The diversity in Europe is hard to match and depending on your precise destination, you will have completely different experiences. Traveling to Tuscany in Italy and being stunned by the architectural beauty and romance of Florence and Venice is in complete contrast to traveling to Berlin and standing at the site of where the Berlin Wall once was. From north to south and east to west, you will find an incredible array of diverse countries and cultures, not to mention languages and ways of life. Perhaps that’s why I love Europe so well, because within the shortest space of time, traveling only minor distances, you will find yourself in utterly different worlds. At this stage, I can’t even remember how many trips to Europe I have been on, but rest assured that one excursion topped the other and it is difficult for me to compose a “best of” list.
Nevertheless, I am going to put down a short list of the places I consider top destinations for a first trip to Europe. Tomorrow, the list would probably different, simply because there are so many to choose from, but for now, this is it:
Dubrovnik and the Croatian Coast
The small nation of Croatia has a coastline over 5’000 km in length, just across the Adriatic Sea from Italy. It is rugged and stunningly beautiful, with no ugly architecture in sight. Dubrovnik is a true gem and although always full of tourists forever manages to enchant. You may travel by boat and visit one or several of the 67 inhabited islands off the Croatian coast, be amazed by kite surfers and posh yachts and get a taste true historic charm. European spring to autumn are the best seasons for a memorable summer holiday.
The Northern Lights in Iceland
Seeing the Aurora Borealis up close in the vast landscape of beautiful Iceland is an unforgettable experience. The bright dancing lights, often green or pink, sometimes with a shade of blue, red, yellow or violet can be seen between August and April in darkness. Iceland is abundant in natural wonder, open spaces, amazing waterfalls, geezers and wildlife and all that combined with the Northern Lights make for a must-visit European destination.
Tuscany, Venice, Florence, Siena and Pisa
The north of Italy will bedazzle you with the beautiful, soft hills, dotted with cypress trees, the marvelous and gorgeous historic cities of Venice, Florence, Siena and Pisa as well as exquisite food and wine. I guarantee, you will never want to leave. Do make sure to give yourself plenty of time to explore and admire and be blown away.
Athens and Greece – The Western Birthplace of Civilization
No less than 4000 years ago, the ancient Greeks developed what was later to determine the shape of western democracy and civilization and anyone with an interest in ancient history, philosophy and human thinking must make the trip to Greece and Athens and see the amazing ancient sites where life as we know it in the west began. Athens is packed with ancient buildings and impressive sights and the words of wise men and philosophers have a way of finding their way into your consciousness when visiting there.
Tips for First-Timers
If you have never traveled to Europe, there are a few things you need to consider:
- Less is More: Europe is so diverse and if you try to cover this entire little continent within a short space of time, you will miss out on lots of great locations. Choosing fewer destinations and spending more time at each one of them is the much better option. Wherever you go, be it Paris, London or the wild western coast of Ireland, make sure to go at a slow pace and savor each day. This way, you may see less but get infinitely more out of each place.
- Consider Rail Travel: Traveling by train can be financially wise and will allow you to soak up European Air along the way. Night trains are a great way to travel long distances without even being aware of the many miles you are covering. It’s well worth checking out European Rail Pass options to get good value for money.
- Bring Plenty of Money: Try to save up as much money as you possibly can. This way, on occasion, you can go to a fancy restaurant or even allow yourself a night at a luxury hotel once in a while.
- Staying Safe: Particularly if you are a solo traveler, do some research before you venture off and make sure that you know what city areas to avoid. As on all trips, you are advised to carry essential personal documents, bank cards and cash on your person. Watch out for pickpockets and don’t be too easily charmed by friendly strangers.
- Give Yourself as Much Time as Possible: Take the longest holiday possible, after all, you may not be able to return to Europe again soon.