Unforgettable Travel Company

Alternative Summer Destinations in Europe

Summer is the most popular time for traveling, which means many flock to top destinations in the Mediterranean like Santorini, Marseille, and Barcelona. That can make for a very hot and sticky getaway that often includes bumping elbows with other tourists while battling the big crowds. Why not get off the beaten track instead, visiting some of the more non-conventional summer destinations to avoid the searing heat and the hordes? This time, head to one of these alternative summer destinations in Europe for a relaxed escape that will introduce you to other areas of the continent. You’ll enjoy the beautiful scenery and enticing attractions you’re looking for, with fewer crowds and milder temperatures.

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Interlaken, Switzerland

Surrounded by soaring snow capped mountains laced with waterfalls and tucked between two alpine lakes, Interlaken is a stunning destination in Switzerland particularly popular among outdoor adventurers. It’s a paradise for activities like hiking, mountain biking, climbing, kayaking, and paragliding, one of the top attractions in the region. For a bucket-list experience, try skydiving – there’s nothing like the views you’ll get while “flying” up to 14,000 feet in the Alps. With high temperatures in the mid-70s, the summer weather is near-perfect for it all. Pampering spa treatments, shopping boutiques, and dining on classics like cheese fondue and raclette can all be enjoyed too. After dark, there are plenty of nightlife options, from pub crawls and live music venues to trendy clubs.

The Very Best of Switzerland
Douro Valley Blog Section

Douro Valley, Portugal

Just 90 minutes from Porto in Portugal, the Douro Valley is one of the world’s most spectacular wine regions. A UNESCO-listed site, it’s also the world’s oldest demarcated wine region with wine production and grape harvesting dating back 2,000 years. Many visit on a Douro River cruise which brings a unique perspective of the lush, rolling hills and vineyards. There are day cruises along with multi-day options but no matter how you visit, you’ll find plenty of rich history to explore along with vineyards and cellars for touring and tasting. Take in the scenery from viewpoints like São Domingos to admire Mirandela, Vila Real, and Bragança, or Casal de Loivos overlooking one of the world’s most beautiful landscapes.

Flavors of Portugal
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Lake Bled, Slovenia

Lake Bled is a vision of beauty in Slovenia, with sapphire waters and an islet in the middle that’s topped by Our Lady of the Lake Church while the towering peaks of the Julian Alps provide a breathtaking backdrop. Visitors can rent a boat to row out to the islet and climb the 99 steps to the church’s bell where legend says the wishes of those who ring it will be granted. It’s also possible to walk or bike around the shore. The lake is overlooked by Bled Castle, featuring a historical museum focused on Lake Bled’s history and a 16th-century chapel with frescoes. Nearby, hike the scenic paths in Vintgar Gorge to see magnificent waterfalls and tranquil pools in the turquoise Radovna River.

Lakes, Alps & Sights of Slovenia
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Istria, Croatia

The Istria region is one of Croatia’s most enchanting. Often compared to Tuscany without the crowds, it’s less-visited than Dalmatia, yet it’s incredibly lush with everything from idyllic beaches to medieval hilltop towns. Some of the most desirable wines are produced here and you can savor delicious Istrian dishes from fresh seafood to pasta with truffle sauce and artisanal cheeses. You might explore hilltop Grožnjan, an artist colony and cultural hub offering spectacular panoramic views and historic buildings that now host ceramic ateliers, art studios, galleries, specialty food shops, and traditional konobas. The walled hilltop village of Motovun may be the most picturesque and it also offers mouthwatering truffle products, while a stroll through is like a trip back in time.

A Journey Through Croatia
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Lake Como, Italy

Just 50 miles north of Milan in Italy, Lake Como is known for its lavish villas, many of which are owned by the rich and famous, from Hollywood stars like George Clooney to British business magnate Richard Branson. But it’s a destination everyone can enjoy with beautiful scenery that includes the country’s deepest freshwater lake and a backdrop of the Alps. The shores are dotted with around two dozen towns and villages, with Varenna, Bellagio, and Como a few of the most popular. Upscale shopping and world-class dining can both be enjoyed along with numerous outdoor activities like boating, kayaking, canoeing, paddleboarding, and hiking. There’s rich history to explore as well, including the ruins of an old settlement in Spina Verde Park.

