19 unexpected European vacation spots hidden in plain sight
The adage about familiarity breeds contempt has always been somewhat inaccurate. While the same routine can cause sensation to calcify, it can also produce something softer: warm comfort; a comfortable installation in a space without challenge; a satisfied confidence in what has proven itself, in weighing and measuring.
This can certainly be true for travel. It can be easy to go back, year after year, to what is well trodden and widely documented; to destinations with recognized qualities and guaranteed pleasure. And there is no problem with that. Holidays are relaxation; on recharging. This was the case in 2019. It is all the more the case here in 2021.
On the contrary, the pandemic has exacerbated our instinct to retrace our steps to old favorites – especially while the traffic light system is in effect and options are limited.
But this prudence does not need to define our thinking forever. Despite all its resemblance to a very popular guidebook – with folded page corners for Paris and its boulevards, for the beaches of the Aegean Sea, for the resorts of the Costa del Sol – Europe is a wonderland of remarkable depth and diversity. And it is still, in these young days of the 21st century, capable of surprising the traveler who looks beyond the obvious – even in France, Greece, Spain and other classic segments of the continent. This is even more true in Croatia, the Czech Republic and Poland.
The 20 getaway suggestions here are variations of all-time greats – places that, while firmly on the map in the countries we love, have long been overlooked. None are too far away, but all of them are places you might not normally consider for a vacation or a long weekend.
Plus, they should all – from the little-known French departments to the canyons of the Balkans and the “hidden” islands of the Danish archipelago – offer something refreshing, even if the green and amber keep blinking. After a year of lockdowns, restrictions and fear, we could all use some of it.
A fabulous garnish for a sandwich shaped by the Algarve on one side and Lisbon on the other, the Alentejo really should be a staple of British holiday diets. That it does not, despite having over 100 miles of Atlantic coastline, speaks volumes for its placid demeanor – agricultural, sleepy and unimpressed by its neighbor’s large resorts to the south, or the delicacies. urban areas of the capital above (its own key city, Evora, is home to less than 60,000 inhabitants and is still partially enclosed by its medieval ramparts). But as a window to the Portuguese soul, assuming you aren’t in a rush to get somewhere, it’s perfect.
Wexas (020 8125 4213; wexas.com) offers an eight-day road trip in the Alentejo and the Algarve that rolls south, staying in historic pousadas. From £ 665 pp including flights.