Europe is on everyone’s bucket lists. Even if you live in Europe, chances are that you also have these countries on your bucket list.
Generally when you hear about traveling through Europe – you hear about dining at a traditional English Pub, visiting the iconic Eiffel Tower, or running with the bulls in Spain. There is absolutely nothing wrong with those intentions.
But, take a walk with me.
Consider this, a tasty seafood dinner while sipping on the local wine and watching the Mediterranean sunset (no I’m not talking about Greece). Or, an early morning hike to catch the sunrise and be at one with nature. Or just a simple beach holiday to unwind before you get ready to take on the world again.
All at an affordable price. I have your attention now don’t I?
In no particular order, here are 10 countries that are absolutely sublime, most definitely under-the-radar and should be added to your bucket list.
First things first, the Republic of Malta is a European archipelago of which Malta is the largest and the most well-known. The other two islands are Gozo and Comino.
Due to its strategic position in the Mediterranean many different groups passed through Malta and left their mark on the island state. The country has been described as an ‘open-air museum,’ and any history buff will find themselves at home among the archaic temples, ancient architecture and relics of a bygone era.
A summer by the Mediterranean Sea offers entertainment for sun bathers, swimmers and deep-sea divers and is often the location for various summer festivals. To experience the same adventures in cooler climes visit during the spring or autumn when the sun is your friend a lot more forgiving than during the heat of the summer. This is peak season, so plan far in advance to make the best of your trip.
Budget wise, winter would be ideal. The weather will not be as pleasant (temperatures range from 53-64 F) but flights and accommodations will be more attractive and a lot easier to find. Once there you can get around quite easily. You have the option to rent cars, scooters, motorbikes or bicycles, call a taxi or use the public transportation system which can take you anywhere for less than 3 USD. There is also the option to purchase a block of 12 tickets for about 17 USD; the bus route is available to the public online.
The Republic of Cyprus is the largest island in the eastern Mediterranean. The climate is favorable all year round. Though, many tend to visit during the spring and summer for beach and sea activities leaving the autumn and winter open for the budget traveler.
Cyprus has scenic cycling routes, challenging nature trails that will captivate and enchant, an established wine tradition for the novice connoisseur and historical tours which will pull you into the stories of their culture and mythology which never fail to excite the imagination.
Flights are available from any major city center in the world to Paphos or Larnaca International Airport, these flights are usually connecting and depending on where you are from can last anywhere from 4 to 31 hours.
Once there, you can find accommodations for as low as $15 USD per night or you can be a little fancier with mid-range hotels that will put you back about $70 USD per night.
There is a variety of Middle Eastern, Italian and Indian cooking to sample and the cost of dinning ranges from as low as $5 USD to as high as $21 USD depending on where you go.
Moldova is bordered by Romania on the west and Ukraine on the north, east and south. It is a predominantly rural country which translates to gorgeous landscapes and interactions with the natives far removed from the usual hustle and bustle of countries that are extensively developed.
This is not to say that Moldova is the picture of its medieval past. In Chișinău, Moldova’s capital city, you can dance the night away for less than 3 USD and this includes the purchase of two drinks. The capital also contains a plethora of galleries, museums and theaters perfect for the individual interested in exploring different aspects of a foreign culture’s art scene.
Moldova is uniquely positioned so that should you decide to visit the neighboring countries during your visit (because why wouldn’t they be on your bucket list?) you could do so quite easily by bus, train or even motorbike. Just remember than when crossing borders you will need your passport with you.
Last, but certainly not lease, Moldova is dirt cheap. Using public transport, you can cross the country for around 3 USD, get meals for around the same cost and stay in a hostel with the bare necessities for 7 USD. That is if you are specifically looking for budget activities and accommodations.
We should already have you convinced but just in case you were wavering, Estonia is uniquely situated to provide the nature lover, the wanderer, the partier and history enthusiast with enough to keep you occupied for the entirety of your trip. It is also very affordable.
In addition, Estonia has more than 2000 islands to explore. So, if you were, by any stretch of the imagination, considering island hopping for the foreseeable future, Estonia’s got you covered. The islands are predominantly rural like Moldova and have much of the past evident in their present state of upkeep.
The islands each have their unique attractions, for example Hiiumaa has its summer festivals and in Kihnu you can watch old ladies ride motorcycles. That was not a typo.
Guess what? Maria was right, the hills are alive with the sound of music. They also happen to have lush vegetation, intriguing wildlife and the landscape is absolutely breathtaking. If this was your only reason for visiting Austria, then it’s a really good one. However, there’s a lot more to the country than their slice of Europe’s highest and largest mountain range.
Austria has a rich musical history—Mozart, Haydn and Schubert should ring a bell—a world renowned dessert culture, and gorgeous architecture which are remnants of a magnificent history.
