Europe is no stranger to tourism, with countries like France, Spain and Italy often topping the lists of the world’s most popular destinations. However, the continent is full of other countries besides these big names, all with a lot to offer visitors and a fraction of the crowds. From charming towns to ancient forests and unexplored mountain ranges, here are nine underrated places you should consider visiting on your next trip.
For active exploration: Slovenia
Nestled between Italy, Austria, Hungary and Croatia, Slovenia is an unknown dream for outdoor enthusiasts. From skiing on the snow-capped peaks of the Julian Alps and hiking through unspoiled forests, to exploring the magical underground caverns of the vast Postojna Cave, the possibilities for adventure are endless. Plus, with sparkling lakes, majestic waterfalls, and turquoise rivers to admire, the views are unforgettable. Also try Bled Cake at Lake Bled.
For pristine nature: Finland
With far fewer tourists than neighboring Norway and Sweden, Finland offers the perfect chance to get lost in the towering forests and crystal-clear lakes of the country’s idyllic national parks. Add a touch of wild animals such as brown bears and roaming moose; then throw into the midnight sun and the northern lights lighting up the sky, and you won’t know where to look!
For a peaceful escape: Estonia
With a population of just 1.3 million, Estonia is one of the least densely populated countries in Europe and is also overlooked when it comes to mass tourism. Its capital, Tallinn, is an alluring mix of medieval streets, modern business districts and seaside promenade, while the rest of the country is about 50% forest, making it easy to escape the city. hustle and bustle and find some loneliness.
For classic charm: Luxembourg
Small, landlocked Luxembourg is often overlooked in favor of its more famous neighbors, France and Germany, but its fairytale capital, medieval castles and quaint villages are well worth a visit. Despite its small size, there is plenty of nature to explore, with well-groomed cycle paths and hiking trails crisscrossing forested hills and vineyard-lined valleys.
For spectacular landscapes: Iceland
Few places inspire us with so much respect for nature as Iceland. Known as the Land of Fire and Ice for good reason, it is home to both some of the world’s most active volcanoes and some of Europe’s largest glaciers. It’s a hiker’s paradise too, with epic trails winding past rugged mountains, hot springs, lava fields, and jaw-dropping waterfalls.
To exit the map: Liechtenstein
This little piece of country is nestled in the mountains between Switzerland and Austria. Being so small that it does not have an airport of its own, but access by road or rail from the surrounding countries is a cinch. Once there, there are plenty of spots to ski without the usual tourist crowds, as well as hiking and biking trails to explore.
For captivating castles: Romania
Most famous for its association with Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Romania is a land of jagged mountain peaks, storytelling castles with soaring spiers, and medieval towns that seem unaffected by time. With fascinating folk museums and rustic villages showcasing the country’s traditional culture, as well as hiking trails to discover its natural wetlands and wildlife, there’s a lot to remember here.
For a spectacular coastline: Montenegro
Located on the shores of the Adriatic Sea, Montenegro is a warm and welcoming country where sheer cliffs and forested mountains carpeted with flowers dominate pretty beaches and sparkling azure waters. The orange-roofed houses that hug the coastline complete this perfect scene, and there’s always the option of heading inland to really escape the crowds.
For real isolation: the Faroe Islands
To really think outside the box and enter uncharted territory, the Faroe Islands, deep in the North Atlantic Ocean, are perfect. Made up of 18 different islands, it’s impossible not to fall in love with the archipelago’s plunging cliffs, adorable puffins, crashing waves and austere moors. Just be sure to dress for the weather, which can be both unpredictable and changeable.
Please note that travel restrictions are currently in place due to COVID-19. Depending on the country you are visiting, hotels, restaurants and other tourist attractions may be closed. Always check government advice before making reservations.