As you dream of your next European vacation, you may find yourself imagining iconic landmarks and famous cities. While these destinations are undeniably captivating, there exists a treasure trove of hidden gems scattered throughout the continent, waiting to be explored by intrepid travelers seeking something different. Intriguing, offbeat, and enchanting – Europe’s unusual holiday destinations offer a remarkable escape for adventurous travelers seeking something beyond the beaten path. Let us inspire you to explore the more unique parts of Europe!
Unusual Holiday Destinations In Western Europe
#1 The Swiss Alps
Discover the Swiss Alps, one of Europe’s most exceptional and captivating holiday destinations. Nestled amidst breathtaking landscapes, the Swiss Alps offer an unparalleled experience for adventurous travelers seeking a unique escape. Immerse yourself in the wonders of the Gemmi Pass which treats you to sweeping panoramic views with snow-capped peaks. For an adrenaline rush, head to Verticalp and marvel at the Emosson Dam’s grandeur. Wander through the charming town of Lugano, a delightful blend of Swiss-Italian culture, boasting lakeside charm and captivating architecture.
Thrill-seekers will find delight in hut-to-hut hiking, an extraordinary opportunity to explore remote areas and indulge in the Alpine wilderness. Don’t miss the chance to witness the awe-inspiring Aletsch Glacier, the largest glacier in the Alps, a natural wonder that will leave you speechless.
The Swiss Alps also offer an excellent opportunity for kids and teens to partake in international summer and winter camps. Packed with alpine adventures, exciting excursions, sports, and language lessons, these camps promise an unforgettable and enriching experience.
#2 The Southern Coast Of England
Discover the allure of England’s Southern Coast, a remarkable region that promises an unforgettable vacation in Europe. One of its most captivating features is the renowned Jurassic Coast, a UNESCO World Heritage site adorned with breathtaking cliffs and fascinating geological formations that span millions of years. As you hike or drive along its shores, be prepared to step back in time and witness the Earth’s history etched in stone.
For beach enthusiasts, Cornwall beckons with its stunning coastlines and charming seaside towns. Embrace the laid-back ambiance as you bask in the sun, indulge in water sports, or simply relish the coastal tranquility. Not to be missed are the coastal towns like Brighton, boasting historic piers exuding a nostalgic charm, and the iconic white cliffs of Beachy Head and the Seven Sisters, providing unparalleled vistas.
Moreover, England prides itself as a dog-friendly country, making it an ideal destination for pet lovers. Enjoy countless adventures with your furry companions and find a wide array of dog-friendly accommodations across the region.
#3 The Alsace in France
Alsace, tucked away in northeastern France, is an enchanting and offbeat destination that promises an extraordinary European adventure. What sets Alsace apart is its unique blend of vineyards and picturesque “Beauty and the Beast” villages, boasting cobbled stoned streets and timbered houses that seem straight out of a fairy tale.
Colmar, the jewel of Alsace, captivates visitors with its beguiling charm, especially in the enchanting area known as Petit Venise. However, the smaller villages like Riquewihr, Eguisheim, Ribeauvillé, and Kaysersberg are equally delightful, offering a glimpse into a bygone era.
Touring the region’s renowned vineyards is a must-do for wine enthusiasts, as Alsace is famous for producing some of the finest white wines in the world. Exploring the vine-covered hills and indulging in wine tastings is an unforgettable experience.
Beyond the beauty, Alsace beckons with a rich cultural heritage, mouthwatering Alsatian cuisine, and warm hospitality. Whether you wander through the charming streets or take in the stunning landscapes, Alsace promises a journey like no other, making it an exceptional and remarkable destination to visit in Europe.
Unusual Holiday Destinations In Southern Europe
#4 Ria Formosa Natural Park In Portugal
Discover the hidden gem of Ria Formosa, a vast natural park spanning over 20,000 hectares. It is nestled between the charming coastal towns of Faro and Tavira in the Algarve in southern Portugal. Unlike the orange cliffs and sandy coves typical of the Algarve’s western coast, Ria Formosa enchants visitors with its intricate maze of waterways, islands, and peninsulas to the east of Faro. It’s no wonder that the Portuguese consider it one of the country’s seven natural wonders.
This unique lagoon is a harmonious blend of islands, saltwater marshes, sandy beaches, pink-hued lakes, sandbanks, and quaint villages, offering a diverse range of experiences. The region’s rich biodiversity, including a multitude of bird species, makes it a haven for nature enthusiasts. Five major islands, namely Ilha da Barreta, Ilha da Culatra, Ilha da Armona, Ilha de Tavira, and Ilha de Cabanas, as well as two peninsulas, make up this pristine paradise.
One of the highlights is witnessing the graceful flamingos that grace the area, alongside the mesmerizing pink lakes. Ria Formosa is an ideal offbeat destination for travelers seeking tranquility, unique landscapes, and a chance to immerse themselves in nature’s wonders. Visiting this stunning gem promises an extraordinary experience, making it a top choice for anyone exploring unusual holiday destinations in Europe.
