Pack your bags, because chances are you’re about to be hit with an unstoppable wave of wanderlust. The experts at Lonely Planet have used their own brand of travel witchery to pull together the 10 best under-the-radar destinations in Europe for 2018.
This year’s list takes direct aim at the problem of overtourism, or mass tourism, which devastates locals in communities like Reykjavik, Iceland and Florence, Italy. Some cities are even considering visitor caps per day to curb the problem.
Topping Lonely Planet’s 2018 list for underrated European destinations is the Emilia-Romagna region in Italy, which is often overlooked in favor of more popular regions like Tuscany, Campania and The Veneto.
This is Lonely Planet’s sixth iteration of the wanderlust-inspiring list, which rounds up Europe’s hottest up-and-coming countries, regions and cities. This year’s list is meant to inspire travelers to visit lesser-known gems across the continent while encouraging more responsible tourism, according to Tom Hall, Lonely Planet’s editorial director.
“There is growing concern over the increase in tourism to popular European destinations, particularly over the busy summer months, so with this list we wanted to show that there are a wealth of incredible alternatives to discover across Europe,” Hall said. “Our expert writers cross the continent and have uncovered some of Europe’s most outstanding, underrated and overlooked places that are well worth planning a trip around.”
Whether you’re looking for a lesser-known equivalent of Tuscany’s vineyards, or want to spend some one-on-one time with the great outdoors, there’s something on Lonely Planet’s list for everyone.
Check out the top 10 destinations below:
might be the best destination on this list for foodies. The region includes Bologna (the birthplace of ragu
), as well as Parma, the home of prosciutto di Parma.
Parmesan cheese was also created in the region. Learn more about Emilia-Romagna
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is a region on Spain's northern coast. It's an unexpectedly wild landscape of mountains, sandy beaches and tiny villages like Santillana del Mar and Comillas. It's also not far from Spain’s oldest national park, Picos de Europa, which is celebrating its centennial this summer. Learn more about Cantabria
Friesland, the Netherlands
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Most people head straight to Amsterdam when visiting the Netherlands, but the province of Friesland
is an up-and-coming travel destination worth your time. The region's capital, Leeuwarden, is a small city with thriving cafes, shopping and canals lined with historic houses. It's also the European Capital of Culture in 2018, so the city is going all out with a program of installations, festivals and events. Learn more about Friesland
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, wedged between two mountain ranges in the Balkans, has somehow stayed under the radar for tourists. It's the world's second-newest nation and also boasts Europe's youngest median population. Each summer there's the Dokufest film fest in Prizren, which draws international film buffs. For the more outdoorsy folks, there's plenty of hiking around the country's peak-laden landscape. Learn more about Kosovo
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Romantics will love the lavender fields and olive groves of Provence
. You can unwind in a charming town with hidden coves and explore the region's hip Aix-en-Provence and busy Marseille, full of bars, restaurants and a lively art scene. Learn more about Provence
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, Scotland, is a city with an eye on the future. The upcoming opening of Scotland's first design museum, the V&A, will showcase 300 years of innovation, and redevelop the town's historic waterfront. The angular concrete structure draws inspiration from Scottish cliff sides, and will fuel a creative scene that they hope attracts some of the UK’s most visionary talent. Learn more about Dundee
Small Cyclades, Greece
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The Small Cyclades
are scattered in the Aegean Sea between Naxos and Amorgos. For travelers who want a taste of what life was like in Greece decades ago, the islands of Iraklia, Schinousa and Donousa are must-visits. They're known for their one-taverna
beaches, slow lifestyle and sense of timelessness. Koufonisia, a growing destination among tourists, has gorgeous beaches and pristine main street lines with restaurants and cafes. Learn more about the Small Cyclades
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, the capital of Lithuania, has a fascinating history that's almost tangible as you explore the city. From its Baroque Old Town to memories of a WWII-era Jewish ghetto, it's a city that's begging to be seen. A regenerated artists' neighbourhood, Užupis, fuels a youthful energy around the city, and there's even a flourishing craft beer scene worth exploring.Learn more about Vilnius
Vipava Valley, Slovenia
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The Vipava Valley
, with its terracotta hamlets and gothic spires, looks like something straight out of Tuscany, but this picturesque setting is located along Slovenia southwestern border. The valley is best explored by bike, where locals lead cycling tours to wineries for tastings and talks with the winemakers.Learn more about Vipava Valley
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is a great travel hub, as it sits between the Adriatic Coast and the Albanian Alps, though the city itself gives you plenty of reasons to hang out and stay awhile. Its drab buildings were recently painted in primary colors, a sign of the town's rejuvenation, and more and more residents are trading in their cars for bikes. Learn more about Tirana
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