The stunning bridge in Ronda, Spain. | Makalu
/ Europe’s Hidden Gems: 6 Lesser Known Sights
Europe’s Hidden Gems: 6 Lesser Known Sights
Europe may be home to universally recognised travel icons such Gaudi’s Barcelona or the Eternal City of Rome, but head off the tourist track and you can surprise yourself as you come face to face with some of the continent’s lesser-known, yet beautiful, gems. They are the alternative places to visit in Europe.
From Spain and France to Slovenia and Bulgaria, we’re unveiling six secret places in Europe that are atypical travel destinations. With their charming local people, iconic buildings, and attractive architecture and landscapes they will make for everlasting memories (and photos)…
The Moors inhabited the hills of the Alpujarras in Granada, south-eastern Spain, resisting the Christian Reconquest in the 16th century. Their origins are still reflected in the area. Here you will find white-washed Moorish villages scattered around high mountains with the snowy peaks of Sierra Nevada as a backdrop.
All sorts of crops thrive in the warm climate, from lemon groves to olive orchards. Walk among terraced fields and along centuries-old irrigation channels while enjoying the dramatic views of the mountain range. From the Alpujarras it is easy to reach the spectacular Alhambra in Granada, a UNESCO World Heritage Listed monument, also built by the Moors.
SEE IT :: Granada and the Alpujarras – 8 days self guided walking holiday
2. Seven Rila Lakes, Bulgaria
The Tear, the Eye or the Kidney? Each of the Seven Rila Lakes is named according to its shape! Surrounded by rugged peaks and deep valleys, the chain of these glacial lakes is the jewel of the Rila Mountains. Starting at 2,100m, the lakes are found at differing altitudes and appear like large footprints leading up the mountain. The best time to visit is in the heart of the summer: the lakes freeze around October and rarely melt before June.
The village of Matera, another UNESCO World Heritage Site, is located in the arch of Italy’s boot
. Visiting here feels like being lost in time. Historically cut-off from the rest of Italy (there is no Ferrovie dello Stato or national railway), it has gained international fame for its ancient town, the ‘Sassi di Matera’, one of the first human settlements in Italy. The houses here are dug into the rock and the streets in some parts are located on the rooftops of other houses!
The only natural island in Slovenia is set in a picturesque environment, the heart of Bled Lake, which is surrounded by mountains and forests. The main building is a 17th
century old church decorated with remains of medieval frescoes. Weddings are held here regularly and according to legend it is good luck for the groom to carry his bride up the 99 steps on their wedding day before ringing the bell and making a wish inside the church!
SEE IT :: Slovenia Cycle and the Parenzana Trail
SEE IT :: Walking in the Julian Alps
SEE IT :: Walk Lake Bled & the Julian Alps
The dramatic El Tajo gorge is located in Ronda
. Another reason why you should visit this area is its breath-taking Puente Nuevo: ‘new bridge’. It straddles the 120-metre chasm below and despite it being called the ‘new bridge’, it actually dates back to 1751. Back at the time, it took more than 40 years to complete Puente Nuevo! Ronda sits on a plateau of a large rock outcropping and it is because of these cliffs that it was one of the last Moorish cities to fall during the Reconquest of Spain by the Catholic monarchs.
SEE IT :: Ronda and the Sierra de Grazalema – walking holiday
SEE IT :: Ronda and the Sierra de Grazalema – cycling holiday
6. Neuschwanstein Castle, Bavaria
Schloss Neuschwanstein is Germany’s very own fairytale castle and symbol of romantic architecture. The Neuschwanstein Castle was commissioned in 1869 by the reclusive King Ludwig II of Bavaria as a retreat (he paid for it out of his private fortune). Although it was intended as a personal refuge, it was opened to the public after his death. If it feels familiar it is likely because it was the inspiration for the Sleeping Beauty’s Castle in Disneyland!
SEE IT :: King Ludwig’s Way – walking holiday
If you got inspired to visit any of these hidden European treasures or if you like to know about other secret places to visit in Europe, you can get in touch with our experienced team of travel consultants.