Southern Europe, splayed across the Mediterranean and Adriatic coastline, has a warm and sunny climate, but it is the history that draws the visitors.
Here lie the remains of ancient Roman and Greek playgrounds and temples to their gods. Here ancient Cathedrals and monasteries display artworks of breath-taking beauty. Here a city centre is built in an ancient Roman palace. Here vast coastlines still bear towns and villages built by the Venetians. Here ancient Roman forts cling to cliffsides and Moorish Mosques and Crusader palaces display their opulent splendor.
Along the coastline find snow white beaches, hundreds of islands and a world of water sports. In the interior, mountains, olive groves and vineyards beckon.
Countries in Southern Europe
Emerging from a restrictive Communist regime, Albania has remained relatively obscure, and is one of the least developed countries in Europe. It is also one of the least expensive.
Albania’s unspoiled beaches rival any of those on the Mediterranean. With more than four hundred kilometer of coastline on the Ionian and Adriatic Seas, this small country is also home to the Albanian Alps with peaks of more than two thousand seven hundred meters.
In some places the mountains fall steeply into the blue crystal clear water of the sea below. The country is full of lakes and torrential rivers, where water falls down deep gorges crashing onto the rocks below.
This is a country with a rich cultural and historical background. Just 70 km across the sea from Italy, ancient Roman ruins scatter the landscape.
Dating back to the 7th century BC the well-preserved ruins of a city boast elegant buildings, columns and mosaics. Byzantine architecture shares the hillsides with charming Ottoman villages.
Located in the Pyrenees Mountains between France and Spain, Andorra is a tiny principality of less than five hundred square kilometres. It’s capital Andorra La Vella is the highest capital city in Europe.
Andorra is a land of rugged mountain landscapes interspersed with icy mountain springs. The mountains, which once isolated the country, now attract more than ten million people to its ski slopes every year.
The ski slopes are some of the best in the world and during the summer months, the mountain trails are spectacular. The high altitudes and low humidity of the mountains also attract competitive cyclists to the near perfect training conditions.
Andorra is a tax-free haven and shoppers flock to the huge modern shopping centers to take advantage of savings on luxury goods.
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Twenty years after suffering the deprivations of war Bosnia and Herzegovina is now at peace. The scars of the war are still visible on many of the buildings but the people have started rebuilding.
Located on the Baltic peninsula the architecture and culture has been influenced by both their Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian conquerors of the past and this influence is visible in the many medieval villages.
Bosnia and Herzegovina boasts some impressive natural beauty. The mountains are bursting with clear and sparkling streams where the water is good to drink. Boating on the many waterways and lakes is very popular, as is white water rafting.
Hiking, horse riding or cycling on the mountain trails offers the visitor peaceful and scenic mountain vistas and quaint old villages to visit. The mountainous countryside is also home to inexpensive ski resorts.
With one thousand seven hundred kilometers of beautiful coastline and more than one thousand one hundred islands, Croatia on the East Bank of the sparkling Adriatic Sea has for years attracted those who love water sports and long days in the sun, but it also offers so much more.
With a history that goes back to ancient Rome, the architecture and ancient structures reflect the influence of the many people that called her shores their home. The towns and cities boast some of the best-preserved Roman structures in the world, as well as Venetian towers, bridges and homes, Byzantine mosaics, ancient walled cities, churches and monasteries.
The National Parks are a wonder of interconnected lakes and waterfalls.
Sharing a boundary with Spain Gibraltar, at the southern tip of the Iberian Peninsula is a British colony. Gibraltar’s culture and cuisine has been influenced by both Spain and Britain.
A cable car trip to the top of the Rock of Gibraltar offers visitors a scenic panorama of the sparkling waters surrounding the island, with views of Spain and on a clear day the North African coast.
The sea around Gibraltar is a breeding area for a number of dolphin species so dolphin watching is a popular pastime. The white beaches and warm water of the island make this a popular beach destination.
Other areas of interest are the tunnels inside the Rock that provided shelter to British forces during the Second World War and St Michael’s Cave, which is filled with stalagmites and stalactites.
Greece considered the birthplace of Western civilisation, has the largest number of archaeological sites in the world. Here you will find temples to ancient gods like Poseidon and Athena, You can visit Crete, the four thousand years old the birthplace of Zeus.
The museums are home to the greatest collection of ancient artefacts anywhere in the world, and the country s full of archaic masterpieces such as the Acropolis, and the ruins of Delphi and Corinth.