#5 The Spanish Pueblos Blancos Of Andalusia
Andalusia is renowned for its picturesque white villages, or “pueblos blancos”, making it a must-visit destination on your European bucket list. One of the most popular places in Andalusia is Ronda, a typical white village with a unique location atop a rock plateau, separated by a deep gorge. The iconic bridge spanning the gorge offers breathtaking views, making it one of the most emblematic spots in southern Spain.
Nestled in the mountains of Andalusia, Frigiliana is hailed as one of the most beautiful villages in southern Spain. Away from the bustling beaches of Costa del Sol, it exudes its own enchanting ambiance. The narrow streets winding up the hills are adorned with flower pots, blue doors, and frames against the brilliant white facades, creating an idyllic sight that earned Frigiliana the title of Spain’s prettiest village.
For those seeking more rustic charm, Zahara de la Sierra and Grazalema are two picturesque villages situated in the Sierra de Grazalema. Zahara de la Sierra sits atop a hill next to a vivid blue reservoir, crowned by an ancient Moorish castle. Its quaint squares and photogenic streets make it one of Spain’s most beautiful villages. Grazalema, nearby, is surrounded by rugged nature and mountains within the national park. Its scenic views and charming streets, squares, and historic buildings exemplify the essence of pueblos blancos in Andalusia.
Another gem is Setenil de las Bodegas, not only historically rich and picturesque but also strategically located in the mountains to combat the scorching summer heat. The village’s unique feature is its houses built into and against the mountainsides.
Lastly, Júzcar, once a classic white village, underwent a fascinating transformation when it was entirely painted blue for a Smurf movie. The resulting surreal streetscape showcases houses, churches, restaurants, and shops adorned in various shades of blue.
#6 The Beaches Of Albania
Discover an uncharted and lesser-known destination in Europe, boasting breathtaking beaches comparable to renowned Croatian or Greek shores. Albania, a coastal paradise tucked away in the Balkans, offers an unforgettable beach vacation that will leave you in awe.
Durres, Sarande, and Vlore are some well-known beach destinations, but the true magic lies in exploring Albania’s stunning coastline, often referred to as the Albanian Riviera. A road trip along this picturesque route treats you to mesmerizing beaches, awe-inspiring views, and striking rock formations, making it a dream journey for any traveler.
One standout gem that’s consistently hailed as the most beautiful beach is Gjipe Beach. Its pristine shores and crystal-clear waters create an idyllic setting for relaxation and exploration.
What sets Albania apart is its rich history manifested in the abundance of bunkers scattered across the country, even along the coastline. An intriguing experience awaits in Vlore, where you can venture into underground bunkers with a flashlight, unveiling a captivating and unusual adventure.
For a truly distinctive European beach escape, head to Albania. Embrace the unspoiled beauty, the warm hospitality, and the fascinating historical elements that make it a hidden treasure waiting to be discovered.
Unusual Holiday Destinations In Eastern Europe
#7 Lake Ohrid In North Macedonia
Discover the allure of Lake Ohrid, one of Europe’s most extraordinary hidden gems. With an estimated age of three to five million years, this ancient lake is not only one of the oldest in Europe but also the deepest on the continent.
Nestled on the border between Albania and North Macedonia, the lake takes its name from the city of Ohrid in North Macedonia. It boasts a rich historical heritage and a picturesque old town. Wander through the narrow streets adorned with charming white houses and black accents, cobblestones underfoot, and antique cars passing by. The iconic Church of St. John at Kaneo, perched on a rocky outcrop overlooking the lake, adds to the region’s cultural and architectural allure.
Take a leisurely boat tour to soak in the breathtaking views of Ohrid from the water or opt for a boat excursion to explore other mesmerizing sights along the lake, like the popular Sveti Naum Monastery.
For nature enthusiasts, the highlight of Lake Ohrid is the stunning Galicica National Park. Situated to the east of the lake, this mountainous area offers breathtaking views and unique opportunities for hiking and exploration. Interestingly, on the other side of Galicica, you’ll discover another stunning lake, the Prespa Lake, forming the tripoint between North Macedonia, Albania, and Greece.
#8 The Castles Of Czechia
Czechia boasts a staggering number of more than 2000 castles and chateaux, making it Europe’s premier destination for castle enthusiasts. Among them, Hluboká Castle stands out as the most exquisite and frequently visited. Its current appearance, modeled after England’s Windsor Castle, was crafted in the 19th century.
For a fairytale-like experience, Hrad Bouzov in Moravia is a must-visit. What sets this castle apart is its enchanting asymmetrical design, adorned with galleries, towers, Gothic arches, hidden spiral staircases, intricate roof gutters, niches, stained glass, and ceiling paintings.
The castle of Český Krumlov is one of the best places to visit in this charming town. This massive complex, comprising multiple buildings across five courtyards, has evolved over the centuries, offering a breathtaking panorama. Even without purchasing tickets, marveling at the castle’s exterior is a treat in itself.
Located near the Austrian border, the Lednice-Valtice Cultural Landscape holds a place of unparalleled beauty. Owned by the princes of Liechtenstein, this vast 200 km² park, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, boasts two majestic palaces – one in Valtice and another in Lednice.
