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Top 10 Underrated European Travel DestinationsCanary Islands in Spain, a great alternative European destination. Canary Islands in Spain, a great alternative European destination.

London, Paris, Madrid, Rome you’ve seen them all, but you’ve barely begun to see Europe. GoNOMAD has the low-down on hot destinations off the radar, exotic places in Europe where you can still be a traveler without being a cliché.

From one end of Europe to the other here’s a list of the places where you can go to get the real feel for the Old Country.

10. Spain

While Madrid and Barcelona may be well established destinations Spain still merits a place on the list for the number of interesting spots still off the beaten path.
Check out the Canary Islands, or Gibraltar. The Moorish south is a great place to spend time in the off-season, once the hordes have left the beaches you’ll find sleepy towns where only locals linger.

Head to Malaga in the south where Moorish architecture makes palaces of marble lace or to Ibiza where you can dance the night away. Fill up on tapas in San Sebastian and cruise through the north in search of some real Basque culture. Spain is the destination you only think you know.


9.Czech Republic

Praha (Prague) the ancient Bohemian capital is still teeming with alternative culture and literary life. From Kafka cafes to the Jewish quarter Prague is well on its way to being a big European destination.

However there are parts of Prague still left to claim for your own, get lost down twisting alleys, find local outdoor markets, and get some hot delicious street pastries. Ignoring the hordes of drunken English college boys can be challenging at time so don’t travel during spring break.

While Prague may be well known the Czech countryside is one of the most underrated places in Europe. Rolling wheat fields contrast with picturesque medieval towns.In Wallachia Rock-climb and hike as you enjoy rustic surroundings.Then romp around the boarder with the Slovak Republic, the capital is worth a day trip, and do not under any circumstances forget to try the beer.

Croatia beachesFun in the sun on Croatia's coast.


Beautiful beaches, stone cliffs plunging down into the blue waters of the Mediterranean, delicious food, wait you mean you haven’t heard of Croatia?

If you still think this little country is a backwater of Eastern Europe its time to update, Croatia isn’t going to stay unnoticed for long. This is the place travel writers go for vacation, the ancient Roman holiday spot.

Make sure to make a stop at Plitvice Lakes National Park or brush up on your manners in Zagreb, the ninth most polite city in the world. While the coastal south with its three pearls, Split, Hvar and Dubrovnik, may gain most of the attention Northern Croatia is not to be overlooked. It is here where you will find yourself in Croatia’s wine country, surrounded by enchanting castles and gently rolling hills. Croatia is still reasonably prices for a Mediterranean destination, but it won’t stay that way for long!


With all the traveler traffic Spain generates its amazing to think how under-rated its western cousin can be. Portugal, famous for its cuisine and seductive language is a must- see. With so much of the country surrounded by the water there is no shortage of marine activities and its history is sure to leave you fantasizing about the heydays of seaside castles.

Biking in PortugalBike alongside donkey carts in Portugal.

Eco-tourism is alive an well here with so much to take advantage of, from fresh seafood to snorkeling with sperm whales you can delight in all that Portugal has to offer. For land-lubbers, never fear there are many things to do without getting your feet wet, like biking around the coast or learning to cook in a volcano. Wet or dry, be sure not to miss out on this fantastic country.


Part Middle-East, part Europe Turkey has bridged both worlds for hundred of years. Steeped in history and filled with culture Turkey is sure to brighten up any itinerary, From the desert lands in the east to the cultivated cafés of Istanbul in the west there’s something for everyone in this fascinating country.

Named as the 2010 European Capital of Culture, (even while Turkey was being rejected in their bid to join the E.U) Istanbul is a magic city where the exotic is juxtaposed with the familiar. You can shop till you drop, luxuriate in style in Turkish baths or transcend the ordinary with whirling dervishes. Get out of the city and ride hot air-balloons in the moonscape of Cappadocia, explore ancient Ephesus and delve into the exotic in the under explored East where monolithic ruins dot the land and people still live in homes carved out of rock. Hurry! It won’t be long before the whole country gets found out.

Ballon rides in TurkeyCatch a ride in a hot-air balloon in Turkey's exotic East.


Once shrouded in mystery behind the iron curtain Hungary is calling travelers back again. Full of cafes and romantic scenery, though Soviet era buildings still choke the suburbs, both Budapest and the countryside are interesting, even exotic, places to visit.

Splendid natural beauty lends itself well to those environmentally conscious tourists and travelers who are fans of the outdoors will find much to do here, from fishing to horseback riding. If you like wines spend some time in Egar visiting vineyards and bring back a bottle or two. Those who are more urban minded will find Budapest surprisingly hip, with cool cafes, bathhouses, markets and museums this a one place where old world flavor is blended with modern sensibility with success.

4.North Ireland

Gone are the days of terror that shook Northern Ireland, now the only place you are likely to find a car-bomb in a Belfast bar. Still, travelers to the Emerald Isle often overlook Northern Ireland. Their loss is your gain, Northern Ireland has plenty to enchant tourist with.

Belfast, once the center of conflict is now flourishing. Filled with new architecture and old cobblestone streets is a mix of old and new. You can take Peace Tours around the city, investigate old insurgents’ murals and pour yourself a pint in this old Irish town. From the Giant’s Causeway to the shipyards where the Titanic was built there pull out your raincoat, put on a smile and head to the North.

Geothermal Spas in IcelandEnjoy the Geothermal Spas in Iceland.


A frozen little country on the far western side of Europe Iceland is a bit of a loner. Removed from the continent by at least a 3 hour flight it barley registers on people’s maps, and with an unpronounceable capital Reykjavik many American’s skip this little beauty.

Vikings first settled the land of fire and ice over 1,200 years ago. Today you’ll find yourself taken aback by the stunning natural beauty, fantastic hot spring saunas and a people as warm and welcoming as the weather is cold. Iceland claims a spot on the list for its intriguing culture (you can take a course on fairies with a local) its devotion to eco-friendly practices (geothermal energy is harnessed from the volcanoes) and rare Icelandic horses. This little island is a hotspot not to be missed.


The ancient home of wine, Georgia was the first country to break away from the USSR. Recent years have seen Tbilisi under attack but now things have returned to a tentative peace. This remote country has its fair share of architectural eye-candy and is filled with majestic mountains.

Stay at bed and breakfasts as you examine wondrous limestone landscapes, dine on delicious food (considered some of the healthiest is the world) and of course taste the wine. The capital of Tbilisi is filled with art, painters and photographers have their work in galleries all over the city. A trip here is a trip into Europe’s past and into a unique culture that is racing towards the 21st century.

BulgariaExplore the natural beauty of Bulgaria.

1. Bulgaria

Get to know this charming new member of the E.U; once the ruled by the Ottomans, then hidden away by the Soviets Bulgaria is only now starting to resurface. Known as a holiday destination for skiers this relatively poor country is doing its best to recapture tourists.

Bulgaria is an intriguing destination with its unique blend of influences, Baltic, Turkish, Soviet, and its long history. Journeying to Bulgaria is to take a step back in time. Shop for art in the street markets of Sozopol and Nessebur, or pick up a piece of local blue and white pottery in Dobrich, in Ruse experience a mini-Vienna. This is a country where you will feel far removed from the typical European experience


Kathleen Broadhurst.



Kathleen Broadhurst is a freelance travel writer and photographer. She writes Travel Vicarious a blog about alternative travel for funky people.




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Tags: storySection: Features
Location: Europe
author: Kathleen Broadhurst
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