10 Stunning and Totally Secret Places that You NEED to Add to Your Eastern Europe Travel Itinerary
Why haven’t I created an Eastern Europe travel itinerary for when I finally decide to travel Eastern Europe?
I am so far behind the eight ball on this travel Eastern Europe trend that it is pretty ridiculous. Ask me about some of the best cities to visit in Eastern Europe and I wouldn’t have a clue.
Here you are trying to plan some epic Eastern Europe travel itineraries, with some regional hidden gems, and I’m over here like, “What counties even qualify as Eastern Europe on an Eastern Europe map?
My geography is THAT bad. But I’m American, what do you expect. Kidding, I’m working on it.
You’ll be relieved to know that I am outsourcing this post to some badass, travel ladies who are actually authorities.on Eastern Europe travel (they serve as my unofficial Eastern Europe travel guide).
And It Gets Better:
Not only will they some magical Eastern Europe travel destinations, but these locations are all secret! Come to think of it, you should really add Belarus to your Eastern Europe itinerary too. It’s an amazing place and there are just so many exciting things to do in Belarus!
But I Digress. Anyway:
Not only will you have a blast but you won’t have to battle a selfie stick-wielding teenager for the last seat on an eighteen-hour-long train ride.
Because I flipping hate crowds and dealing with droves of tourists who are just as annoying as I am. LoL.
Time is money so let’s move onwards and upwards to this EPIC list of hidden gems for your Eastern European travels.
1. Remete Cave, Hungary
By: Krix Enikő of Travel Hacker Girl (Check her out on Instagram)
Since I was a child, I always went hiking in Hungary, with family and friends. One of my favorite hikes was to a local, hidden gem known as Remete Cave.
Not only does this hike offer great views all along the Danube River bend, but this cave and hike are easily accessible to visitors by public transportation.
But How do You Get There?
From Budapest, just take the train from Nyugati Station to Zebegény, a train ride that will last about an hour.
You can embark on an 8 km hike that will reward you with gorgeous views of the surrounding mountains and the exquisite Danube River.
But It Gets Better:
Not only does this cave provide you with shelter from the sun and rain, but it is a perfect place to sit and cook some food over a glowing, open campfire.
Remember to put out your fire before you leave.
The Best Part?
Because many people don’t know about this cave, you can find some peace and quiet as you explore the area’s many gorgeous hiking trails.
One More Thing:
Make sure to get a map before you start the hike so that you can explore more beautiful places before you leave. I promise, you won’t regret it!
2. Plovdiv, Bulgaria
By: Melanie Schaffer of BRB Travel Blog (Check her out on Facebook)
When traveling in Eastern Europe, Bulgaria is often totally overlooked since many people travel to it’s southern neighbor, Greece, instead.
This stunning country has so many unique historic sights and mesmerizing natural wonders that visitors can explore and even fall in love with (This country NEEDS to be on your Eastern Europe tours list).
Right in the middle of the country, you will find Plovdiv, a laid-back city that is home to Kapana, or “The Trap,” one of the coolest neighborhood in Bulgaria.
What Makes This Place So Special That You Need to Add it To Any East Europe Trip?
Well, this neighborhood has a young, hip vibe that is accentuated by a series of wine bars, craft beer halls, coffee shops and artsy stores that line the streets.
Throw in some streamers and some magnificent street art, and there is no way that this neighborhood won’t seduce you.
What’s With the Name Though?
This neighborhood is actually named for the labyrinth-like streets that completely intermingle with one another.
But Don’t Forget:
You must visit the city’s Old Town, an area with picturesque cobblestone streets, colorful houses, and quaint buildings that are adorned with wooden shutters that date all the way back to the 19th century..
Wait, There’s More!
At the end of Old Town, you’ll also find a beautiful, ancient Roman theatre known as the Philippopolis.
This theater overlooks the mountains in the area and still functions as an open-air theatre and music hall.
One More Thing!
The area surrounding the city has tons of vineyards, mountains and even an abandoned communist monument (shaped like a UFO) that you can explore.
3. Vis Island, Croatia
By: Shweta Singhal of Zest in a Tote (Check her out on Facebook)
With a coastline that is over 2000 km long, and that consists of over 1000 islands, you have so many amazing vacation spots to choose from in Croatia (This makes me want to impulsively.book some Eastern Europe travel packages).
