Explore these underrated cities

Explore these underrated cities

by Stacy Roman
Stripes Europe

Europe is home to some amazing sights and landmarks. The lovely canals of Venice, the elegance of Big Ben and Buckingham Palace in London, the glamorous Eiffel Tower in Paris – the list goes on and on. You’ve probably got a few of these postcard-worthy spots on your bucket list. Bad news. So does almost everyone planning their European vacation itineraries. If quiet pristine beaches or snow-capped jagged peaks sound appealing, skip the crowds and discover these three underrated destinations.

San Sebastián, Spain
The sun-soaked Spanish shores aren’t just relegated to the Mediterranean. Tucked away on the northern coast just 20 kilometers from the French border is San Sebastián. The bustling metropolis is proud of its Basque culture – a unique blend of French and Spanish influences defining the region. Take a food tour and taste the delicious, innovative cuisine and gastronomy the city is famous for. Surrounded by sea and mountains, the big city feels more like a small town. During the winter, while ocean swells from the Bay of Biscay pound the shoreline, citizens celebrate their local heritage with festivals. In the summer, hiking trails provide amazing vistas of the mountains and coastline.

The beautiful Navagio beach in Zakynthos.

Zakynthos, Greece
The white-washed buildings precariously perched along the hillsides above sapphire blue water are images often associated with Greece. With Santorini and Mykonos capping their daily visitor numbers due to overcrowding, head to Zakynthos instead. This quiet island is just as beautiful and considerably less touristy. A mere 12 kilometers from the Greek mainland in the Ionian Sea, this island paradise has plenty of unspoiled beaches and activities for everyone. Hike along the coast or take a boat tour to the infamous Shipwreck (Navagio) Beach. Snorkel in crystal clear waters and catch a glimpse of the loggerhead turtles who call the island home. Or just relax, enjoy tasty mezze while sipping ouzo and watching the brilliant colors of the sunset.

A cozy wooden chalet in Bansko.

Bansko, Bulgaria
If you’re looking for something more rugged and less beachy, check out the charming alpine village of Bansko, Bulgaria. This up-and-coming ski resort area is situated within Pirin National Park in southwest Bulgaria, and is definitely out of the way. Approximately a two-hour drive south of the capital, this breathtaking region has been developing since the fall of the Iron Curtain almost three decades ago. In the winter, ski lifts and plentiful pistes abound. World-class skiing competitions are often held, and rival some of the more expensive resorts in France and Switzerland. Summertime offers beautiful hiking trails along the lakes and through the piney woods. Need a good soak after a long day of activity? Check out the thermal springs in nearby Banya.  

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