After living in Europe for almost two years, and visiting over 15 countries, it is safe to say I definitely have a list of favorite places to visit. These countries hold a special place in my heart, and I want to share what makes them so special. I will include a general price point for each country, as well as the best times to visit each place. Each country makes one feel differently when you are there, whether it be the art and culture, or the different scenery and people! Each of these places could easily fill up two weeks’ vacation time. In the United States, we get two weeks off at most for many jobs, so it’s best to make those two weeks count!
Greece, Greece, Greece. Where to begin? I spent two months working in Greece last summer (check out my blog posts for my full experience), and it is hard to put into words the absolute love I have for this country. Whether it be the charming and funny people, the stunningly white houses, or the pristine beaches, there is so much to take in when one visits Greece! I highly recommend visiting during the spring or summer, BUT definitely plan on staying at more than one island. Each island is unique, but shares a regional similarity depending on where they are located in the Aegean Sea. Greece is expensive to get to, but once you are there you can easily travel to and stay on most islands relatively cheaply, including the Kardashian hotspot of Santorini. I remember walking along the cliffs to get to a secret beach on one of the islands, and the air around me was so still and pensive that I felt as if I was transported back in time, 3000 years ago when people believed that the islands were created by the Gods. Greece will always feel familiar, yet mysterious. Just make sure to visit the less popular islands to avoid the onslaught of fellow tourists.
Home to some of the most refined arts and people, when you arrive in Austria you feel instantly sophisticated. Vienna is home to majestic museums and the most beautiful cafés I have ever seen. It is moderately expensive to get there if you are flying direct, and the country can be moderately expensive. The best times to travel are either in December to see all the beautiful Christmas markets and the enchanting castles covered in snow; or in the spring when the flowers are blooming and heighten the elegance of the whole country. When I went to Vienna, I watched The Sound of Music for the first time, and now I want to go back and bike around Salzburg to my heart’s content!
Photo by Luca Micheli on Unsplash
For Americans, the UK will feel like a home away from home. Most of the commonalities that Americans share as a whole (including the annoying things), you can find right away in the UK as well. Why visit if it is more of the same? Well, the UK has a way of making everything Americans are used to, feel more sophisticated. Whether it be the double-decker busses, the beautiful countryside that lies just outside of cities, or the famously dry humor of the Britons, the UK will feel like a parallel life. Unfortunately, it is the most expensive place on this list and London and Dublin, in are particular, are known for being very pricey. The best times to visit are in December to see the Christmas markets, and in the spring and summer to avoid all the awful freezing cold, drizzly weather.
Spain is my current home and I couldn’t recommend it more! All the regions of Spain are so unique and have such a rich history, that a trip to Spain could easily fill up a whole month. From the tasty and creative pintxos in the North, the ancient ruins in the West, the beautiful coastal cities in the East, and the rich and dazzling culture in the South, Spain will captivate any traveler. Spain is very affordable for most travelers, and the best time to visit is really any time of year! Though, I must warn you not to visit the South of Spain in the summer, when temperatures can get as high as 110°F, while the North maintains a cool 70 degrees. The whole country is united in a shared history, but each of the different regions have a distinct cultural difference from one another.
Photo by Luisa Azevedo on Unsplash
If the UK feels like a parallel USA, then Portugal feels like a parallel Spain. Much of the architecture is similar in both countries, but Portuguese culture seems more soft spoken than the loud and prideful culture of Spain. Portugal has gorgeous beaches lining its entire West and South coasts, and picturesque vineyards in its interior. Portugal is even more affordable than Spain, and since the country is right on the Iberian Peninsula with Spain, one could easily hop over from one country to the next, if time and money permits. Portugal is pretty much breathtakingly beautiful any time of year, but if you want to see something specific like the vineyards blooming, go during that specific time and the rest of the country will be there to impress.
This list was so difficult to make because I have been to far more than five amazing places. There are still so many places I have yet to explore, and look forward to doing so! Consider this list as a jumping off point and then be sure to go to a different place the next vacation. Never stop seeking new adventures!
by Justin Hughes-Coleman