13 unknown countries in Europe you really should visit
Figured you knew Europe inside and out? And that you’d pretty much seen everything on that whirlwind trip of the continent three years ago? Sure, we all know France, Spain, Italy and Scandinavia. But Europe has lots of lesser known countries that deserve a little time in the spotlight too! You should totally visit these 13 unknown countries in Europe!
Size: 28,748 km2
Inhabitants: 2.8 million
Currency: Albanian Lek
Albania lays on the coast of the Balkans, a region I visited last year. It’s highly recommended for the beautiful, deserted beaches, the incredibly cheap costs of traveling there, and the friendly people. It’s probably easiest to fly into Tirana, and be sure not to miss the beaches at Dhermi, Himara, and Ksamili. The ‘Blue Eye’ is incredibly Pinterest-proof, and also be sure to look out the window when traveling inland to the cute village of Theth, and traversing the many mountains of the country for epic views.
Size: 468 km²
This micro-country is wedged between Spain and France, high in the mountains, and offers the ultimate country for people who like epic vista’s and rugged mountain tops. The best advice is just to relax and enjoy nature… considering it’s micro-size there isn’t really much else to do. It’s the perfect stop for when traveling in Spain and France.
3. Bosnia and Herzegovina
Size: 51,197 km2
Inhabitants: 3.8 million
Language: Bosnian, Croatian and Serbian
Currency: Bosnian Mark
Bosnia and Herzegovina was one of my favourite visited countries of 2015. It deeply impressed me with not only it’s stunning natural beauty, yummy cuisine, friendly locals, but mostly it’s heart-wrenching history. The Balkan-war (twenty years ago) is still omnipresent in a country littered with graveyards and gunshot-damaged buildings. The country is a mixture of cultures, religions and languages which makes it a very interesting country. Also the natural beauty was absolutely beyond everything I expected. Don’t miss the old bridge of Mostar, the vibrant Sarajevo and the gorgeous northern region.
Size: 45,339 km2
Inhabitants: 1.3 million
Most people find it hard to separate the three Baltic countries from each other. Estonia is the northern country of the three, and it’s capatical Talinn is a very popular destination in combination with a visit to Helsinki (only a 2hr ferry ride away). Estonia is actually a very developed and quite wealthy country. Capital Talinn is definitely not hard on the eyes, with it’s gorgeous medieval buildings, but also don’t forget to venture out to Lahemaa National Park and university city Tartu.
Size: 10.887 km²
Inhabitants: 1.8 million
Another formerly war-torn country, but very safe nowadays. Its existence however still is controversial as Serbia refuses to acknowledge it’s independent nature, but most of the other countries in the world do. Capital Pristina doesn’t have the best reputation, but there are plenty other things to see in the country, such as Decani monastery, a 700 year old monastery. Another monastery is the bright red orthodox one in Pec. The most famous natural sight is the Rugova Gorge, a gorgeous canyon with breathtaking views.
Size: 64,589 km2
Inhabitants: 1.9 million
Latvia is the middle of the three Baltic-countries. Out of the three capitals, Latvia’s capital Riga is usually the most beloved, so if you’re looking to only visit one city in the Baltics, let that be the cute and colorful Riga. But also don’t forget to move out of the city and visit Gauja Natural Park for example. The medieval town of Cēsis is considered one of the cutest towns in the country. Castle-lovers should definitely not skip Rundāle Palace in the south of the country.
Size: 160 km2
Currency: Swiss Frank
Another micro-state, of which Europe has four, Liechtenstein is one you’ve probably never heard of. It is located between Switzerland and Austria and is tax heaven for companies. But it’s also heaven for anyone who loves the Sound of Music, and would rather live in a mountain village in the Alps. Marveling over the beauty all around you is really all you can -and should- do.
Size: 65,300 km2
Inhabitants: 2.8 million
The southern country out of the three Baltic countries, with Vilnius as its capital. The old town of Vilnius is a UNESCO World Heritage site with it’s winding streets and old churches. Kaunaus is another cute city with its bright white churches, which once even used to be the countries capital. Don’t forget to escape the cities in Lithuania’s most favourite national park Aukštaitija National Park. The quirkiest thing about Lithuania is definitely its hill of crosses, in the north of the country, a protest against Soviet occupation.
Size: 25.713 km²
Inhabitants: 2 million
If this picture above doesn’t convince you, I’m not sure what will. This is Ohrid bay, one of the most picturesque (and touristic) places of the country. Capital Skopje has a very good reputation in the party scene. It also houses 284 statues… do with that information what you want. It’s also one of the cheapest countries in Europe, with guestrooms going from lower than 10 dollars a night.
Size: 33,846 km2
Inhabitants: 2.9 million
Located right next to Romania, the small Moldova is the least visited country in Europe. I would assume it’s because of it’s middle of nowhere-location for pretty much everyone on the continent, but it seems very undeserved. The capital Chisinau is definitely worth a visit, with it’s gorgeous parks and blue churches. The Capriana Monastery is one of the oldest in the country. Orheiul Vechi is an ancient settlement that is also worthy of your visit as it holds a monastery in a cave!
Size: 13,812 km2
I was a little bit torn about how much I enjoyed my time in Montenegro, as when I visited it was 40 degrees, and the people weren’t exactly friendly either. But I honestly felt it was one of the naturally beautiful countries I’ve ever been to. I’ve never been to Norway but I figure it can give it a run for its money. We skipped the capital city due to not hearing great reports about it, and decided to visit the beautiful Durmitor national park in the north of the country (surreal, out of this earth beautiful) and the Bay of Kotor, which was absolutely beautiful (but too busy in summers).
Size: 77,474 km2
Inhabitants: 7 million
Currency: Serbian Dinar
I have lots of friends that are all crazy about Serbia. I’ve only passed by it, and didn’t have time to visit, but I still want to! I hear very good stories about the party atmosphere in Belgrade. Serbia is the largest country in the Balkan area (which also meant it had a very great role in the Balkan war…). Partiers flock to Exit festival every year, but if you’re into nature you should head to Devil’s town, a peculiar rock formation in the south of Serbia. The highlight of culture can be found in Belgrade, a city chock full of history and interesting museums.
Size: 20,273 km2
Inhabitants: 2 million
Slovenia was definitely one of the most surprising countries from 2015 road trip trough central Europe and the Balkan. I was expecting it to be quite Balkan-esque… but it was super developed. It constantly reminded me of neighbour Austria, which is never a bad thing. Ljubljana, the capital, is one of the cutest capitals I’ve ever visited. The city is riddled with brigtly coloured houses, hipster café’s and lots of students, which makes it a cheap place to visit too. If you’re into nature, definitely head over to Lake Bled, which definitely lives up to its expectations.
What is your favourite lesser known European country?