Uncommon Europe: 3 Ways to Discover Its Hidden Treasures

Uncommon Europe: 3 Ways to Discover Its Hidden Treasures

From Estonia in the north to Albania in the south, the Baltics, Central Europe, East Europe, and the Balkans are wonderful destinations, dotted with UNESCO Sites, handsome medieval churches, and rustic villages. They claim a wealth of distinctive landscapes and unique cultural heritage.

Create your own personal concoction of countries, cultures, and communities, with MIR’s help, or choose a ready-made Small Group Tour or a Rail Journey by Private Train that takes you where you want to go.

Discover the 3 ways to travel off the beaten path and discover lesser-known Europe:

  1. Small Group Tours – never more than 16 travelers
  2. Rail Journeys – travel by luxury private train 
  3. Independent – travel when, where, and how you want

1. Small Group Tours to Europe

Choose from a selection of tours that either take an in-depth look at one country, or survey a sophisticated grouping of adjacent countries:

Dubrovnik, Croatia Photo credit: Peter Guttman

Hand-embroidered linens in Dubrovnik, Croatia
Photo credit: Peter Guttman

A Seven-Country Balkan Collection

Balkan Odyssey: Crossroads of CulturesFrom low-lying Belgrade up through the Dinaric Alps, down to the Dalmatian Coast of Croatia, and back up to mountainous Macedonia, this overland journey ties together seven of the wildly divergent Balkan countries: Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro, Albania, Macedonia, Kosovo (more info).

You might also enjoy these blog posts about these destinations:

Old Bridge, Mostar, Bosnia and Herzogovina

Old Bridge, Mostar, Bosnia and Herzogovina
Photo credit: Martin Klimenta

Two Good Neighbors

Bulgaria & Romania: Frescoes & FortressesExplore the complex history and fascinating culture of Bulgaria and Romania, two countries whose rugged terrain and consequent isolation have helped preserve their heritage. Discover the luminous frescoes of the painted monasteries, breathe in 
the fragrance of the Valley of the Roses, and spend an afternoon visiting with villagers in a tiny Transylvanian town (more info).

You might also enjoy these blog posts about these destinations:

Young dancers await their turn to perform at the Kazanluk Rose Festival in Bulgaria Photo credit: Michel Behar

Young performers in Bulgaria
Photo credit: Michel Behar

North to the Baltic Sea

Kaliningrad & The BalticsThis overland journey roves the countryside and urban centers of four distinct nations: the three independent Baltic countries – Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania – and Kaliningrad, an exclave of Russia (more info).

You might also enjoy these blog posts about these destinations:

Aerial view of Riga, Latvia Photo credit: Latvia Tourism

Aerial view of Riga, capital of Latvia
Photo credit: Latvia Tourism

Three Unsung Countries (and Transdniester)

Belarus, Ukraine & MoldovaTraverse a little-known region that has changed hands from its earliest history. Belarus, Ukraine, and Moldova are three of the least frequented and least familiar countries in Europe. Time slowed drastically here after the devastation of WWII, but these beautiful countries are emerging from the shadows. Visit an artist in Kiev, share a meal with a Chisinau family, and take a day trip to the Transdniester region, a narrow strip of Moldovan land where separatists have declared a disputed independence (more info).

You might also enjoy these blog posts about these destinations:

A farmer outside of Chisinau, Moldova.

A farmer outside of Chisinau, Moldova
Photo credit: Joanna Millick

A Christmas Celebration

Christmas Traditions of Poland: Brilliant Holidays in Krakow, Warsaw & the Polish Highlands

Celebrate the heartfelt holiday traditions of Poland, wandering Krakow’s brilliant Christmas Market and joining a Polish family in their Warsaw home for the intimate Christmas Eve feast called Wigilia, where you can sample 12 different traditional dishes. This wintry journey brings you close to the warm heart of Poland’s long-standing customs (more info).

