So to maintain those indie holiday vibes, we’ve compiled a list of Eastern Europe’s secret gems. Ditching typical holiday destinations, we’ve come up with some underground spots. That way, you can have a unique holiday experience, minus the crowds. You’re welcome!
#1 Orheiul Vechi, Moldova
If climbing into a small cave dug by monks in the 13th century sounds like your thing, then you need to check out Orheiul Vechi. The ancient settlement is one of Moldova’s most picturesque places, resting on the banks of the Raut River, 50km north-east of Chisinau.
It’s home to a small monastery, sat atop rugged cliffs that are green in summer and snow white come wintertime.
Orheiul Vechi is a remote spot that’s painfully hard to get to. But, as you can see, the views are well worth the trek.
#2 Riga, Latvia
Latvia’s capital Riga is brimming with culture and personality, possessing remnants from the Germans, the Soviets and the Swedes. The happenin’ town has a vibrant history and is famous for its wooden buildings, art nouveau architecture and medieval Old Town.[related_articles]59984,61396[/related_articles]
Still unconvinced? A little-known fact is that Riga is Europe’s Wi-Fi capital, with plenty of chances to hook up to a free connection and upload those travel snaps to Insta.
#3 The Albania Riviera
The Albanian Riviera boasts pristine beaches with white sand and deep blue water. It’s pretty freakin’ spectacular.
Inevitably, the stunning beaches of Albania aren’t exactly off-the-beaten-track anymore, but they’re still far quieter than other spots around Europe, like Italy’s Ionian Coast.
Because nothing ruins a day at the beach like someone kicking sand in your face while you’re trying to sunbathe, the trick is to head to the coast outside of summer. There’s no dramas if you can’t schedule a summer soiree, because the Riviera has plenty of beaches to choose from with Bunec, Himara and Ksamil just a few that deserve a mention.
#4 Budva, Montenegro
Quiet seaside town Budva is often overlooked by tourists who’d rather marvel at the spoils of nearby Croatia. But it’s a blessing that Croatia overshadows this modest town, because we can reap the advantages of this peaceful spot.[related_articles]54528,59223[/related_articles]
Cobble-pebbled beaches provide a beautiful backdrop for town, surrounded by fishing villages. Just West of Budva is the Blue Flag Jaz, which is littered with pedal boats, kayaks and jet-skis for hire. Another 10 km outside of the town, you’ll find yourself in the charming Sveti Stefan, home to a pink beach, quiet woodland and a castaway resort with a private beach.
#5 Bratislava, Slovakia
Slovakia’s capital is the pedestrian-only town of Bratislava. The small city has an exuberant nightlife, stacks of trendy cafes and sits snug between the surrounding mountains. It’s perched atop a hill, offering breathtaking views of the surrounding houses.
In Bratislava, hiking and biking are very much on the radar, with plenty of tracks circling around the city and accentuating the scenic vineyards. With century-old baroque castles, Esterházy Palace and the Slovak desert, Sandberg nearby, there’s no shortage of sites to see, that’s for sure.
#6 Tallinn, Estonia
While venturing through Latvia, be sure to stop over in Tallinn, Estonia’s capital and a UNESCO-protected city. Bursting with history, there’s certainly a lot to see beyond your typical museums and galleries.
Locals have shared an extensive list of abandoned and haunted sites to complete your holiday. They include the abandoned Patarei sea fortress prison, once operated by the Soviets, a haunted guest house where the devil reportedly had his wedding, and the ruins of an old Olympic stadium.[related_articles]39900,37162[/related_articles]
Even outside of the more obscure sites, Estonia’s capital also boasts appealing eateries, colourful churches and bucketloads of history.
#7 Turda, Romania
Romania is a country with a lot to offer, including an old salt mine transformed into an underground sci-fi theme park in Turda, Transylvania (above).
After venturing through Turda, a gothic city home to castles and churches, be sure to travel to the Blue Lake in Maramures, a pastel blue river with surrounding waterfalls.
For a more adventurous day trip, head to Scortoasa and cast your eyes on the Berca mud volcanoes, dubbed the “Gates of Hell” by locals, and home to exotic wildlife in the east of Romania.
(Lead image: Arno Hoyer / Flickr)
Eden Gillespie is a freelance journalist who's learning Spanish and will be based in Madrid starting 2017. Siesta, fiesta, repeat.