Take a page from our friends across the pond and set off for a vacation in one of these destinations. These four places are frequented by European vacationers and will make you feel like you’re in the know.
Costa Brava, Spain
The rocky coast of Spain north of Barcelona is a long-loved destination for Spanish and French travelers. Spend hours swimming off the rocky beaches and snorkeling in quiet inlets. For art lovers, walk the streets of Cadaques that influenced the surrealist Salvador Dali. Eat freshly caught fish paired with crisp Spanish white wines. You’ll find yourself immersed in a European lifestyle and surprised to hear any American accents within earshot.
The Balkan states, which make up the former Yugoslavia, are bursting with natural beauty. Slovenia’s capital, Ljubljana, embodies medieval charm with cobblestones, bridges and a castle perched on a mountain in the middle of the town. Enjoy the unique and refreshing Slovenian wine and beer, which is sought after by epicureans and hard to find outside the country. Don’t miss Lake Bled, a scene from a fairy tale in the Julian Alps. Go for a bike ride around the lake or sign up for an afternoon canyoning in the cool mountain springs
Montenegro is growing in popularity for European travelers since it became a sovereign nation in 2006. In Kotor, hike up to San Giovanni Castle to take in the view of one of Europe’s southernmost fjords. Along the Adriatic coast, kayak around small islands, go cliff jumping and soak up the sun in Budva.
If Italy is calling you, head to lesser-known Puglia. Located on the heel of the boot, Puglia is highlighted by its whitewashed villages, bright coastlines on the Adriatic and Ionian seas, and Baroque architecture. The languid pace will be a refreshing break from crowds in Rome and Tuscany. Dine on orecchiette, a small pasta with origins in Puglia, and fresh cheeses like burrata. With an abundance of heat and sunshine, local grapes create bold flavors in wines like primitivo, similar to a juicy red zinfandel. Visit in the summer months and join vacationing Italians at food and street festivals. In the off-season, the countryside is dotted with bountiful olive groves and vineyards, many of which offer tastings.
With its exotic scenery and affordable lifestyle, European backpackers travel in droves to Southeast Asia anytime of year. Vietnam is an especially popular destination with its beaches and miles of jungle roads, best explored by motorcycle. With several popular destinations to choose from, you’ll be sure to have a memorable trip bursting with local culture and flavor. Hoi An is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and remained largely untouched during the Vietnam War. As a former trading post, you can see a blend of influences in French colonial houses, Chinese temples and Japanese pagodas. After a leisurely stroll through town, bike to Cua Dai beach for sunset. Be sure to immerse yourself in the street food culture when traveling in Vietnam and experience dishes packed with bright flavors that have been perfected over decades of tradition, like steamed buns with quail egg in savory pho.
Use Hanoi as a home base to plan your trip to HaLong Bay — an otherworldly site of thousands limestone islets bursting out of the calm water. Plan to spend at least one night on a cruise — with dozens of options to choose from ranging from luxury to party boat. Swim off the boat, make new friends, see traditional fishing villages and ogle at the scenery.
For a quieter corner of Southeast Asia, head inland to Laos with its lush jungles and adventures along the Mekong River. Luang Prabang, another UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a captivating oasis in the Mekong Delta. Wake at sunrise and quietly observe the monks in their daily alms giving ritual that dates back centuries. Buy wares at the night market, visit countless temples and hike up Mt. Phousi at sunset. Luang Prabang also serves as an excellent home base for trekking, kayaking and visits to elephant sanctuaries.