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!
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!
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
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.
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, 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.
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.
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.
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