Writing any ‘Top 5’ list is always tricky. Any personal list is very subjective and, as no two people are the same, it’s highly unlikely everyone reading this will agree with me.
But, that’s fine. What I hope you will get from my list of the top 5 under-rated countries in Europe is the desire to visit every country I’ve named or, at least come up with your own list and start travelling.
The destinations I’ve chosen are those that, whilst popular in their own right, are not places which immediately spring to mind when planning a holiday or quick break.
Yet, every country on this list is a must-see destination which offers an unforgettable experience for the tourist or traveller.
So, without further ado, let’s dive straight into it. At number one in our top five is Portugal, surely the most under-rated holiday destination in Europe.
The popularity of Portugal seemed to have waned in recent years, though it has always suffered in comparison to its more glitzy and glamorous neighbour, Spain.
Yet, Portugal is an amazing country with beautiful beaches, vibrant resorts and historical cities.
The Algarve is probably the most ‘touristy’ part of Portugal, thanks mostly to its popularity with British holidaymakers and retirees. Its attraction is easy to see with mile after mile of golden beaches.
The Azores are incredible all year round. The group of islands off Portugal’s Atlantic coast must be seen to be believed. The good news is that with the deregulation of flights in 2015 the islands are now more accessible than ever to tourists.
Away from the beaches and islands, Portugal also has so much to offer for those who prefer a city break. Lisbon is the second oldest capital city in Europe and has so much to enjoy for the urban tourist; including the choice of some superb Portuguese wine.
For some bizarre reason the recent proliferation of Nordic crime dramas has given a big boost to Iceland’s popularity. However, the discerning traveller has always known that the land of the midnight sun (with apologies to Norway and Finland) is a bucket list destination.
Iceland is so much more accessible now with plenty of great value flights available from all major airports. There really is no excuse not to go.
Once in Iceland there is so much to do including hiking, extreme sports and, of course, enough jaw-dropping natural beauty and phenomena to keep the traveller busy for months on end.
The mountains of Landmannalauger, active volcanoes, the Svartifoss waterfall and, of course, the incredible and astonishing Northern Lights are just some of the sights waiting to be explored.
An up and coming destination that has so much to offer the traveller or holidaymaker. Including some fantastic weather.
More people are beginning to discover the delights of this amazing country yet so many are still unaware of its appeal.
To get some idea of the natural beauty of Croatia just think of Game of Thrones; much of the TV blockbuster was filmed in the country.
One of the sunniest places in Europe, Croatia enjoys plenty of hot weather as well as some of the best beaches. It’s a winning combination for any holidaymaker.
But Croatia is also a destination any culture vulture will enjoy. There are some magnificent Roman ruins in Split and the coastal city of Pula also boasts one of the best preserved Roman Amphitheatres in the world.
Probably the most under-rated destination of all. And, certainly the best value for money.
However much, or little, currency you take with you to Bulgaria you will be travelling home with plenty of change. Everything here is inexpensive, compared to the most popular destinations in Europe, Bulgaria provides incredible value.
But, it’s not all about money. The people are friendly, the scenery stunning and the golden beaches on the coast are perfect for a summer holiday.
Foodies too will find unexpected delights in Bulgaria. Feta cheese, Kufteh (a kind of burger) and Mekitsa fried bread are just some of the culinary highlights.
For a city break, the capital Sofia offers incredible architecture, a varied nightlife and some stunning Roman ruins. Most airlines offer cheap flights to Bulgaria making it an affordable and exciting destination for the traveller.
Definitely not a country which is usually found on many top five lists but Belgium has so much going for it. And, after all, this is the top 5 under-rated countries in Europe list so Belgium deserves its place.
The de-facto capital of Europe, Brussels is Belgium’s jewel in the crown and offers everything from music festivals to an exciting cafe culture to antique fairs and bustling markets.
The nightlife has to be experienced too with many fine nightclubs and high-class restaurants. It is certainly one of the most cosmopolitan cities in Europe.
Away from Brussels, Bruges, Antwerp, and Ghent are all great choices for mini breaks whilst the rural areas are some of the most tranquil in Europe.
Food lovers should make a pilgrimage to Belgium just to taste the fries, reputed to be the best in the world. But, the locals also excel in making chocolate and beer as well. What more do you need?