9X INCREDIBLE HIDDEN GEMS IN EUROPE
If you’ve been here before, you know we often travel to less visited places in the world. Why? We think mass tourism can be minimalized. You’d be surprised about the incredible hidden gems Europe has to offer for example. Let’s take a look!
Hidden Gems in Europe
Although we haven’t been everywhere on this list, yet. We’ve written a book about Off the Beaten Track destinations, so it’s relatively safe to say we know a few hidden gems in Europe. And we would love to share them with you! Visiting these places can often be combined with a trip to a more popular spot or destination, but taking a different road often takes you to places you didn’t know existed. Something rather special. In no particular order, these are some of our favourite hidden gems in Europe.
You probably know that France is full of cute little towns and villages. But we had never heard of a town by the name of Dole. We ended up there because we planned to go sailing down the Saône River. The embarkation point was in Dole, a historic town in Eastern France, only a few hours’ drive from Paris. With cobblestone roads, alleys, pretty squares and steps, Dole is still a fairly undiscovered hidden gem in Europe. You’ll find plenty of restaurants offering traditional fine dining.
From Dole, you can sail (without a boat license) all the way to Port-sur-Saône, stopping wherever you like along the way. Believe me, it’s an adventure if you’ve never done this before! We stopped at cute villages, got fresh baguettes and French brie every day. Fun fact: you can also rent these boats in the Netherlands nowadays and sail all over the country! Check it out.
Tuinen van West, Amsterdam Netherlands
This green area in Amsterdam New West has made quite a splash in recent years. It occasionally hosts music festivals and has a fun playground for kids. You can even spend the night in the middle of the Gardens of West in a freelodge. From 180 euros per night you sleep in a small wooden tiny house on stilts. The Volkstuinen van Amsterdam-West are also located in this region. These are small garden houses used as vacation homes by people from Amsterdam and its surroundings. Often they have their own vegetable garden. But the best secret of this area is without question Cantina, located at Het Rijk van de Keizer. This wonderful spot is one of a kind and only open between March and October. Come here for coffee, lunch or read a book in one of their comfy corners.
We haven’t been yet, but we are planning to go here in the next few years. That being said, we think this spot is going to be discovered by the mass quite soon. Albania has an incredible coast, white beaches and wonderful villages. Himarë is just one of those spots, and less crowded than popular seaside town Ksamil. Save this one!
Truso Valley, Georgia
We travelled to Georgia especially for our book, trying to find those unspoiled, quiet and deserted pieces of land. In short, we needed to go off the beaten track. Our guide took us to the Truso Valley. This place was exactly what you expect from a hidden gem in Europe, a unique experience! Upon arrival you can smell the sulfur in the air, because this is a volcanic area. You can only get here by car and you can park it opposite a small restaurant. This is also where the path to the top begins, which is made of used car tires. This narrow path eventually brings you to the “bubbling” Abano Lake, which is exuberantly bubbling due to underground gases. This beautiful valley is also worth visiting for its mineral water springs, beautiful limestone formations, medieval ruins and beautiful hiking trails.
Glyki River, Greece
Glyki itself is a small town in western Greece where there is not much to do, but the Acheron river that flows through it is really a must-see! According to Greek mythology, this is the river into which Achilles, the hero of the Trojan War, was dipped by his mother to make him invulnerable. You can walk much of the river through the water, but there are also parts you have to swim. Because the water comes from the mountains, it is quite cold. And we mean freezing. But this is where it becomes fun: Many people stop and go back when the water gets too deep, but that is exactly what you should not do. If you come in the off-season, you will often have the river all to yourself after this point.
The turquoise mountain water can flow hard in some parts, so it’s a real adventure. Sometimes you have to climb some rocks The hike takes about an hour and a half. Useful to know: Wear sneakers or water shoes to protect yourself from the stones in the water and bring a bottle of water! At the beginning of the river is a parking lot where signs direct you to the river. Here is also a little restaurant where you can have a drink. Glyki can only be reached by car and is about a 45-minute drive from the port of Igoumenitsa.
Aldeyjarfoss waterfall, Iceland
Iceland has been in huge demand by tourists in recent years, especially the South. If you want to avoid the usual tourist routes, you should check out Northern Iceland. Here it is much less crowded, and moreover, the region is full of secluded places to explore. One of the best hidden spots here is the Aldeyjarfoss waterfall. Because the road to it is not asphalted (yet), most tour operators avoid this route because large buses cannot handle the rough country road well. After a dusty drive of about 25 minutes, you arrive at a small parking lot. From there, you walk to one of the most impressive natural displays I have ever seen. A giant waterfall that ends in a raging river, with ice blue swirling water. Landslides, among other things, also created the beautiful basalt columns that complete the picture.
Pedralva Village, Portugal
Several years ago, Sarah and I stayed at a special eco-glamping in Portugal’s Algarve. Less than a 20-minute drive from our glamping, was one of Portugal’s cutest villages. The village of Pedralva, which belongs to the district of Vila do Bispo, once had a hundred inhabitants, but in 2006 there were only nine. At least fifty houses were no longer habitable and the inhabitants sought refuge elsewhere. When a Portuguese entrepreneur discovered this, he decided to revive the village. Investors were sought and the houses were restored. It was decided to build a new “village” next to the existing one. These houses are now rented from 80 euros per night. This resulted in the return of the original inhabitants and the village was saved. Cute narrow streets and white houses with coloured doors make this new village a beautiful sight among the historical structures.
Beskidzka Osada, Poland
A friend from Poland told us about this special place. In the picturesque village of Zawoja, which is located in southern Poland, you can rent hobbit-like cottages at bed & breakfast Beskidzka Osada at an altitude of 700 meters. All these cottages are built with natural, ecological materials such as wood, stone and clay, and they all have thatched roofs. Every detail has been thought of: a fireplace you can use during the winter, beautiful dishes and cute home accessories. Inside, it is cozy and cozy, and the view is priceless.
You look out over the mountains and the valley. Zawoja is located at the foot of Babia Góra, “The Witch Mountain”. You can spend hours hiking, biking and enjoying nature here. There is also an open-air museum you can visit. In the winter season you can also come here for horse-drawn sleigh rides or a ski vacation. And if that’s not enough, all guests can use the hot tub and sauna! Count us in!
Manshausen is a world itself. This small island, with its 55 hectares, lies in the middle between Grøtøya and the small village of Nordskot. With its conveniently located harbor, Manshausen was once an important and busy part of the old fishing town of Grøtøya, established in 1698. Fishing is still important there, but now activities such as kayaking, diving, cycling, climbing and summer and winter hiking have largely taken over daily life. Today, you can stay overnight on Manshausen in seven stylish cabins built at different spots on the island. Each cabin has a sea view and offers peace and privacy. Need to relax? There are two large hot tubs and a saltwater pool to warm up in. Already getting the urge to book? To get to Manshausen, you can take the train or car to the town of Bodø, where you then cross by boat.
By all means, there are most likely many more incredible hidden gems in Europe – let us know what’s your favourite!
More Off the Beaten Path places below!