Savvy travellers know that the two best seasons for seeing Europe are just around the corner: Summers almost anywhere practically guarantee fabulous weather and a plethora of open museums, while the fall travel experience provides less crowded destinations that still have plenty of sunny days. Whether you're after tasty tapas in Spain, an invigorating hike in the Julian Alps or the hubbub of Venice, use a travel company that focuses on the experience, not on expensive hotels. Trafalgar is one of the best for offering a trip with plenty of free time to let you see what you want, not what they think you should. Based on their suggestions, here are five destinations that shine in summer.
Spain is amazing in the summer, gloriously sunny and with so many interesting sights, huge crowds are rarely a problem. The country has many kilometres of coastline, most of which are accessible to everyone. It’s easy enough to feel the excitement of the vibrancy of Marbella in the morning before taking a short jaunt to Bolonia Bay for a peaceful afternoon of nothing but sun and sand.
One of the standout benefits of choosing a travellers’ guided vacation over a conventional operator is country hopping – especially when the nearby countries are as fascinating as, say, Portugal and Morocco. Few people realize that Tangier is just a short ferry ride from Spain and from there it’s a quick journey to legendary Casablanca. If Africa seems like too much adventure right now, Portugal is an often-overlooked gem that shares a border with Spain.
Midway between adventurous and traditional, Turkey is both exotic and practical, offering great shopping, Roman ruins and incredible scenery. One of the best Roman sites to visit is Ephesus, the Roman Empire's extensive Asian capital. Many buildings are partially intact while others are carefully being reconstructed as the elements are unearthed. The pathways through the city are the original roads, worn down in ruts by the wagon wheels of history.
Italy in the fall is a magical mix of art, architecture and history – without as many tourists. Florence is particularly pleasant in the cooler months when the heat of the summer has lifted and the lines for the museums are shorter. Many places even offer advanced ticket sales to minimize waiting further – a great time-saver for travellers hoping to add in hill towns during their time in Italy.
Surrounded and intersected by water, Venice is divine in the summer. Although popular with visitors, the streets are wide and vehicles are few, creating a traveller’s paradise lined with stunning churches and bustling cafes. Take a romantic gondola ride along the Grand Canal or hop a vaporetto (water taxi) for a budget alternative. With so many sestieri to explore, it's easy to escape the crowds.
Unhurried United Kingdom
The Lake District in the U.K. is a must-see for summer travellers. Not only is the mountain scenery stunning, the rich, green valleys are particularly captivating when the summer sun glistens off the blue lakes and the air is filled with bird song. Grasmere in the Lake District is the home of William Wordsworth whose poetry captured the fleeting beauty of the daffodils that bloom throughout the spring around the lakes.
London is best seen in the fall when summer tourists have gone home and the city is once again delightfully British. London is filled with art, culture, history, theatre, and of course, shopping. Spend time at Covent Garden, wander the Tower or take a spin on the London Eye to see the city from the sky. Visit churches, cathedrals, museum and palaces, or stretch out in Hyde Park and just relax. The city is too big to see in one trip, so take note of what you’ll want to include in your next visit and don’t overbook your time.
Although many travellers enjoy making their own travel plans, the Scottish Highlands are definitely better seen with a guided vacation. Sights are scattered around the country and short of renting a car, it’s time consuming to see them all. Even better is an itinerary that includes one or two islands as Orkney has some remarkable sights. Trafalgar takes you to not only Orkney, but the Isles of Skye and Mull as well.
Slovenia, covered with lakes and mountains, is exceptionally scenic in the summer. Ljubljana is one of the prettiest cities in Europe offering old-world charm with a very modern system. A 16th century castle overlooks Gothic bridges that direct numerous cars in a never-ending dance. The Central Market along the Ljubljanica River is in a building designed by architect Jože Plečnik and reflects both Renaissance and Slovenian influences. A side trip to Lake Bled is a nice addition to any visit.
Stretching along the Adriatic Sea, visiting Croatia during the warm summer months is a given. The city walls of Dubrovnik are nearly complete and open to visitors during the day. Inside the walls, visitors are treated to a wide-open city square lined with shops and cafes and open arches that lead to the sea. No vehicles allowed in this city that is in its entirety a World Heritage Site.
A visit to Plitvice Lakes from either Croatia or Slovenia is worth an extra day or two. Public transportation to the National Park is limited and requires some walking, but is direct. Like Scotland, visiting Plitvice via a guided trip is a time-saver. Once here, it’s possible to enjoy the beauty of the park on your own, but having a guide is invaluable for travellers with an interest in geology and how the spectacular travertine lakes were formed.
Summer & Fall Deals
Ready to enjoy Europe? Do you consider yourself a traveller, not a tourist? While many travel operators provide an oversight of the big cities and hot spots, Trafalgar knows that travellers are in it for the experience, not the photo ops. Save time and even money by booking a trip that takes you where you want to go and lets you see the world the way you want to – as a visitor to the country, not a tourist with a checklist itinerary.