a green hills with Quiraing in the distance
25951045 - scenic view of quiraing mountains sunset with dramatic sky in scottish highlands, isle of skye, united kingdom

It’s officially time to not to let those bucket list dreams fall through the cracks.

Europe trips can be life changing, and after a few years of being cut off from many of the most beautiful parts of the world, it’s more important than ever to plot a course to the essential trips in life.

It’s never been easier to earn the miles, points or referral credit needed to travel for next to nothing, and with so much of the world to see, you’d best get started sometime soon, right? But — before you focus on seeing the remote parts of the world, give these swoon worthy Euro trips a whirl.

a colorful buildings on a hillside by a body of water with Cinque Terre in the background

The Cinque Terre

One could be forgiven for opting for the Amalfi Coast instead, and some might even suggest it. Either way, one of these is a must, and if you have the time, both would go down all too well.

The Cinque Terre is an improbable group of five fishing villages set against the most rugged terrain imaginable, and for those reasons each is stunning in its own right.

Come for the Ligurian specialties like fresh pesto, catch of the day and deeply profound hillside grown wines and stay for the wave pools crashing along the rocks, the idyllic boat rides along the coast and the fabulous hiking from place to place. Just under 2 hours from Pisa, it’s easy.

a town in the mountains with Staubbach Falls in the background

The Swiss Alps

There is no “one” destination you must hit in the Swiss Alps, but hit them you must. Be it Zermatt, Interlaken, Lucerne, Montreux or Saint Moritz, you just can’t go wrong when you look out the window and see snowcapped mountains out of a fantasy.

Hike in the summer, ski in the winter and enjoy fondue all night long, paired with mineral driven wines.

Though you wouldn’t guess it from the all-too-agreeable people of Switzerland, what makes this trip a must before you die is the intense drama. From the gondola rides up hair raising hills to looking out of a quaint ski chalet and seeing angles no math teacher could ever prepare you for, the visuals are just unmatched anywhere else.

a green hills with Quiraing

The Scottish Highlands

Don’t be afraid. Despite many eyewitness accounts, there’s no evidence to suggest that an actual monster exists in Loch Ness. In the iconic highlands of Scotland however, you will find: whiskey trails, dolphins, the highest peak in the UK, scenery that rivals Iceland and so much more. Plus, they do B&B’s at a masterful level.

Come during those two good weeks of weather during the summer, bring your hiking gear, rent a car and just explore.

While the highlands are vast in depth, Scotland as a whole is very manageable, since you’re rarely ever more than 2 hours by car from a major city like Inverness, Glasgow or Edinburgh at any point of your highlands tour. Don’t come home until you’e done the Gairloch Beaches, Fairy Pools or Isle of Skye.

a city with many boats in the water

The Basque Country

If your favourite dinner party topic includes asking everyone what they’d eat as their last meal, it’s only appropriate to first do some research in a place where you really could die happy with virtually any bite.

The Basque country and surrounding areas are home to more Michelin starred restaurants per capita than any other region of the world, and the scenery, towns and vibes match.

Food aside, it’s the riviera lifestyle that makes this such a photogenic spot, and the melting pot of cultures. San Sebastian, a hub for all things delicious is just mere miles across the border from France and so much of the culinary mastery, rocky cliffs and crystal waters feel like St. Tropez. And of course, for any art fans, Bilbao features a Frank Gehry designed Guggenheim Museum…

a pool on a cliff overlooking a townThe Greek Islands

Mamma Mia sold the dream in cinemas, but the beauty of the Greek Islands has never been in question. The only question is when you’ll get there, because you must.

No matter how many tourists make their way to Santorini, Mykonos, Rhodes or Athens, what makes Greece a “must” is everything you’ll see in every direction. The bluest blues, the volcano cut islands and the people who have managed to maintain their culture.

Fish really does come directly from the sea into the tavernas, and you’ll never be able to eat a “Greek Salad” at home ever again, after tasting the genuine article.

Whether you’re looking to plunge into an infinity pool high above the cliffs or lay low on a secret beach, using the interconnected ferry systems between each island is easy, and of course, so is flying. Don’t just see one island, see a few, and make sure to see them from land, air and sea.

a body of water with mountains and a city

The Fjords Of Norway

The best way to describe some places is perplexing. How could such a thin, narrow waterway fit such a large cruise ship, and how could it be surrounded on all sides by mountain tops which rival the best views in the world. That’s the fjords, for you.

Fly into Bergen and branch out. After all, there are at least 1,190 fjords to see, and even if you’re lucky you’ll only catch a small percentage.

If you like a little buzzy adventure, it’s tough to beat the zippy catamaran journey to Søgneford or the epic viewpoints after hiking near the fjords of Flåm.

a train passing by Place de la Bourse

The Bike Rides Of Bordeaux

When wine and exercise are in the same sentence, there’s often folly afoot, but this may be an exception. With rolling hill after rolling hill, and opulent drop after drop, one of the best ways to see Bordeaux – which you totally should do – is to do it by bike.

Not only will biking burn off a few of the lovely side dishes you’ll be served during the best tastings, it’ll also give you an appreciation for the amazing terroir of the region, which makes its wines so prolific.

After you’ve made your way through Pomerol, Medoc and all the hectars of wonderful wine, the best part of this journey is the culinary delights within arms reach. Of course, you’re in Bordeaux, a classic and beautiful city, but you’re also just a 3.5 hour drive from San Sebastian, which quite literally boasts more Michelin starred restaurants per capita than anywhere else on earth. It’s a foodie and wine snob ultimate dream.

a town on the water with Hallstatt in the background

The Drive From Vienna To Salzburg

Bringing the “open jaw” into your travel trick sheet is a wise move, because it makes adventures like this one all the more rewarding. It’s where you fly into one place, and out of another.

