If you’re anything like us, you’ve been working a lot this winter. When it’s absolutely bucketing down and the storms are so regular you’re on a first name basis with them all, summer can seem like a lifetime away.
But it’s not, really. And it’ll sneak up on you before you know it. So why not indulge in a little travel-porn and start planning. We’ve found 12 of Europe’s most unbelievably beautiful sights, so stunning they’ll make you want to book your summer holidays right now…
Plitvice Lakes National Park is like Europe’s very own Eden. Sixteen staggeringly beautiful lakes spill into each other through a network of cascading waterfalls over limestone dams, surrounded by miles and miles of beautiful forested landscape. You’ll get there in under two hours from Rijeka or Zadar, and you’ll probably never want to leave.
Fuerteventura is a little bit quieter than the other Canaries, and Cofete beach is one of the most remote spots on the island. It’s a wide, wild, mysterious beach that’s difficult to get to – the drive there will take you along some steep and single-track roads – but when you’re walking along it, with the Jandia mountains in the horizon, you’ll realise it’s worth the journey.
Is this the prettiest swimming pool in Europe? Not only can you leap into the cobalt blue waters of the Mediterranean, but you’ll be jumping into a natural, sheltered swimming pool created by a sunken underwater cave.
There are so many beautiful places to see on the Azores that it’ll make your head spin, but one of the most gorgeous has to be Sete Cidades. The huge volcanic crater, three miles wide, contains two mirror-like lakes that are made for swimming and paddleboarding – but the really spectacular part is the view into the crater from the top of its edge.
The five fishing villages of the Cinque Terre are like something straight out of a fairy tale. Higgledy-piggledy colourful muddles of houses sit high atop terraced golden cliffs, punctuating a beautiful 6 mile stretch of the Northern Italian coast. It’s about as romantic as a place can get, and it comes complete with incredible Italian food… win.
Formentera is the smallest Balearic Island. The only way to get there is by boat from Ibiza, which means it doesn’t get the crowds that the rest of the Balearics do. It’s a proper little paradise, and the emphasis on environmental protection here means it’s likely to stay that way. Go here to swim in the clearest waters you’ve ever swam in, and witness sunsets that will take your breath away.
Part of the Cyclades Islands in Greece, Santorini is like a little heaven on earth. Oia village is one of the most famous places on the island, thanks to its clifftop location, the whitewashed, blue roofed houses that are built there, and the view down over the Aegian sea when the sun sets behind the horizon.
It’s a bit of a road trip from Oslo, but once you get to Odda on Norway’s west coast, you can embark on the hike of a lifetime. It takes between 10 and 12 hours, you’ll ascend around 900 metres, and your legs will hurt by the end of it – but the payoff is better than you can ever imagine. Go stand on the Troll’s Tongue overlooking lake Ringedalsvatnet, and prepare to have your mind blown.
Fly to Podgorica and make your way to Kotor, under two hour’s drive away. When you get there, go for a cruise around the bay of Kotor. You’ll feel like you’re in Lord of the Rings – massive imposing mountains surround you on every side as you cruise along water as smooth and clear as glass, and at night the town of Kotor lights up the mountainside and reflects in the water like starlight.
This is about as beautiful as the Alps get. Drive for less than two hours from Basel airport, and you’ll find yourself in Lauterbrunnen, a trough valley that’s made up of gargantuan sheer rock faces, jagged peaks, lush green alpine meadows, and over 70 huge thundering waterfalls. It’s like nowhere else on earth – just keep an eye out for the BASE jumpers!
The Cliffs of Moher are as terrifying as they are beautiful – ominously black and absolutely massive (they reach over 200 metres at some points), they dominate around 5 miles of County Clare’s rugged coastline. If you get them on a good day, it’s glorious. But even if you get them on a bad day – and let’s be fair, that can easily happen in the west of Ireland – you get to see them at their most intimidating. When the Atlantic is smashing at them angrily, the wind is howling, and the sky is dark, you’ll feel like you’re in Game of Thrones.
Do not adjust your screen, La Pelosa's powdery white sands and clear, turquoise water truly is that perfect. And yes - you read the title correctly too, this glorious beach is located in Sardinia (although it does make a pretty convincing dupe for the Caribbean). One of the westernmost beaches of Sardinia, La Pelosa is located around 2 kilometres from the harbour village of Stintino, in Capo Falcone, close to Alghero. It's a popular diving area, with two diving centres close by, offering excursions in the Capo Falcone area.
- Dee Murray