It’s no secret that tourists flock to Switzerland for the country’s majestic scenery. When people picture the country, most conjure up images of rugged snow-capped mountains, crystal blue lakes, and towering waterfalls. The five towns below certainly meet those standards, but the natural beauty captured in these photos is beyond even the dreamiest imagination.
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About an hour north of Vienna and two hours south of Prague lies one of the Czech Republic’s best-kept secrets. The Moravian wine region is relatively unknown outside of Austria and the Czech Republic by anyone other than sommeliers. It’s directly on the driving route between the two famous capitals, yet most travelers opt to fly and miss out on this remarkable place full of historic charm, authentic culture, gorgeous vistas, and spectacular wine. It’s the perfect breath of fresh air between the bustling cities.
Christmas in July! It might seem like an odd time of year to be talking about Christmas, but the best-planned trips are done months in advance. If you’re thinking about traveling to Europe in December, it’s best to start planning now.
Why visit Europe when it’s cold and dreary? Because nothing will put you in the holiday spirit more than a Christmas market and historical city aglow! Christmas markets are open air street markets that sell delicious treats, drinks, and seasonal items and often feature musical performances. They originated in Germany and date back to the fourteenth century.
Lisbon has everything you could want in a European city: history, delicious food, vibrant culture, and cobblestone streets to get lost on. What takes it over the top is the friendliness of the people and the city's sheer beauty. I love Paris and Rome, but there's something about Lisbon that pulls you in and makes you never want to leave. It's hard to put a finger on all of the reasons that Lisbon is one of my favorite European cities, but below you will find a few!
Burgundy is a mecca for foodies. It’s tough to describe how rich and flavorful the dishes are. The secret ingredients in most of the famous dishes? Wine and butter. What could be better than that?
The only problem with dining out in Burgundy is that three-course meals (and sometimes four!) are the norm for both lunch and dinner. While you generally have the option of ordering “a la carte,” it’s often only a few more euros to order from the three-course menu. Our meals progressed like this:
First course: Every bite was eaten. Delicious!
Second course: This is so good. But so rich. Must. Finish.
Third course: I almost forgot we had dessert coming. I can make room…
Food coma. How do people eat like this twice a day every day? And sometimes add a cheese course before dessert?!
And that was twice a day. Plus a baguette and cheese plate for breakfast each morning. It’s safe to say we ended each day in Burgundy satiated and full!
While all of the food we ate was delicious, I wanted to highlight a few stellar restaurants with incredibly memorable meals.
These are the best dishes I had in Burgundy.
The breathtaking village of Reine, Norway is located on the island of Moskenesøya, part of northern Norway’s Lofoten archipelago. When visiting Norway to see the famous arctic fjords, many people opt to do a fjord cruise out of the city of Bergen (which is also insanely gorgeous and deserves a separate post), but venturing to Reine in the northern fjords will reward you with an authentic taste of traditional Nordic fishing culture coupled with unparalleled natural beauty.
It’s impossible to have a bad trip to the magical island of Santorini.
Even if all you do is sit cliffside and soak in the views, you’ll have an amazing trip. Just being there, Santorini is breathtaking and will most certainly capture your heart. (You can find out why it’s my favorite place in the world here).
That said, there is plenty to do in Santorini. Here are some ways to make any trip to Santorini unforgettable.
I’ve mentioned before that visiting a wine region is the best way to see Europe. Not only will you experience amazing wine and food, but staying in a countryside wine town will also give you a true taste of the country’s culture and history.
While there are hundreds of European wine regions to visit and even more beautiful towns, below I’ve picked four towns in the top four wine-producing countries in Europe that are sure to capture any wine lover’s heart.
One of the most striking characteristics of the wine villages in Burgundy is that practically every other building in town is a domaine or a vigneron -- a winery in U.S. terms. In Meursault, where I stayed, there are over 50 wine producers in the tiny village alone. When you add to that all of the wineries from the neighboring villages, the choice of where to visit can be overwhelming.
My family and I visited in early March, which is considered the “off season” in Burgundy. Some wineries were not open when we visited. However, the silver lining to traveling then was that most of our winery visits ended up being private tours. Having the winemaker give you a tour and tasting of his or her domaine is an incredible experience.
The wineries that I am highlighting below are all smaller, mostly family domaines in the Côte de Beaune, one of the five wine growing areas in Burgundy. While we did drop by a few of the larger wineries, I highly recommend the small wineries as they give a more personal and rewarding tour and tasting experience.
Below are my personal favorite winery visits from my time in Burgundy.
Cappadocia is a fairytale region in central Turkey that dates back to the sixth century BC. It is so unique that people liken the topography of the region to that of another planet.
Many people have never heard of Cappadocia and even I had almost forgotten this magical place existed. My husband and I almost added on a few days in Cappadocia to our honeymoon itinerary, but regrettably missed out.
