There’s nothing like a stunning view to make you pleased you decided to travel. Whether it’s iconic monuments standing majestically against the sky in a city or a mountain range dusted with snow – a beautiful view makes it all worthwhile.
Europe might not be the biggest continent but it certainly holds its own when it comes to both man-made and natural beauty. From the rugged Alps to the Greek Islands, you are bound to find the kind of beauty that stops you dead in your tracks and takes your breath away.
Of course, if you really want to get a taste of just how spectacular Europe can be, you need to know where to look. Here are five countries to get you started
It came as no surprise to the people of Scotland when their country was voted the most beautiful country on the planet by a Rough Guides reader’s poll. Often the landscape in Scotland looks like something from a different world. Loch Coruisk, for example, is a magical place that can only be accessed by boat. As you float in past craggy mountains sparsely covered with patches of vegetation, the serenity and tranquility are almost overwhelming.
Perhaps the gem in Scotland’s crown is Calgary Bay, which could justifiably be named Britain’s best beach. Here, white sand stretches out to meet pale blue water. But, beware, the water is painfully cold and not for the faint-hearted.
Elsewhere, cities such as Edinburgh, Glasgow and St Andrews have their own charms as well as plenty of gorgeous castles and cathedrals to explore.
Click here for a 7-day Scotland itinerary from my friend Nicole.
Italy is virtually synonymous with beauty. From the cities to the countryside there’s not a single square mile that won’t blow you away. The only tricky thing about Italy is deciding where to visit. There’s a lot to see in that boot-shaped country and you only have so much time. So, let me boil Italy down to a few crucial destinations for you.
Push Rome and Venice out of your mind for a minute and focus on Umbria. This often overlooked, landlocked region of Italy deserves your attention at least for a few days. Umbria is a patchwork of fields broken up by Medieval terracotta towns atop verdant hills. It is culture, history, and natural beauty all woven into one place and it will enchant you from the minute you arrive.
Head down to the coast and you have the iconic Cinque Terre, which boasts colorful houses built into the side of its cliffs. Alternatively, down in the South, in the heel of the boot, is Bari. In Bari you will find world-class beaches as well as curious rock formations, all of which are bathed in endless sunshine.
Officially known as the Czech Republic, Czechia is home to what could be the most beautiful city in the world: Prague. Prague is divided into various sections, the most notable of which is the Old Town, which is carved up with narrow cobbled streets lined with cafés and beer gardens. Across the river is the enormous Letna Park, which offers incomparable views of the city.
But, Czechia’s beauty doesn’t start and end with Prague. Outside of the capital is all kinds of natural beauty, including the Punkva Caves, just north of Brno; and Hruboskalsko in Bohemian Paradise, which consists of dozens of natural sandstone towers.
France’s capital, Paris, is one of the most visited cities in the world, with over 16 million people arriving every year. Of course, if you spend a day or two in Paris it is easy to see why people love it so much. Around every corner is another striking piece of architecture enclosing a museum filled with cultural treasures, including art, artifacts, and literature.
Yet, the bright lights of the big city are just one of France’s allures. Rural France has just as much to offer as the metropolitan area. The Loire Valley is one of France’s most impressive regions. Here green rolling scenery is peppered with castles and tiny villages teeming with old stone houses and farmer’s markets.
For a truly unique experience, head to Mont St Michel, an island commune in Normandy. You can walk to the island from the mainland when the tide is low – just remember to come back before the tide does.
Slovenia has been thrust into the limelight over recent years as more and more people have started to realize what an incredible destination it is. Starting in Ljubljana, visitors will be able to explore winding streets through the city’s Old Town, absorbing its cultural heritage and history.
An hour out of the city is Lake Bled – Slovenia’s star feature. This lake surrounds a small island, on which sits the Pilgrimage Church of the Assumption of Maria. Visitors can row across the lake to the island or even swim if they’re feeling particularly brave!