It’s that time of the year when you may be dreaming about booking a summer holiday. The warmer weather is the perfect opportunity to get outdoors and explore nature.
You don’t have to go on a long-haul flight to experience incredible landscapes – these seven destinations are all in Europe.
1. Svalbard, Norway
You might associate Svalbard with winter thanks to beautiful images of snowy landscapes. But it has a lot to offer during the summer months too.
In fact, if you want to see animals in the wild, visiting in the warmer weather could be ideal. The archipelago is thriving with birds who migrate here to nest and the waters come to life too. If you’re lucky, you could see walruses, seals and even whales in the fjords of Svalbard.
There is a range of mountain hikes to try, or you could book a sightseeing boat to take in the views from the water.
2. Umbria, Italy
Umbria is often overlooked in favour of its neighbour Tuscany. Yet, this region of Italy is filled with green slopes, beautiful valleys, and picturesque hilltop towns where you can try local dishes – the porchetta is a must-try during a trip here.
If you want to get active, the region has bicycle trails that provide a great way to get around while you take in stunning landscapes. One of the most popular sites here is Bosco di San Francesco (the walk of Saint Francis) in the town of Assisi. You can take in the amazing region while you follow in the footsteps of pilgrims to the entrance of the Basilica named after the saint.
3. Durmitor National Park, Montenegro
The small country of Montenegro is a hidden gem for holidaymakers. Tourists often visit the charming towns dotted along the Dalmatian Coast that boast sandy beaches.
Head inland for just a few hours and you can be in Durmitor National Park, you could even take a day trip from tourist hotspots. The area was formed by glaciers, leading to dramatic scenery. Expect dense pine forests, deep gorges and clear lakes to take in. If you enjoy being active, you can explore the stunning Tara River Canyon by hiking, canoeing, or climbing.
4. Bernese Oberland Region, Switzerland
When you picture the Swiss Alps, it’s probably the Bernese Oberland Region that comes to mind. It’s filled with alpine lakes and picture-perfect mountain towns.
Hiking routes in the area can be challenging but they are well-maintained and marked if you want to explore on foot. If sitting back and enjoying the views is more your style, you can hop on a train offering panoramic views of the diverse landscape to get between towns.
5. Cairngorms National Park, Scotland
You don’t even need to book flights to see one of the most beautiful natural spaces in Europe – Cairngorms is the largest natural park in Scotland and offers lots of things to do, from water sports to wildlife watching. In fact, the park is home to the only free-roaming herd of reindeer in the UK, so you could join a guided hike to see them and other spectacular parts of the park.
There are plenty of historic sites to see in the park as well, including Balmoral Castle, Aviemore Ring Cairn, and Ruthven Barracks.
6. Black Forest, Germany
You’ll feel like you’ve stepped right into a Brothers Grimm fairy tale when visiting Germany’s Black Forest. The dark pine forest inspired some of their most famous works, including ‘Hansel and Gretel’ and ‘Sleeping Beauty’.
There are many different ways to explore the Black Forest. The designated tourism routes make it easy to drive to some of the most popular sights. There are plenty of walking trails that will take you from historic towns past waterfalls and through the ancient forest. Alternatively, you can ride the Schwarzwaldbahn (Black Forest Railway) from Offenburg to Hornberg.
7. Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia
Plitvice Lakes National Park is a unique sight. The 16 interconnected lakes with cascading waterfalls are a UNESCO World Heritage Site and have become Croatia’s most popular tourist attraction.
The park is well maintained with several walking trails along wooden walkways to suit all abilities. You’ll need to purchase an entry ticket, which includes a boat ride between the upper and lower falls. The park is teeming with wildlife – more than 140 species of birds have been recorded here and, though they’re rarely seen, it’s also home to lynx, brown bear, and wolves.