediterranean Edition

Five Countries We Can't Wait to Visit in 2022 - Mediterranean Edition

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Susan Sontag once said, “I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list.” And here at Azamara, we’re happy to embrace this mindset. We’re always excited to visit different places. New places. Old places. Places both well known and off the beaten path. And that’s why we’re so excited about what’s on the horizon. 2022 is shaping up to be a big year for us, and for our guests. We’re welcoming a new ship into our fleet, the Azamara Onward. And with her, we’ll explore more destinations, immerse ourselves in more cultures, and discover more of this beautiful world than ever before. 

Today, as we look ahead to 2022, we want to share a few of the countries we’re looking forward to visiting with you. Specifically, in one of our favorite places on Earth, the Mediterranean.

Sun-kissed and soulful, the Mediterranean is brimming with art, culture, cuisine, and curiosities. It’s modern, yet surrounded by ancient history — and no matter where you find yourself, you’re sure to be captivated by its visual allure. When you join us on a Mediterranean cruise in 2022, here are five countries you can look forward to visiting.

Turkey

Galata Tower in Istanbul, view from the narrow street

In many ways, Turkey has long been one of the world’s largest melting pots. This is a country where the Eastern and Western Worlds collide in spectacular fashion, carving out a history, culture, and aesthetic that is entirely its own. It’s a magical country, home to vibrant landscapes that show off beautiful beaches, epic mountain ranges, and everything in between. Whether you’re a history buff, a sun-seeker, or a natural-born explorer with a love of adventure, Turkey is a country that deserves a place on your must-visit list. 

Turkish doner kebab

And we haven’t even mentioned the cuisine. Turkish cuisine is beloved abroad and at home, and it’s easy to understand why. That melting pot we touched on earlier? It’s on full display on menus across the country’s meyhanes (taverns), ocakbaşıs (kebap restaurants), and beyond. You’ll find an incredible variety of Turkish culinary delights in Istanbul, as well as the best restaurants in the country. Fresh seafood, kebaps, and mezes are all must-try here, especially when paired with rakı, an aniseed brandy known as the national drink. And for dessert, grab an order of künefe — vermicelli-style noodles layered on top of each other and fused together with sweet cheese. This Syrian-inspired dessert is typically served with a generous helping of sugar syrup and topped with a light sprinkling of pistachios.

Hagia Sophia, Istanbul, Turkey

Beyond the restaurants, Istanbul is also known for its incredible architecture. Because of the city's strategic location along the legendary Silk Road, it’s certainly attracted its share of conquerors over the years. Greeks, Romans, Venetians, Byzantines, Ottomans — they all controlled the city at one point or another. And while most ancient armies weren’t particularly concerned with preserving the culture that came before, much of Istanbul’s historical past remains intact. Churches and palaces constructed by the Byzantines still stand today, as do imperial mosques built for the Ottomans. This mix and match approach to architecture has resulted in one of the world’s great skylines — one that is anchored by the Hagia Sophia, a house of worship that has stood since the 6th century.    

View our 2022 cruises to Turkey here.  

Croatia 

Beautiful sunrise over Dubrovnik's Old Town

Shimmering sapphire waters, coastal mountain ranges, and walled cities transporting you back through time — Croatia is a jewel of the Mediterranean that is often overshadowed by its flashier neighbors. But once you spend a little time here, you’ll realize it stands on its own as an unmissable destination. 

Much like Turkey, Croatia is a country with a tumultuous history. Straddling the line between the Balkans and Central Europe, Croatia was a hotly contested swath of land for millennia, with many different kingdoms, empires, and conquering armies laying claim to it. And while this disorder has settled, it has left behind a fascinating cultural legacy in its wake. Making your way through its cities, don’t be surprised to see Slavic churches bursting with Roman influence and Venetian palaces and Viennese estates from periods of excess standing alongside Socialist Realist sculptures. Around every corner, a new influence appears. Along with it, a reminder that Croatia’s history is long, varied, and equal parts beautiful and brutal. 

