Paris, London, Rome? Yawn. It’s time to change your European travel game with Sarajevo, Tallinn and Liechtenstein

Sarajevo is my travel cry of 2022. There is no unbeaten path in Europe. All the paths, tracks, villages, towns and alpine passes have been trodden and traversed for centuries.

There are no real hidden gems – by the time you arrive in a proclaimed private area there is a constant trickle of tourists behind you. Even so, the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina felt understated.

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Destinations in Europe are becoming trendy, revitalized and gentrified, others are losing their quirky, cool or welcoming aura. Through it all, there are the standout stars, the leading ladies who grace nearly every tour route. You know them, I know them. They adorn postcards, fridge magnets, t-shirts and are romantic movie sets: Paris, London, Rome, Florence, Venice, Amsterdam, Barcelona, ​​possibly the south of France, a diversion to Santorini and Dubrovnik or Berlin if there is time.

Latin Bridge in Sarajevo.  The capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina feels understated.

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Latin Bridge in Sarajevo. The capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina feels understated.

This is the new Grand Tour of Europe, the to-do list for many, the must-sees and many of which have experienced strong signs of overtourism.

You’d be forgiven for thinking that you can’t plan a vacation in Europe without including one of the above items in your itinerary. You can, and you will be rewarded with an eclectic vacation that avoids tourist traps, rip-offs and hop-on hop-off bus tours while giving you a taste of mainland life, breathtaking scenery and shock. necessary culture.

Balkan Beauties

It’s not just Sarajevo that makes the list of avoided Slavic cities, with only Croatian destinations like Split and Dubrovnik having transitioned to mass tourism in recent years.

It’s such a shame as the Balkans sits at a cultural crossroads in the southeastern corner of Europe and offers tourists a melting pot of cultures at a fraction of the price of the Eurozone.

Belgrade and Athens (Greece is Balkan!) have great nightlife, while smaller towns like Ljubljana and Kotor balance Austro-Hungarian or Venetian pastel elegance with communist-era grungeness depending on the borough in which You are.

The same phyllo, cheese, and spinach snack goes by half a dozen names depending on where you are in the region.

The turbulent and brutal recent history of warfare in the 1990s is still etched in buildings and faces and learning about it takes on added value in the present day. A walking tour of Sarajevo to learn about the dramatic siege it withstood in 1994 is a must.

Apart from that, the pebble waters range from inky blue to brilliant turquoise hues and stretch along the Adriatic from Slovenia, Croatia, Montenegro and Albania, while inland of land, the same rugged mountain ranges that lengthen travel times also offer everything the house does for adventure. researchers.

Make it happen: Fly to Athens and train north into North Macedonia or start at the training peak east of the Venetian Lagoon via Trieste and Slovenia.

The Estonian capital Tallinn is a benchmark in beauty issues.

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The Estonian capital Tallinn is a benchmark in beauty issues.

Northern Stars

The Baltic States fit together because they fit nowhere else: too Western to be in the Russian sphere, a little Scandinavian but without the salient bills, Germanic architecture in parts but without the rigid efficiency.

Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia are identical, identical but different in their environment. Fervent pro-Europeans since abandoning the USSR following the collapse of communism, they embrace Western tourists and are quick to reflect on their occupation.

Estonia’s capital, Tallinn, stands out in the beauty stakes, with an old town still intact, Riga in Latvia has a younger vibe and lively nightlife, while quieter Vilnius in Lithuania still has plenty to do. for a few days.

There is a frequent ferry between Tallinn and Helsinki, the capital of Finland. So you can experience the Nordic city’s ice baths and saunas at a fraction of the price if you’re staying in the Baltic States.

Make it happen: Low-cost carriers serve these capitals, or flying to Helsinki remains an option. The fact that it’s a little dog-legged keeps it away from many routes.

Vaduz in the microstate of Liechtenstein.

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Vaduz in the microstate of Liechtenstein.

Yolo in the land of yodels

Many typical tourist routes take a doughnut-shaped route around Central Europe, perhaps within sight of the Alps, but never quite through them.

Call it an aversion to high Swiss franc prices or a preference for Mediterranean beaches over Bavaria, but there’s plenty to enjoy in this Alpine region at any time of year.

Even better, it is well served by high-speed regional and national train services throughout Switzerland, Austria, Northern Italy, Germany and Slovakia and Hungary. Think of your rail pass as an investment, and soak up the scenery of snow-capped peaks, ravines, waterfalls, and zipping chocolate box villages.

Traveling west to east from Zurich across the Alps, you can diversion into the microstate of Liechtenstein, through the Dolomites to the German-accented Italian town of Bolzano or continue through the slopes zip lines to Innsbruck, then the amazing land of music, Salzburg.

Bavarian Germany is just a hop over the border, but by now you’ll get used to seeing lederhosen and beer halls along the main streets. Complete this itinerary by heading away from the Alps and into Budapest, Hungary, with its grand buildings, thermal baths, ‘ruined’ bars in dilapidated then redeveloped concrete buildings and fascinating recent history.

Make it happen: Vienna, obviously a well-known classical capital of Austria, is a major rail hub, as well as another gateway city and starting point. Zurich and Munich are hub airports for Star Alliance partners Air New Zealand, Lufthansa and Swiss.

Discover the Great Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba, Spain.

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Discover the Great Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba, Spain.

Get it straight

Southern Spain is not a shrinking purple. Coastal resorts along the ‘Costas’ team up with British, German and Dutch families between June and September to enjoy the sun, sangria and tasty tapas.

Away from the coast, you can enjoy it all, with fewer crowds, in the cities of Seville, Granada and Cordoba, each with a postcard-perfect architectural landmark (the Alcazar, Alhambra and Cathedral, respectively). ).

Rooftop pools are a must as the mercury can approach 40 degrees in August. Hit the trails of the Sierra Nevada, explore the quaint town of Ronda, or people-watch at the beach (there always seems to be a must-have game of frescobol). Then, head to the coast, via the British outpost Gibraltar, to spot red phone booths, eat fish and chips, and see Barbary macaques on “The Rock.”

Then, leave Europe behind altogether, via a 2-hour ferry across the Strait of Gibraltar to Tangier, Morocco, for a feast for the senses. Tajine, tanneries, rabbit souks and mint teas await you in Fez. The Atlas Mountains are ideal for multi-day trips (get a guide), while the back streets of the blue city of Chefchaouen have a laid-back backpacker vibe.

Make it happen: There are one-stop connections to Madrid, Spain and Casablanca, Morocco from Auckland, or you can add it to a Western European route via trains to the Spanish capital or Barcelona.