When you imagine a European holiday, what do you think of? Sprawling cities with cobbled streets and towering cathedrals? Teeming beaches with red-hot sand and icy blue seas? Immense snow covered mountains dotted all over with skiers and snow-boarders? I bet the images that sprang to mind weren’t full of peace and restfulness. When holidaying in Europe I find many people tend to get wrapped up in seeing it all. Seeing all the sights of a city, or skiing all the slopes of a ski resort. Spending all day on the crowded beach soaking up the sun. And yet there are so many unseen parts of Europe that can really take your breath away.
If you’re looking for a European retreat, someplace that’s away from the crowds of the cities and coastlines then look no further. Here are my top five European hideaways that will leave you truly revitalised and relaxed.
Southern France is often all tied up with fast cars and exclusive casinos. But if you come inland from the coast a little, you’ll find the wondrously rural area of Dordogne. Fly into Bordeaux but make sure to find accommodation away from the city. Spend your days exploring unknown vineyards and lazily kayaking down the Dordogne River.
La Gomera, Canary Islands
A longer flight, but worth the trouble for this tiny island gem. You’ll have to fly into Tenerife and catch the ferry but the trip is more than worth it for the unspoilt beauty of La Gomera. Find accommodation atop the cliffs overlooking the Atlantic. Take a walk to your nearest fishing village, or get taken way up into the mountains and free-wheel your way back to base on a bicycle.
Owned by France and found in the middle of the Mediterranean it’s surprising this island remains fairly overlooked by tourists. Explore its natural beauty by car, and choose to stay in one of the dramatically beautiful mountain villages. Don’t forget a trip to the market, where French and Italian influences mingle to create the most mouth-watering array of fares.
Another ferry required for this one, but again worth it if idyllic beaches and quaint villages are your thing. Try to avoid the resort towns of Bol and Supetar, these can get crowded in the summer months. Instead settle in a little village like Sumartin, and take in the surrounding scenery. This place really is remote so there isn’t too much to occupy your time. If you really want to be active, popular activities include fishing, taking a boat trip or windsurfing.
Faroe Islands, Denmark
If you’re not bothered about the hot weather, the Faroe Islands really are off the beaten path. A lesser-known alternative to Iceland, this volcanic group of islands provide breath-taking scenery, geothermal activity and if you’re lucky, a glimpse at the elusive northern lights. Hikers and birdwatchers will find this a true haven.