Discover the allure of Czechia’s castles, and immerse yourself in the history, architectural wonders, and captivating landscapes that make it a remarkable European destination.
#9 Wroclaw In Poland
Experience an original city trip in Europe by visiting Wroclaw in Poland. This enchanting destination is best known for its whimsical gnome statues scattered throughout the city. With over 900 of these funny figures depicting daily life scenes, restaurants, and shops, the mystery of their exact number adds to the charm.
The heart of Wroclaw lies in its old town, centered around the expansive Rynek square. One of the country’s largest squares, it measures an impressive 205 by 175 meters. It boasts an extraordinary feature: buildings standing right in the middle of the square. The surrounding pastel-colored houses add to the square’s allure.
For a glimpse into the city’s oldest part of Wroclaw, head to Cathedral Island. With six churches, it’s aptly named and dominated by the grand Cathedral. As night falls, be captivated by the historical oil lanterns, manually lit by a lantern lighter dressed in black attire, evoking a sense of romance and nostalgia.
Wroclaw’s blend of enchanting history and playful creativity makes it an extraordinary place to explore in Europe. Discover the delightful gnomes, revel in the grandeur of Cathedral Island, and immerse yourself in the city’s rich cultural heritage. A visit to Wroclaw promises a delightful and unforgettable experience in one of Europe’s most unusual holiday destinations.
Unusual Holiday Destinations In Northern Europe
#10 The Black Beaches Of Iceland
When imagining island beaches, visions of tropical paradises with white sands and swaying palm trees often come to mind. However, Iceland offers a uniquely mesmerizing experience with its black sand beaches, creating an otherworldly landscape.
Iceland’s southern region boasts numerous volcanoes, hidden beneath massive glaciers. These very volcanoes have shaped the black cliffs, rocks, and sands of the Icelandic beaches. Composed of basalt, a volcanic rock formed from cooling lava, the black sand beaches have emerged from remnants of once-flowing molten lava.
Nestled along the south coast of the island, the village of Vík in South Iceland is a must-visit destination for these remarkable black sand beaches. Stretching endlessly from Vík, these coastal landscapes captivate visitors. Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach, located between Vík and the Dyrhólaey rock plateau, stands out as Iceland’s most beautiful black beach. Its surreal black sand and striking coastal rocks add to its allure. At Reynisfjara, witness the Garðar, eerie basalt cliffs with intricate shapes, and explore the Hálsanefshellir Cave, displaying an intricate basalt ceiling.
Among the array of black sand beaches in Iceland, you’ll find Vik Black Sand Beach, Sólheimasandur Beach featuring the DC-3 plane wreck, Endless Black Beach (also known as Dyrhólaey Beach), which stretches from the Dyrhólaey rock plateau, and Diamond Beach, where ice floes rest gracefully upon the dark sands.
These black sand beaches epitomize Iceland’s unique charm, where the interplay of ice and fire has crafted captivating landscapes and legendary tales. A visit to these alluring beaches makes Iceland an exceptional and offbeat holiday destination in Europe.
#11 Winter Wonderland In Lapland
Lapland in winter is an enchanting wonderland with Rovaniemi in northern Finland offering the ultimate European winter destination. Embrace the magic of the Santa Claus Village, where dreams come alive with joy and excitement.
Beyond the village, Levi beckons with thrilling snowmobile adventures amidst picturesque frozen trees. Savor the delights of the best restaurants, offering mouthwatering reindeer cuisine. For an authentic Arctic experience, venture to Hetta, where charming husky farms await. Feel the thrill of husky sledding rides, creating cherished memories. Don’t miss a visit to Ranua, home to the extraordinary Arctic Zoo. Witness magnificent polar bears and adorable Arctic foxes in their natural habitat.
Lapland promises an unforgettable family vacation, from meeting Santa Claus to exhilarating snowmobile rides and heartwarming encounters with huskies. Experience a winter wonderland like no other and create memories that will last a lifetime.
#12 Baltic States Road Trip
Embark on an extraordinary adventure with a road trip through the Baltic States in Europe. A hidden gem for intrepid travelers seeking something different, this trio of countries Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania offers a captivating blend of rich history, untouched nature, and vibrant culture.
Start your journey in Tallinn, Estonia’s enchanting capital, where medieval charm meets modern creativity. Wander through cobbled streets, visit fairy-tale castles, and savor delicious local cuisine. Heading south, Riga, Latvia’s vibrant metropolis, awaits with its stunning art nouveau architecture and bustling markets.
Continuing onward, Vilnius, Lithuania’s picturesque capital, will capture your heart with its Baroque beauty and bohemian spirit. As you drive between these fascinating capitals, you’ll encounter unspoiled landscapes of dense forests, pristine lakes, and sandy beaches along the Baltic coastline.
A Baltic States road trip is an enriching experience, offering an escape from typical tourist routes. Immerse yourself in the warm hospitality of locals and indulge in unique traditions. Discover the well-preserved historical sites and revel in the Baltic’s flourishing arts scene.
Explore the road less traveled and unearth the captivating allure of the Baltic States. It is a truly extraordinary destination in Europe that promises an unforgettable and offbeat holiday experience.