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10 places in Europe for a crowd-free vacation

10 places in Europe for a crowd-free vacation
Puglia, Italy: It’s not hard to understand why Italy is one of Europe’s most popular (and crowded) destinations. However, while Rome’s Spanish Steps and Cinque Terre’s idyllic villages suffer from overtourism, the region of Puglia remains undiscovered by most tourists. But as the heel that makes up the Italian boot, Puglia has all the flavor of Italy a traveler could want — ancient cities, incredible food and Mediterranean views. However, it also has its own cultural landmarks that you won’t find anywhere else in Italy, like the pasta-making grandmothers of Bari and the cliffside town of Polignano a Mare with its famous Grotta Palazesse Restaurant.

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Puglia, Italy: It’s not hard to understand why Italy is one of Europe’s most popular (and crowded) destinations. However, while Rome’s Spanish Steps and Cinque Terre’s idyllic villages suffer from overtourism, the region of Puglia remains undiscovered by most tourists. But as the heel that makes up the Italian boot, Puglia has all the flavor of Italy a traveler could want — ancient cities, incredible food and Mediterranean views. However, it also has its own cultural landmarks that you won’t find anywhere else in Italy, like the pasta-making grandmothers of Bari and the cliffside town of Polignano a Mare with its famous Grotta Palazesse Restaurant.

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England’s Great Southwest Peninsula: To get away from the crowds of big cities like London, you can hop on a train or drive two hours south to explore a hidden corner of England — its southwest peninsula. Made up of the regions of Cornwall, Devon, Somerset, Dorset and the Isles of Scilly, the peninsula offers travelers 700 miles of coastal roads to explore and hundreds of castles and beaches to visit, plus two national parks and four world heritage sites. There’s plenty of adventure to be had, whether you’re searching for fossils along the Jurassic Coast or hiking in Dartmoor National Park.

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England’s Great Southwest Peninsula: To get away from the crowds of big cities like London, you can hop on a train or drive two hours south to explore a hidden corner of England — its southwest peninsula. Made up of the regions of Cornwall, Devon, Somerset, Dorset and the Isles of Scilly, the peninsula offers travelers 700 miles of coastal roads to explore and hundreds of castles and beaches to visit, plus two national parks and four world heritage sites. There’s plenty of adventure to be had, whether you’re searching for fossils along the Jurassic Coast or hiking in Dartmoor National Park.

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The Baltic states: From historical cities to unique national parks, the Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia have plenty to offer travelers. In Estonia, discover the medieval city of Talinn, or visit the forest-covered island of Saareema for a nature retreat. Latvia is often seen as the most artistic of the Baltic trio, and when you see the colorful capital city of Riga and white-sand beaches of Cape Colka, you’ll understand why. Lithuania packs in a lot of culture with its castle-packed capital of Vilnius and fascinating sites like the Orvidas Garden, which displays the sculptures of an eccentric artist who was considered a rebel during the Soviet era.

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The Baltic states: From historical cities to unique national parks, the Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia have plenty to offer travelers. In Estonia, discover the medieval city of Talinn, or visit the forest-covered island of Saareema for a nature retreat. Latvia is often seen as the most artistic of the Baltic trio, and when you see the colorful capital city of Riga and white-sand beaches of Cape Colka, you’ll understand why. Lithuania packs in a lot of culture with its castle-packed capital of Vilnius and fascinating sites like the Orvidas Garden, which displays the sculptures of an eccentric artist who was considered a rebel during the Soviet era.

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Languedoc-Rousillon, France: As the largest wine-producing region in France, this vineyard-rich region perfect place for oenophiles looking to take a trip deep into the French countryside. Travelers in the Languedoc can also enjoy special tastings at olive oil factories like L’Olibo; try the sweet lamb pastries in the city of Pezenas; or taste oysters fresh from the farms on the Etang de Thau, a huge lake that connects the Mediterranean to the region’s popular cruising route: the Canal du Midi. On the lake, you’ll also find the small port city of Marseillan, where vermouth fans can visit the Noilly-Prat distillery for a tasting and tour of the modern factory.

