Emerging destinations in Europe

July 8, 2013 – Europe and its great capitals – including London, Rome and Paris– attract the most visitors during the summer months. If you feel Europe calling to you but would like to go somewhere a little off the usual tourist map, consider one of the places selected as Europe’s finest “up and coming” destinations by the professionals at Travel Leaders: Croatia, Turkey, the Czech Republic, Portugal and Iceland.

For the second year in a row, Travel Leaders owners and front-line agents identified Croatia as Europe’s top up-and coming destination. There’s a lot to see in this country just across the Adriatic Sea from Italy, including enchanting coastal islands, the historic walled city of Dubrovnik, Roman antiquities at Split, and the mountains, lakes and parks around the inland city of Zagreb. Cruise lines have also discovered just how up-and-coming Croatia is by including stops in Dubrovnik and Split on many eastern Mediterranean itineraries.

Much of Turkey’s unique flavor comes from its geographic position as a bridge between Europe and Asia. Top sights include the exotic city of Istanbul, with outdoor bazaars, mix of historic architectural styles, fragrant kebab restaurants and lively arts district. Turkey’s Cappadocia region is visually stunning, with slim outcroppings of rock called “fairy chimneys” and luxurious hotels built inside caves. But ancient sites like Ephesus offer you the opportunity to see some of best preserved Roman ruins.

The Czech Republic has beautiful landscapes of mountains, forests and gently rolling hills. There is no shoreline in this landlocked country, but the Elbe,Vltava and other rivers flow through. The capital of Prague has historic and cultural attractions that include stately Prague Castle, more than ten major museums and a historic Old Town. Visitors also enjoy the mineral springs and treatments at famous spa towns the western part of the country.

Fought over and ruled at times by Romans, Visigoths, Moors and Christians, Portugal has also been the center of a vast colonial empire. Visitors enjoy the vineyards of the Douro Valley, the center of port wine production; the capital city of Lisbon, which is full of parks, monuments, museums and architectural treasures; and the picturesque beaches of the Algarve region.

Iceland is a much more attractive destination than its name suggests. Warmed by the Gulf Stream, the island has a temperate climate and is a hotbed of geological activity, with active volcanoes, leaping geysers and therapeutic hot springs. There are lots of outdoor pursuits to enjoy, including hiking, kayaking in fjords and sheltered inlets, and even golf – there are more than 50 courses, usually open May through September.

For more information about destinations that are off the usual tourist track, talk with your travel professional.

Robbert van Bloemendaal, Blue Ribbon News special contributor and world traveler

This travel column was written by BlueRibbonNews.com special contributor Robbert van Bloemendaal, an experienced world traveler, native of Australia, an Ambassador with the Rowlett Chamber of Commerce, and president of  Travel Leaders of Rowlett.

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