You might also enjoy these blog posts about these destinations:

Decorating Christmas ornaments in Poland

Decorating Christmas ornaments in Poland
Photo credit: Polish National Tourist Board

2. Rail Journeys by Private Train through Europe
Attendants ready to greet passengers aboard the Golden Eagle Danube Express. Photo: GW

Attendants ready to greet passengers aboard the Golden Eagle Danube Express

New Year’s in Vienna by Private TrainEnjoy the pleasures of Old World rail travel as you glide in style on a circular route from Budapest, Hungary, where layer upon layer of civilizations have flowered and faded, and on to a date with a brilliant New Year’s celebration in magnificent Vienna, Austria. Continue through the hip Czech Republic and green and friendly Slovakia, stopping in the medieval city of Kosice, declared a European Capital of Culture in 2013, and ultimately arriving back where you started, in beautiful Budapest. Encounter four countries and five UNESCO World Heritage Sites along the rails as you roll from one fascinating city to the next. (more info).

Wien, Ringstrasse, Rathaus, Adventmarkt, Adventzauber

Vienna’s grand neo-Gothic Rathaus is decked out for the holidays. Photo credit: Österreich Werbung / Wiesenhofer

 

3. Independent Travel to Europe
Forget the crowds, travelers can mingle with locals in Bulgaria. Photo credit: Michel Behar

Forget the crowds, travelers can mingle with locals in Bulgaria
Photo credit: Michel Behar

One of the difficulties of traveling independently is deciding what you need to see and what you can skip. When you travel independently with MIR’s support, you collaborate with your travel specialist to make sure that the itinerary encompasses everything you crave, efficiently sequenced so it makes sense geographically, and so it makes your time and resources stretch the farthest.

Here are some travel tips and excursions to add to your independent itinerary:

Essentially Yours

Researched & Ready: MIR has been specializing in personalized, private journeys for more than 30 years. We love crafting original itineraries to the crossroads of Europe and Asia that fit your travel preferences. Travel wherever, however, and with whomever you like, relying on our expert assistance.

Essential BalkansExplore seven Balkan countries –Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro, Albania, Macedonia, Kosovo – on this compact journey through history. Visit the capitals, the countryside, and the competing cultures of the Balkan Peninsula (more info).

Essential PolandVisit Poland’s capital, animated Warsaw, the medieval town square and underground pubs of Krakow, and two other celebrated Polish UNESCO sites (more info).

Essential UkraineDiscover Western Ukraine’s Lviv, with its European feel, before flying to the glittering capital, Kiev, and the historic port city of Odessa (more info).

Essential BalticsThe best of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia: Survey the UNESCO-listed Baltic capitals, and head into the countryside for rural highlights, like the Hill of Crosses and baroque Rundale Palace (more info).

A Lithuanian festival

A Lithuanian festival

Travel to Uncommon Europe with MIR

No matter where you go, it’s important to travel with an experienced tour operator. MIR has over two decades of Central and East Europe, Balkans and Baltics travel experience and our small group tour, Belarus, Ukraine & Moldova, was honored by National Geographic Traveler as a “Tour of a Lifetime.”

Fodor’s Travel Intelligence blog praised MIR for expertise in planning custom trips for travelers exploring their roots in Central and East Europe.

Explore MIR’s Destination Map or Trip Finder to explore some of the tour options. Or connect with me by phone (800-424-7289) or email to discuss your travel ideas.

Top photo: Excitement in Serbia: Belgrade Nights. Photo credit: Srdjan Veljovic.

PUBLISHED: December 8, 2015

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2 thoughts on “Uncommon Europe: 3 Ways to Discover Its Hidden Treasures

  • Lillian Tuttosi

    All of your trips and tours sound excellent, but I want to come to visit the spots where our ancestors lived and some still do. That is in Gochsheim, Germany; Hartfeld, Berdikau, Brigidau, Dolina, and what is left of Diamantheim and Theodorshof in what once was Galicia in what once was Austria, then Poland, and now Ukrain? Some of the attractions for tourists would be interesting to see as well, but these are the places I want to see.

    • Jessica Clark

      Hi Lillian – wow! That would be a great trip! Our Private Journeys Specialists have helped many clients with family heritage trips and could craft a custom experience based on your needs. For more information contact privatejourneys@mircorp.com or call 877-535-9818