We wanted to visit a more offbeat, Croatian vacation destination to get an authentic feel for the country during our two-week trip there.
Vis is an island in Croatia that is the actually known for being the furthest inhabited island, from the coast.
It was the perfect, offbeat Eastern Europe destination for us and for anyone wondering where to go in Croatia.
Why does this Island have a Rustic Feel?
Well, from 1950 through 1989, the island actually served as a military base for the Yugoslav National Army.
The Island was off limits to foreign visitors; a fact that has helped preserve the island’s rural feel.
Because it’s Out of the Way:
Vis cannot be reached directly from either Split or Dubrovnik by ferry. That’s why you should carefully check the ferry times and routes before you leave for your East Europe trip.
Once You’re There:
You can stay at either Komiza village or Vis town.
Looking to Relax?
Then spend a few days reading, exploring the island’s many pristine beaches, snorkeling in the crystal clear waters, or eating at some of the amazing local restaurants.
For the more Active Traveler:
You can cycle around the island end explore some of the only remaining nuclear bunkers in the entire world!
Don’t forget to book a Military Tour and explore some of the historic relics, built during the reign of Tito in former Yugoslavia, that can still be found throughout the island, to this very day.
Even the major cities in Croatia are relatively inexpensive. I mean, check out what you can get for $10 in Zagreb!
4. Rose Valley, Bulgaria
By: Maria of 203 Challenges (Check her out on Facebook)
Did You Know That:
One of the symbols of the small, Balkan state of Bulgaria is the oil-bearing rose, Rosa Damascena.
Now Believe it or Not:
The scent of this iconic flower will actually waft through the air between the end of May and the end of June, every year (So add this to your Eastern Europe travel itineraries).
One of the best places to experience this natural phenomenon is Rose Valley, Bulgaria, a region that is less than three-hours drive from the country’s capital, Sofia.
The Rose Valley actually hosts an annual Rose Festival that includes flower parades, rose-picking rituals, cultural tours, rose delicacy tastings, and so much more.
If there are no special events when you visit, all you have to do is stop at the town of Kazanlak and visit the Rose Museum there.
Visit the rose distillery to learn more about rose oil and even taste some delectable, rose petal jam.
5. Hydra, Greece
Hydra is one of the most beautiful islands that you can visit in Greece.
Well, not only is this island a short, hour an a half ferry ride from Athens, but it has a rich beauty that even captivated an artistic genius like Picasso.
This is a car-free island but not to worry because everything is within walking distance. Therefore, you can take long walks in the city of Hydra and explore the vibrant colors of the local architecture.
Need More To Do?
Meander over to Kiafa and take in the stunning views of the old windmills of Agios Athanasios.
You Can Even:
Visit a historic pharmacy that has remained in use and unchanged since 1890.
But There’s More!
You can even take in some local exhibits at the “Red House” or throw on your bathing suit and swim in the crystal clear waters of stunning places like Spilia.
Before You Leave Though:
Don’t forget to dine at the Sunset restaurant, famous on Hydra for its fantastic Greek cuisine.
6. Sinaia, Romania
Sinaia, Romania is one of those small towns that most people outside of Romania have never heard of.
This quaint place is a true delight for any traveler who decides to visit. Home to Peles Castle, which looks exactly like the lovechild of a castle and a cupcake,
Sinaia also offers stunning views of the Bucegi Mountains and exquisite hiking trails that will please any outdoor enthusiast.
However, It Gets Better!
There is even a small train that chugs up the surrounding mountains, home to an Orthodox monastery with gorgeous mosaics. Just don’t forget to cover your shoulders as a sign of respect.
Make Sure You:
Spend at least two nights in Sinaia so that you have enough time to enjoy everything that this gorgeous town has to offer, including the local cuisine. There are Romanian snacks like covrigi (pretzel-like things) to savor, as well as local restaurants that create fusion, Romanian and Alpine cuisine.
Don’t Forget To:
Try and dine, one evening, at a makeshift chalet that offers glorious views of the stars that shine above the surrounding Romanian mountains.
7. Pirin, Bulgaria
By: Jill of Jack and Jill Travel the World (Check them out on Twitter)
You Know What?
I consider Bulgaria itself to be a hidden gem in Europe, But Pirin national park in Bulgaria is even more so since I didn’t expect Bulgaria to have such forbidding and incredible mountain ranges.
