I usually say that any trip to Europe is like the first one. This is because you will always have an enriching experience, whether because of the number of countries and cultures you can visit just a few hours away (it’s all relatively close) or because of the beauty of the countries you visit.
But when choosing the best destinations in Europe, countless doubts begin! That desire to get to know all the countries makes you confused until you realize that it’s practically impossible. Therefore, I have decided to give you a little help.
This mini-guide contains just my humble suggestions on the best places to visit in Europe for those who don’t know where to start! And in this post, I will focus on Iceland and Greece’s best attractions. But remember: every country has so many wonderful attractions! Read on!
Frozen caves, volcanoes, thermal pools, magnificent waterfalls, and depending on the season, the most beautiful light show your eyes will see. Iceland is a country full of attractions, mysteries, and the biggest spa in the world in the middle of the ice.
I had a five days road trip to this country with a friend. We drove along the main road (N1) and through the Western Fjords. So I circled the island completely clockwise.
I covered 2500 km, an average of 500km per day. It seems like a lot, but there are plenty of hours of sunshine in the summer, and there was no other choice. It is not possible to take a shortcut when you start traveling in this country using the N1. This is because, in the center of the country, there are only highlands, glaciers, and forests where it is only allowed to drive jeeps.
The route ended in Reykjavik, where I stayed another day and a half before catching the plane back home. And here are some of the best places I recommend visiting.
Blue Lagoon: Bathing Is All About Beauty Goals
I’ll begin with the Blue Lagoon to start our discussion of the best destinations in Iceland. This is a geothermal spa and one of the most famous places to visit in Europe. Created by silica rock, boiling water, and steam from nearby hydrothermal springs, this natural phenomenon produces thousands of liters of mineral-rich waters each day.
The area has been carefully designed to provide relaxation for both body and mind. It features various changing rooms that offer private bathing areas with different types of baths: freshwater pools, seawater pools, hot pots filled with herbs or minerals such as salt. People bath to treat psoriasis and other skincare purposes.
There are plenty of facilities available on-site such as free lockers where you can leave your valuables safe, a cafe, and a restaurant with delicious food for you to enjoy.
The lagoon has been in operation since the 1970s when it became famous as one of Europe most popular sights. Tourists from across the globe come to this natural hot tub on a daily basis, so be sure not to miss out!
Reynisfijara: A Black Beach
Despite not appearing to be a destination of beautiful beaches, the country will manage to impress you in this regard. Visiting Iceland’s lush and diverse beaches should definitely be at the top of your Icelandic to-do list. But don’t think that in summer it will be possible to take a deep bath in the sea only if you like being cold.
What I want to say is that even in the hottest season, temperatures do not exceed 14°C, and despite having different types of beaches, they all have icy waters.
What impresses me most about Iceland’s beaches are its black sands and its unique way in the world, and my favorite was Reynisfijara. Its coastline was formed from tephra, which are volcanic rocks that came to rest near or on Earth’s surface following an eruption.
This beach is well known around Iceland and Europe as being home to many seals, which can be seen swimming offshore all year round. There have also been reports of people seeing great white sharks offshore and within these waters too.
Aside from the black sand and the seals, there are also the Reynisfijara columns. These are rectangular stone formations etched on the face of one of the stone cliffs. From the ocean, the columns look highly similar to a village or town consisting of low-profile rectangular houses.
By the way, tourists aren’t allowed to stand where the beach and waves meet. The waves are strong enough to pull people into the ocean upon receding.
Some of Iceland’s main attractions are its waterfalls, one different from the other, each with its own charm. While driving through the beautiful landscapes of Iceland, I came across beautiful waterfalls on the way.
The reason for many waterfalls in this country is related to the northern latitude of the country, which generates a cold and rainy climate. My favorite waterfall is the skogafoss. It has a height of 60 meters and a width between 25-100 meters. The falls originate from the river Skoga, which runs out to form an unusually large glacial lagoon before flowing into the ocean.
The area features impressive scenery with roaring rapids that can be observed both up close and from above by tourists visiting this natural wonder. And together with Skogafoss, in the Skoga River, are shorter waterfalls. You can see all of these via the hiking trail that spans up to 25 kilometers.
During summer, this waterfall looks very vibrant in summer due to the green and violet backdrop that the surrounding lupines provide. A brown shade invades the landscape of Skogafoss at fall. This results in a prehistoric look. And in winter, everything becomes white.
As I was traveling to famous places in Europe, I expected to see certain places. But during my trip, I discovered others that exceeded my expectations, and some were more special than the ones I had planned to see. This happened to me with Stokksnes.
Although each and every place in Iceland, for nature lovers, is an authentic place, Stokksnes has a special, mystical, dreamlike point that will make your stay memorable. This is a location that contains various attractive landforms. It has a nearby black sand beach, a wide grassland for camping, and the snow-capped Verstrahorn, which looks dazzlingly proud.
2. Greece: A Tourist Destination with Timeless Beauty
Taking the main tours in Greece is, of course, an unforgettable trip for any tourist. And that’s why I recommend including this country in your list of best places to visit in Europe.
