It’s lovely traveling to Europe to visit popular sites you’ve watched in TV shows growing up. From Santorini to Cinque Terre, seeing them all in person has been incredible, to say the least, but some of my favorite travels this year have included some lesser-known spots.
Growing up in the UK, I’ve been traveling now for years and have found a new passion in discovering Europe’s under-the-radar spots. From towns frequented by the Royals to cobblestone villages embedded into mountain ranges — these are some of the best I discovered this year:
A walled town along the Adriatic Coast, Kotor is a stunning fortress of cobblestone streets and medieval squares. The Bay of Kotor is probably one of the more stunning harbor areas I’ve seen in Europe.
If you’re in the area, be sure to take a short boat ride from the Bay to the isolated ‘Our Lady of the Rocks:’ a lonely island out to sea with some of the best views of Montenegro. The locals here are extremely friendly, and the food is affordable and fresh.
Postojna and Predjama, Slovenia
These two regions typically go hand in hand as home to Slovenia’s Predjama Castle and Postojna Caves. In southwestern Slovenia, Postojna is a charming town with a sea of bright rooftops and surrounding greenery.
Book a tour to take a mini-train through the underground caverns of Postojna Caves, and then venture 15 minutes to the picturesque settlement that is Predjama.
You know those moments when you can’t even take a photo because you’re in awe? This was one of those moments. Predjama Castle sits proudly, embedded halfway up a 400 ft cliff. Pay to enter, and stroll through its walls. (It even won a Guinness World Record as the world’s largest cave castle!)
Mostar, Bosnia & Herzegovina
As our bus pulled up to the entrance to Mostar, I was completely in awe seeing the remnants of gunshots in the side of buildings and the rugged beauty of the country represented in one small city.
Locals ushered me down the cobblestone streets, encouraging me to buy gifts for loved ones, and it was at that moment that I fell in love with Bosnia.
From its intriguing culture to cheap and delicious foods, Mostar wasn’t what I expected — in the best way possible.
Our tour guide dropped us off at the foot of Zakopane Village, giving us a few hours to explore. The main shopping strip was buzzing with store vendors selling locally made goods.
We took the funicular up the mountain and were met with 360 views of the Zakopane Mountains. A popular destination throughout the year, Zakopane attracts tourists mostly during ski and summer seasons.
Make sure you stop at any of the traditional restaurants here, and try the homemade Oscypek cheese made in the mountains!
Being from the UK, I was surprised I’d never heard of Pitlochry during my travels. Located along the River Tummel, this quaint Scottish town was a favorite of Queen Elizabeth to watch the infamous Pitlochry Highland Games.
A small town just over an hour outside of Edinburgh, Pitlochry is what you’d expect any quintessential Scottish town to look like. Fish and Chips, Seafood Restaurants, and charming stores line the streets.
Our bus made it up the winding mountain-side roads, and I couldn’t believe we had made it to the charming city of Orvieto. Perched atop a cliff in the Umbria region of the country.
As we meandered through the Old Town, it was refreshing to see very few tourists here. Untouched beauty surrounded us on all sides as we browsed the fresh produce and crafts along the streets.
Narrow alleyways were adorned with hanging vines creeping along every crevice of the walls as locals sat perched on stoops, happily chatting amongst themselves. I couldn’t believe I had found somewhere in Italy this peaceful.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com