From lavender-field surrounded hilltop villages to world heritage wine regions here are the best slow-paced European rustic breaks guaranteed to come without the crowds…
Dimitsana, Greece – best for beautiful surroundings
This is a tranquil mountain village and a former municipality in Arcadia, Peloponnese, Greece. Deliciously rustic and not on the radar of most foreign tourists this village makes a perfect tranquil European getaway. Expect to see picturesque villages, tiny museums and miles of gorgeous surrounding landscapes. Nearby Lousios Gorge Canyon is a hikers paradise and also home to a number of secluded monasteries. It’s located at quite a high altitude, so if you are visiting in the winter you might even see a bit of snow.
Kas, Turkey – best for activities
There’s not a huge number of uncrowded coastal resorts in Turkey but Kas is definitely one of the more traditional. It’s a small fishing village with pebbly bays, waterfront coffee-houses and a mellow atmosphere (which is probably due to its more isolated location). Visitors can spend their days diving, yachting, hiking and exploring the surrounding area. Hop on a boat to see the Blue Cave or visit other neighbouring rustic villages Kaleköy or Kalkan. A mountain hike would lead you to the Lycian rock tombs and the remains of the ancient Lycian town theatre can still be seen.
Liapades, Corfu, Greece – best peaceful alternative
As so many enjoy holidays in Corfu it may not make it many people’s idea of a tranquil spot, but there are still some quiet corners of the island to unwind. Liapades is one of the more traditional villages of Corfu offering a more authentically rustic European break. It’s a pretty location with typical Ionian architecture and a maze of small roads, tracks, trails and ancient donkey paths. The village sandy beach is surrounded by clear blue water and rolling green hillsides. Explore a little further afield and find the small caves of Paleokastritra or a few of the area’s fifteen hidden beaches.
Arrone, Umbria, Italy – best for cuisine
Easily one of the most beautiful villages in Umbria, unspoiled Arrone is perfect for European rustic holidays. Italy is known for its pretty traditional villages but this tiny hilltop hamlet is a special place filled with medieval architecture, narrow lanes and only a handful of residents. The place has a long history, founded by a 9th-century Roman nobleman – a wooden castle first marked the site which was later rebuilt in stone. The surrounding area offers opportunities for walking, hiking and rafting in the nearby river. Umbria is also a known foodie’s paradise with many traditional dishes and foods hailing from the region including the famous olive oil, fine wine, Norcia ham and Castelluccio lentils.
The Luberon, Provence, France – best for traditional
Provence is many people’s first choice for a rustic European travel destination and one of the prettiest areas is The Luberon. It’s located in the heart of the region and here you can find several of the most beautiful and traditional Provençal villages in close proximity. It’s also brimming with beautiful orchards, vineyards, gorgeous hill-top villages and the iconic lavender fields synonymous with this area of France. Each ancient village has its own character with many being beautifully “perched” on hills or on the edge of picturesque rivers. This is truly rustic France at its finest.
Vis Island, Croatia – best for timeless destination
Located on the Adriatic Sea, this area is famous for having some of the best hidden and unknown (to the masses) beaches in all of Croatia. Only open to tourists since 1989, the island – which is the most outer-lying larger Croatian island in the Adriatic Sea – has not been ruined by the overdevelopment which blights so many European travel destinations. Vis island is characterized by traditional rustic fishing villages, sprawling vineyards, rugged coastline, preserved historical architecture and hidden sheltered bays. The timeless island is said to mostly attract visitors looking for the “Mediterranean as it once was”.
Ratece, Slovenia – best for budget breaks
This small European country is often overlooked as a travel destination, making it ideal for peaceful rustic breaks. First settled in the 14th century, the village – which sits right near the borders of Italy and Austria – is filled with historic buildings, one of the oldest surviving churches in Slovenia and plenty of fresh mountain air! Popular with hikers and more active types Rateče is an excellent starting point for hiking trips into the Julian Alps and the Karavanke Range. An inexpensive European rustic break, here you can find great deals on rentals of entire houses.
Provesende, Douro Valley, Portugal – Portugal’s best wine region
A World Heritage Site, Portugal’s fine Northern valley is both spectacular and beautifully unspoiled. This is wine region where bountiful vineyards sprawl across the green hills and grapes are still trodden by foot. There’s not much in the way of tourism here and there are many traditional rustic villages to choose from. Try Provesende a small villages dating back to Moorish times. Provesende has many attractions including the pillory, an 18th-century drinking fountain, a 17th-century style church and several manor Pihouses. One of the most famous viewpoints of the Douro region, Casal de Loivos, can be found in the immediate surroundings and should not be missed.