Mediterranean Europe seems to be on everyone’s radar this year.
Whether it’s the golden sands of Cyprus, Italy’s pastel-colored Ligurian towns, or Cote d’Azur’s cinematic vibes that they’re after, the whole region will be jam-packed with visitors looking to live out their Southern European fantasy.
If you’re like us, and you’re not only wary of crowds but running away from them, avoiding the Med is your best bet for a stress-free, idyllic vacation this summer.
Lucky for you, European summers do not necessarily need to be synonymous with a traditional beach holiday.
These 4 alternative non-Mediterranean destinations are full of charm, boast an incredible History, and will offer you the summer vibes you so desperately crave:
Donostia-San Sebastian, Basque Country (Spain)
Straddling the Bay of Biscay in Northern Spain, more specifically, the autonomous Basque Country, San Sebastian is a trendy resort city highly sought-after for its relaxed coastal atmosphere, spotless beaches, and world-class ethnic cuisine.
Alternatively called Donostia in Basque, a language separate from Castilian (Spanish), it is simply the perfect setting for a European getaway, what with its lively promenade, traditional Old Town dotted with 15th and 16th-century monuments and open-air markets where fresh seafood and local produce are commercialized.
If you’re ever in Donostia/San Sebastian, going for a bite to eat at a pintxo snack bar is a must-do: they can be found all over the Parte Vieja, more reasonably priced compared to other upscale restaurants, and easily recognized for the rows of Spanish jamon hanging from the ceiling.
Sitting in the alfresco area of a seafront snack bar, savoring some ham and washing it down with tinto de verano as you people-watch and Basque under the sun – pun intended – is the quintessential Spanish summer experience you’ve been craving.
Ohrid, North Macedonia
One of the hidden gems of the Balkan Peninsula, North Macedonia (N.M.) is a country formed following the break-up of Yugoslavia that is somehow not getting the flowers it deserves, unlike its sister nations of Croatia and Montenegro.
This is largely due to the fact that N.M. does not have a coastline on the Adriatic, and thus, it tends to get skipped by most sunseekers who often forget there is more to a summer vacation than merely beaches. That’s not to say Macedonia doesn’t have gorgeous swimming spots to call its own.
In fact, one of the largest freshwater lakes in Europe is located within the country’s territorial boundaries: With its ancient historic towns interspersed with sandy banks, Lake Ohrid stands among the continent’s most scenic destinations.
Lemon gelato in hand, as you wander the cobbled streets of Ohrid, the namesake town and largest and most important settlement in the province, you will be graced with views of whitewashed houses and an imposing castle overlooking the lake as the sun caresses its gentle waves.
Once you tire yourself of exploring the winding alleyways and ancient landmarks in the Old Town, a beach day awaits you at Nemo Beach, a grey sand stretch on the shores of the crystal-clear lake, where you can cool off from the dry heat going for a refreshing dip.
Soon enough, you will begin wondering why Lake Como gets all the fame while Ohrid is virtually forgotten about.
The Bailiwick of Jersey, Channel Islands
The most famous of the Channel Islands, a collective of offshore settlements found between France and Great Britain, Jersey is notoriously known for its Franco-British heritage, well-preserved medieval castles, and marvelous beaches.
The compact, incredibly charming capital of Saint Helier, home to only 35,000 people, is a hidden European gem still flying under the radar of most Instagrammers, with its old harbor lined with fishing boats and yachts and winding streets making for the perfect postcard snap.
Away from town, tourists will find a plethora of lesser-known attractions, including Mont Orgueil Castle, perched on a hilltop facing the Channel, the sandy St. Brelade’s Bay, a bathing hotspot in the hotter summer months, when the waters are pleasant enough for swimming, and World War II tunnels built by German invaders.
Whether you’re visiting from France or Great Britain, Jersey is one of the easiest Channel Islands to get to, with ferry service being frequent between Saint Helier and the European mainland, or the French island of Saint Malo, as well as Poole and Portsmouth, two domestic ports in the U.K.
Aveiro has been named one of the top sunny destinations for budget travelers for a reason: being a lot more affordable than its Iberian counterparts in Spain and enjoying great weather year-round, it is really no surprise it’s gaining so much traction lately.
Dubbed the Portuguese Venice, it is cut through by picturesque canals filled with gondola-style boats and flanked by vibrant-colored buildings that will make you feel as if you’re somewhere in the Caribbean, or Brazil, Portugal’s offspring.
With only 80,000 inhabitants and lacking an international airport, Aveiro is much quieter than the far busier port cities of Lisbon, the capital, and Porto, the largest urban conurbation in the North of the country, though it is a short one-hour drive from the latter, and thus from a major international airport.
While all the beach bums flock into the Algarve, and first-time visitors restrict their movement to rail links connecting Lisbon and Porto, visiting Aveiro, you get to marvel at this small city’s Art Deco heritage and take a canal tour without worrying about huge lines, or groups of tourists photobombing you.
Just make sure you wear some sunblock and hats, as the Portuguese sun can be rather unforgiving in July.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com