Europe is a continent full of culture, history, and natural beauty, yet many of us only stick to exploring a select few areas. While destinations such as Paris, Rome and Barcelona are fantastic cities for tourists to explore, there are so many other picturesque and interesting places to see in the continent. As well as being unique destinations, these areas are sure to be less crowded than the tourist hotspots, making them ideal for people looking for a more relaxing holiday.
To help you get off the beaten track for your next getaway, boating holiday company Le Boat are here to share four stunning European hidden gems.
If you’re looking for a different way to travel, each of these destinations can be reached and explored by boat. Having a boat which you can drive yourself gives you a moveable base to help you explore even further, plus you’ll get to see beautiful destinations from a completely different perspective from the water. You don’t need a licence or any experience to drive a boat on European canals and rivers, so why not take to the water for your upcoming holiday?
The River Thames runs through the heart of this ancient English town. It’s a great destination for boat lovers, as you can observe a number of local landmarks from the water like the Sounding Arch bridge and Ray Mill Island. You can also experience the picturesque Boulter’s Lock up close, as well as observing it from land in the nearby pub.
Maidenhead is a fantastic destination for tourists who prefer to get around on foot as well. The Thames Path runs through the town and can lead you to a number of popular destinations close by, such as the picturesque village of Cookham, Cliveden Estate, and Dorney Court.
If you’re interested in Royal history, you can also pay a visit to nearby Windsor, by either boat, bus, or a short taxi ride. This royal town is a popular spot for fans of the Queen as its home to Windsor Castle, the world’s oldest and largest castle which is still occupied. You can even visit the castle yourself if you book a ticket in advance. If you’d like a picturesque walk , take the famous Long Walk route through Windsor Great Park which will bring you to the castle gates.
Palavas-les-Flots, Camargue, France
If you’re looking for a beach getaway with your loved ones, you may want to pay a visit to Palavas-les-Flots in France. This former fishing village has emerged as a fun and thriving sea-side town with activities for the whole family. The long and sandy beach is one of the main attractions: it’s a relatively peaceful stretch, which is ideal for swimming. If you’re looking for something a little more adventurous, you can try out one of the water sports on offer nearby, like snorkelling, kayaking, and even jet skiing.
There is plenty to explore in the town itself too, including a range of independent eateries and small, quirky shops. You can also have a stroll along the canal and soak up the scenery. Or, if you’d rather, take the world’s shortest cable car ride of 83m from one end of the canal to the other!
What really makes this destination special is getting to see the beautiful pink flamingos which the Camargue region is famous for. There are a number of natural ponds (or étangs in French) that are only a 20-minute walk from Palavas where you will find the wild flamingos, so make sure to bring your binoculars.
Fort William, Caledonian Canal, Scotland
Fort William is an adventure lover’s paradise. Known as the outdoor capital of the UK, this Scottish Highland town is full of fun adventurous activities. The most popular thing to do in the area is walk up Ben Nevis, the UK’s highest mountain — the summit stands at 4,413 ft. The walk is a long one so make sure to set a day aside for it, and do the walk with an experienced group so you can enjoy the experience to the fullest. If you want to get amazing scenery without the walk, take the gondola ride 650m up Aonach Mor to see the impressive views of Ben Nevis.
There are also plenty of other outdoor activities to choose from in the area, including canoeing, climbing, and white water rafting. Avid cyclists will want to check out the Great Glen Cycle Route, which starts in Fort William. While you may not want to complete the entire 73-mile journey, there are plenty of picturesque views you can enjoy from your bike at the start of the route so you can easily make this a day activity.
And if not all of the group you’re going on holiday with are outdoorsy, there are a variety of other activities to enjoy in Fort William as well. Take a tour of the Ben Nevis Distillery, one of Scotland’s oldest whisky distilleries, or travel back in time by taking a ride on the Jacobite Steam Train.
Giethoorn, The Netherlands
This charming town is the perfect place for a peaceful getaway. Giethoorn is known as the “Little Venice” of The Netherlands, as the town is made up of an array of waterways. Many parts can only be accessed via boat or on foot, mking it a great destination for those who want to take to the water.
The best thing to do in the idyllic Giethoorn is simply explore and soak up the beauty, by boat, on foot, or by bike on one of the available cycle routes. The town is home to a quaint collection of thatched roof houses and charming old wooden bridges, making it truly feel like a fairy tale village. If you’re looking to find out more about the history and culture of the town, you can pay a visit to Museum Giethoorn ‘t Olde Maat Uus. There are also a number of canal-side restaurants, where you can enjoy a meal with a view at the end of your peaceful day.
If you’re looking to observe nature and wildlife on the holiday, take a trip to the nearby De Weerribben-Wieden National Park. Here you’ll find a range of canals and waterways to explore by electric boat or canoe. When you’re ready to step on land, you can try out one of the many hiking routes available. Throughout your visit, make sure to keep an eye out for local wildlife such as black terns and otters.
Cheryl Brown, Managing Director of Le Boat comments:
“One of the best ways to make sure you beat the holiday crowds in Europe is by visiting some of the less well-known destinations by boat. The great thing about these towns and cities is that you’re much more likely to get an authentic experience than in bustling tourist hotspots. Plus, they’re just as beautiful and interesting as the more well-known areas so there really is no reason not to.
“Each of these destinations is perfect for visiting and exploring by boat, especially Fort William on the beautiful Caledonian Canal in Scotland. Not only does a boating holiday allow you to explore at your own pace, but with a boat you can travel to a wide variety of other destinations as well, so it’s definitely an option worth considering for your next getaway.”