With historical ties to Estonia and Latvia as one of the three Baltic States for which the term ‘Singing Revolution’ was coined Lithuania is a country with charm, an innovative populace and a self-declared republic within its city capital of Užupis.
Vilnius, the capital, is modern with a wide variety of activities to suit every need and price bracket. Within the capital you can learn about the country’s history by visiting the older parts of the city like Cathedral Square and Old Town. Before heading out to other parts of the country, sample the night life.
A meal at an inexpensive restaurant, bar or pub would set you back around 5 USD per person and drinks, depending on whether or not you chose beer or wine can cost anywhere from 2-6 USD. If you decide to class it up a little you’re looking at about 20 USD per person. Transportation around the city is about a dollar each trip.
Across the country, the most intriguing site would be the Hill of Crosses in Šiauliai, north-central Lithuania which started out as a protest against the Soviet regime (very resilient people these Lithuanians) and ended up becoming a place for individuals to pay their respects and leave their wishes and prayers in the form of a cross. You don’t have to be religious to take part in this affair. You can also visit any one of their numerous national parks, play with the dolphins at the Maritime Museum or take an air balloon flight!
Just when you thought Estonia had the prize for the most islands in the bag, you get hit with Finland’s 179,000 island count. Give or take a couple hundred. Finland is also the land of a thousand lakes and a million national parks. Ok, 38 national parks, but the conclusion is that Finland is heaven for the amateur environmentalist.
In Finland, nature walks are in vogue, ice fishing is more than a concept, local breweries are very welcoming (a new one will should be opening this year), festivals are highly recommended and if you’re there during the Midsummer Eve partying, sauna bathing and all round fun will most certainly ensue. You can also view the midnight sun (summer months) and see the auroras (winter months).
Finland comes in at a higher price point on the list, with accommodations starting at around 24 USD per night and a meal at an inexpensive restaurant, per person running you about 9-12 USD.
Sandwiched between Austria and Switzerland, this principality is an Alpine country whose official language is German and also happens to be the last remnant of the Holy Roman Empire. It is a mountainous country, which already sounds like magnificent hikes and fun ski trips, because what is an Alpine country without beautifully snow-capped peaks? That being said, Liechtenstein isn’t your go to destination for a summer adventure.
There are no direct flights there, and as they have a good relationship with Switzerland, once you have cleared immigration there, arriving in Liechtenstein is a breeze. If however, you are arriving from Austria, you will be subject to customs controls. So double check your requirements before travelling!
From both Austria and Switzerland, you can get to Lichtenstein by train or bus. If you choose to drive, the Swiss Autobahn will get you there in no time. Otherwise, if you’re feeling adventurous people have been known to hitch-hike their way there.
It is possible to get explore Liechtenstein in a day. If you choose to do this you will still enjoy yourself but you won’t get to take proper advantage of all the principality has to offer. A one day, two night stay would be ideal. This is a country for the adventurer, the biker, hiker, mountain cycler, skier and nature lover will be at home here.
In Montenegro you will find that beach holiday come hiking experience you’ve always dreamed of. Haven’t been dreaming of it? Well you should consider it. July to August when the weather is dry, sunny and the country is at its busiest are when the beaches are full, all bars and restaurants are opened and all activities are in full swing.
Relax on the beach in the morning followed by a stroll and exploration of the town while preparing for the hike later on. It is very affordable. You can find lodgings for as low as 11 USD per night and have a meal for around 2 USD. In addition to swimming and hiking you can bike, raft ski and paraglide depending on the seasons.
10. San Marino
Pictured here is the Most Serene Republic of San Marino, is one of the world’s smallest and oldest republics, completely surrounded by Italy, and that has more vehicles than people.
Unplanned, this list gathered quite a few countries with UNESCO World Heritage sites, and San Marino’s site just happens to be one of the places that you should visit while there. This is the highest peak in San Marino and dates back to the foundation of the republic. On this mount are the Three Towers which are fortresses from the past from which you can view the gorgeous landscape of the San Marino countryside. Their wide variety of museums and uniquely situated kiosks and shopping centers will be your next greatest attractions.
To get to San Marino you will have to go through Italy. Many people travel to the Italian resort town Remini by plane, railway, car or bus. San Marino has no border control so you will have no trouble getting in. If you plan to stay more than 10 days however you will need permission from the government. Once there it is quite easy to get around on foot, otherwise they have good public transport system you can take advantage of. Be sure to try the local wine and spirits.
San Marino does have hotels but it is advisable to stay in Remini and then travel there mostly because a hotel at the lower end of the spectrum will cost around 53 USD and a hostel around 23 USD per night.
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