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Languedoc-Rousillon, France: As the largest wine-producing region in France, this vineyard-rich region perfect place for oenophiles looking to take a trip deep into the French countryside. Travelers in the Languedoc can also enjoy special tastings at olive oil factories like L’Olibo; try the sweet lamb pastries in the city of Pezenas; or taste oysters fresh from the farms on the Etang de Thau, a huge lake that connects the Mediterranean to the region’s popular cruising route: the Canal du Midi. On the lake, you’ll also find the small port city of Marseillan, where vermouth fans can visit the Noilly-Prat distillery for a tasting and tour of the modern factory.

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Extremadura, Spain: In southern Spain, right on the border of Portugal, Extremadura is a region rich in history and delicious food. Here, you’ll find not just Roman and medieval ruins, but also the history of the Spanish empire. In the city of Trujillo, you can visit the palaces built from the fortunes brought back from the Americas, and taste the sweetmeats and cheese the city is known for. In Merida, not only can you visit one of the world’s best-preserved Roman theaters, you can taste gazpacho and indulge in Roman-inspired tapas. Extremadura offers incredible landscapes like Garganta de los Infiernos, a stunning gorge with rock pools you can swim in; and Monfrague National Park, which is particularly well-known for its birdlife.

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Extremadura, Spain: In southern Spain, right on the border of Portugal, Extremadura is a region rich in history and delicious food. Here, you’ll find not just Roman and medieval ruins, but also the history of the Spanish empire. In the city of Trujillo, you can visit the palaces built from the fortunes brought back from the Americas, and taste the sweetmeats and cheese the city is known for. In Merida, not only can you visit one of the world’s best-preserved Roman theaters, you can taste gazpacho and indulge in Roman-inspired tapas. Extremadura offers incredible landscapes like Garganta de los Infiernos, a stunning gorge with rock pools you can swim in; and Monfrague National Park, which is particularly well-known for its birdlife.

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Ireland’s west coast: Leave the crowds of Dublin behind by extending your trip to Ireland westward on the Atlantic Coast, aka the Wild Atlantic Way. A road trip down the coast will take you past charming villages and quiet bays. Stop at sights as famous as the Cliffs of Moher or drive the Ring of Kerry, all while discovering fresh landscapes like the Inishowen Peninsula in the north and the Slea Head Drive in the south. Crowd-weary travelers won’t just find solace in Ireland’s remote and lush sceneries; there’s also plenty of culture to be found in small villages like Doolin, famous as Ireland’s music capital, and Dingle, a small but thriving city that’s home to a famous concentration of traditional Irish pubs.

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Ireland’s west coast: Leave the crowds of Dublin behind by extending your trip to Ireland westward on the Atlantic Coast, aka the Wild Atlantic Way. A road trip down the coast will take you past charming villages and quiet bays. Stop at sights as famous as the Cliffs of Moher or drive the Ring of Kerry, all while discovering fresh landscapes like the Inishowen Peninsula in the north and the Slea Head Drive in the south. Crowd-weary travelers won’t just find solace in Ireland’s remote and lush sceneries; there’s also plenty of culture to be found in small villages like Doolin, famous as Ireland’s music capital, and Dingle, a small but thriving city that’s home to a famous concentration of traditional Irish pubs.

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Malta: With its location south of Sicily, the island nation of Malta is not the easiest Mediterranean destination to reach, which makes it perfect for travelers willing to go the extra mile to beat the crowds. Last year, Malta made headlines when one of its most famous rock formations, the Azure Window, collapsed into the sea. However, there’s plenty more to discover among the rocky island of this small archipelago, as well as in the vibrant capital city of Valletta, which in 2018 was named Europe’s Capital of Culture. Tour the mysterious prehistoric temples that are scattered across the islands or find adventure on the nearby island of Gozo, one of the Mediterranean’s best destinations for diving, rock climbing and hiking.