If you’re going to Austria, you just can’t leave with only one city under your belt, and flying into Vienna and out of Salzburg, or vice versa, is one of the most rewarding journeys.

While driving may not sound all that exciting, this drive is a definitive exception, with incredible countryside, mountains and views to die for. Two of the most notable? Hallstatt and Dachstein! These are the towns where you realize that some post cards are actually real places, and not just things of fantasy.

If you’re just stopping to take pictures, the drive is just a few hours, but you’re going to want to make this into a two day trip – at the very least.

a body of water with Blue Lagoon in the background

The Iceland Ring Road Experience

Iceland is an experience in itself, and any journey to the country is incomplete without doing the ring road trek. Best of all, it’s an easy one to do by yourself, at your own pace, without the need for guides.

Think: volcanoes, rugged terrain, hot springs, geothermal baths, ice caves and places that look like sci-fi movies.

So, how long, right? Done in full, this is a circa 800 mile drive, which deserves at least four days to allow plenty of stops, but it wouldn’t be out of the question at all to extend that to double, or more. If you want to save money, renting an RV is a popular choice, and however you go about it, it’ll blow your mind.

Colorful hot air balloons before launch in Goreme national park, Cappadocia, Turkey

The Cappadocia Experience

Cappadocia is a walk through time, and is easily one of the best journeys in Turkey. With most travellers heading to Istanbul, or Ankara, it’s also great way to enjoy a deeper look at the country.

If you need inspiration, or a little push, just google “Cappadocia Hot Air Balloon”, and you’ll be off in no time.

Cappadocia is a hiking paradise, with a side dish of incredible history dating back as far as history goes. You just can’t go without hitting Cavusin, Love Valley, or Monks Valley, which will provide more stunning photos, and questions about extra terrestrial life than anywhere you’ve been. Finish things off with the absolutely stunning hillside town of Ortahisar and your Euro Trip bucket list is complete.

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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  1. Cinque Terre is OVERRUN with tourists and this ruins it. The train between the villages are JAM packed standing-room-only ordeals. In the villages be prepared to eat standing up in some corner. It just sucked.
    Get up really early and then get out. Tuscany is a short drive south.

  2. If you are in the Scottish Highlands then you won’t find any whiskey trails, but you will find plenty of whisky trails 😉

  3. There is nothing I have seen in Europe that compares with the Algarve coast. Blue, blue seas, amazing sandstone cliffs carved into cool shapes and sometimes into caves, wonderful Portuguese food- a can’t miss in my book!

  4. Author is pushing clichés.
    Why pack even more tourist into the same places? There are plenty of small towns, villages and attractions in every country other than “mainstream” itineraries. Just get a car or train ticket and explore yourself. For inspirations, search a google map for various types of places: from nature to historical to picturesque.
    The drive from Vienna to Salzburg? It’s a 4-hour highway drive with not much fun. Hallstatt is away from this path. Instead, you can get into few small-town nature spring resorts just 30-40 minutes south of Vienna – they offer plenty of activities, history, scenery and food tasting opportunities.
    Beside spending your 10 Euro(pes), there are many comparable places in the United States and Canada: Alaskan and Canadian fjords are no less beautiful but more accessible and cheaper than Norwegian; many mountain towns in Colorado Rockies are reminiscent of Austrian/Swiss villages; Islands of Puerto Rico offer as much excitement as Greek isles; and so on.

    1. Sometimes I find comments so magnificent, I can’t even bother critiquing them. This is a masterpiece of just being a curmudgeon.

  5. Mykonos and Santorini are seriously overrated. Great if you want “that” instagram shot that everybody else has, if you like being surrounded by hordes of other tourists, and if you like paying WAY over the odds for everything… By otherwise, do yourself a favour, do a little bit of research, and visit some of the less overly-touristed and spoilt Greek islands. You’ll be glad you did.

    1. I just don’t agree. I come to Santorini every year, stay on the other side of the island away from Oia and have the best time, year in year out. Yes, there are other amazing islands, but to generalize the entire experience as not worthwhile (particularly on a 10 trips to take before you die) is a bit unfair. I can’t argue any island is more worth seeing once than Santorini, purely for the views.

      1. Agree with Gilbert.
        Before COVID, I would go to Mykonos every year…only I’d stay waaaaay out on the eastern end of the island and enjoyed being one of the only – if not the only – tourist around. There are still little coves and beaches to discover on Mykonos and Santorini that the vast majority of tourist never get close it – you just have to look, and get over your righteous indignation of possible being labeled a ‘tourist.’

  6. Try the Jurassic coast on the UK South coast. Equal to any on the European mainland. Apart from the incredible coastline, you can see Lawrence of Arabias home and grave, the incredible red cliffs at Seatown, the cobb at Lyme Regis, and the incredible free to see sculptures at the quarry on portland

  7. no one will be happy with a top ten list of Europe. how about Gilbert’s top ten list instead to prevent the whiners from bashing you

  8. The suggestion to drive from Vienna to Salzburg is also misleading. Assuming this posting is aimed at Americans, they’ll get on the autobahn, drive west, and see absolutely nothing, as from the highway it is not scenic – both the Alps and the Danube are missed. If the posting had been more specific, such as drive along the Danube and see Dürnstein and Melk, or wander through the Salzkammergut to see Hallstatt and detour to St. Florian, it would have had value. If one thinks the Cinque Terra is overrun by tourists, go to Hallstatt, population 859 with (pre-Covid) over a million tourists a year. Sounds like hell.

  9. I’m currently doing a job in Ajman, but soon I’m planning to go to Spain for my masters. So during holidays, which spots do you suggest visiting while in Spain?

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