My Big European Summer Travel Goal

The focus of this blog is the journey rather than the destination, so for years I haven’t really had the goal of visiting a certain number of countries, or anything. And I still don’t, though I am making an effort to spend more time visiting new places (perhaps largely motivated by my effort to try more unusual airlines).

If I return to a favorite place a dozen times, I’m perfectly happy with that, because overall I’m still getting to visit a lot of new places. I’m sure the peanut gallery will be by shortly to tell me that I don’t really travel, that when I visit somewhere it shouldn’t count, etc… and that’s fine. šŸ˜‰

I’m not sure how realistic it is, but I’m starting to plot out a summer “road trip” of sorts. I say “road trip” because for once, a trip won’t involve flying 10,000 miles from destination to destination.

Rather I’d like to visit all the countries in Europe I haven’t yet visited, for a few days each. I feel like I’ve been in most major cities in Europe, though after looking at a list, I’ve realized just how many countries in Europe I haven’t yet visited.

I’m only counting a country as visited if I’ve actually spent any substantial amount of time there. In other words, just passing through an airport doesn’t count.

ukraine-international-business-class-737-32
I’m not counting my brief transit in Kiev as having visited the country

So, which countries in Europe have I not visited (I’m going off of this list)?

  • Albania
  • Andorra
  • Armenia
  • Belarus
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Bulgaria
  • Cyprus
  • Estonia
  • Georgia
  • Kosovo
  • Latvia
  • Liechtenstein
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • Macedonia
  • Moldova
  • Montenegro
  • Romania
  • San Marino
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • Ukraine

Okay, now that I actually look at the list, that’s a lot of freaking countries. 22 countries is more than I expected, so perhaps I’ll instead make my goal to visit half of those countries this summer, with maybe 3-4 days in each. I would also like to visit Greenland this summer, so need to save some time for that.

Part of the reason I’m writing this is because I find I tend to do a better job actually visiting places if I make the goal here.

WhileĀ 22 countries is a lot, I have to start somewhere!

For those of you who have visited any of the above 22 countries, should any be at the top of my list? Any cities in particular that are awesome?

Comments

  1. To go Georgia this summer. Tourism numbers have been growing very quickly, and I think its on the verge of becoming a new ‘it’ destination, so get in now. The two Rooms Hotels look awesome – friends have been and speaking really highly about the place.

    Riga is beautiful… *gorgeous*. And a summer visit is better than the winter, of course – its also easy enough to tick off Estonia and Lithuania at the same time.

    I thought Belarus may be more hassle than its worth – given visa requirements – but it looks like there is a brand new process that allows five days visa-free travel when flying in/out via Minsk National Airport: http://usa.mfa.gov.by/en/embassy/news/dbec02e99fa6c45b.html

    Enjoy!!

  2. Hi Lucky,

    Great idea and lots of fun. Being European, I would highly recommend that you spend time traveling between some of the countries by road / rail rather than air.

    Also remember that places like Andorra, Lichtenstein and San Marino are TINY and you won’t need 3-4 days in them; more like one night (if at all!)

    Good Luck!

  3. Within Bosnia, Mostar is pretty nice and small enough to see in a 1-2 days. You may have seen the Stari Most bridge advertised on some tourism sites… and while it might be “touristy” relative to other Bosnian towns the entire country gets very little tourism so you still feel off the beaten path. Its very accessible via Dubrovnik/Split (as is the Bay of Kotor in Montenegro).

  4. I would recommend visiting ex-Yugoslavian countries… they are close together, so not a lot of time lost by traveling… and you can have new worst lounge in the world… at Podgorica airport (Montenegro).

  5. I would say Slovenia, Georgia and Cyprus, followed by the Baltic states. If you end up going to Belarus, you need to fly there to qualify for visa free entry. September-October is the best time to go to Cyprus.

    James is right about smaller countries like San Marino. A day is more than enough. In fact I was there a couple of days ago and it was a perfect day trip from Bologna, Italy.

  6. Hey Ben you haven’t flown AC F yet (we can’t blame you, you are trying to fly many airlines šŸ™‚ ). How about LAX-PEK-MSQ (Minsk) with LAX-PEK in AC’s F? Belarus, Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia are very close to each other.

