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7 European beauty spots to explore

Going to Europe for vacation? If so it’s an excellent choice as you’ll be spoilt for choice for historical cities, natural attractions, or ski resorts. A week or two spent in Europe can become the time of your life, but as in all travel, you’ll need to plan and prepare before you head off.

The Schengen area is made up of 26 European countries (and 3 microstates) where travellers and residents are able to move freely from state-to-state without a passport, as the common border control has been completely relaxed. For most countries around the world, you’ll need to apply for a visa to enter this area and travel insurance is highly recommend. You can obtain the visa from the country you plan to enter through first or the one you plan to spend the most time in.

Opting for Europ Assistance before you start your Euro trip makes things a lot easier as you can purchase it quickly online and your insurance will be ready in a matter of minutes. The Schengen travel insurance certificates (which are available in six different languages) are recognized by embassies, consulates and visa centres around the world, and this helps you acquire a Schengen visa for European sojourn. Haven’t planned out exactly where to go? Don’t worry, here are seven European beauty spots to explore when you’ve obtained your Schengen insurance and visa…

Aeolian Islands, Italy

The Aeolian Islands are an archipelago of volcanic origin located in the Tyrrhenian Sea north to the shore of Sicily. The islands are a popular tourist destination attracting around 200,000 visitors every year. They are renowned for pristine nature, breathtaking landscapes, and crystal clear sea. The archipelago includes two active island volcanoes – Stromboli and Vulcano.

The Aeolian Islands offer a lot of entertainment for active (and not so much) tourists. Among the most visited sights are the Archaeological Museum located in the castle of Lipari, Greek Acropolis, and the cathedral built by the Normans. If you are a buff of boat trips, you will surely enjoy deep grottoes, beautiful bays, wild cliffs, and beaches that are abundantly scattered across the islands. Don’t miss your chance to observe various phenomena of volcanic origin: fumaroles, steam jets emerging from under the water, and sulfur mud, the healing properties of which are highly valued. The last but not least, you should definitely try the mouth-watering local cuisine, the main ingredient of which is, of course, fish.

The island of Kythera, Greece

Kythera is a relatively large island of the Ionian archipelago situated in the Aegean Sea. The island is famous for its rich and long history, specific culture, cosy beaches, a huge number of churches, and beautifully preserved traditional villages. It is believed that the island is under the patronage of Aphrodite. Today Kythera is a destination for thousands of romantic couples from all over Europe.

The capital of the island, Chora, is lovely and original. There are almost no new buildings but many old houses have been carefully restored. An ancient Venetian fortress sits on a hill above Chora. It accommodates the Cathedral, the Church of St. Panteleimon, the Church of the Holy Trinity, and centenary aqueducts. The main port of Kythera, Agia Pelagia, is located in the north of the island. Its vicinity boasts of numerous small bays with isolated pebble and sandy beaches.

Figeac, France

Figeac is a small town (10,000 population) in the southwest of France. Compactly located around the abbey of the 9th century, in the Middle Ages the town grew and flourished thanks to trade. In the 12th century, the wealthy locals built many beautiful mansions here. Today Figeac has retained its medieval appearance, the evidence of a glorious past. A small tourist train rides guests around the town in July and August. At the same time, all the sights are located within walking distance from the centre, so you can easily get anywhere on foot.

The central square of the townhouses the 13th -century Mint. Today the building accommodates a tourist office and museums of ancient coins and archaeology. The city centre is renowned for half-timbered houses, old buildings with carved wooden facades and colonnades, as well as beautiful stone buildings. The old Figeac market is a place to enjoy delicious coffee and gourmet French cuisine.

North Downs, England

The North Downs is hilly chalk ridges situated in the south-east of the UK. They consist of asymmetrical ridges with steep slopes facing the Weald lowland located in between. The North Downs are not particularly high but they are very picturesque. Numerous rivers cross these hills, carving deep scenic valleys. You can also discover a multitude of “dry” valleys, formed thousands of years ago by rivers non-existent today.

The North Downs is a great place to observe the diverse flora and fauna. Three main habitats can be seen here – chalk grassland, woodland, and calcareous woodland, each with unique distinguishing features. If you enjoy multi-day hiking, you will certainly appreciate the variegated beauty of this region by taking a trip down the North Downs Way National Trail.

Passadiços do Paiva (Paiva Walkways), Portugal

Paiva Walkways is an 8 km-long wooden footpath that has become a focal point of the Arouca nature reserve. It was opened in the summer of 2015, but due to a forest fire, more than 600 meters of wooden footbaths have been destroyed. A year later, it has been reopened for tourists.

The trail runs along the winding mountainsides of the Paiva River. Its sturdy construction includes small sidewalks, stairs, narrow suspension bridges, and panoramic platforms. A picturesque spiral staircase, leading to the highest point of the hill, opens up a magnificent view of the mountain valley.

Arouca Geopark is a unique nature reserve of Portugal, which was included in the UNESCO world heritage list in 2009. The fast mountain river Paiva has always been appealing to tourists; however, before the Paiva walkways have been built, it had been accessible only during the shallow water period.

Eltz Castle, Germany

The history of the Eltz castle has more than 800 years! It has never been destroyed and perfectly preserved its original appearance. The castle sits on a rocky hill surrounded by the river Elzbach. Eight towers of 30-40 m in height are located around the oval-shaped inner courtyard built in the Romanesque style. The architecture of the towers is diverse – from romance to baroque.

The oldest part of the castle is the Plattelz House that includes a 6-storey residential tower (XIII century) and the remains of the palace. In total, there are about a hundred rooms. The premises accessible for viewing have preserved the original interiors lavishly decorated with furniture, dishes, paintings, and tapestries. The Rübenach House is notable for the armoury and sleeping quarters demonstrating the life of a noble family of the XIV-XVI centuries. There is also a chapel built in the late gothic style.

Sakarun Beach, Croatia

Dugi Otok, a Croatian island located in the Adriatic Sea, draws beach holiday fans like a magnet. It is famous for magnificent sand and pebble beaches, as well as several areas that are extremely appealing to divers. The island’s biggest landmark is the Naturist Beach Sakarun, one of the most beautiful sandy beaches in the country. The name of the beach is due to the pristine white sand that resembles sugar. Sakarun is superbly equipped and suitable for a long holiday. The vacationers can benefit from loungers and parasols as well as several cosy cafes located on the shore. A beautiful pine grove sprawled in the close vicinity to the beach is also very popular among holidaymakers. At night, you can have lots of fun at numerous parties held at the beach bars and cafes.

Born in England, with a few family roots from Bavaria, and a special fondness for Scandinavia I've always been a bit of a restless soul. My first true adventure began as a six month voyage around South East Asia as a fresh faced backpacker and ever since I've lived a semi nomadic existence, clocking up visits to over 40 countries. I'm a lover of US Road Trips, deserted beaches bathed in warm glow of a sunset, Cuban mojitos, travel destinations far away from the tourist crowds and all things Scandinavian - from cloudberry liquors to Nordic noirs. When not wandering the world, you'll find me walking my rescue dog in leafy South West London, strolling around the Brighton Laines on random day trips, hunting for photogenic landscapes or daydreaming about returning to my favourite places; Havana, Copenhagen, Italy, Thailand and the frozen landscapes of a wintry Iceland.


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