As soon as the clocks go back, and the sun breaks free of the low wintry clouds, and our stores open up for the day; we are bowled over by a stream of travel-starved people, with one thing on their minds: summer. And in particularly: Europe.
They want to know everything: from the best known places, to the trendiest, the cheapest, the sunniest, and the best.
And we impart all of our travel expertise; and we hand over their itineraries; and we quite often hear from these people as they’re travelling around Europe, soaking up the cultures and vibes that ebb and flow through the cities and villages of the world’s boldest, and most visited continent. And they love it!
So to get a headstart, I had a chat with one of STA Travel’s very own Product Managers, Laura.
Laura’s part of a team who are responsible for sourcing the most exciting experiences in the places you want to visit. This is one of the many reasons we can offer you such a wide variety of adventures, in places all around the world. But where would Laura recommend? I caught up with her to find out.
Laura’s Top Recommendations for Europe
Europe will be buzzing this year, there’s no doubt about it! With the European Championships in Poland and the Ukraine, plus the Olympics coming to a city near you, all eyes are on Europe. And why not?
Summer is the arguably best time of year to explore: it’s when the festivals are largest; the town squares are at their liveliest; and the weather is at its most vivacious.
Europe is a mecca for outdoor lovers. Most countries have a fantastic number of campsites, brilliantly set up for car campers, hikers, campervans and motorhomes.
Laura’s Top Recommendations: There are two camping tours that really stand out for me: The Expedition, which is a 21-day journey travelling in France, Switzerland, Monaco, Italy, Vatican City, Austria, Czech Republic, Germany, and Netherlands (and crosses Belgium!). There are two-night stops in all the major cities on route, and it’s usually a high-energy journey, with an emphasis on fun!
The second one is called The Easy Rider. It travels a similar route, but with the luxury of 11 extra days it also takes in Greece and Spain. Both of these tours get you into Europe, and to the most amazing places.
If you’re imagining a flimsy old tent blowing around on the peak of a forgotten hill, think again! These are high quality A-frame tents, equipped with air mattresses, and pitched up in sites that quite often have swimming pools, pizzerias, nightclubs and supermarkets!
You could hire a car, and travel to the same places — but it will take you a lot, lot longer (which could be a good thing?).
Mix it up!
Camping isn’t for everyone, though — how about something that steps it up a bit? Many of STA Travel’s customers are looking to make the most of their hard-earned travel budget! What have you got, Laura?
Laura’s Top Recommendations: There are a good few tours that get you access to some of Europe’s most iconic sites, and plenty of backroads, too. I think it’s important to step outside the cities, and see what’s over the brow of the hill.
There are three tours that consistently top the charts in Europe, that offer progressively more as the duration of the journey increases:
- European Highlights: A 14-day tour through France, Italy, Austria, Germany and Netherlands, including overnight stays in châteaus and on the continent’s classiest coastlines.
- European Contrasts: The Contrasts travels through 12 countries, in 29 jam-packed days. Expect a heady mix of chalets, palaces, and strudels as you pick your way through Europe’s highlights.
- Ultimate European plus Greek Islands: 45 days, 16 different countries. This is the granddaddy of European tours, and popular with travellers who just have to have it all!
Step it up!
They sound pretty amazing to me! Dare I ask, can we step it up a bit, to an even higher level of comfort?
Laura’s Top Recommendations: Absolutely! Many travellers prefer to travel where the accommodation levels are around 3-star. It offers all the benefits (ensuites, TVs and WiFi), without breaking the bank. There are a few stand-out tours of Europe that make this possible:
- European Discovery: This is a 12-day tour of central Europe, including a bike tour in Munich; plus tours of Amsterdam, Florence, Rome and Paris, plus more.
- European Inspiration: This one steps it up to 19 days, and branches further east. You’ll also enjoy Berlin’s nightlife, and Prague’s famous old town.
Keep it simple
How about if you’re stuck for time — or you just want to focus your journey on one great destination?
Laura’s Top Recommendations: That’s a really popular way to travel. We’ve got some fantastic regional tours; one that really stands out is the Simply Italy tour. In twelve days, you’ll feast on Italy’s finest foods, and sweep through the country’s most exciting places. There’s no place like Italy, especially in summer!
Elsewhere, take a look at the Spanish Spree which focuses on the country’s big hitters.
There’s a cheeky little tour that tours around much of Central Europe, exploring Jewish ghettos in Warsaw, some emotive concentration camps, and the beautiful city of Krakow — perfect for footy fans!
For something even more different, flick your gaze to the northern quarters of Scandinavia. Summer sees some seriously long days in Northern Europe, to balance out their long dark winters. There’s a 14 day tour that kicks off in Berlin, weaves through Denmark, Sweden, and Norway, with the option to travel all the way up north, to the top of the worrrrrld! (Well, Europe).
Bus & Rail
How about the traditional ways to travel around Europe? Bus and rail. What are the options for taking to the rails and roads, these days?
Laura’s Top Recommendations: InterRailing remains one of our most popular products. It’s little surprise, it offers fantastic value to travellers. The train networks in Europe are the most advanced in the world, and create the perfect opportunity for independent adventure at a price you can afford. Amsterdam tomorrow? No problem. Barcelona the next? All aboard!
The bus makes travelling even cheaper for most places! We offer a fantastic flexible bus pass, a dedicated service that caters just to travellers and offers the option to combine the destinations you want, or a predetermined route, at your own pace.
All in all, this summer is going to be incredible in Europe. I’m excited just thinking about it!