    You could also get to RIX with Uzbekistan’s 5th freedom flight from JFK šŸ˜‰

    Regards from Tallinn,
    Thomas

  7. It might make more sense to fly in between regions and then hire a car to drive between countries. Ex: begin in the Baltics and to Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and then fly down to the Balkans and visit BiH, Albania etc.

    The other thing is that Georgia and Armenia are not in Europe. The Caucasus are part of Asia.

  8. Georgia and Armenia are amazing countries. The food in Georgia is unparalleled and the people in Armenia are very hospitable. Been to both a couple of times, and they’re great.

  9. You could fly Tarom and visit Bucharest , and try Bulgaria air and visit Sofia..Bulgaria air has business class seats (not economy seat with blocked middle seat ) šŸ™‚

  10. Tallinn in Estonia and Ljubljana in Slovenia are gorgeous! The medieval city in Tallinn is so stunning to look at from the top of the old city wall..Ljubljana in the summer is also fantastic..another city with a beautiful old town and bars and restaurants with incredible patios

  11. Hey!

    I would highly recommend visiting Estonia for a couple of days. Wonderful country… and if you want, I would be more than happy to show you around.

  12. Lots of rumors right now on FT and private forums about a potential lawsuit against you in regards to the BA deal, can you comment?

  13. Actually the regional or short LCC flights can be a really fun, and although you’re not reviewing high end services there is a lot of useful information to be shared when trying to see a dense area of the world like Europe. I for one would find reviews of EasyJet, Vueling, Eurowings and the like to be interesting and practical. Mixed in with European legacy carriers and how to maximize the travel funds can be a challenge in it’s own way.

  14. Lucky, I can’t recommend the city of Sarajevo and, more generally, Bosnia (some of Europe’s most gorgeous nature between Sarajevo and must-see Mostar) enough. Sarajevo is an incredible city — you walk 30 seconds and go from Vienna to Istanbul and back to Vienna. The more recent history of the siege is heartbreaking, but fascinating to learn about and observe.

    I also think you’ll love Ljubljana, a city so “perfect” that it almost feels like it should be in a Nordic country.

  15. Hi Lucky, I am your big fan and blog reader from Slovakia. Should you happen to visit my country this year, just let me know and I can give you advice where to go and what to see.

  16. A tour of the old USSR republics would be awesome, though I can certainly live happily without ever again setting foot in Belarus. Tbilisi, Vilnius, Riga and Lviv (!!) are truly exquisite cities. I am dismayed, though, that Riga can be a bit tacky at the height of the summer season.

    Ljubljana is also a wonderful city and is still a bit of an under-the-radar destination.

    I second @H’s recommendation of the Rooms Hotel in Tbilisi; however, my heart will always lie with the funky old British House and its delightful staff.

  17. I know Italy isn’t on your list above but if you haven’t yet visited the bay of Naples (Sorrento, Capri etc) then you’re missing out!!!

    Also train travel in Europe is very exciting, perhaps get a few ideas from ‘Great Continental Railway Journies” an episode that was shown in BBC think you’d love it.

  18. When you got to Chisinau, Moldova, I highly recommend the vineyards. There are two amazing underground wine cave labyrinths and other wonderful vineyards.

    I lived there for 5 years, and enjoyed it! Air Moldova could be another one to tick off the list.

  19. BELARUS!
    If you’re truly a frequent flyer hen you’d know how the Belorussians changed the visa requirement – I’ll be going there in April flying Belavia!

  20. Lucky, since you loved Berchtesgarten, consider Bled in Slovenia, along with the surrounding mountains. In my view, Ljubljana is worth a day; the mountains are worth at least a few days.

  21. Could not recommend Slovenia enough. Very beautiful in the summer, be sure to check out Lake Bled and the (small) coastline. It’s a short drive from Venice and Trieste if you are looking for premium fares.

  22. Definitely visit Slovenia. Ljubljana is one of the quaintest capital cities in the world. Also, Luxembourg is very underrated. I studied abroad there for 4 months and it is incredible. Montenegro is another beautiful country. The Bay of Kotor and Skoder Lake are beautiful. I’m sure you can find a way to combine Montenegro and Slovenia along with other Balkan countries in the same trip.

