Forget navigating your way through the bustling, overheated streets of Barcelona, lining up for hours just to visit the Mona Lisa at The Louvre in Paris or paying 10 Euros too much for a coffee in Rome. Venture beyond the tourist traps and explore some of Europe’s lesser known more intriguing cities. We share with you five emerging European cities well worth a visit on your next European getaway.
1. Lviv, Ukraine
Known for its cozy coffee houses, magnificent churches and stunning architecture, Lviv is one of the main cultural hubs of Ukraine. This UNESCO-listed city is the seventh-largest city in the country, with a population of around 1.5 million. Lviv is the country’s least Soviet influenced town and exudes the same authentic Central European charm as pre-tourism Krakow or Prague once did. Visit Lviv’s quaint cobble streets, take in the cities extraordinary architecture, check out Lviv’s 50 museums, partake in the many festivals held annually and be swept away by this mysterious and extraordinary European city!
2. Sighnaghi, Georgia
Sighnaghi is a colourful hilltop discovery located 60km southeast of Telavi. This charming European city is full of 18th-19th century architecture and was originally developed partly as a refuge for the area’s populace against Persian and Lezgin attacks. Nowadays, Sighnaghi is an up and coming European destination bursting with attractions from its picturesque landscapes, narrow cobblestone streets, pastel coloured houses and incredible views overlooking the vast Alazani valley, with the Caucasus Mountains visible in the distance. Sighnaghi is also at the heart of Georgia’s wine growing regions – just another reason to visit this gem of a town!
3. Gabala, Azerbaijan
Gabala, also known as Qabala, is a beautiful city located in Azerbaijan and it is the capital of the Qabala Rayon. Gabala is so rich in ancient history, with this municipality consisting of the city of Gambala and the village of Kusnat. Before 1991, the city was known as Kutkashen, but after Azerbaijan’s independence the town was renamed in honour of the much older city of Gabala, the former capital of Caucasian Albania. Be swept away with Gabala’s mountainous landscapes and natural beauty, whilst visiting sites such as the Historical Museum of Gabala which house many historic artefacts from the area and visit the renowned ruins of the ancient walled city, Chukhur Gabala. If you enjoy history and culture, Gabala is definitely the European city for you!
4. Viscri, Romania
Beyond the tourist radar, Viscri is a small Romanian village that was founded a millennium ago by the first Saxon settlers arriving from the area of Luxembourg. It is tucked away under the Transylvanian forests and sheltered from the busy roads, preserving its medieval charm. This is a place that once attracted royalty – the Prince of Wales. Charmed by the beauty of the area and by the simplicity of its life, he bought a house here and refurbished it, preserving its traditional style. Experience a horse drawn carriage, visit the fortified church and get lost whilst wandering through Viscri’s beautiful Saxon village.
5. Yerevan, Armenia
Yerevan is certainly a city of contradictions – chic European-style wine bars sit next to old-fashioned tea houses and top of the range Mercedes share the roads with Ladas so dated they should be in museum collections. One of the world’s oldest continuously inhabited cities situated along Hrazdan River, Yerevan is the cultural, industrial and administrative centre of Armenia. In summer locals enjoy taking to the streets every night with song, dance and laughter whilst in winter freezing temperatures encourage people into the many pandoks (taverns) around town, where, oghee (fruit vodka), khoravats (barbecue meats) and traditional music are enjoyed. Yerevan is also known for its tree lined boulevards, many outdoor cafes and locals congregating around the much-loved musical fountain in Republic Square!
Want to make these experiences yours? Check out our range of Europe small group tours!
This category of tours involves light trekking, walking, cycling, rafting or kayaking for a few hours each day with a small amount of inclines and declines. You will require a reasonable level of fitness and good health to participate. It is important to note that due to the nature of some of our trips, they may take place in remote areas (with basic facilities) and can involve long travelling days on various modes of transport.
Suggested preparation : At least 3 months prior to departure, it is recommended that you undertake aerobic exercise (this may include jogging, cycling or fast walking) for 30 minutes, three times a week. It is also advised to walk on variable terrain and in variable weather conditions. For a cycling adventure, road cycling twice a week is recommended and for adventures which involve paddling and kayaking, it is important to gain confidence and rhythm rather than speed prior to departure.
This category of tours involve trekking, kayaking and cycling for period of 6 to 8 hours a day at a fairly consistent pace. Ideal for people looking to slightly increase the heart rate. For our moderately rated tours, you must have a good level of fitness and also be in good health. It is also important to be prepared for variable weather conditions. Altitude may also come into play. This category of tours may involve visiting remote areas where facilities can be quite basic. Accommodation may also involve camping, homestays or basic accommodation where facilities may not be considered of western standards. To enjoy this style of travel, it is suggested for travellers to have a reasonable level of fitness and health, a positive attitude, as well as a fairly active lifestyle. An open mind is also required.
Suggested preparation: At least 3 months prior to departure, it is recommended that you undertake 45mins – 1 hour of aerobic exercise, three to four times a week. Some potential exercises that could be beneficial include hill walking with a backpack on over variable terrain and weather conditions, as well as running and cycling dependent on the activity you plan on undertaking.
This category of tours involves trekking, kayaking, cycling or other adventure activities in remote areas for up to 8 to 10 hours a day. It is important to note that with the remoteness of some regions comes a variety of other challenges such as variable weather conditions, accommodation as well as facilities. You must have an excellent level of fitness and good health to be able to partake in this category of tour. You must have confidence in your own ability and be in good physical condition. Includes extended periods of endurance.
Suggested preparation: At least 3 to 4 months of strenuous exercise, four times a week. When preparing for treks it would be beneficial to participate in hill walks with a weighted day pack (approximately 5-8 kg) once a week for aerobic fitness and strengthening of leg muscles. It is also important to do this on variable terrain to prepare for challenging adventures. When preparing for cycling adventures, regular bike riding (at least 4 to 5 times a week for 1-4 hours is essential). It is also important to cycle on uneven surfaces or even participate in other aerobic exercises such as running or swimming to build up strength and stamina. Altitude may also be a factor in these tours.
This category of tour often involves extreme trekking, cycling or other extreme adventure activities. It is important to expect remote and poorly defined tracks and to be prepared for variable weather conditions for 10 to 12 hours per day (may sometimes be more depending on weather and altitude). These adventures are suitable for travellers who have prior experience in strenuous travel and activities, are extremely fit and have excellent health. It is also important to note that some of the terrain on these adventures will involve trekking in snow, at high attitude levels and may require technical equipment.
Suggested preparation: It is important to note that physical fitness should be an ongoing activity, commencing around 5-6 months prior to departure, or even before if you have no prior fitness. Exercise should focus on building maximum endurance and stamina. Four to five hard sessions of 40-60 mins per week should be completed and can include exercises such as going to the gym, running, swimming or cycling to focus on building aerobic stamina. It could also be beneficial to prepare by hiking on rough terrain, in extreme weather conditions or partake in altitude training.