Old town and harbor of Dubrovnik Croatia

This history certainly comes to life in Dubrovnik, lovingly known as the Pearl of the Adriatic. This UNESCO World Heritage Site has been a powerhouse along the Dalmatian coast since the 13th century. If something about this city feels familiar, it probably has a lot to do with it being the backdrop for King’s Landing, the Seven Kingdoms’ capital in HBO’s Game of Thrones.  

Dubrovnik is most well known for the massive stone walls that surround the city’s Old Town. You can stroll along these walls while you visit, catching breathtaking glimpses of the water on one side and vibrant winding streets giving way to spellbinding city squares on the other. Attached to the city walls is the Dubrovnik Maritime Museum, which brings the city’s history as a naval power to life in stunning detail. As you make your way through, you’ll find written documents, artifacts and archeological finds, ship’s instruments, histories of ships, ports, captains, and more — all captured with incredible authenticity. 

Pasticada with gnocchi, beef stew in a sauce

If history makes you hungry, you’ll find plenty to eat here in Croatia — a country that boasts a stick-with-what-you-know style attitude when it comes to dining. The cuisine here is very traditional, and locals are certainly passionate about it. Fresh, local, and seasonal ingredients make up the heart of most recipes, and a love of show-paced dining is apparent. Don’t expect a quick bite to eat when you stop into a restoran or family-run gostionica. Instead, settle in, get comfortable, and prepare to spend hours indulging in seafood rižot (risotto) or pašticada (braised beef in sweet and sour sauce), among other favorites. Pair your meal with a glass of rakija (a popular fruit brandy), and it’s sure to be one to remember — much like your time in Croatia. 

View our 2022 cruises to Croatia here.  

Greece

Panoramia of Oia town in Santorini

It’s nearly impossible to discuss the Mediterranean without mentioning Greece. After all, this is a country that has something for all types of travelers. There’s an incredible wealth of history here, an abundance of culture, cuisine that’s second to none, and everything — from the beaches to the buildings — is just so perfectly sun-kissed. Whether you’re island hopping or diving into city life, Greece is a country that works its way into your heart and sticks around long after you’ve departed from her ports. 

For many, the first thing that comes to mind when they hear the word Greece is food. And we don’t blame them. This is the home of decadent, delicious dining after all, and Greek food is consistently considered to be among the most beloved international cuisines worldwide. From popular street foods like the gyro (with extra tzatziki sauce, please!) to dine-in delights like eggplant moussaka and sizzling souvlaki, Greek cuisine offers something for everybody. Even vegans and vegetarians are in for a treat when they sample dolmades — grape leaf rolls filled with a blend of rice, pine nuts, and herbs. Oh, and be sure to save room for dessert, because you’re going to want to try baklava — honestly, probably a lot of it. 

Acropolis of Athens at sunset with a beautiful dramatic sky

If your heart is set on a historical journey, you’ll find plenty to sink your teeth into in Athens. You’re never very far from an essential slice of Western history in this great city that sits in the shadow of the Acropolis — an ancient citadel that is simply impossible to miss. The only stadium built entirely from marble — the Panathenaic Stadium — is here, as is the Theatre of Dionysos, which is arguably the birthplace of dramatic performance. You’ll also find impressively robust museums here, including the Acropolis Museum, the National Archeological Museum, and the Museum of Cycladic Art

More history awaits beyond Athens for those ready to explore a little bit further. On the island of Delos (easily accessible from Mykonos), you’ll find a sprawling collection of ancient ruins that make up one of the country’s most important archeological sites. Patmos is home to St. John’s Monastery, where the Book of Revelation is said to have been written. And if you take a short trip from Volos, you’ll find the Meteora Monasteries towering above the canyons of the Pindus mountain range.

Oia at sunset, Santorini

You can find more inspiration for your Greek vacation in our recent blog post, Seven Things to do in Greece

View our upcoming cruises to Greece here.         