  23. I agree with the ask for a mix of reviews of trains and European low cost carriers. Especially to some of the more popular tourist destinations, the fastest way to get from point A to point B is only on an LCC or a train. It would be useful to know what those airlines are like. Trains would also be helpful.

  24. I’m kind of surprised you’ve never been to Luxembourg. I spent several days Luxembourg City many years ago. Nice place. A good workout hiking around town.

  25. You can’t fly in four of the countries from the list because they don’t have an airport. Go to Albania or Kosovo if you want to kill yourself but don’t have the balls to do it yourself. Moldova is not european country. So that would be 7 countries already checked. From others first visit Slovenia, it’s swiss like country but better than Switzerland in every way!

  26. I cant recommend ukraine enough. I spend 4 days in Kiev and 1 day in Lviv in summer of 2015. Beautiful cities. So much art, green and culture. Chernobyl was pretty breathtaking as well. Also the house of former president Yanukovych is impressing. The grounds are huge. Also Ukraine is very inexpensive.

  27. Andorra is an easy 3 hour drive from Barcelona. The food is delicious. And it is definitely not France and not Spain. You can make a nice circle route returning along the coast…

  28. Just arrived back from Lithuania. Vilnus has beautiful old town. Lakes around area are magnificent. Impressive churches and synagogues. Great food at inexpensive prices.I highly recommend this special Country

  29. Ben, when in Latvia it is best to go outside of Riga and visit the little towns on the outside such as Ventspils which is the big shipping hub of the Baltic region. Along with Ventspils, visiting the Rundales Pils or Rundales Mansion is always a must since it is sort of a Versailles of Latvia, the many gardens are a must see when visiting Rundales Mansion. Latvia has much to offer outside of Riga which is still a must see.

  30. I know you have visited Malta but you flew Lufthansa both to and from the island.
    Have you thought of trying the National Airline of Malta Air Malta small fleet of A319s and A320s Steer away from the codeshare and try the Little airline with the George Cross on the tail .

  31. Lucky, I recommend eastern Slovenia, the wine country. Slovenia is beautiful, tidy, and “kempt” as in the opposite of unkempt. Also home of awesome pumpkin seed oil. So good!

  32. Hey Ben!

    I recommend river cruises – sail between Vienna and Budapest and see Bratislava, Slovakia. Head on down the Danube and take in both Bulgaria and Romania! Among the many choices, check out the suite ships of Avalon Waterways – fewer people, beds face the view and bathrooms that are nicer than most 5-star hotels!

    Doug Brown

  33. @Petter, did you mean “discussing”? I’m sure they are those meds are the only thing keeping me sane. xoxo.

  34. So I accomplished two weeks ago my goal of seen all europe. It tools me a total of little less than 5 years but I was able to knock all of them off. Georgia. Romania. Slovenia and San Marino. I don’t list those in order of where to go. But those are my favorites from the list. Georgia is amazing.

  35. Several have suggested reviews of aspirational train rides. Unfortunately, they’re slowly disappearing in the face of ultra high speed service. The eastern countries you have listed may have more still than western Europe. I’d love to see those.

    There are also a lot of fast ocean ferries and riverboats around Europe. They’d all make good trip reports. Seat61.com is a fine place to start planning.

  36. It’s interesting several people have put Slovenia on the top of list. I certainly enjoyed my times there, but it’s very Western European-feeling, both in culture, architecture and values. Therefore I would put it much lower down on the list.

  37. To get to Liechtenstein you will need to drive in or take a short ride on the public bus from Feldkirk, Austria or nearby in Switzerland.

  38. Estonia and Lithuania are beautiful for short road trips (driving from Tallinn to the Russian border in Narva for example or from Vilnius to the Belarusian border). And you can experience AirBaltic.

    Also Kiev is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. Traveling from there to Odessa is amazing in the summer. And Odessa is gorgeous!

    Experience Belavia and fly into Belarus for a few days in Minsk- maybe take the night train to Grodno, a city with tons of history.

