Our Top 8 Unexpected Destinations for the European Summer
Dreams of a European summer conjure images of the iconic blue and white shores of Santorini, crystal blue, yacht-filled waters of Croatia and the tastes of Spanish sangria and fast-melting Italian gelato.
While these destinations are on most travellers’ wishlist, we have a few lesser known suggestions that will have you living your dream summer holiday, minus the tourists, the price tag, the booked-out hotels and over-booked flights.
Throw aside your cosy uggs and start planning for summer with a selection of our favourite summer escapes.
The lesser known Greek Islands
While Santorini and Crete are a bucket list destination for most travellers, some of the lesser known Greek Islands offer you an island-hopping experience without the tourists and partygoers that flock to the islands every year.
Just a hop, skip and a ferry ride from the bustling streets of Athens, Kythnos is where the locals go to escape the tourists, and it won’t take you long to see why. Yes, Athenians makes summer prices unavoidable, but this is a different calibre of visitor and the prices come with a cultural treat. Tuck into some gyros, enjoy a plethora of stuffed vegetables, yell “Yamas” and drink an Ouzo. And if the island’s hot springs Kythnos don’t take your fancy, try the colourful shores of Syros, or the under-stated Amorgos which boasts beaches that rival Australia’s own.
InsureandGo Tip: Have you registered your holiday plans on Australia's Smartraveller website for the latest travel advice about your destination?
Sharing a border with the well-known and breathtakingly beautiful Croatia, Montenegro has long been living in its popular neighbour’s shadow, only recently appearing on the more intrepid travellers’ lists. With lower prices and fewer tourists than Croatia, the Balkan city of Kotor has all the qualities of it’s neighbour with none of the summer travel downsides. Explore medieval villages, paddle turquoise waters, wander winding stone laneways, kayak through glacial lakes and enjoy the picturesque fjord-like mountain coastline.
As if plucked straight from the pages of a Grimm Brothers Fairy tale, the city of Tallinn combines gothic charm, rich history and culture and is one of our top destinations to visit in the Baltic region - regardless of season. From its fairy-lit streets, coastline dotted with beaches, coastal cliffs, and scenic views of the city and Soviet era sights, this city will capture your heart whatever the season.
San Sebastian, Spain
A trip to Europe unequivocally means a few extra kilos returning home, and we aren’t talking luggage. For a real foodie heaven, the Basque region of Spain is known world round for its take on Spanish tapas, called pintxo and has more Michelin Star restaurants per capita than anywhere else in Europe. San Sebastian is to the East of Bilboa and while it won’t be the quietest or the cheapest city on your trip, this Basque town is more than worth a visit. Meander along the “Best Beach in Europe” (according to Trip Advisor), wander through old stone palaces, eat your own weight in salty skewered treats and catch the funicular to Monte Igueldo for panoramic views of the countryside, coastline and city below.
InsureandGo Tip: Always keep in contact with family and friends throughout your trip, let them know your travel plans and where they can reach you in case of emergencies.
With the charm of a small coastal city, Portugal’s capital is unlike others in Europe, offering the atmosphere of a much smaller village. This colourful port city combines the pastel colours and laidback atmosphere of a Greek Island with the culinary scene and nightlife of one of its European counterparts. Wander cobbled streets or seaside market places, catch the cable car around the city, enjoy views from a rooftop bar and enjoy a traditional Port Wine at any time of day.
Summer is made for island hopping, great beaches and too much food, and this is exactly what Malta offers its visitors. Located off the coast of Italy, this tiny archipelago nation could offer a summer of activity. From prehistoric temples, underground burial chambers and ancient fortresses to limestone cliffs, colourful marine life, quaint seaside towns and a rich Maltese culture, this island is not to be missed.
InsureandGo Tip: Most travel insurance policies will cover the basics but have a think about what other unique activities you may need cover for. Sports and recreation? Or valuables cover for your fancy new camera?
Scotland is not a country that usually comes to mind when you think of summer – known more for its freezing, unpredictable weather, haggis and kilts, the city of Edinburgh has a surprisingly different side over the warmer months. Grab a picnic blanket and some scotch eggs and claim a spot on the sunny Meadows, hike to the top of Arthur’s Seat for panoramic views of the city, wander through Princes Street Gardens or simple meander your way up the Royal Mile’s cobbled streets.
European beaches might be perfect for a relaxing paddle, a lazy kayak and a sunbake, but if you’re a surfer at heart you may itching to find a beach that truly compares. While it may be hard to imagine English beaches as a surfing mecca, the west coast of England has a few that are worth investigating. Cornwall in England’s South is known for sandy beaches, rolling green hills and its surf. From tip to tip you can drive the picturesque coastline in about 2.5 hours, exploring the wild moors, the rugged coastlines and the deep blue swell of Newquay.
While there’s no doubt your European summer escape will be a once in a lifetime experience, a few unavoidable nuisances are inevitable. To get the most out of your trip and ensure they are nuisances and not stresses - expect crowds, allow ample time for busy taxi ranks or public transport options, book in advance and confirm reservations to avoid double bookings, keep your possessions close to you and don’t forget to pack travel insurance. To help with travel insurance, until the 2 July, our friends at InsureandGo travel insurance are offering all Travelzoo subscribers a 15% discount on any of their policies including cruise travel insurance, plus a bonus 10% couple discount on top. For more information head to their website and quote the promo code: travelzoo to save.