Authentic Northern Italy
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Salzburg, Austria

The birthplace of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and the filming site of the “Sound of Music,” Salzburg in Austria is one of Europe’s most beautiful cities. The pedestrianized Old City which sits along the left bank of the Salzach River that divides the old from the new, is especially alluring with its medieval buildings. This is where the famous composer was born and his birth home has been preserved as a museum that includes his childhood instruments. If you want to see some of the scenes from the “Sound of Music,” tours are available that will bring you to marvel at those landscapes such as the lake outside Schloss Leopoldskron, the Do-Re-Mi Fountain at 400-year-old Mirabell Gardens, and Leopoldskron and Hellbrunn castles.

Highlights of Germany & Austria
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Normandy, France

Normandy in France is steeped in history and charm with scenic and diverse landscapes that include a glistening coastline with towering chalk cliffs that plunge down to the Atlantic =. There are majestic castles, historic churches, and medieval towns for wandering centuries-old cobbled streets. It may best be known for its World War II history, something that’s a must to explore for anyone with an interest. The region played a key role during the German occupation, with sites to visit including D-Day beaches like Omaha Beach, the military cemeteries, and memorial museums. Mont Saint-Michel, one of the country’s most iconic symbols can be found here too. A UNESCO-listed medieval pilgrimage site, the abbey sits atop a rocky tidal abbey, presenting a stunning visual.

Discover Paris, Normandy & Loire Valley
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Iceland

Iceland has become one of the world’s most coveted travel destinations with magnificent waterfalls, black sand beaches, glaciers, and remarkable geothermal activity. That results in natural hot pools for unforgettable soaks while surrounded by the awe-inspiring scenery, as well as the opportunity to see geysers and bubbling mud pots. It can be visited year-round with the warmer months ideal for hiking and embarking on tours of the famous glacier lagoon to hear the thunderous sounds as the icebergs plunge into the water. Visitors can also enjoy the midnight sun with long days (especially from mid-May to mid-July) ideal for late-night treks that avoid the crowds. Winter is the best time for watching the northern lights and ice cave tours are available too.

Classic Iceland
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Basque Country, Spain

Spain’s Basque Country lies in the western Pyrenees, straddling the border between Spain and France along the Bay of Biscay coast. It’s renowned for its rich cultural traditions and impressive cuisine with the city of Bilbao a hub for architecture and design. It’s surrounded by lush, green mountains, home to the famous Guggenheim Museum while Old Town Bilbao offers a labyrinth of charming streets lined with architectural gems from multiple centuries. The Basque coast is known for its seafaring traditions in a place where the mountains meet the sea. Some of the highlights include the small island of San Juan de Gaztelugatxe and its historic church, while San Sebastian boasts a renowned pintxos scene and captivating landmarks like Plaza de la Constitucion.

Spain: A Gourmet Journey
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Scottish Highlands, Scotland

The Scottish Highlands covers more than 9,900 square miles. It’s one of the most breathtaking and romantic regions in the UK, with heather-strewn mountains, sparkling lochs, majestic waterfalls, and even Caribbean-like beaches, although don’t expect the water to be warm. It’s an idyllic place in Scotland to explore, with ancient castles to discover like Urquhart overlooking Loch Ness where you can watch for the legendary monster. Keep an eye out for the abundant wildlife, including the native red deer, and perhaps pose with a Highland cow, affectionately referred to as “hairy coos.” Hiking, biking, fly fishing, paddling, and golfing are all possible here, including the bucket-list climb to the summit of Ben Nevis, while nearly 50 whisky distilleries await for touring and tasting.

Highlands and Hebrides Explorer Cruise-Tour
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The Cotswolds, England

Covering nearly 800 square miles in west-central and south-western England, the Cotswolds is home to postcard-perfect villages with traditional honey-colored stone homes and buildings surrounded by lush, rolling hills. The largest of the 38 Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty in England and Wales, the best way to explore it is on a scenic drive. There are many towns that look as if they came straight from the pages of a storybook, like Castle Combe with its meandering streams, colorful blooms, and 13th-century St. Andrew’s Church. It features a faceless clock believed to be the oldest still-working clock in the country. Throughout the region are many cozy pubs with stone fireplaces where you can enjoy a home-cooked meal, often with farm-to-table fare.

London, Bath & the Cotswolds

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