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Posts Tagged ‘Balkans’

The best cities to visit in Eastern Europe

Balkans

contributed by Elisa of World in Paris

Brasov is a fairy-tale fortified city in the heart of Transylvania, in Romania. It is easy to walk, it has a beautiful architecture with Saxon influences and many nice cafes to stop for a caffeine break. We were lucky to find an apartment facing the main square so it was nice to see how the city wakes up.

If you want to get the most out of Brasov, we recommend doing the free city tour starting every day from the main square. It is a very entertaining tour which introduces visitors to the history of the city, some fun legends and its main sights like the black church and the white and black towers. In addition, guides are always happy to give some recommendations on good restaurants to explore the local cuisine so you are set for the day.

Brasov is also a good base for exploring other parts of Transylvania like the famous Bran castle or the mountains of Piatra Craiului.

Podgorica, Montenegro

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contributed by Eric of Penguin and Pia

For the capital of a country, Podgorica, Montenegro doesn’t get too much credit. We think this should change! Podgorica does actually have things to do and this makes the city a place that we think is worth checking out for yourself. From traditional Balkan cuisine at restaurants like Pod Volat to visiting the museums and wandering the historic old town, the city has a rich history that is to be learned about and explored.

If you’re in Podgorica at night, the city centre is buzzing with activity. The bars, pubs, and restaurants open their patios in the warm air and let the night take its course. Whatever kind of fun you’re looking for, you’ll find it out on the town in Podgorica. Oh, and don’t forget about the things you can check out close to the city. Just a short drive away from Podgorica is the “Niagara Falls” of Montenegro – and you won’t want to miss checking out nature at its finest!

Ohrid, FYROM

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contributed by Kirstin of The Tinberry Travels

Lake Ohird is one of the most beautiful spots in the Balkans and sat on the water’s edge in the wonderful Ohrid City, FYROM. The biggest settlement in the region, Ohrid along with its neighbouring lake, is a UNESCO World Heritage site filled with ancient history, diverse and intricate architecture and plenty of natural beauty on top. Said to have once held 365 places of worship, one for every day of the year, the many churches or Ohrid are the city’s main drawn but there are plenty of things to do in Ohrid.

From boat trips or swimming in the beautiful clear waters to ancient amphitheatres and fortresses on the hill, Ohrid has a good variety of attractions and is fast becoming the new place to go in the Balkans. To get to Ohrid, a number of low cost airlines fly direct to the small Ohrid airport just outside the city or you can take a three hour drive from the FYROM ‘s capital of Skopje.

Vilnius, Lithuania

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contributed by Mary of A Mary Road

Vilnius Lithuania is not only another city in East Europe. If you are looking to explore this part of the world, Vilnius is worth a visit. It’s probably one of the cheapest places you can explore taking into account that it is the capital city. Vilnius is full of historical events and culture, the city is very open-minded and LGBTQA friendly.

Exploring around is very easy, you can either walk through the Old Town or hop on a bicycle (which is very affordable to rent for a day or more), to go further out. Vilnius has also a lot of park around, in Summer, you can sit by the park, watch the locals go through their daily life or simply visit a local market where fresh fruits are being sold. Going to the next city like Kaunas or to the neighbouring country is very easy too, and affordable. There are cheap flights in and out of Vilnius within Europe.

Plovdiv, Bulgaria

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contributed by Stephanie of Sofia Adventures

While Plovdiv in central Bulgaria is an Eastern European city, it does’t feel like it. It’s a beautiful, classic town full of ancient Roman architecture, gorgeous Bulgarian Revival houses, and modern street art. If you’re looking for Red Tourism, head elsewhere, because this is Bulgaria’s elegant cultural center. In fact, it’s been named as the European Capital of Culture for 2019, highlighting it’s place as one of the oldest cities in Europe.

There is eight thousand years of history in this city, but there’s also tons of great modern amenities, like fantastic restaurants and fun cafes. You can spend a weekend or a week here, because there are so many things to see and do in Plovdiv that you won’t have time get bored. After checking out the main highlights of the city (I highly recommend the city’s free walking tour), head out to see some of the beautiful monasteries in the region.

