Hidden secret destinations in Europe on a budget?
Is that even possible anymore?
Sometimes I feel like there are no parts left of the world to explore. With the popularity of blogs and social media, it feels as if the world knows all there is to know about travel now. Every destination seems to have been photographed and shared a million times.
I’m so grateful I was able to travel at a time when postcards were the norm as I feel I had the chance to experience many hidden gems.
Places like Portugal, Sumatra, Croatia, Namibia, and the Czech Republic which are popular now were so exotic back in the late nineties.
But lucky we do live in a very big world that still offers the hungry traveler those hidden secret destination experiences on a budget.
Thankfully, there are people out there researching and uncovering them for us.
MasterCard unveiled 44 Top Hidden Treasures for your Europe trip. They are highlighting the most special, less known and affordable travel destinations in Europe
The Top Hidden Treasures in Europe have been identified using MasterCard data as well as information from local travel bloggers and tourism experts.
They were ranked according to beauty, crowdedness, payment acceptance, the cost of stay and convenience.
Top 10 Hidden Secret Destinations in Europe on a Budget
1. Asturias and Covadonga convent, Spain
In the middle of Spain’s north coast near the Bay of Biscay, is the Asturias region. It may be small in space, but it’s big on travel value. One-third of the Asturias region is protected and UNESCO has recognized four biosphere reserves within it.
The beaches are uncrowded, there is plenty of hiking in complete wilderness as well as cities to explore and cultural highlights. The Covadonga Convent is is a must see and considered one of the most important historical locations in Spain.
2. Mdina & Zebbug, Malta
Malta has been on my list since I first started remembering. My mother’s best friends are Maltese and every time we’d visit they’d sit us down to a gigantic feast of delicious food. We were not to leave the table until we ate it all.
They were full of warmth, love and constant laughter and chitter chatter. And that has never changed as I’ve gotten older. That’s a culture and country I want to know more of.
A Mediterranean jewel and ninth smallest country in the world, Malta attracts travelers with breathtaking landscapes and a stunning coastline, a rich medieval heritage, and of course delicious food.
In Mdina, you can visit grand palaces, cultural treasures and baroque architecture. Zebbu has a fascinating Arabic influence and is famous for a three-day (or more) “festa” that draws in hundreds of people in celebration.
3. Salzkammergut region, Austria
Austria has alpine goodness well wrapped up. Hidden in the Salzkammergut region is Lake Hallstatt, one of the most beautiful Alpine lakes in Austria. It’s an outdoor adventure playground in both summer and winter and, with those stunning views, you’ll want to return again and again.
A mountain railway connects Hallstatt to a historic salt mine, while the Dachstein Ice Caves and the Mammoth Cave in Obertraun can both be reached by cable car.
Check out the most extreme water park in the world at Area 47 Otztal in the Tirol Region of Austria.
4. The Azores, Portugal
Portugal is definitely the hot flavor for Europe travel in 2017. I recognized its sparkle all the way back in 1998.
The Algarve is no longer a hidden secret or a budget destination in Europe, but the Azores is and it sounds just as divine.
The Azores is an archipelago composed of nine volcanic islands in the mid-Atlantic 800 miles off the coast of Portugal.
Breathtaking landscapes, volcanoes, crater lakes, fishing villages, and waterfalls are waiting for you. No wonder UNESCO listed the Abores a Biosphere Reserve in 2009.
The Azores has been referred to as Europe’s answer to Hawaii. Out of this list of destinations in Europe on a budget, this is the most exciting to me.
5. Perast, Montenegro
MasterCard are calling Perast – Beauty at a Bargain! This is the place to go deluxe without overspending. Perast, a quaint town on the coast of Montenegro, is just waiting for beach enthusiasts to discover this hidden European gem.
This is the place to go deluxe without overspending. Perast, a quaint town on the coast of Montenegro, is just waiting for beach enthusiasts to discover this hidden European gem.
Just offshore are two spectacular settings: the island of St. George, and the Adriatic’s only artificial island, Our Lady of the Rocks. Perast is also known for its Venetian-heritage buildings.