Goes To Show How Much I Know!
But Pirin itself is one of Bulgaria’s three national parks., which can be accessed through Bansko, the town closest to the park.
There are plenty of hiking trails to explore, like the trail that traverses the Koncheto ridge between the Vihren and Kutelo Peaks.
Sure, There Is A Cable to Guide You:
But you can still expect some hair-raising moments since there are steep drop-offs on both sides of the ridge.
At one particularly narrow part of the ridge, I literally had to scoot down the trail on my butt.
This trail is recommended for sure-footed adventurous hikers only.
8.Wieliczka Salt Mines, Poland
By: Kris of Nomad by Trade (Check her out on Instagram)
Let’s Be Real:
Poland, in general, is a criminally underrated destination, and Krakow is no exception.
Just outside of this town, visitors can tour a stunning, UNESCO World Heritage Site that is known as the Wieliczka Salt Mines.
Believe It or Not:
Salt was mined here for centuries, and active mining only stopped in 2007.
What makes Wieliczka truly unique are the stunning salt sculptures that have been created by miners throughout the centuries.
These sculptures are carved from the mine walls and commemorate Polish history, as well as famous dignitaries who have visited the mines.
It Gets Even Better!
The true highlight of any underground tour is a visit to St. Kinga’s chapel, a chapel carved entirely out of the rock salt, complete with salt crystal chandeliers.Once the tour is over, you can even grab a snack from the underground restaurant or relax at the underground salt spa.
One More Thing!
For more adventurous travelers, there is a miner’s tour that is a bit longer and that takes you through some rougher, less touristy sections of the mine.
9. Agistri, Greece
My favorite hidden gem is Europe is the tiny Greek island of Agistri.
Only an hour from Athens, Agistri is a convenient, weekend getaway for locals (particularly nature-lovers, naturists, and hippies) but relatively unknown to most foreigners, who tend to travel to some of the more famous Cycladic islands.
And Athenians are happy to keep it that way (that’s why this is one of the many great Eastern Europe travel tips!
The neighboring island of Hydra is a more popular island destination since it has pretty, car-free streets, and is home to the Temple of Aphaia,
Agistri doesn’t have much in the way of sights and it’s all the better for it.
You can’t beat it for sheer simplicity and relaxation; a true gem that is a world away from the noise and chaos of Athens.
It’s incredibly green and pretty, with cheap and frequent ferries to Agistri from Athens.
All You Have to Do Is:
Crack open a beer, make some new friends, walk amongst the pine forests, take a dip in the sea (just watch out for nudists who are gliding past on kayaks, with their crown jewels at eye level), fall asleep under the stars and return to Athens feeling more refreshed and replenished.
10. Eger, Hungary
By: Cristina Puscas of LookNWalk (Check her out on Instagram)
If you love wine, fancy castles, and don’t mind visiting a tiny town (50,000 inhabitants), then Eger is for you.
One Word of advice:
Make sure to bring your “talking with your hand’s skills” as English is not exactly spoken everywhere.
But I can assure you:
Eger is a charming place where you can visit some charming, Medieval castles; the many fascinating exhibits kept us busy for over half a day.
Embark on the “Town under the Town” tour, in which you visit the many cellars under the local Basilica. Armed with an English booklet, I managed to follow the guide’s explanations in Hungarian. Hubby got the jokes (those weren’t in the booklet sigh).
Wait, I mentioned wine, didn’t I?
Well, you’re in luck because Eger is famous for its reds. But if wine tasting isn’t your thing, you can always enjoy a glass of wine with your dinner.
If you are not claustrophobic then you can climb the Minaret.
Then visit the Firefighters Museum, especially if you are a kid at heart.
Some Major Hidden Gems You can Add to Your Eastern Europe Itinerary
I’ll be the first one to admit it, this list is in no way exhaustive!
There are s ton of amazing locations that will give you some great, Eastern Europe trip ideas, but this region is HUGE.
I Know, This Isn’t Shocking News:
But don’t freak out if you’re planning a summer in Eastern Europe and your favorite Eastern Europe destination is not on this list.
I try to be all cool and helpful…
But one girl can only do so much. So while this list does have some great Eastern Europe travel tips, I can’t include anything and everything because then you’d literally die of boredom, drool smeared all over your keyboard.
These are some of the best places to find beautiful locations with a lot fewer people.
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