Budva, Montenegro

Budva - best cities to visit in Eastern EuropeBudva - best cities to visit in Eastern EuropeOld Town of Budva in Montenegro

contributed by Michelle of Greedy Gourmet

Located on the Adriatic Sea in Montenegro, is a beautiful town called Budva. Even though some parts of this country are still suffering from the effects of the Cold War, Budva is a thriving tourist destination. Budva is only a 25-minute taxi ride from Tivat Airport, where you can easily hail a cab outside the building or rent a car to get around.

The city is known for its beaches, nightlife and restaurants but is also rich in history.   You can spend the day at the Rustovo Monastery or head up to the Citadel to catch some amazing views. Most tourists come for the beaches and there are plenty to visit, such as Mogren Beach, Royal Beach and Kamenova Beach.

You absolutely need to eat at Casa Mia, a lovely Italian restaurant. Casa Mia has its own farm, raising their own chickens, ducks, turkeys and goats which makes them a rare, sustainable restaurant. In addition, you should check out Dukley Beach Lounge. Located right on the water, the views are enough of a reason to visit this restaurant.

Budapest, Hungary

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contributed by Suzanne of The Travelbunny

Budapest is the perfect European city to visit for a long weekend or city break. Full of charm, beautiful buildings, good food, coffee shops, art, history and quirk there’s a lot you can pack into a few days. The Danube runs through the centre of the city splitting it into two distinct districts; Buda and Pest. The 19th century Chain Bridge links hilly Buda’s castle district with flatter Pest. A funicular runs up Castle Hill to Old Town Buda where you’ll get fabulous views across the River Danube to the stunning Hungarian Parliament building. Fisherman’s Bastion, the 13th century Matthias Church and the famous Gellert thermal baths are all on the Buda side. Cross the Chain Bridge to explore Pest with its trendy ruin bars, ornate coffee shops, the food market and the grandeur of Heroes Square.

The city is good value for money as it’s not part of the Euro and still uses the Hungarian Forint. You can explore most of the city on foot or by using the metro which is easy to use and the oldest electrified underground railway system in Europe.

Kotor, Montenegro

Kotor, Montenegro -best cities to visit in Eastern EuropeKotor, Montenegro -best cities to visit in Eastern EuropeKotor, Montenegro

contributed by Kamila of My Wanderlust

Even before visiting Kotor I knew I’m gonna love it there. The pictures I’ve seen online looked just amazing and the place seemed too beautiful to be true. But it really does exist and is even more spectacular that I could imagine! By now I’ve been some 5 times there and Kotor for me is the most beautiful place in Europe.

The highlight of every visit is of course the climb to the St. John castle – it is exhausting to walk over a thousand stairs to the top but the view is definitely worth it! But there are so many more things to do there! I love wandering around Kotor Old Town, especially early in the morning or late in the evening when it’s not too crowded, I love walking along Kotor Bay to Dobrota and admire the stunning views and I love visiting small village of Perast that is just the prettiest. If you decided to visit Kotor I can only suggest to do it off season as the summer might be just too busy there!

BalkansBran CastleWroclaw, Poland

Wroclaw -best cities to visit in Eastern EuropeWroclaw -best cities to visit in Eastern EuropeWroclaw

contributed by Jessica of Longest Bus Rides

There are so many things to do in Wroclaw, Poland that it should definitely be on your list of places to visit in Europe. The historical part of the city is completely walkable, so no need to rent a car. If anything, rent a bicycle. And, it’s very accessible to English speakers, with much of the signage translated to English. It helps that the city was European Union City of the Year in 2014.

Known as the Venice of the North, there are lots of cute bridges (approximately 130, but not all of them are cute) and 12 islands. There is even an island with gardens and historical buildings—visit the Gothic Cathedral at night to see it lit up. St. Mary Magdalene Churchhas Penitent Bridge, a gangway connecting the towers high over the city.The view is fantastic, although its original purpose is sad–

The synagogue has a free museum regarding the Jewish history in the area. On the more humorous side, keep your eyes open for all the gnomes throughout the city. They are small, and it’s always a fun surprise to find one. There’s one right by the entrance to the ancient pub underneath City Hal

Ljubljana, Slovenia

Ljubljana - city to travel in Eastern EuropeLjubljana - city to travel in Eastern EuropeLjubljana

contributed by Kylie of Our Overseas Adventures

Ljublijana is the largest city in Slovenia and one of the new cool capital cities of Eastern Europe. It’s a fabulous city to visit for a few days and it has a wonderful funky vibe. The beautiful Ljubljanica river runs through the centre of the old town and wandering along the riverbanks, popping into some of the great cafes lining the route is such a great way to pass the time. The city is often compared to Prague due to its architecture designed by the world famous Jože Plečnik.

