For all of you asking for Europe travel advice, here it goes, a post on my favorite destinations. From my time living in Amsterdam and now Geneva I’ve gotten to know most corners of Europe pretty well. I’ve visited the usual hot spots like Paris, London, Prague, Florence and Barcelona, but to really experience the culture and beauty in this part of the world, I always recommend jet setting to small town Europe.
Being this is a FRESHABITS post, I’m going to focus on my favorite OUTDOOR destinations. Truth be told, when I think back on my years abroad, the first holidays that come to mind are the ones spent outside exploring the trail less traveled.
If you read my previous post on why a hiking holiday is a guarantee for a relaxing vacation than hopefully you agree…outdoor adventures are the way to go! But if you envision yourself traveling to Europe to admire works by Da Vinci or Picasso than the following destinations are probably not for you.
Favorite Europe Outdoor Escapes:
Mallorca is a small, easily accessible island off of the coast of Spain. When you think of Mallorca you probably think of raving clubs and all night parties. This might be the reality in Palma, Mallorca’s main port city, but definitely not the case if you head for the opposite side of the island.
Once you get out of the crazed tourist zone that is Palma, you’ll find endless trails crossing the island and traversing along an unimaginably stunning coastline. Grab a rental car at the airport, head north for 30 minutes and you’ll end up in the tiny historic village of Deia. Here you can experience unforgettable sunset hiking, fresh seafood, rocky coastal running trails and enough culture to know you’re in a special corner of Spain.
Tip: Pack a flashlight. You’ll be so entrenched by the sunset that you’ll find yourself hiking back way after dark.
Favorite Hotel: Hoposa Costa d’Or Hotel – You can’t beat the sunsets and the coastal trails.
Favorite Cafe: The Village Cafe – Cheap & adorable. Super fresh eats.
Chamonix is a well known outdoor destination amongst hardcore skiers, rock climbers and mountaineers, but you don’t need to be a thrill seeker to really appreciate this Alpine oasis. Chamonix has all the charm of a small French village with its pedestrian only center full of fun shops, cafes, bars and a fantastic Saturday market. And best part? In any direction you look, you’ll find endless trails to explore. In the summer the hiking is awe inspiring and in the winter the skiing is a force to be reckoned with!
I was a lucky lady to marry my best bud on a mountain peak in Chamonix so of course Cham made my memorable list.
Tip: Don’t be disappointed that most people speak English in Chamonix. This is a touristy destination so you do need to dig a little deeper to get a true French experience. Avoid the shops and restaurants on the main strip. Explore the side alleys for local flavor or head further down the valley to little Argentiere.
Favorite Hotel: Hermitage Paccard - Cozy and central. For week long stays your best bet is to rent a chalet.
Favorite Restaurant: Moustache et ses Filles - The best burgers & fondue in town.
No trip to Switzerland is complete without seeing the Matterhorn. No need to commit to a treacherous expedition. You can get up close and personal with this notorious peak from any of the many trails surrounding it or even from the comfort of your hotel balcony.
Tip: Book your accommodation months in advance. There’s a reason why Zermatt fills up fast. Be prepared to pay a premium for hotels, food and especially the gondolas…save your dough and commit to a rewarding hike up to the best views.
Favorite Hotel: For a truly unique experience try spending the night in one of the hike-in mountain huts…they aren’t exactly huts as they all come complete with beds and some even offer private rooms. We enjoyed a fabulous lunch after a long hike up to Hotel Fluhalp and I hope to return for an overnight stay.
Amalfi Coast, Italy
You don’t typically think of the Almafi Coast as a destination for the outdoor enthusiast, but a hike that is forever etched in my mind, took place in this rocky seaside region. If you like enormous cliffs, sparkling sea views, villages with a true Mediterranean flavor and amazing Italian food than this is the spot for you.
The coolest hike in town is a steep 10 km trek called Path of the Gods that begins above Praiano and ends with an inspiring descent into the photogenic Italian village of Positano. You’ll love the colorful homes carved into the cliffs. And the best part is working up a fantastic appetite. There’s nothing better than a trek that ends with a fresh bowl of homemade pasta.
The Amalfi region is not a recommended destination for those with a fear of heights. To get there you’ll have to take a bus that maneuvers seriously treacherous roads overhanging the Mediterranean Sea.
Tip: Book a villa in the less touristy town of Praiano, just next doors to Positano. There’s a fabulous Italian grocer in Praiano selling the best tomatoes and mozzarella I’ve ever tasted.
Favorite Restaurant: Il Pirata Restaurant – Impressively built right into the cliffs.
Favorite Hotel: Opt for an apartment so you can enjoy cooking with all the fresh ingredients from this region. The famed Caprese Salad comes from nearby Capri Island.