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Europe - Where to Escape the Crowds?

By: J5Travel

· Travel,Luxury

So current workload, and my participation in a very worthwhile conference over here in California means the weekly blog is a day late, and I think that's the first time apart from technical issues mucking me up one time. I'm OK with it if you are, and I'll be back to the Thursday schedule next week.

Despite the threat and now sad reality of Russia invading Ukraine, we continue to experience inquiry volumes at double the level of 2019. There is no doubt that the appetite for travel has returned and especially for Europe. For July and August travel, availability for what I would say are the Top 5 requested destinations - Italy, Greece, Spain, France and UK - is already tight, and travel in those months will mean crowd levels back to pre-Covid conditions.

Tip 1 - for those destinations try to travel in May/June or September/October.

Tip 2 - choose a lesser known country that will still give you an original, surprising and exceptional experience without the crowds, and at better value.

Here are my Top 5 suggestions to accomplish Tip #2

Top 5 - Europe, where to go to escape the crowds?

1. Norway

We have clients who traveled with us to Norway in the peak of summer a few years ago, and it remains their favorite trip ever. A combination of road trip, trains and some boats along the fjords had them gasping at the scenery, and also wondering where the heck everyone was.

One of the simplest routes would be Oslo to Bergen including Norway’s tallest peak, oldest church, and tastiest cinnamon twists

Superlatives surround this western route connecting Norway’s capital to the coast. After free time in Oslo and Lillehammer, a drive to the remote village of Lom swaps the summer crowds for hiking in Jotunheimen National Park (above) and on Norway’s tallest peak, Galdhopiggen. Viewpoints and photo ops punctuate Sognefjellet, Scandinavia’s highest mountain pass. Snow-capped peaks and lush valleys surround the keyhole-shaped platform at Vegaskjelet, while Mefjellet showcases a cubist stone sculpture (below) by local artist Knut Wold against Fanaraken glacier. A quick stop in Ornes reveals the twelfth-century Urnes Stave Church, Norway’s oldest. Refreshing and breathtaking.

2. Slovenia

I really want to jump up and down and get y'all excited for Slovenia. Here you will encounter Europe’s undiscovered wine country and it's crowned by a soaring alpine playground. Visiting now earns "I was there when" bragging rights. Slovenia is absolutely beautiful and intimate geography puts the cobblestoned squares of capital Ljubljana’s (above) UNESCO-listed core within day-tripping distance of seaside villages and three major wine regions that, with limited U.S. exports, still fly under the radar. Knock on tasting-room doors to meet vintners face-to-face – it’s like hopping a time machine to explore Tuscany before the rest of the world was in on the secret. An hour away from the capital, find day hikes along sections of the new 168-mile Juliana Trail, which hugs the edge of Triglav National Park (below), with its hanging valleys and high peaks.

3. Belgium

Often skipped altogether as a destination for travelers jumping on the high speed train between Paris and Amsterdam, anyone who can slow down and spend time in Belgium will be thankful.

Just take Bruges to begin with - for waterways, cultural stimulation, and postcard serenity – without the crowds of say, Venice head to Bruges (above). Step-gabled houses from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries front pretty canals here, and cultural attractions run the gamut from tongue-in-cheek (the Frietmuseum, dedicated to french fries, Belgium’s beloved snack) to classical (the Groeningemuseum showcases six centuries of Belgian and Flemish masters’ work). Even the imposing Church of Our Lady houses treasures, including a Michelangelo sculpture. Hop aboard a boat tour of the town’s swan-filled canals crossed by stone bridges. And don't forget to stop at one of the many chocolate shops to taste the city’s official sweet, Brugsch swaentje (below), a chocolate-covered praline embossed with a swan.

4. Portugal

Well Portugal won't be empty for sure in the summer, but it does still play second fiddle to its closest neighbor Spain, yet it has an immense amount to offer. Portugal’s Algrave beaches (above), wine country and its cities’ many parks, plazas, and rooftop restaurants mean there’s a lot to do outdoors, and the weather rarely gets too hot or too cold. Overall, it’s less expensive than many other tourist destinations in Europe, and very traveler friendly – the Institute for Economics and Peace ranks it as the world’s third-most-peaceful country. With an extended itinerary you should make it up to Porto in the north. Make sure to visit Quinta da Aveleda (below) in the Vinho Verde region just north of the city – a wine area that’s often overlooked. East of Porto, the Douro Valley’s rolling hills, vineyards, and quintas (wine estates) are simply not to be missed.

5. Wales

We have never had a client request a trip to Wales. Yet, if you are thinking of the UK in the summer, especially Scotland or Ireland, you may want to think about Wales, notwithstanding the most complicated and hard to comprehend local language in the world. Wales is a country of soaring highs and plunging lows. There is the brawny expanse of the Cambrian Mountains that connect with the ranges of Snowdonia (below) and the Brecon Beacons. Then there are the deep valleys carved between peaks, lined with old communities such as Merthyr Tydfil and Blaenau Gwent, where so much of the national culture is rooted. The Welsh coast, particularly that of Pembrokeshire Coast National Park (above) and Cardigan Bay further north, boasts some of the most sublime beaches in the British Isles, with miles of walking routes and activities such as coasteering, sea kayaking and stand up paddle boarding.

Start planning your European escape by clicking the button below.


I love travel and I love travel planning just as much and I am proud to be building a team as passionate about exploring the world as myself. It took me a very long time to align my career with my undeniable passion for exploring, but now I and the team are here for you. Your personal travel tailors - award reservation and luxury custom itinerary experts. We provide a bespoke service, imagining and creating itineraries for independent minded families and groups.

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