Ljublijana is famous for its bridges, with the Dragon Bridge being the most notable landmark in Ljublijana. Choose one of the four iconic dragons positioned at both ends of the bridge to snap a selfie with! Towering over the city is the 900-year-old Ljubljana Castle, a must-see with some of the best views of the city. You can take a funicular railway to reach the castle, or walk up one of the paths if you want some exercise. Afterwards, head back down into the city and pick one of the many hip bars to relax with a drink and soak in the atmosphere of this gorgeous city.

Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria

Veliko Tarnovo - places to visit in Eastern EuropeVeliko Tarnovo - places to visit in Eastern EuropeVeliko Tarnovo

contributed by Allison of Sofia Adventures

Veliko Tarnovo is one of the most beautiful cities in Bulgaria. As the former capital of Bulgaria, it’s chock full of history, which can be seen in the beautiful Tsaravets fortress, which used to be the seat of power hundreds of years ago. Today, Veliko Tarnovo is full of interesting monuments, delicious restaurants with gorgeous views over the Yantra River, old-fashioned houses built on a hillside, and cafés and bars where you can relax and enjoy a slower pace of life.

You shouldn’t miss Asen’s Monument, the Stambolov bridge, the fortress, the many interesting churches, and a side trip to the nearby village of Arbanasi. Be sure to eat at the original restaurant, Shtastliveca, which is now popular throughout several cities in Bulgaria. Shopska salad can’t be missed when visiting Bulgaria! Veliko Tarnovo is a great addition to Bulgaria itineraries that include larger cities like Plovdiv or Sofia, or as a side trip from Bucharest, or as its own city break!

Zagreb, Croatia

Zagreb - best cities to visit in Eastern EuropeZagreb - best cities to visit in Eastern EuropeZagreb

contributed by Julianna of The Discoveries of

Zagreb was the city I never expected to fall in love with. A striking blend of centuries of history, cosmopolitan culture and a laid-back vibe – it was only ever going to end one way. What’s so special about Zagreb? The small walkable centre is packed with sights, both old and new, for your itinerary. The Neo-Gothic Cathedral dominates the skyline but surprises visitors with its modernist carvings inside. Equally enchanting is the much-talked about Museum of Broken Relationships, which is packed with the sometimes funny, sometimes sad relics of relationships that haven’t quite worked out.

Don’t miss the daily firing of the cannon in Lotrsčak Tower either – at 12pm sharp the warden fires a cannon (stuffed with paper) over the city. It’s not clear where the tradition came from, but it’s happened daily since 1877. Be warned, it is very loud! Lotrsčak Tower also happens to boast stellar views out over Zagreb, so it’s a win-win situation. Some people pass through Zagreb, seeing it as a stop on their way to the Plitvice Lakes, or as they zoom to Split and Dubrovnik further south. What a mistake – spend some time here and you’ll see that Zagreb is a small city with a lot to offer.

Sibiu, Romania

Sibiu -best cities to visit in Eastern EuropeSibiu -best cities to visit in Eastern EuropeSibiu city, Transylvania

contributed by Raluca of Whisper Wanderlust

Sibiu is one of the most beautiful, largest and most visited cities of Romania. It is located in Transylvania, approximately in the center of the country, making it easily accessible from any point. Being very close to the tallest and most spectacular mountains in the country, I recommend that along with Sibiu, go on a road trip on Transfagarasan, the most scenic road in the country.

Sibiu, thanks to its beauty, became the cultural capital of Europe 10 years ago when countless events took place in the city. Being the largest medieval ensemble in the country, it is a real pleasure to walk through the old center. The cobbled streets, the colorful houses that seem to have eyes on their roofs, the cheerful terraces and the architecture of the most important buildings will instantly conquer you. If you arrive in Sibiu, I recommend you to pass the Liars Bridge, admire the Council Tower, the Lutheran Evangelical cathedral or the Brukenthal Museum and go on a picnic at Dumbrava Sibiului.