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Malta: With its location south of Sicily, the island nation of Malta is not the easiest Mediterranean destination to reach, which makes it perfect for travelers willing to go the extra mile to beat the crowds. Last year, Malta made headlines when one of its most famous rock formations, the Azure Window, collapsed into the sea. However, there’s plenty more to discover among the rocky island of this small archipelago, as well as in the vibrant capital city of Valletta, which in 2018 was named Europe’s Capital of Culture. Tour the mysterious prehistoric temples that are scattered across the islands or find adventure on the nearby island of Gozo, one of the Mediterranean’s best destinations for diving, rock climbing and hiking.

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Frankfurt, Germany: In Frankfurt, what’s new is old again. Since most of the old city was destroyed during World War II, Frankfurt has long been ignored by travelers in search of historical architecture. However, all that is changing with the completion of the Old Town reconstruction. This massive project included the construction of 35 new buildings and more than 30 shops restaurants, museums and cafes to explore. Among the buildings rebuilt in their original locations you’ll discover the history of Frankfurt, from its origin as Roman settlement to the Gothic styles of the Esslinger House.

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Frankfurt, Germany: In Frankfurt, what’s new is old again. Since most of the old city was destroyed during World War II, Frankfurt has long been ignored by travelers in search of historical architecture. However, all that is changing with the completion of the Old Town reconstruction. This massive project included the construction of 35 new buildings and more than 30 shops restaurants, museums and cafes to explore. Among the buildings rebuilt in their original locations you’ll discover the history of Frankfurt, from its origin as Roman settlement to the Gothic styles of the Esslinger House.

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Vipava Valley, Slovenia: Just two hours from Venice, the Vipava Valley is a haven for adventurous travelers looking for room to explore. Rent a car and drive through this countryside to find plenty of things to do, from easy-going bike rides through vineyards to stand-up paddleboarding on the Vipava River. And of course, frequent stops at some of the valley’s boutique winemakers are a must. Pepper your wine tasting with gastronomical stops to try locally produced staples like honey, cherries and olive oil. For a bit of history, you can stop by the Kostanjevica Monastery and visit the Bourbon crypt, where members of the noble French family were buried following their exile after the French Revolution.

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Vipava Valley, Slovenia: Just two hours from Venice, the Vipava Valley is a haven for adventurous travelers looking for room to explore. Rent a car and drive through this countryside to find plenty of things to do, from easy-going bike rides through vineyards to stand-up paddleboarding on the Vipava River. And of course, frequent stops at some of the valley’s boutique winemakers are a must. Pepper your wine tasting with gastronomical stops to try locally produced staples like honey, cherries and olive oil. For a bit of history, you can stop by the Kostanjevica Monastery and visit the Bourbon crypt, where members of the noble French family were buried following their exile after the French Revolution.

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Southwestern Germany: Over the years, Stuttgart has become a popular Oktoberfest alternative to beat the crowds in Bavaria, but any time of year is ideal to explore this under-visited city and the surrounding southwestern region of Germany. Stuttgart is a wealthy city, best known as the headquarters of Porsche and Mercedes-Benz, and is home to 15 Michelin-starred restaurants and a slew of art museums. Outside Stuttgart, there’s plenty to explore in the German state of Baden-Wurttemburg, from the half-timbered town of Esslingen to the bright blue Lake Constance. The region is flush with castles and is famous for quirky year-round festivals that celebrate everything from white asparagus to plums. You can also stop in Bad-Wildbad, a spa town where you can enjoy a classic Germany-style spa without the crowds of more famous spa towns like Baden-Baden.

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Southwestern Germany: Over the years, Stuttgart has become a popular Oktoberfest alternative to beat the crowds in Bavaria, but any time of year is ideal to explore this under-visited city and the surrounding southwestern region of Germany. Stuttgart is a wealthy city, best known as the headquarters of Porsche and Mercedes-Benz, and is home to 15 Michelin-starred restaurants and a slew of art museums. Outside Stuttgart, there’s plenty to explore in the German state of Baden-Wurttemburg, from the half-timbered town of Esslingen to the bright blue Lake Constance. The region is flush with castles and is famous for quirky year-round festivals that celebrate everything from white asparagus to plums. You can also stop in Bad-Wildbad, a spa town where you can enjoy a classic Germany-style spa without the crowds of more famous spa towns like Baden-Baden.

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