A lot of travelling, especially in Europe where people often favour the city-hop method, is go go go; there’s always something to see, something to do, something to buy, and this often means that people lose out on the truly magical moments. These moments, the click, the epiphany, the “this is what it’s all about!”, are the ones that make it all worth it. Yes, travelling is great because of the people you meet, the things you do, the places you go, but nothing sticks with you like these glorious moments.
So where can you find these blissful moments? Luckily for us city hoppers, many of them aren’t so far off the beaten track. As for the ones that are, they’re so mind-blowingly glorious that it makes the detour well worth your while. Here are my top 5:
A couple of hours bus ride out of Krakow is the ski resort town of Zakopane, a popular holiday destination for Poles. Whilst the town itself is nothing to shout about the Tatra mountains that surround it are truly magical. It’s a 9km walk (or catch a horse and carriage) and it’s worth going early before the tourists arrive. Because once you reach Morskie Oko you’ll want peace and quiet in order to take in the glory of the waterfall fed, emerald green mountain lake before you, a glorious reminder of nature’s beauty and a welcome break from the city.
It may not be the easiest place to reach but boy is it worth it when you do. Trollstigen, or the troll’s road, can be reached by bus, train and even boat in the summer. Take a drive, go for a hike and experience the breathtaking Norwegian scenery of fjords, waterfalls, mountainsides and valleys all wound through by this 102 km stretch of Norwegian engineering at its finest.
Tourist trap Ischia may be, but this doesn’t detract from the views available here. Skip the overpriced main street and head straight for Castello Aragonese. In the gardens here you’ll find the most amazing views of the isle of Ischia and Ischia Ponte, as well as Mount Epomeo beyond, and find yourself transported back to the times when royalty, artists, poets and saints walked the paths beneath your feet.
Well known by the locals and only a short bus ride away from central Vienna is Mount Kahlenberg, offering panoramic views over the city and the mountains beyond. Enjoy a drink at the summit and then amble back down through the vineyards but ensure you leave plenty of time because I swear you could spend hours gazing at the glistening Danube trailing towards the horizon and the rolling Viennese countryside.
If you’re travelling through the Balkans it’s easy enough to forget the lakeside town of Ohrid, but it’s a dreadful mistake if you do. Whilst Skopje is a fascinating capital, it’s in this little town that Macedonia’s true beauty lies and it’s just a bus journey away – enjoy zooming down winding mountain roads past oxen-pulled carts. Once in the town grab some friends from your hostel, hire a boat and spend a glorious day basking on the lake while checking out the bay of bones and taking in the ancient monastic sights (plus a few Macedonian beers for good measure).