  39. As a Belarusian, I highly recommend Belarus – Minsk in particular. It’s a beautiful city – completely destroyed in WWII and rebuilt in the 50s in an entirely Soviet style, which makes it feel almost like a trip to the past. Wide avenues, perfect proportions….I think you’ll be impressed. Plus, our opera house looks like a wedding cake šŸ˜‰ It’s also one of the cleanest and safest cities I’ve ever been in – literally squeaky clean. And the food is to die for. I know the country doesn’t have the best reputation in terms of personal freedoms, but I don’t think it’s any different from Russia, or countries in the Middle East, where I know you’ve been – if you behave in a reasonable manner, you’ll be fine šŸ™‚

    I’d also love to see you fly Belavia. Their hard product is a bit outdated, but the soft product is excellent – great service, and they even serve you little candies from a tray right before takeoff. I know Minsk also has a couple IHG hotels and a Marriott (brand new, and it looks gorgeous) – I’m sure Starwood and Hyatt aren’t far behind.

  40. Hi Ben, I’m presuming you know many of those countries are not in Europe don’t you? On that basis, I’d make your list based on which places you can group together in one trip as many of them would work easily together. I would also think seriously about driving Europe segments as it is easy and enables such a high degree of flexibility but if it is just you, then probably train would be more practical. I would also consider cruising some parts. San Marino and Lichenstein despite being gorgeous are so small unless you have a specific reason for being there, you could certainly visit in a day and keep moving or just have an overnight. Andorra is also small but you could turn your visit there into a gastronomic pilgrimage and have a couple of nights or if you want to do it at another time of the year, it is a fantastic place for skiing. Some of the destinations like Slovenia & Bosnia are stunning but not dissimilar to other European destinations. I haven’t been to Ukraine for some years but would love to go back and spend more time in Kiev and surrounds. Look forward to reading what you decide!

  41. Find a way to get to Bucharest. Maybe you could fly Tarom to get there. 3-4 days is a good amount of time. That’s enough to see most of the highlights of the city, and take a day trip up to Transylvania.

  42. Romania and Moldova are pretty cool! Transylvania is located in Romania and the Transfagarasan Highway is absolutely stunning

  43. Before there was the internet and free business class travel for just a few credit card sign ups, college students were backpacking through Europe on $15 a day. If they could do it, you can too!

    @jane blogs, which of the countries isn’t in Europe? I say if they are part of the EU or want to be part of it, then they are in Europe.

  44. Of those countries you’ve listed, I’ve only been to Slovenia. I can’t recommend Ljubljana enough, as well as the lake city of Bled. They are so beautiful and everyone was so friendly when we were visiting!

  45. I do love these destination blogposts as I get so much inspiration from the comments section!

    Slovenia–Bled is a real gem. Stay at Vila Bled, get lake view room (only ~10) reserve now pay at check out. Nice dinners w amazing view. Try local wines! Belvedere (part of the hotel) offers the best view on the balcony, ice cream or bubbly at sunset is the best. Enjoy the 7am church bells if you are up for a morning walk (restaurant not open so early but you can enjoy the trail at the back). Borrow a hotel rowboat out to the island (free) but honestly the island (UNESCO site) is best viewed from a distance šŸ™‚

    Toplice (another hotel in Bled) has a great spa. Not so nice view. Great spot for civilized lunch / snack w air con. Very grand without being welcoming.

    Bled castle-book the restaurant for lunch (your castle admission fee will be waived if you show them the reservation confo) Check out the great honey store while there!

    Use Bled as a base to check out area and the caves! I think the oldest is celebrating 200th anniversary this yr. Would be packed w tourists in high season. Lake Bohinj would be interesting. Wine country is a fun day trip. Let me know if you need a driver within Slovenia or to/from Italy.

    Ljubljana is a sophisticated walking town. Union hotel is nice but after Vila Bled everything is “meh” :-p The choc shop across the street is lovely and so is the market (and embroidery shop) Gostilna is a nice spot for dinner. Kavarna is nice for lunch al fresco, and dirt cheap. Krznarstvo-Eber is a must for ladies.

    Estonia is pretty. Only been to Talinn. Quaint time capsule..

