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Heading out into the unknown: 5 lesser-known European countries you need to explore

By Natasha Heard on 29th July 2020

So, you’ve dined on the finest pizzas, pastas and gelatos in Italy, sipped a fine wine at a French vineyard and lounged on a gorgeous Greek island, but if you think you’ve seen all that Europe has to offer, you couldn’t be more wrong.

Perhaps you’ve enjoyed the delights of a cruise and wandered around for a few hours at each stop and you’ve decided that this in fact allows you the ability to tick this country off your list and consider it done. But outside of the capitals and main cities there is a wealth of other sights to explore, so if you fancy heading off the beaten track and discovering another side to Europe then it’s time to pack your suitcase, grab your travel money belt and exchange some cash as we have compiled five of our favourite alternative European destinations for you to explore.

Estonia

tallinn estonia

The capital of the country, Tallinn, boasts a rather attractive selection of old buildings, welcoming eateries and sights to explore within the boundaries of this waterside medieval city. The UNESCO protected Old Town is a joy to explore and the colourful architecture and orthodox churches will have you whipping out your camera at every turn. Outside of the city you can wander the forest paths of Lahemaa National Park, explore the island of Muhu or head to Estonia’s second city of Tartu to discover the museums that include the Estonian National Museum and Science Centre AHHAA. Resting along the Baltic Sea and Gulf of Finland with borders to Latvia and Russia, this intriguing country is sure to impress.

The Netherlands

volendam
Image credit: Antlvam/bigstock.com

Though the nation’s capital of Amsterdam gets much of the tourism, there are so many other stunning spots to explore outside of this vibrant metropolis. Head north of the city and take in the sights of the smaller towns of Volendam and Hoorn, which boast those beautifully fronted buildings that The Netherlands is so very famous for. Cheese factories await, lakes and canals are waiting to be explored and tulip fields are in abundance, so next time you’re planning that Amsterdam city break, factor in a few extra days to head off and discover some new and exciting areas of the north European delight.

Slovenia

ljubljana

Bordering Italy, Croatia, Austria and Hungary, the small country of Slovenia packs in a lot for just 20,000sq km of land. A fantastic place to visit between December and March to partake in some winter sports or for a spring-time city trip to the capital of Ljubljana, it is so worth adding this place to your list. Boasting everything from snow-capped mountains to beautiful beaches to stunning architecture, Lake Bled, Skocjan Caves and Ljubljana Castle are must-sees.

Albania

albania beach

When people think of an idyllic Mediterranean country to spend time switching up their trip from stunning sands to historical hot spots, not many immediately think of Albania, but in recent years this sun-soaked country really has come into its own. July and August see highs of 30oC making the extensive coastline kissing the Ionian Sea oh-so inviting, while the many national parks, mountain villages and seductive cities await.

Moldova

moldova wine

Wine tours and majestic countryside await in this small country tucked between Romania and Ukraine. A less visited and less talked about place; Moldova maintains is rustic charm but by no means is limited on sights to explore. Outside of the friendly capital, Chisinau, there’s Orheiul Vechi, a 13th century cave monastery burrowed by monks, a medieval fortress in Soroca and some rather enticing and renowned wine cellars in Cricova.