Europe is well known for its abundance of natural beauty, making the continent a solid choice for your next getaway. From the river valleys in Germany to the coastal towns of Italy and the Greek islands, European landscapes are diverse and ready for your exploration.
If you’re a nature lover or simply want to get out of the city on your next vacation, what follows is a sampling of the beauty that awaits you in Europe.
LAKE BLED, SLOVENIA
Fans of beautiful landscapes will definitely want to add this destination to their list: the crown jewel in all of beautiful Slovenia, Lake Bled. Situated up against the northeastern side of the Julian Alps, Lake Bled is a serene place to relax and unwind. Imagine a glittering teal lake with the sunshine casting a heavenly glow, an ancient church, and a historical castle hanging from the cliffs; it’s a living fantasyland.
The area has plenty of different activities such as biking, hiking, rowing, luge rides, and swimming. There’s something for everyone, including just relaxing and taking in the scenery. I recommend walking the 3.5-mile trail around the lake. (Allow about 1.5-2 hours.) Along the path, you’ll pass several villas built by wealthy aristocrats in the early nineteenth century. You’ll also approach the gorgeous castle, Blejski Grad. The castle is open for tourists to explore the exhibits and take in the fantastic views of the lake and surrounding mountains.
During your visit, be sure to take a flat-bottomed plenta boat out to Blejski Otok, the island in the middle of the lake. Here you can climb the bell tower at the Church of the Assumption and swing from the church bell. Legend says if you can get the bell to ring three times with one big pull, your dreams will come true. But I think just being in Lake Bled you will believe they already have.
AMALFI COAST, ITALY
The Amalfi Coast in Southern Italy encompasses a 30-mile stretch of stunning coastal landscape from Sorrento to Salerno. Dotted with hill towns, cozy harbors, and Roman ruins, this coastline offers plenty to see, do, and enjoy.
The breathtaking Amalfi Coast road connects the hill-perched towns and makes for a spectacular, if not a bit nail-biting at times, scenic drive. Whether you choose to drive the coast yourself, take the bus, or hire a private driver (well worth the splurge), you can choose to go at your pace to explore the towns. On the return, you might consider taking a ferry so you can see the coast from another vantage point.
Some coastal town highlights are the touristy but picture-perfect Positano, Amalfi with its impressive Moorish/Byzantine-style cathedral and the 1,000-feet-above-sea-level serene atmosphere of Ravello. When in Ravello, be sure to hike up to Villa Cimbrone. An entry fee lets you into their manicured gardens, which lead to one of the most stunning viewpoints on the entire coast.
The town of Sorrento is a handy home-base from which to explore the area. It is connected by train (via the Circumvesuviana or Campania Express), which connects to Naples and the nearby archeological site of Pompeii. Ferries regularly depart Sorrento to visit the gorgeous island of Capri and its stunning natural sights such as the Blue Grotto and the view from Monte Solaro (accessible by chairlift).
DOURO RIVER VALLEY, PORTUGAL
Experience the beauty and unspoiled European landscape of the Douro River Valley in Portugal – which you may know even better as the birthplace of port wine!
Exploration options abound, you could explore the valley by train, a river cruise, by car, or even helicopter. No matter which mode of transportation you choose, the valley’s beauty will be on full awe-inspiring display.
An adventure just waiting to be had, the beautiful Portuguese countryside can be visited with the help of a tour guide or independently.
A travel itinerary along the Douro River could include seeing the historic center of Porto, a UNESCO World Heritage Site; visiting the Mateus Palace in Vila Real; or enjoying the simple pleasure of a walk through the picturesque villages of Lamego, Reégua, and Pinhão.
The Douro Valley, as the oldest demarcated wine region in the world, is famous for its wines. Several wineries and vineyards are open for exploration and wine tastings. For culinary exploration, try a food tour with Taste Porto!
ISLE OF SKYE, SCOTLAND
The Isle of Skye is a large island on the west coast of Scotland. Between the spectacular landscapes of the mountain ranges and coastline combined with the rich history of the area, exploring the Isle of Skye is an unforgettable experience, a hiker’s paradise, and one of the most popular tourist destinations in Scotland. You can get to the island by car, bus, and train, all of which connect to the ferry.
