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For many travelers, a trip across Europe is the dream of a lifetime, something they will only get to experience once. Others, however, may have previously visited a country or two at a time, hitting the highlights in the time allowed. Whether you are planning your first European adventure or looking for an experience that is different than earlier trips, you can’t go wrong by exploring new ground. Every country has must-visit sites that are certainly worthwhile, but for this trip, what if you got off the beaten path? It can be fun to discover sites that aren’t crowded with throngs of tourists, where you are able to truly absorb the history and beauty at your own speed.
Planning the Trip
The list of hidden gems in Europe is extensive. With history, legend and a certain sort of magic in evidence at thousands of sites, you are sure to find some of your own gems as well. However, these 11 locations offer a tour of Europe that will take you to all ends of the continent for a wide range of cultural experiences. You can start the journey by flying into Iceland, then working your way through the British Isles and then on to the main continent.
Iceland, Scotland and Ireland
Most travelers headed to Iceland choose Reykjavik airport for their port. The “fire and ice” national park is on the far western tip of Iceland and can be reached by shuttle. There are several guide companies who offer walking tours of the park. The trip to the Scottish Highlands involves a flight from Reykjavik to Glasgow, then a train ride or drive to the Isle of Skye. You can reach Kylemore Castle in Ireland via car as well, and the trip includes a picturesque ferry ride from Scotland to Ireland.
The island theme continues with Mont Saint-Michel in France. Ages ago, this castle on a tiny circle of land became inaccessible when the tides rolled in, giving occupants a tactical advantage in times of war. Once you are in France, all the other sites in Europe are easy to reach by car or by taking advantage of the extensive train system. Those with a more adventurous spirit might choose to drive, but be sure to learn how to convert miles per hour into kilometers before you get behind the wheel! All of the hidden gems are outside of the main tourist stops, so you will have the opportunity to explore each country in between each destination.
Many of your stops are in the mountains or involve gorgeous lake vistas and medieval castles. By the time you arrive in Turkey, you might be ready for a change of pace. Göreme and its volcanic rock structures fit that bill perfectly. The so-called fairy chimney formations scattered throughout the village provide a magical feel that is just the right sendoff as you head home from Europe.
Your next trip to Europe should be an opportunity for exploration. Don’t be afraid to skip the big attractions and chart your own course for adventure.