    Lichtenstein–do people stay the night?!

    Kotor (Montenegro) didn’t have much time as I was on a cruise.. would love to visit properly

    Would love to Latvia, Lithuania, Bosnia, Romania, Bulgaria, Slovakia (Bratislava is 30 -40 min car ride from Vienna)….

  46. I have an idea for Lucky!

    For my 51st (or 52nd) birthday I treated myself and my husband to a trip to Nizhny Novgorod. It’s a pleasant enough city, though hardly worthy of a special trip; but, it’s here that one can purchase a rather extraordinary flight aboard an old Soviet MiG fighter jet!

    It was a beautiful August day and I was as giddy as Lucky at a One Direction concert! Husband and I arrived at the military base, met the pilot and then I went off for my preparations. Unfortunately, I was overcome with a severe case of cowardice so fearless husband went in my place. The pilot (who was obviously befuddled about what to think of this gay American couple) was amused; he laughingly said to me “ah! so you’re the woman and HE’S the man!”

    Anyway, Tim was exhilarated by the flight. He was proud of himself for not vomiting all over the cockpit in spite of the pilot’s insane acrobatics. And to this day he excitedly talks about the summer day he saw the earth’s curvature.

    Since Lucky is such an avgeek, I thought a flight aboard a MiG fighter might be an interesting & unique addition for his European adventure. It certainly would make for an adrenaline-fueled trip report!

  47. 1. Bosnia. We loved Sarajevo. Wish we had spent more time there.
    2. Montenegro. Beautiful scenery. Rent a car and wonder.
    3. Estonia. Tallinn is quaint (but touristy)

  48. In an earlier comment, I strongly recommended the mountains of Slovenia. In fairness, I’ve found I prefer Western Europe to Eastern Europe. I agree that Slovenia feels “Western”, so if you’re looking for off-the-beaten-track cultures, I’d go with some of the Eastern European recommendations.

  49. We drove from Dubrovnik to Kotor, Montenegro, which is a darling walled city surrounded by beautiful mountains… there we hiked up to the castle ruins the back way, meeting a farmer lady and her cows/goats along the way. So cool. Then we drove to Mostar, also lovely and worth a day and night. Then Kravice Falls, tucked in the middle of Bosnia, beautiful waterfalls. Then Sarajevo, which stole my heart. Do take a walking tour there to hear all the stories of the war and the people and buildings.

  50. Go San Marino. Small, but butiful. Its the oldest republic in the world.
    Not too far from Venice and is a city that can be combined, as SM doesnt have an airport.
    Id suggest spending more time in San Marino than in Venice though.

  51. Ha, John, actually at least 7 of those countries listed are not members of the EU – yet. Having said that, you have to grant me a little license for confusion as being one of those itinerant Aussie backpackers from the $15 a day era, I was first in the USSR for the 1980 olympics in Brezhnev’s day and of course now that it is an entire region of free and independent states including some of those on Lucky’s “Europe” list: Ukraine, Georgia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania. I was also lucky enough to have hitch hiked all through what was known as Yugoslavia and surrounding countries (as well as Asia, South America & central Europe) long before their shocking war has turned them into the separate countries they are today. We are fortunate to be able to visit all these places so freely now and its a joy to see how beautiful and peaceful they are. Borders are such fluid things in the light of history!

    It was also a joy to travel in the days before as you mentioned, internet, mobile phones, credit cards or parents in your face or indeed having any idea of where you were or what your were doing! Now that was real freedom!

  52. Some suggestions for the Baltics with the aviation geek in mind. Not many good redemption opportunities but lots to see. Don’t just stay in the big cities but tour around the hinterland

    Tallinn
    1) beautiful old city, wander around, best is before 9am and after 5pm (when the cruise ship tourists are gone)
    2) For point hotels, the Radisson Blu is better than the Olympia
    3) Visit the refurbished seaplane hangar, now a museum, http://meremuuseum.ee/lennusadam/en/the-museum/
    4) eat at Olde Hansa (medieval theme restaurant, sounds cheesy but it is done well, http://www.oldehansa.ee/en/),
    5) eat at Trofe Restaurant – very inventive cuisine, https://www.facebook.com/TrofeRestaurant/
    6) The Pierre Chocolaterie for coffee, sweets and chocolate
    Lots of other things.