Medulin, Croatia

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contributed by LeAnne of Well Traveled Nebraskan

Medulin, Croatia is no longer just the sleepy fishing village it once was.  Today, you can find accommodations to fit all budgets along the incredibly stunning Istrian Coast.  Whether you are looking for a glitzy all inclusive resort to get away or to camp right along the beach, we loved Medulin’s various paces of life offered to all kinds of travelers.  There was just something about grabbing delicious grilled Croatian food right on the ocean while kicking back with some of the cheapest beer we’ve ever bought that made us fall in love with the area.

However, it was the Kemenjak National Park, just on the outskirts of town that gave us memories to last a lifetime.  Purchase a cheap snorkel set from any stand in town and then head to the park where you can swim in crystal clear waters and explore underwater caves.  For adventurous souls, join the cliff jumpers leaping from various levels of cliffs into the deep ocean below for an amazingly fun time!  And then for any history buffs, geek out at the actual dinosaur tracks, still imprinted in the rocks!

Medulin was the perfect balance of exploration with a touch of relaxation, which makes it a perfect destination for just about any type of traveler! 

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20 most beautiful places in Europe

Alps

(CNN) — From Norwegian islands high above the Arctic Circle to forest-covered mountains in Romania, windswept sandy beaches in Wales and icy lakes in the Balkans, Europe is a spectacularly varied place.

The old continent’s historic cities and its Mediterranean beaches draw many of its visitors, but the best destinations are sometimes its more remote corners, known mainly to locals and a few intrepid travelers. Here are 20 of Europe’s most beautiful places to inspire your travels:

Lake Inari, Finland

High above the Arctic Circle and close to Finland’s border with Russia, Lake Inari is a year-round paradise. Dark, snowy winters make it ideal for catching a glimpse of the aurora borealis.

Its tree-lined banks glow a burnt orange during autumn and in summer, you can swim in its chilly shallows. The center of local Sámi culture, it’s as remote and traditional as Finland gets.

Lofoten Islands, Norway

This Norwegian archipelago consists of seven main islands.

This Norwegian archipelago consists of seven main islands.

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Made up of towering peaks, deep fjords and picture perfect villages, the Lofoten Islands are renowned for their remote beauty.

Consisting of seven main islands — Austvågøy, Flakstadøy, Gimsøy, Moskenesøya, Røst, Værøy and Vestvågøy — this is a place where nature takes precedence and sea eagles soar through the skies.

Thanks to the mild waters of the gulf stream, the Norwegian archipelago is surprisingly warm in summer, when the sun never sets due to the islands’ northerly location.

Unst, Shetland Isles, Scotland

Unst is the last outpost of the United Kingdom.

Unst is the last outpost of the United Kingdom.

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The most northerly occupied island of the British Isles, Unst is a wild, rugged place where seas crash into the dramatic Muckle Flugga sea stacks.

The latter are a haven for gannets during breeding season, with birdwatchers also treated to the sight of scavenging bonxies, or great skuas.

Steeped in Viking history, archaeologists have discovered traditional longhouses and graveyards that showcase its Scandinavian past.

Zagori, Greece

Zagori comes from the Slavic word meaning

Zagori comes from the Slavic word meaning “beyond the mountains.”

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While Greece’s islands are lauded for their beauty, the mainland’s charms are easily overlooked.

But one of the most spectacular mountain ranges in Europe lies here, in the region of Zagori, Epirus.

The plunging Vikos Gorge makes for a perfect day’s hiking, while Mount Astrakas’ snow-capped peak is a sight to behold as the days close in, showing that Greece is far more than just a summer destination.

Keep an eye out for Zagori’s stone bridges, especially the three-arched Kaligeriko, close to the village of Kipi.

Yorkshire Dales, England

The Yorkshire Dales is famous for its spectacular landscapes.

The Yorkshire Dales is famous for its spectacular landscapes.

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The Yorkshire Dales are the England of the imagination.

Its narrow lanes lined with drystone walls cry out to cyclists seeking vertiginous adventures, while its moody hills continually attract walkers, no matter the weather.