After all, a tour through Greece tells legendary places steeped in history in Athens, the Greek islands (Santorini, Mykonos, and Zakynthos), and other fabulous destinations that can be seen on excursions from the Greek capital.
On my seven days trip to this country in Europe, I tried to get to know the Greek territory as much as possible and focused on the main tourist and historical destinations. Below are the most popular places that I recommend everyone should get to know when visiting this country.
Athens: The timeless city
My final destination is Athens, a city that withstood the test of time just like Rome. This city is at least 3,400 years old. And it’s the abode of the greatest minds in human history such as Socrates (Father of Modern Philosophy), Plato (Father of Political Science), Aristotle, and Thales.
Athens is a bustling city as it ever was and ever will be. Archeological sites like the Parthenon and Acropolis continue to attract a steady number of tourists.
There’s also the Acropolis museum, where I saw ancient Greek sculptures, armors, and weapons. The sculpture of Athena is breathtaking. The same also goes for the friezes from the Parthenon.
Another important site in Athens is Parliament Square, where all major political decisions are made by Greeks.
Other notable sites include
- Syntagma squarenear Parliament Square, which was used extensively during protests against austerity measures following 2010
- Zappeion Hall, which was originally built to serve as a convention center but now houses the National Library of Greece and other educational institutions
- Syntagma Square, which has served many purposes from being the city’s focal point in 1843, being used for military drills by troops during World War I and II.
Zakynthos: A shipwreck is a tourist attraction too
Zakynthos is a beautiful island in Greece. It’s most popular because it has an active volcano that creates natural hot springs, making the water so warm that you can swim year-round! Some people say Zakynthos’ black and white sand beaches are among the world’s finest, perfect for beach days with friends or family.
Scuba diving is very popular here. The 28 beaches of Zakynthos offer scuba diving opportunities for beginners and seasoned swimmers alike. Open-air cinemas are also around. These are usually found near parks and hotels. The norm is to watch movies while munching fries, burgers, and other hearty snacks.
Parties are another reason why people come too. Most night hubs are in Laganas, with over 50 clubs that provide an iconic rave environment. If low-key partying is what you want to experience, there are also pubs, karaoke bars, live band performances for you to enjoy.
The best tourist attraction in Zakynthos is Navagio beach. This is the resting ground of the MV Panyoitis and is dubbed as the most famous shipwreck site in the world.
Milos: An Island that's dangerously beautiful
Milos Island is a Greek island in the Aegean Sea. It has been inhabited since prehistoric times, and it was once home to many civilizations, including an important one of Minoan culture.
Milos is actually very rich in mineral resources such as bentonite, perlite, pozzolana, and kaolin. I recommend visiting Milos Mining Museum that provides educational programs to visitors.
Out of all the tourist locations in Milos, the town of Plaka was the most exceptional for me. I loved the cobblestone pavements, the local backwater restaurants, and the lively Graecan music. The white houses’ look extremely majestic during the afternoon. It’s better to look at them from a hill or any other high-rise location.
But aside from the view, Milos has a hidden secret that’s quite cunning yet amazing. Milos is actually a dormant volcanic island. Lava flows which happened long ago, formed its landscape.
Meteora: Making Monastic Living Very Monastic
The Meteora is a complex of six Eastern Orthodox monasteries in Greece, founded by St. Athanasios and established as one of the largest rock complexes in the world. It has been designated for decades now as a UNESCO World Heritage Site because it’s a very important historical and architectural site. Around 15 million tourists visit this area every year to see “the suspended rocks” as they are known locally.
The six monasteries, which are still active in their purpose today, were built between the 14th century and 17th century at the height of almost 800 meters from ground level, with no roads leading up to them. The monks had to climb over steep rocky paths or ride donkeys so they could reach these stone buildings that were carved out of sandstone.
I confess that this was one of the places I most wanted to visit when I traveled to Greece. After all, the feeling of being in front of the sanctuary of a mythological God is something very special. That’s why I highly recommend visiting this place.
Important: wear appropriate clothing to enter the monastery. That is, skirts, sleeveless shirts, or shorts are not allowed.
Mount Olympus: The Abode of the Gods
The highest mountain in Greece, Mount Olympus, is a popular tourist destination for both travelers and hikers alike. The ancient Greeks attributed the mountain to be their most important geographical landmark because it was here that they believed the gods lived. Even today, many people still visit this site as it has been deemed by UNESCO to be of cultural significance.
This majestic mountain is 2918 meters above sea level and covers 80 kilometers, acting as a natural border for Greece and Macedonia. And within Mount Olympus is the Mount Olympus National Park. When combined, hiking trails in Mount Olympus reach up to 200 kilometers. Follow these, and you’ll discover caves, vibrant grasslands, and shady woodlands.
There’s also the Enipeas Waterfalls. This is a waterfall that lush trees surround. Enipeas looks very pristine with its mild current and bluish waters. Around it is small rock formations that serve as great picture-taking spots.
These are some of the best places to visit in Europe. Anyway, if you have any questions about any of the destinations I’ve already visited, contact me, and I’ll be happy to answer. And check out all the posts already released. They are full of tips and best places to visit.