Italy

Trevi Fountain at Piazza Di Trevi

It’s easy to live la dolce vita in the Mediterranean, especially if your journey brings you to inimitable Italy. The cradle of the Renaissance, Italy is a country that exudes passion and charisma. It’s all wondrous works of art and astounding architecture, glorious gastronomy and cultural riches. Most interesting of all, for all its accolades and style, it somehow manages to make everything seem so effortless, which only adds to its charms. 

Ruins of Apollo Temple, Pompeii

Italy is a hotbed for history. In fact, it has the most UNESCO World Heritage Cultural Sites of any country on Earth. Not far from Sorrento, you can explore one of the most famous archeological sites in the world, Pompeii. There’s the historic center of Florence, built on an Etruscan settlement and full of magnificent churches, palaces, and museums. And, of course, Venice, the floating city that is as romantic as it is remarkable. 

Art lovers are also known to flock to Italy, and for good reason. This is a country where you can stand in front of Michelangelo’s David and beneath his frescoes in the Sistine Chapel. Botticelli’s Birth of Venus resides at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, while you can study Raphael’s Frescoes at Villa Farnesina in Rome. The galleries throughout the country are truly something to behold, and we love spending time in the Vatican Museums, the Borghese Gallery in Rome, and Academy Gallery in Venice, just to name a few. 

Pasta , pizza and homemade food arrangement in a restaurant Rome

Wondering how we made it this far without touching on Italy’s most famous export? Well, let’s just say we were trying to work up your appetite! Italian food is an international institution. No matter where you go, on Earth, you’re never too far from a restaurant slinging spaghetti, but, as with most things, nothing quite comes close to the authentic meals you’ll find across the Bel Paese.

We’ve gone deep on Italian cuisine before, and even then, it felt like we were only scratching the surface. After all, this is a country that is home to more than 400 different types of cheese! There’s a lot to take in and sample while you’re here. Each region offers its own signature dishes and variations that shine. There’s Sardinia’s seafood dishes, the porchetta of Marche, the orecchiette pasta of Puglia, and Sicilia’s arancini and signature cannolis — and that's merely an appetizer. One thing’s for sure, whether it’s in a family-run Trattoria or Michelin-starred restaurant (there are 371 of them!), you can look forward to a meal you’ll remember for a lifetime.  

View our upcoming cruises to Italy here.    

Monaco 

Sunset on Monte Carlo, Monaco

Small but mighty, Monaco hasn’t let its stature as the second-smallest country on Earth (only the Vatican is smaller) stop it from making a big name for itself. The country’s heart, Monte Carlo, is the ultimate destination for the rich and famous, as well as hedonists and high rollers chasing lady luck through the Grand Casino. If you’ve ever wanted to live out your ultimate James Bond fantasy — minus the supervillains, of course — you’ll feel right at home here.  

Grand Casino in Monte Carlo. Monaco

You may feel like a Formula 1 racer as you make your way through the streets of Monte Carlo. This is the home of the legendary Monaco Grand Prix, after all. But be sure to not put the pedal to the metal. Instead, cruise along the beautiful breathtaking Grande Corniche, an absolutely iconic stretch of road between Monte Carlo and Nice, France. 

Le Rocher in Monte Carlo

Elsewhere, pay a visit to the gorgeous gardens, many museums, and Le RocherMonte Carlo’s Old Town, Le Rocher is home to Cathédrale de Monaco, The Prince’s Palace, and La Rampe Major et Porte Neuve

Finally, if you feel yourself heating up from all the glitz and glamour, cool yourself off with a cone from master ice cream maker Pierre Geronimi. A longtime local favorite, Pierre Geronimi crafts extraordinary ice cream flavors (think Sicilian pistachio, Tahitian vanilla, and hazelnut praline) in his boutique kitchen. For a delicious, memorable snack, have your ice cream served as part of a gourmet cocktail — an indulgence you won’t want to miss.  

View our upcoming cruises to Monaco here.     

The Mediterranean Awaits 

This is just a small sampling of the countries we’ll be visiting as we cruise the Mediterranean in 2022 — and we can’t wait for you to join us in every port!  

Explore our 2022 Mediterranean cruises today to start planning your upcoming adventure.

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