Geological wonders such as the limestone spectacles of Malham Cove and Gordale Scar make it perhaps the most beautiful part of the British Isles.

Much of the area forms part of the Yorkshire Dales National Park, perhaps best seen along the Settle to Carlisle railway, which passes over the iconic Ribblehead Viaduct.

Apuseni Mountains, Romania

Romania's Apuseni mountains form part of the western Carpathian Mountains in Transylvania.

Romania’s Apuseni mountains form part of the western Carpathian Mountains in Transylvania.

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Part of the Carpathian range, the Apuseni are the best kept secret in Eastern Europe.

These mountains are isolated, with ancient forests and limestone caves descending into underground rivers at every turn.

Time stands still here, with little else to do but breathe in the pine-tinged air and keep an eye out for the abundant wildlife.

Wolves prowl through the trees, with ospreys circling on thermals high above.

Loire Valley, France

Loire Valley attracts more than 3.3 million visitors per year.

Loire Valley attracts more than 3.3 million visitors per year.

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The Loire Valley’s opulent châteaux are what give this region of central France such grandeur.

Chateau de Chambord and Chateau de Chenonceau are the most famous, replete with classic spires, viewing towers, formal gardens and boating lakes.

Throw in a tour of its vineyards, where some of the world’s finest wines are produced, and its allure is impossible to ignore.

Picos de Europa, Spain

The Picos de Europa may not get top billing with the Pyrenees, but these mountains are every bit as enticing for serious mountaineers, hikers and those who enjoy marveling at high peaks.

Known as “Spain’s Dolomites,” the mountain range extends for about 20 kilometers inland from the northern coast of Spain.

Walkers will find an excellent network of mountain refuges, with the views at their best as the sun rises over the peaks in the early morning.

Adelboden, Switzerland

The Swiss mountain village of Adelboden in the Bernese Oberland region.

The Swiss mountain village of Adelboden in the Bernese Oberland region.

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Although Adelboden isn’t the famous valley in Switzerland, it possesses a local charm that many never get to experience.

The head of the valley is home to some of the best ice climbing in the Alps, while those less keen on vertigo-inducing pursuits can strap on snow shoes and explore pine forests and frozen streams.

At night, the skies above the quiet pistes fill with stars.

Henne Strand, West Jutland, Denmark

Henne Strand is a sandy haven for vacationing Danes.

Henne Strand is a sandy haven for vacationing Danes.

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Backed by rolling dunes, Henne Strand sits on the west coast of Jutland.

Often windswept, it’s a summer haven for holidaying Danes, with miles of sand, ensuring every visitor has plenty of space to spread out and catch some rays.

Nearby Filso, a restored lake, is a haven for birds, with observation towers helping amateur ornithologists catch a glimpse of rare gull-billed terns, herons and cranes.

Bavarian Forest National Park, Germany

Bavarian Forest National Park -- the largest national park in Germany.

Bavarian Forest National Park — the largest national park in Germany.

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Germany’s first national park, the Bavarian Forest demands exploration and rewards those who take to its myriad paths in search of adventure.

There are 186 miles of hiking trails and 124 miles of bike routes that connect with Sumava National Park, just across the border in the Czech Republic. Rachelsee, deep in the forest’s heart, surrounded by pines and standing over 1,000 meters above sea level, is a mirror lake that makes for superb photos.

Rumor has it, Rachelsee was named after the devil’s grandmother.

Hoge Veluwe National Park, Netherlands

Hoge Veluwe National Park covers more than 5,400 hectares of forest, moors and sand dunes.

Hoge Veluwe National Park covers more than 5,400 hectares of forest, moors and sand dunes.

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With its undulating sand dunes, heathland and woods, Hoge Veluwe National Park is a wildlife haven.

First established in 1909 as a private park, it gained national park status in the 1930s.

Today, it’s known for its roaming populations of roe deer, wild sheep and wild boar, as well as the woodpeckers and nightjars that swoop through its skies.

Union Hall, Ireland

Peaceful fishing village Union Hall in Ireland's County Cork.

Peaceful fishing village Union Hall in Ireland’s County Cork.