6. Lednice-Valtice, Czech Republic
I’ve been hearing about travel gems in the Czech Republic for years. I didn’t make it past the charming city of Prague – which back then was an ultra budget European destination. 20 pence for a beer. Hello, Czech Republic!
Did you know that the 200 km Lednice-Valtice region in the Czech Republic is Europe’s largest artificial geographical area and known a the Garden of Europe?
A major attraction is Lednice Castle, a palace built on a Renaissance chateau and Gothic fort. You can take a fairytale walk and enjoy the stunning views after climbing the 60-meter high minaret or relax on a boat trip down the river.
Valtice Chateau is known for its beauty and long tradition of wine making. The grape vines are said to be brought by the Romain legion of Marcus Aurelius.
7. Pag Island, Croatia
Croatia was once a hidden European destination, but now it’s very popular with tourists. There are still some areas you can visit on a budget and aren’t as popular yet.
The island of Pag is one of the most striking and unique spots on the Croatian Adriatic coast.
Known for its moon-like landscapes and salt, lace and cheese production, the heat of hot summer days is helpfully reduced by a light sea breeze. And look at the color of that water!
8. Saaremaa Island, Estonia
Estonia is a destination in Europe that has been getting a bit of attention lately.
If you like beer and windmills this island (Estonia’s largest) located in the Baltic Sea is for you. The famous local home brew and windmills are Saaremaa’s symbols. I love it!
Apart from that, Saaremaa has the Kaali craters – the result of several meteorites that impacted some 3,500 years ago – the largest forming the unique, green-colored Kaali Lake.
Kuressaare is the island’s only town and features a medieval and bishopric castle dating from the 13th century.
9. Volos & Pelion region, Greece
If you loved the movie Mamma Mia than you already have an inkling of what is in store fro you in the Volos & Pelion region of Greece. The movie was filmed in Damouhari, the only natural harbor on the East Pelion coast.
Volos is halfway between Athens and Thessaloniki in the Pagasetic Gulf. It has rich historical and architectural sites, good restaurants and a vibrant nightlife, and is bordered by beautiful beaches on one side, and by Mount Pelion on the other.
10. Kamnik Alps, Slovenia
Slovenia may be tiny but there are many beautiful places to visit. The breathtaking Velika Planina uplands in the Kamnik Alps is one of those.
Velika Lanina is just an hour from Ljubljana or the wooden huts of the oldest preserved herdsmen settlement in Europe which will give you the illusion of time travel.
Plus, Slovenians love to party – there are numerous festivities and events, and the Kamnik Alps region hosts over 60 festivals in just one season!
But wait there’s more. You can check out what other countries made the list in this Hidden Treasures Roadbook.
Tips to remember when using your Credit Card to pay for travel
As MasterCard has found in extensive research, travelers are using cards more and more to book and pay for their travel experiences – 55% pre-trip, and 45% on their trip.
We rarely use cash to pay for our travel anymore either. It’s not just because of the convenience of a credit card, but also for the reward points you can collect when you do use it.
- Know the services linked to your card, like security, travel and leisure services that could make your trip even more special.
- Tell your bank or financial institution where you’re heading so they can help you faster if anything goes wrong.
- Save the ‘Lost & Stolen Card’ number to your phone if you need to block it.
- When paying with your card at a restaurant or a café, ask the waiter to bring the card reader or go with the waiter to the reader at the check-out;
- Never write down your PIN code on a piece of paper and do not save it into your phone.
- When you pay with your card abroad, always pay in local currency to get the best exchange /conversion rate
- Check your statements and report fraudulent charges within 30 days. If something looks suspicious, call the bank
- MasterCard zero liability protects you from unauthorized transactions – those purchases you did not make
Cool infographic coming up!
I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to jump on a plane and travel to Europe. Writing this post on hidden secret destinations in Europe on a budget has inspired some serious European wanderlust within me.
Every time I think I’m ready to settle down, something comes along to show me, travel is the only lifestyle for me.
Thank you to MasterCard for conducting the research to help us eager travelers find destinations in Europe on a budget. This is a fantastic list and we’re happy to partner with MasterCard to share it.
It blows my mind that you can visit stunning regions like this in Europe for less than €30 a night on accommodation!!