The extraordinary landscape was formed through volcanic eruptions and erosion. The cavern architecture dates back to the fourth century AD. Not only are there ancient houses, businesses, and now hotels carved into the sides of the rock, but there are also entire cities underground. The ancient city of Derinkuyu, the largest excavated underground city in Turkey, is eleven stories deep and connects to other underground cities through a network of tunnels. The city could accommodate up to 50,000 people – talk about a good place to hide!
Imagine biking smack in the middle of fields upon fields of vineyards. In the distance lies a picture-perfect fairytale town with a church steeple perched high above the houses. The path behind you leads to an equally charming town taken from the pages of a storybook. The hillside on your right is filled with the grand cru vines, which bear some of the most expensive grapes in the world. To your left are the village grapes that create surprisingly different wines as you move from one village's plot to the next.
I just returned from a fabulous week in the Burgundy wine region with my husband and parents. We ate delicious three-course meals for lunch and dinner (plus tons of cheese & baguettes!), explored centuries-old wine caves, biked through the vineyards from one tiny town to the next, and drank glasses upon glasses of the best wine in the world.
We stayed in the most amazing VRBO house rental in the village of Meursault. We were surrounded by vineyards on all sides, had a huge patio with a hot tub overlooking the vines, and could stroll into town in minutes. It was perfect.
While I am sorting through the unforgettable memories we made, here is a little glimpse into some of my favorite moments and the quaint French town that captured my heart.
La Rioja is a breathtaking wine region situated in the Cantabria Mountains of northern Spain. It's best known for spectacular red wines, though amazing white wines are also produced there. La Rioja has a unique mix of history and modernity. You can visit a family winery that has been producing wine for hundreds of years in the caves of the walled city of Laguardia, or visit modern wineries with extraordinary displays of architecture and state-of-the-art wine-making processes.
With an abundance of great choices, it can be overwhelming to decide which wineries to visit. In order to have an authentic and unforgettable experience in the region, here is a quick guide to my top winery picks in La Rioja.
What makes a destination romantic? A place with uncanny natural beauty? A place where you can escape the hustle of life and slow down? A place where you can find isolation from crowds? A place where you can savor a delicious meal under the moonlight?
These three European lakes may not have the reputation for romance like the famous cities of Paris and Venice, but it’s impossible to visit any of these destinations without falling in love.
You’ve probably seen Portugal popping up as a top travel destination. Travel & Leisure named the country the “destination of the year” in 2016. The Huffington Post coined Portugal as the “new Iceland” and said it’s “the country everybody will be visiting in 2017.”
Breathtaking. Gorgeous. Unforgettable.
It’s impossible to find the right combination of words to describe the appeal of Portugal.
The people are incredibly welcoming and just about everyone speaks English. And with Portugal being one of the closest European countries to the United States, it’s hard to find a reason not to visit.
While each of these deserves its own highlight, here is a taste of five places that will make you want to book your plane ticket immediately:
My husband, a self-proclaimed foodie, calls San Sebastian his favorite European city. Situated at the northeast edge of the Basque region in Spain, the Basque influence on the city makes San Sebastian a unique gem in Europe. The culture has an interesting mix of both Spanish and Basque traditions.
The appeal of the city is expansive, but it may be most well-known for its food. Below are five reasons why San Sebastian is a food lover’s paradise.
Have you ever heard of the Azores islands?
An off the beaten path destination, the Azores are still a relatively hidden gem, but travelers from all over the world are beginning to take note. And with landscapes like these, it's easy to see why.
Here are the top reasons you should explore the Azores before the secret is out.
My last blog post detailed why traveling to a wine region is the best way to experience a European country. Over Thanksgiving, I was at a winery in the Santa Ynez Valley in California. While I was tasting the wine and soaking in the vineyard views, I was reminded of how many of my friends and family members visit Napa Valley in northern California, yet never travel to Europe’s wine regions. Don’t get me wrong – I would love to visit Napa! But every time I start planning a Napa trip, the same light bulb goes off.
It’s much cheaper to visit a wine region in Europe.
(And I would always rather go to Europe!)
That said, I don’t think many people realize that. Most people probably think that a domestic vacation must be cheaper than an international one.
But that's not the case.
Using the Rioja wine region in northern Spain as an example, this post will show you how the cost really breaks down. I hope this post will convince you that Europe isn’t as expensive as you think and that it’s absolutely worth the longer flight!
There's a reason the first photo you see on my website is of a breathtaking Greek island. Santorini is, without a shadow of doubt, my favorite place in the world. I visited the island on my honeymoon in May of 2014. It was at the top of my bucket list, so I had no trouble choosing it as one of our honeymoon destinations.
Even the plane ride into Santorini is magical. The flight from Athens goes by in the blink of an eye, especially if you sit in a window seat, eyes glued to the myriad of tiny little islands below.
Santorini was five days of pure bliss. I'd go back in a heart beat.