Countries covered: Turkey, Greece, the Former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia, Serbia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Montenegro, Croatia, Slovenia, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, Latvia, Estonia, Russia, Ukraine & Romania
Greece is home of architectural jewels such as Corfu Town, Chania in Crete, Rhodes Town and the Cycladic Islands as well as archeological treasures, striking monasteries, plenty of hiking, and even skiing opportunities. What’s more, if looking for some of Southern Europe’s most vibrant beach bars and nightlife, then Greece will be an ideal destination for you. Turkey is steeped in historically-Greek, Roman, and Ottoman alike – and the archeological sites scattered throughout the country reflect just that. Istanbul is one of the most enriching and exciting places you could ever visit. Turkey also boasts great music, delicious cuisine, clear-water beaches, and exciting water sports activities.
Known regionally for outdoor activities such as mountain climbing, hiking, and skiing, and for peaceful villages, rich cuisine, byzantine relics, and the scenic and architecturally attractive town that is Ohrid, the landlocked and relatively safe Former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) remains one of Europe’s last undiscovered treasures. Featuring in Belgrade great fashion and much nightlife, hosting the annual music-themed Exit Festival in Novi Sad and home of outdoor activities such as skiing and hiking, as well as monasteries that dot urban centers and the countryside alike, Serbia is worth discovering. Culinary-rich Bosnia & Herzegovina is nothing short of a well-rounded and outright exciting tourist destination. First and foremost, there is the capital of Sarajevo, one of the Balkans’ most attractive cities, a fascinating architectural mosaic of centuries-old Turkish as well as Austria-Hungarian influences. For devout Christians, there is the village of Medugorje, site of the Virgin Mary apparitions. For nature enthusiasts, there is the waterfall in the town of Jajce.
A relatively “new” Adriatic country featuring grey and rocky mountains, dramatic fjords, secluded bays, and both sand and pebble beaches – dotted with fishing villages, charming and Venetian-style seaside towns and coastal resorts, and otherwise home of a remote interior graced with canyons, rivers, lakes, parks, and forests, the tiny former Yugoslavian republic of Montenegro is undoubtedly a Mediterranean treasure. Croatia is home of postcard-perfect beaches, stunning mountainous landscape, unspoiled forestry, bird-inhabited wetlands, breathtaking waterfalls, architecturally striking towns, buzzing nightlife and the baroque-era gem that is Zagreb. Touching snowcapped Alps and the Mediterranean Sea as well as boasting rather diverse architecture, Slovenia offers much more than its physical size suggests. Relatively small Slovenia is filled with historic palaces, castles, and churches, regionally renowned for its wines, home of natural attractions such as lush lakes and forests, underground caves, a rocky shoreline, and beautiful beaches, and otherwise featuring seashore resorts that seasonally attract families and partygoers alike. What’s more, the outdoors type will find activities here comparable in quality to those of Slovenia’s Western neighbors at a mere fraction of the price.
Hungary’s unrefined and vibrant capital that is Budapest is a place where the East, West, and Balkans all meet and make their presence felt. Outside of the capital, provincial lifestyle characterizes the scene. Given its wealth of castles, chateaux, and medieval towns, and otherwise considering the allure of Prague, the Czech Republic is unsurprisingly quite popular with Europeans and international travelers alike. Featuring architecturally stunning and nightlife-filled urban centers and home of a charming countryside dotted with wooden residences and churches, graced with mountains, hills, woodlands, lakes and rivers, and otherwise offering outdoor activities such as kayaking and canoeing, Poland’s attractions are undoubtedly quite diverse. Devoutly Catholic yet also containing a rich Jewish heritage, Poland also draws in crowds intrigued by the country’s religious background.
Filled with art nouveaux and gothic redbrick architecture, as well as sociable beer gardens and amazing nightlife, the fairly contemporary commercial hub that is Riga is unmistakably Latvia’s greatest tourist draw, along with the white summer nights seen across the compact country. Best, but not solely known across Europe for its forward-thinking, charming, and well preserved medieval capital city Tallinn, the modern-day Baltic beauty that is Estonia is a quite popular destination in the region. Historically more so of Nordic influence than Russian occupation, Estonia’s smooth reintegration with Europe generally and Scandinavia especially almost seems inevitable. Estonia is truly a post-Soviet Union success story.
As the sheer size of the world’s geographically largest country suggests, Russia’s attractions are varied and quite abundant. Stylish and modern Moscow and the queen of the Baltic Sea Saint Petersburg attract sightseeing enthusiasts, while those seeking some rural life have numerous time-frozen wooden villages to choose from. There’s much more to Russia than its hardline politics, military development, cold weather, and vodka. Russia is also a land of world-renowned literary geniuses and chess players, proud Olympic achievements, outdoor attractions such as whitewater rafting and skiing, highly ornate Orthodox Christian monasteries, ancient fortresses, and opulent palaces.
The continent’s second largest country by land mass aspires to integrate with its Western neighbors politically, culturally and economically. Efforts are being made to improve the tourism industry, especially in the western portion of the country. Fortunately, Ukraine’s diverse attractions offer at least experienced travelers plenty of reason to visit. The urban sightseeing type should check out the ‘cradle of Slavic culture’ that is Kiev and especially Habsburg-influenced Lviv. Also of some architectural value are Chernivtsi and Odessa, the latter of which is equally known for its seasonal party scene. The country’s greatest draw for nature lovers are the Carpathian Mountains.
In Romania, stunning wildlife can be found along the Black Sea. Dominating the center of the country are the Carpathians, which are some of the most lush and breathtaking mountains in all of Europe. Attracting religious types are the Orthodox churches and pious lifestyles of Maramures. Not least, there is the Middle Age architecture of Transylvania – home of castles and fortresses – as well as charming Saxon-style towns such as Brasov, Sibiu, and Sighisoara. Ever since Romania joined the European Union (EU), travelers have become more curious than ever to explore the mystique of this Eastern European nation.
Available for immediate download or online reading
My family and I wanted to travel as a group to our homeland. Your advice was right on the money. Nobody wants to take a trip like that and not know what to do when they get there. Your itinerary served as a constant travel companion and truly made us feel like we were more than tourists in a faraway land. Thanks so much, from my big, Greek family to yours.
You wouldn’t think a vacation to Eastern Europe was a spiritual quest, but it became one once I snagged a copy of your itinerary. You directed me towards places I didn’t even know existed. Your advice about the culture was super accurate, and I ended up making life-long friends easily.