Beyond the Usual Suspects: Unforgettable Sunny Destinations in Europe

Europe in the summer is a magical time. The weather is perfect for soaking up the sun, exploring charming towns, and indulging in delicious cuisine. But with so many popular destinations, places like Santorini and Mykonos can get crowded and expensive.

If you're looking for a sunny European summer vacation that's a bit off the beaten path, consider these hidden gems:

  • Montenegro: The Adriatic Pearl

Montenegro is a small country on the Balkan Peninsula with a stunning Adriatic coastline. Jutting out like a rugged thumb, Montenegro packs a punch in terms of natural beauty. With dramatic mountains carved by glaciers, beautiful beaches with turquoise waters, and charming towns steeped in history, Montenegro offers something for everyone. Hike through Durmitor National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, encountering glacial lakes, towering peaks, and deep canyons. Relax on the luxurious beaches of Sveti Stefan, a tiny islet connected to the mainland by a narrow causeway, or explore the fortified town of Kotor, a maze of narrow streets, Venetian architecture, and stunning views of Boka Bay. Montenegro is a great choice for budget-minded travelers as well, with a lower cost of living compared to other parts of Europe.

  • Slovenia: Land of Fairytale Beauty

Slovenia is a small country in Central Europe that packs a big punch. This beautiful country, nicknamed "Green Slovenia" for its lush forests and rolling hills, has something for everyone, from the soaring Julian Alps to the sparkling Adriatic Sea. Hike or bike through the breathtaking scenery of Triglav National Park, home to Slovenia's highest mountain, Mount Triglav. Explore the charming capital city of Ljubljana, a walkable city with a picturesque riverfront setting, a historic castle, and vibrant markets. Or relax on the beaches of Piran, a charming seaside town with Venetian-inspired architecture and a relaxed atmosphere. Slovenia is also a great destination for foodies, with a cuisine that is influenced by its Austrian, Hungarian, and Italian neighbors. Be sure to sample Slovenia's unique selection of wines, with varieties ranging from crisp whites to robust reds.

  • Albania: The Next Big Thing

Albania is a country on the Balkan Peninsula that is quickly becoming a popular tourist destination. With its stunning beaches, ancient ruins, and dramatic mountains, Albania offers a unique and affordable vacation experience. Hike in the Albanian Alps, a dramatic mountain range with soaring peaks and traditional villages. Explore the historic city of Berat, a UNESCO World Heritage Site known as the "City of a Thousand Windows" for its Ottoman architecture. Or relax on the beaches of the Albanian Riviera, a scenic stretch of coastline with pristine beaches, turquoise waters, and charming beach towns. Albania is a great choice for travelers who want to experience a different side of Europe, steeped in history and culture with a warm and welcoming population.

  • The Azores, Portugal: Paradise in the Atlantic

The Azores are a group of volcanic islands in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. This Portuguese territory is a haven for nature lovers, with stunning scenery, lush vegetation, and abundant wildlife. Hike through volcanic craters still steaming with geothermal activity, encounter endemic flora and fauna in the laurel forests, or go whale watching in the deep waters around the islands, where sperm whales, dolphins, and other marine life can be spotted. The Azores are a great choice for travelers who want to get away from it all and relax in a beautiful setting. The islands offer a variety of outdoor activities, from kayaking and diving to surfing and stand-up paddleboarding. Soak in the thermal pools heated by volcanic activity, or simply relax on the beaches with their dark volcanic sand and dramatic ocean views.

  • Liguria, Italy: A Hidden Gem

Liguria is a region in northwestern Italy that is known for its beautiful coastline, medieval towns, and delicious food. Escape the crowds of Tuscany and Cinque Terre and discover Liguria's hidden charm. Hike along the Cinque Terre, five colorful villages clinging to cliffs overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. Explore the city of Genoa, a historic port city with a maze of narrow streets, a stunning cathedral, and the Palazzo dei Rolli, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Or relax on the beaches of the Italian Riviera, a string of seaside resorts offering a mix of relaxation and glamour. Liguria is a great choice for travelers who want to experience the best of Italy without the crowds. Indulge in Ligurian cuisine, known for its fresh seafood, pesto sauce, and focaccia bread. Sample the local wines, with varieties like Pigato and Vermentino perfectly complementing the fresh seafood dishes.