SOL: Top Travel Destinations in Europe

As things seem to be rapidly descending into Covid-related chaos once again (or still, for some), let us allow ourselves a moment to forget the omnipresent threat of a second wave of lockdowns and look forward to exploring new travel destinations. Budget airlines are still offering reasonably priced flights within Europe, so for those looking for a new destination to explore, here are my top three picks!

Budapest, Hungary

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Hungary’s capital is not to be overlooked! Budapest is a vibrant tourist destination; during the winter there are numerous Christmas Markets where you can sample mulled wine and local food. In the summer you will find an eclectic and experimental gastronomy scene with unique bars and restaurants where you can unwind. Talk a walk along the Danube, admire the statuesque Parliament building and the city’s impressive architecture. Budapest is famous for its “ruin bars” and its most famous, Szimpla Kert, is easily reached from the city centre. Take note that Hungary’s currency is Forint, not Euro!

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Széchenyi Thermal Bath, Budapest

For some downtime after exploring the city, a visit to Széchenyi Thermal Baths within the city is a definite must. Here you’ll have your choice of indoor and outdoor pools, as well as multiple steam rooms and saunas. When I visited in November it was packed with locals and tourists alike; Széchenyi has a sprawling layout and I got lost several times! You can easily spend a half or full day here.

São Miguel Island, Azores, Portugal

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Lagoa do Fogo, Azores

The São Miguel Island in the Azores archipelago is a bit off the beaten path but easily accessible by plane from both Lisbon and Porto. It has been nicknamed “The Green Island,” and is relatively undisturbed by hoards of tourists. Visiting São Miguel will give you time to explore and disconnect from the stresses of the outside world.

The island has numerous natural tourist attractions and you will have your choice of thermal baths, hot springs, lakes, waterfalls and hiking trails. The island is reasonably priced, and it is easy to rent a car or scooter to help you get around.

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One of the beautiful miradouro’s on the island!

The locals mainly speak a dialect of Portuguese, but many speak English and are more than happy to give tips on what to see on the island.

Malta

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Churches in Malta > Days in the year

Malta, an archipelago of three islands, is often overlooked as being an extension of Italy. Located just south of Sicily, Malta used to be a British colony but has been an independent country since 1964. Thanks to the British influence, locals speak both Maltese and English, and the island is full of expats and tourists, so have no fear of a language barrier. The food in Malta is cheap and delicious; many restaurants pull inspiration from local goods with influences from neighbouring countries. Be sure to try the pastry pastizzi and Cisk, the local beer.

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Blue Lagoon, Comino, Malta

The islands boast a beautiful Mediterranean climate year-round. Malta is also home to three UNESCO World Heritage Sites. With breathtakingly clear waters and a beautiful coastline, the islands are also hugely popular for scuba diving. If you tire of the main island of Malta, the smaller island of Comino is home to the Blue Lagoon, a must-see for tourists. The island of Gozo is a quick ferry ride away; here you can discover wonderful Maltese wines, local food and even stay in a renovated Gozitan farmhouse.

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Stunning views in Gozo.

When choosing your next trip, be cognizant of the fact that each destination will offer you a different vibe! Malta has beautiful architecture, great swimming spots and a hot climate year-round. Budapest has the energy of a big city with numerous bars and restaurants to sample different cuisines. In São Miguel, you’ll be able to slow down and enjoy lush greenery and the tranquility of the island. Of course, before you plan your trip be sure to check any Covid travel restrictions that may be in place and make sure that you are fit to travel.

For Covid updates within the EU please click here.

SOL: Delirium

stumbling home full of
rum and ears still
humming the music they played until
early morning, trying to
tease the sun out of hiding
long enough for you to slip
your tongue between my laughing teeth
dragging the last bit of the
night sky over my tired eyes

3AM Thoughts // AKA “Moments Better Left Forgotten.”

MIND: Vagabonding

Thus, the question of how and when to start vagabonding is not really a question at all. Vagabonding starts now. Even if the practical reality of travel is still months or years away, vagabonding begins the moment you stop making excuses, start saving money, and begin to look at maps with the narcotic tingle of possibility. From here, the reality of vagabonding comes into sharper focus as you adjust your worldview and begin to embrace the exhilarating uncertainty that true travel promises.

Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel // Rolf Potts

MIND: Pathways

The best way to travel, after all, is to feel,
to feel everything in every way,
to feel everything excessively,
because all things are, in truth, excessive
and all reality is an excess,
a violence, an extraordinarily vivid hallucination.

// Fernando Pessoa

MIND: Wasteful

In this way, we end up spending (as Thoreau put it) “the best part of one’s life earning money in order to enjoy a questionable liberty during the least valuable part of it.”

We’d love to drop all and explore the world outside, we tell ourselves, but the time never seems right. Thus, given an unlimited amount of choices, we make none. Settling into our lives, we get so obsessed with holding on to our domestic certainties that we forget why we desired them in the first place.

Vagabonding // Rolf Potts