Not only is Greece home to ancient wonders, it oozes natural beauty too. There are more than two thousand islands surrounding Greece, with enchanting little harbours mooring yachts and colorful fishing boats.
Tourists kayak, parasail and dive in the warm and inviting Aegean or Ionian Seas. White washed houses in the clean and organised towns flank the sun bleached white beaches.
Following the financial crisis, Greece has become an inexpensive place to spend a well-earned holiday.
Italy is one of the most sought out destinations in the world. It is a treasure trove of historical sights, of artworks, ruins and some of the best architecture anywhere on the planet.
The landscape from the Italian Alps to the vineyards of Tuscany, and to the beautiful villages perching on the edges of the great lakes is as alluring as any in the world.
Gaze in awe at the masterpieces crafted by Michelangelo and experience the splendor and romance of Venice. Enjoy real Italian food and tasteful local wines at the many appealing restaurants in the cobbled Roman streets.
Visit Pompeii, a city caught in a moment in time, many hundreds of years ago. Ski in the Alps or relax on the miles of sandy beaches. Take a hike through the vineyards and mountains, and enjoy the remains of the Ancient Roman Empire.
Independent since 2008, Kosovo is Europe’s youngest democracy. Situated in the Balkans, landlocked Kosovo’s interior consists of a fertile plain surrounded by soaring mountains, with fifty peaks that exceed two thousand meters.
The many lovely waterfalls, burbling streams and tranquil lakes against the background of steep and rugged mountain slopes make this is a great hiking destination.
The capital Pristina is full of lively coffee shops, bars, cafes and modern restaurants. Janjeva, a picturesque twelfth-century town, is situated close by. Explore the lovely old town in the riverside city of Prizren. It has cobbled streets and lovely stone bridges. Find Ottoman Mosques and Orthodox and Catholic Churches and visit the twelfth-century Monastery of the Patriarchate of Pec.
Kosovo is one of the least expensive destinations in Europe. Public transport is good, the crime rate is low, and the locals are friendly and helpful.
Landlocked Macedonia, situated just above Greece has a history going back thousands of years, and the Byzantine, Roman and Ottoman remains bear constant witness to this history.
The domes and minarets of Mosques, the ruins of a tenth century monastery and picturesque towns with cobbled roads all share a space in this mountainous land.
Cycle or hike through the vineyards. Wine production in Macedonia goes back to the time of Alexander the Great, the king of Macedon, and creator of one of the largest civilizations in the ancient world.
Visit Lake Ohrid, this large and tranquil lake is framed by a mountainous backdrop, and surrounded by five hundred year old Ottoman houses, fortresses, monasteries and cathedrals.
Hike through the forested Mavrovo National Park, home to a rare species of lynx.
The yellow walls of the ancient cities of Malta rise dramatically out of the blue waters the Mediterranean Sea. Within these walls, ancient buildings adorned with stone balconies and palaces containing ancient armor hail back to the days of the Crusaders.
Malta’s ancient history goes back to the days of the Phoenicians and the Romans. The islands boast ancient temples that pre-date the Pyramids. The walled city of Valletta, the capital of Malta, is known as the City of Palaces.
It is one of the first European cities to be planned before construction commenced. Medieval palaces and Cathedrals that boast colorful frescoes and beautifully illuminated ceilings, attest to its foregone glory. Its large natural harbor has been in use for three thousand years.
Also in Malta, the Hollywood built Popeye Village a colorful and comedic village of crooked wooden houses overlooks a pretty beach with sandstone cliffs topped with fields of daisies.
Montenegro on the Adriatic Sea has one of the loveliest coastlines in Europe. The pretty seashore is dotted with walled towns in the Venetian style.
The stone buildings in these towns are topped with terracotta tiles and surround cool cobbled streets and market squares.
Stonewalls and fortresses cling to rocky hillsides, whilst sheer cliffs topple into the shimmering waters of the Adriatic, and jagged mountains clothed in primeval forests give shelter to bears and wolves.
Horse ride, hike or cycle up mountain trails or white water raft down the Tara River, which runs through the deepest canyon in Europe.
Visit Stari-Bar to see a ruined Byzantine city surrounded by mountains and olive groves. The buildings dating back to the eleventh century, and growing beneath it the world’s oldest olive tree is said to be two thousand years old.
Portugal on the Iberian Peninsula is one of Europe’s oldest nations. Once one of the biggest sea faring nations of the world, the castles, palaces, cathedrals and monasteries bear testament to the great wealth that once was Portugal’s.
