Tourism is on the rise in Eastern European countries, as more travelers decide to venture beyond the world-class capitals of the Old Continent to pursue off-the-beaten-path adventures, get lost in historic charming cities and avoid the usual crowds of the summer months.
Once hidden behind the Iron Curtain, countries like Croatia, Slovenia, and the Czech Republic are emerging as exciting travel destinations, offering a myriad of things to see and do. Those who enjoy the outdoors will find a diversity of landscapes, including emerald rivers, majestic mountains, forests, caves, waterfalls, and incredible Mediterranean beaches.
Planning a trip to Europe? Turn your eyes East and add some of these amazing experiences on your bucket list!
Along with Medieval castles and Pilsner beer, the Czech Republic is best known for breathtaking Prague, one of the most traveled cities in Eastern Europe. However, not everyone knows that Czechia is also an amazing destination for outdoor lovers, featuring incredible landscapes of mountains, forests, and caves.
Its mindblowing sandstone towers with cracks, slabs, and chimneys, make the Czech Republic an epic destination for rock climbing. In fact, it’s one of the few places in the world where you can practice ‘sandstone climbing’, a challenging version of this sport that will get your heart pumping!
Basically, there are three main venues for sandstone climbing in the Czech Republic: the Adršpach-Teplice Rocks (close to the Polish border); the Bohemian Paradise (at a 40 min drive from Prague) and Bohemian Switzerland (near the border with Germany).
The Seven Rila Lakes are one of the most spectacular natural attractions in Bulgaria and make a perfect day trip while staying in Sofia, the country’s vibrant capital city.
This group of deep-blue glacial lakes inside Rila National Park ―each of them named by its shape: the Eye, the Fish, the Twins, etc― provide stunning views of the Rila Mountains and are a paradise for hikers, both novice and experienced.
Getting there involves a 1.5h drive from Sofia to a lift station. The lift takes you up to 2,140m: there you’ll find the lower lake and the beginning of the hiking trail.
Traveling with a mountain guide is a great chance of taking this experience to a whole new level. Besides the popular 1-day hiking tour, local guides offer multi-day treks that take you to other attractions in these amazing Balkan mountains, like the Rila Monastery and the Skakavitsa waterfall, while spending the night at a mountain hut.
Despite its small size, Slovenia is a major playground for outdoor lovers and one of Eastern Europe’s favorite destinations! From the charming beauty of Bled to the emerald waters of the Soca River, there’s just a lot to explore in Slovenia.
However, the ultimate experience in the Slovenian mountains is climbing the country’s highest and most iconic peak: Mount Triglav (2,864 m). Sitting in the heart of Triglav National Park, very close to the Italian border, this majestic mountain of the Julian Alps is a powerful national symbol that attracts both locals and foreigners.
Considered an intermediate climb with some exposed sections near the summit, the Triglav ascent makes for an excellent introduction to mountaineering. There are different routes to the top; depending on which one you choose, you may have to climb a via ferrata.
In the south-west corner of Poland, at the foot of the Tatra Mountains, lies Zakopane, a well-known ski resort and an exciting summer destination for hiking & nature lovers.
There are endless possibilities for hiking around Zakopane. To begin with, only in the nearby Tatra National Park (there is one park on the Polish side and another one on the Slovak side) there are 275km of marked trails of all difficulty levels. Unlike the Slovak Tatras, the Polish peaks are less technical and therefore, accessible for all types of hikers.
Some of the highlights include exploring Morskie Oko, a very scenic mountain lake, the Valley of the 5 Lakes, and the Chocholowska and Koscieliska valleys. For the most intrepid, other adventures include climbing Giewont Peak (1,894 m) ―a very popular peak in Poland― and Rysy, the highest mountain in the country, at 2,499m.
Some people consider it the ‘last European wilderness’. The truth is that Paklenica National Park is one of the most unique (and diverse) natural areas in Croatia. Lying to the south of the Velebit Mountain, very close to the coastal city of Zadar, Paklenica is a magnet for hikers and rock climbers.
Within the park, there are more than 500 climbing routes for all levels. The climbing sites are easy to reach and the rock is superb limestone. Though it can get too hot for climbing during the summer months, the Velika Gorge provides some great crags in shade.
Hiking is also a popular activity in Paklenica. From a vertiginous scrambling tour through the Velika Canyon to the amazing subterranean paradise of stalactites and stalagmites at Manita Cave, there’s plenty to explore.
By the end of your adventure, you can go for a relaxing swim at the beach: the Adriatic Sea is only a few steps away.
So, have you already decide on your next summer holiday? Make sure to include a few adventures in Eastern Europe into your itinerary!
For some extra inspiration, you can read our guide to the best things to do in Montenegro, one of the most exciting destinations in the Balkans!
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