    Estonia – elsewhere
    TARTU: (2.5 hour drive), cute university town, possible to take the train but not great still 2.5 hours, Has a flight from HEL, 6 times a week, very small airport but might be a thing to try, New national history museum on the runway of an old Soviet base,
    WILDERNESS ADVENTURE: Lots of forests and old manor homes, https://www.theguardian.com/travel/2017/mar/04/estonia-tallinn-wilderness-adventure-walking-canoeing

    Latvia
    See the Rundale Palace – Amazing
    Cesis and Sigulda are also worth seeing.
    The secret soviet bunker at Ligatne is unlike anything you’ve every seen. https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g2167821-d2645774-Reviews-The_Secret_Soviet_Bunker-Ligatne_Vidzeme_Region.html

    Happy to chat if that’s of interest.

  53. Surprised so few recommends Cyprus. Sure, it’s a party island but there are historical things to see and the water is among the best in the Mediterranean for scuba diving.

  54. Go to Krakow, Poland. The most beautiful city in Central Europe, both Prague and Budapest pale in comparison and the city easily rivals Vienna.

  55. I was just in Tallinn, Estonia for the first time. Super interesting and picturesque city for a couple of days. There are also some interesting routes like Finnair A350 LHR > HEL and then an ATR 72 prop from HEL > TLL. Stay in the old town if you go. Look forward to seeing where you end up!

  56. As Boris said, Bulgaria Air has a proper business class. If this isnā€™t enough, both Sofia and the Bulgarian seaside, countryside, and mountains are beautiful šŸ™‚

  57. You might consider the train for some of the smaller countries. IE. Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania.

  58. You have to go to Liechtenstein! It is a beautiful country and it does not take much time. You can take the train from Zurich to Buchs or Feldkirch and from there a bus to Liechtenstein. The other possibility is to fly from Vienna or Cologne to Altenrhein and experience the world’s shortest international flight.

  59. Been to a few of ones been you should go to Andorra as you can’t fly in direct so you will have to get in a car Also Lublijana in Slovenia is a fun city.

  60. Armenia and Georgia are actually located in Asia.
    Aside from that I can totally recommend Riga and Bratislava. In Bratislava you won’t need more than 2 days, though. Riga even has a beach close to the city, so don’t miss that. The old town is gorgeous!

  61. I would definitely put Luxembourg City at the top of the list. It’s a great place to spend a few days.

  62. @vand
    Thanks for that Baltic suggestion: I was looking for something in Europe on which to spend some of my billions of Avios, and that sounds like fun – especially since I’ve never been to Helsinki.

  63. I cant recommend Ukraine enough. Kiev is an absolutely amazing city. Theres a lot to do and see there. Lots of history and culture. I spent 2 days in Kiev and 2 days in Chernobyl. I highly recommend a Chernobyl tour.

  64. Don’t miss Luxembourg! Small but beautiful and a real melting pot from people all over Europe.

  65. Montonegro was great.Bay of Kotor and Aman Sveti Stefan for a site visit with Ford.

    FDW

  66. I believe if you go along the Dalmation Coast you’ll hit a high number of countries. I would also heed other’s advice and use rail/trains instead of flights. Enjoy some of these places and keep your pace at a nice level.

  67. Albania is one of the most gorgeous countries I have visited, but you would need to get out of the capital Tirana in order to see the real beauty.

  68. Just drive through all of these countries… The former Yugo countries and adjacent you can knock out in no time. You could do it in about 6 weeks.

    You will greatly enjoy it, hopefully with Ford or various friends joining you from time to time.

  69. why not hungary? it is a beautiful country right in central/eastern europe…

    try some chicken paprikash and some cherry soup and some hungarian salami….

    you would like it.

  70. @ john — I’ve been to Budapest and would love to explore more of Hungary eventually. However, this list was about countries in Europe I haven’t visited.

  71. I’m so glad you included Romania on this list, you won’t regret it. Especially the Transylvania region, both major cities and the parth with the Saxon villages is worth checking out.

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