Cathedrals with magnificent stained glass windows, opulent palaces and castles with intricately carved details can be found all over the country. Eighth century stonewalls and castles atop hillsides attest to Moorish occupation and to the Crusades.
Idyllic little fishing villages are scattered up and down Portugal’s long coastline, small colorful boats go out daily to supply the fish loving, lively and gregarious people of the villages.
Everywhere the white washed houses and churches give Portugal an ambiance all of its own. The countryside boasts granite cliffs, waterfalls and lakes, vineyards and olive and cork forests, interspersed with medieval castles and gothic towers.
Situated in the centre of Italy, San Marino, covering just over sixty square kilometers of land is Europe’s third smallest country. Saint Marinus established this, the oldest constitutional republic in the world, in the third century as he sought to escape religious persecution.
Three stone towers built in the eleventh, twelfth and fourteenth centuries as defensive measures top Mount Titano, which dominates the countryside. The pretty chequered landscape below the peaks support farmlands.
The capital, the ancient city of San Marino, is dominated by Liberty Square, sporting its own Statue of Liberty, and flanked by the town hall. Here the ceremony of Changing of the Guards takes place several times a day.
Visit the museums of ancient curiosities and antique weapons. View the priceless art on display in the art museums. Partake in some tax-free shopping, or take a cable car up the mountain to appreciate the views and visit the towers.
Tourists have yet to discover that Serbia is home to one of the best ski destinations in Europe. The country is a nature lover’s paradise with mountains, crashing waterfalls, lakes, and the serene waters of the Danube River.
Hikers will find hot springs, geysers, an abundance of flora and fauna and one of the deepest river gorges in the world. Great white cliffs surround enormous waterways, wild horses graze in the green meadows and wetlands attract exotic birds and wildlife.
Charming historic buildings and wooden churches are scattered in this natural wonderland. Horse ride, skydive, ski, white water raft or canoe and discover the beauty of Serbia’s countryside.
Some of the oldest known human settlements are to be found in Serbia, which is also home to the oldest cities in Europe. Seventeen Roman emperors were born here and all built palaces in their place of birth.
Magnificent old churches, boasting floor to ceiling murals, Byzantine frescoes, paintings and other great artworks, bear witness to Serbia’s long history.
Almost half of Slovenia, a small country in Central Europe is forested. Great for skiing or hiking, the Julian Alps tower over tranquil farmlands and vineyards in the valleys below.
The turquoise waters of the Soca River, running through the mountains, owe their unusual color to the limestone deposits that float in it.
Forest fringed Lake Bled in the foothills of the mountain, is picture postcard pretty. Overlooked by snow capped mountains and an imposing castle, visitors float on charming wooden boats amongst the swans; destination the island in the centre of the lake to hike or visit the church that stands on it.
A Roman castle is perched on a hill overlooking the capital, Ljubljana, which straddles a river where inviting cafes and markets lend the town a year round holiday feel.
On the Adriatic coast Venetian houses flank Slovenia’s twenty-nine kilometers of shoreline.
One of the most visited countries in the world, Spain offers visitors sun-drenched beaches, great cuisine and fantastic nightlife. Spain has many unique regions, offering visitors great variety.
The art and architecture of Spain dates all the way back to the Roman Empire. Medieval buildings cluster around whitewashed squares and mosques, synagogues and cathedrals dating back hundreds of years boast richly gilded icons, stunning, intricate architecture and Byzantine mosaics. Moorish palaces are surrounded by landscaped gardens. Spain is also home to some of the best museums in Europe.
Find some of the most beautiful islands in Europe on the East coast of Spain. Visitors can water ski, kayak and swim in the sparkling waters of the Mediterranean.
The Pyrenees Mountains are great for hiking or cycling in summer and for skiing in winter. Quaint villages and chateaux are to be found all over the countryside.
The Vatican City is surrounded by Rome and is home to the Pope. Covering only half a square kilometer, it is the smallest state in the world, but it houses some of the world’s greatest artworks.
The Vatican is approached via Saint Peter’s Square, where the Pope says Mass on Sunday. The architecture and artwork in the Vatican is extraordinary. Gaze upon Rafael’s dazzling frescoes.
Take a leisurely morning walk through the museums that house classical sculptures, renaissance tapestries and paintings and Egyptian mummies. The ceiling of the Sistine Chapel is mesmerizing.
Michelangelo’s Pieta is awe-inspiring and the 187-meter St Peter’s Basilica is without comparison. Climb up into the Dome, which is considered Michelangelo’s greatest architectural work. From the top view the city of Rome beneath.