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Positioned deep in Glandore Harbor in the west of County Cork, the fishing village of Union Hall is quintessentially Irish.

Its lush surrounding hills offer sweeping views across the water, with hardy souls able to take a dip in one of the beaches close to the village.

The area is surrounded by the ruins of medieval castles and ancient forts, with Drombeg Stone Circle, which is thought to date back over 3,000 years, located close by.

Barmouth, Wales

barmouth InspiredImages Pixabay

Barmouth is situated on the River Mawddacch estuary in Cardigan Bay.

InspiredImages/Pixabay

Looking out across Cardigan Bay, with the southern Snowdonian mountains looming behind, Barmouth is a traditional Welsh gem.

Best reached on train via the 699-meter-long wooden viaduct, which dates to 1867, the vast beach here is wonderful year-round.

While it gets busy in summer, as autumn arrives and the winds whip up, Barmouth makes for the perfect, blustery British day out.

It’s possible to hire kayaks or stand-up paddleboards when the water is calm.

Lake Bohinj, Slovenia

Lake Bohinj -- the largest permanent lake in Slovenia.

Lake Bohinj — the largest permanent lake in Slovenia.

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Lake Bohinj is often disregarded in favor of the more popular Lake Bled.

But Slovenia’s largest lake, set within the majestic Triglav National Park, is arguably just as spectacular.

Visitors can hire a bike or walk along the trails running around the lake to the impressive Savica waterfall or charming village Stara Fuzina.

Meanwhile, mountaineers have the option to strike out for the summit of Triglav if the weather is good.

Susak, Croatia

Mediterranean town and amazing green landscape, Island of Susak, Croatia,; Shutterstock ID 86132260; Job: -

Mediterranean town and amazing green landscape, Island of Susak, Croatia,; Shutterstock ID 86132260; Job: –

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Situated on the northern Adriatic coast of Croatia, Susak offers a blissful alternative to the busier islands of Hvar and Vis.

Blessed with sandy beaches and shallow waters, it’s perfect for lounging and doing very little besides.

The fact that Susak is hard to reach, and lacks any roads to speak of, makes it an ideal destination for escaping the rigors of daily life.

Hortobagy National Park, Hungary

Hortobagy National Park is largest continuous natural grassland in Europe.

Hortobagy National Park is largest continuous natural grassland in Europe.

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UNESCO-protected since 1999, Hungary’s first national park sits on the Great Plain, covering a massive 800 square kilometers.

Famous for its Nine Hole Bridge, the park is home to water buffalo, cranes and great bustards.

Stargazing here is particularly good due to its low human population and lack of light pollution, with the area designated an International Dark Sky Park.

Białowieża National Park, Poland

Białowieża National Park is Europe's last remaining primaeval forest.

Białowieża National Park is Europe’s last remaining primaeval forest.

Wojtek Radwanski/AFP/Getty Images

Covering the central section of the Białowieża Forest, it’s no exaggeration to say this Polish national park is one of the most important in Europe.

It protects the last temperate primeval forest on the continent.

Bordering Belarus, it has the largest population of European bison in the world, not to mention verdant woods that give a rare insight into how Europe would have looked millennia ago.

Jurkalne Seashore Bluffs, Latvia

The picturesque Jurkalne Seashore Bluffs are based on the western coast of Latvia.

The picturesque Jurkalne Seashore Bluffs are based on the western coast of Latvia.

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Known for its paragliding and windsurfing, Latvia’s Jurkalne Seashore Bluffs make for an excellent alternative seaside escape. The cliffs are wild and fast eroding, with a few meters disappearing into the Baltic Sea each year.

Untroubled by large numbers of tourists, its beaches offer great sunset views. The bluffs are best enjoyed during the summer.

Lake Vattern, Sweden

Lake Vattern is the second largest body of water in the country.

Lake Vattern is the second largest body of water in the country.

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Measuring just under 84 miles in length, Sweden’s Lake Vattern is the archetypal Scandinavian lake.

The best way to explore Europe’s sixth largest lake is by driving along its banks. The beautiful wooden church at Habo, the pretty town of Hjo and Tiveden National Park, on the lake’s northern shore, are among its stand out sights.

In summer, be sure to take out an SUP or go for a dip in its refreshing water.

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