Nature lovers and photographers will particularly enjoy the island’s hiking options, which include the 2-hour Quiraing Walk and the 75-minute walk up to the Old Man of Storr. There are also the scenic spots of Fairy Glen (a smaller landslip than Quiraing), and the Kilt Rocks and Mealt Falls, both visible from the observation point on the Trotternish Peninsula.
Pay a visit to Dunvegan Castle and the Neist Point Lighthouse. For a mix of art and history, be sure to visit the Duncan House gallery and workshop to see traditional, handmade Celtic jewelry on display and for sale.
THE SWISS ALPS, SWITZERLAND
Switzerland, Europe’s most mountainous country, also boasts European landscapes filled with lakes, rivers, and farmlands. The Swiss Alps are breathtaking and dotted with adorable alpine resort towns. One of the best ways to explore the Alps is on a scenic train.
With many routes to choose from, the Golden Pass Route is exceptionally picturesque. The route starts in Lucerne and ends at Lake Geneva in the town of Montreux. The journey takes about 5 hours and spans 150 stunning miles. The route is broken up into three segments: Lucern to Interlaken, Interlaken to Zweisimmen, and Zweisimmen to Montreux. The trains that runs from Zweisimmen to Montreux, the most scenic portion, are designed for tourists with the majority of departures featuring panoramic train cars.
A Swiss Alps itinerary is one that truly is about the journey, not the destination. Take time to explore along the way and consider overnight stays in the many alpine towns. From Interlaken, a series of mountain trains and alpine lifts are available, making it fun and easy to explore the towns of Berner Oberland. Gimmelwald, a quaint town overlooking the Lauterbrunnen Valley, is a must-see for nature lovers.
CLIFFS OF MOHER, IRELAND
In County Clare, along the west coast of Ireland, lies one of the most impressive natural sights in Ireland, The Cliffs of Moher. Steeply rising 700 feet above the Atlantic Ocean and spanning an area about 5 miles long, the cliffs are one of Ireland’s top attractions.
You can easily spend hours here taking in the views from the many vantage points. On clear days you will be able to see the Aran Islands and Galway Bay. Exploration options include walking trails, ferries, and even scenic airplane trips. Its location on the western coast makes timing your visit to be there for the sunset highly rewarding.
The Cliffs of Moher Experience, the official visitor’s center, showcases displays that educate visitors on the history of the area, the local plant life, underwater caves, and the various wildlife that make their homes along the cliffs. The entry fee covers the cost of parking, restroom access, and a restaurant and goes toward the cost of conservation.
Are you feeling inspired to get into these European landscapes?
With these options and many more available to see and explore, there’s are some truly amazing European landscapes to discover on your next trip.
If you need assistance building a custom itinerary, want travel advice, or are shopping for a guided tour/cruise, Montage Travel offers a variety of travel planning services designed to your personal needs to ensure a memorable experience.
Not sure where to start? Contact me for a free, no-obligation 20-minute consultation, and we’ll figure it out together!
SAVE TIME. AVOID FRUSTRATIONS. EXPERIENCE A BETTER VACATION.
Hi, I’m Cassie! Here at Montage Travel, I’m crafting custom itineraries for independent travelers who want to make the most out of their valuable vacation time in Europe (who wouldn’t?).
My mission is to ensure travelers like you save time on planning and experience frustration-free trips with a well-optimized itinerary. Each and every itinerary I create is made from scratch and tailored specifically to your interests, travel pace, and preferences. An optimized itinerary and practical travel advice go hand-in-hand and are essential factors that will determine how much you will enjoy your vacation. Equipped with your own itinerary, you’ll see more by visiting sites during less crowded times, you’ll know which museums are best explored independently and which are enriched by visiting with a guide, and you’ll avoid getting lured into a tourist trap restaurant that will cost you more and be less authentic than the restaurant I’ll point you towards just down the street that caters mostly to locals.
Travel with confidence. Itineraries include unlimited revisions and unlimited 1-on-1 travel advice.