I’ve long been a fan of slow travel from one destination to the next. There’s nothing quite like enjoying the journey as the scenery changes before your eyes as you move from one locale to the next. I’ve taken countless buses, trains and boats when I could easily have flown because, for me, nothing epitomises travel more than the act of travel itself.
Slow travel may not be for everyone, but one way to enjoy a slow travel experience with all the comfort and none of the hassle of an independent journey is to join a cruise adventure, and don’t worry because there are plenty of off the beaten track cruise destinations waiting to be discovered, even in Europe.
From the cold climes of St Petersburg or the dramatic vistas of Greenland to the sunny coastline of Montenegro, here are 6 off the beaten track cruise destinations in Europe to visit!
1. St Petersburg
Journeying to mighty Russia is a thought that terrifies and intrigues even the most experienced of travellers in equal parts. Perhaps it’s the cultural differences, the language difficulties, the visa bureaucracy or maybe even just the vastness of Russia itself that means the world’s largest country has hardly opened up to western tourism.
Visiting St Petersburg though need not be a worry when you arrive via cruise ship. Russia’s second largest city lies on the edge of the Baltic Sea and the former capital of the old Russian Empire is a cultural and historic feast. And you won’t need to worry about any visa issues either.
Walk along the wide banks of the Neva River, admiring the elegant neoclassical architecture the city is renowned for. Visit the Hermitage, one of the most impressive – and largest – museums to be found anywhere in the world. Discover colourful cathedrals and Royal Palaces that hark back to a time long since passed in Russia and enjoy just a small piece of the vastness of Russia in St Petersburg.
There are few places left in the world that are as wild and unexplored as Greenland. For many, one of the world’s largest and most isolated islands will remain just a distant thought, but for the adventurous out there, Greenland can be one of Europe’s most off the beaten track cruise destinations.
Travel to Europe’s last great wilderness and experience first hand this rugged yet beautiful land of extremes. In winter the sun never rises, but the Northern Lights light the darkness spectacularly, while in the height of summer the fabled midnight sun is a never-ending wonder in the sky.
Cruise through Prince Christian Sound, a 60-mile long fjord that that cuts through the coastline dramatically. See outrageously scenic vistas and panoramics from the deck, or venture inland to hike along remote ridges and outcrops.
In the isolated port of Qaqortoq, walk through the colourful, ramshackle streets of one of the island’s largest settlements. Visit the local Qaqortoq Museum to learn more about Greenland’s unusual blend of cultures and history before settling down to try the unique local cuisine.
Akureyri is Iceland’s little visited northern capital. Despite the ever-surging popularity of the Nordic nation as a tourist destination, the northern coast remains remote and wild, and it’s the perfect place to get off the beaten track.
Akureyri lies on the edge of the Arctic and it’s a place surrounded by extreme natural beauty. With crashing ocean on one side and ever smouldering volcanoes on the other, at Akureyri you can discover a world far removed from the rest of Europe.
On the open ocean, you can watch for whales along the coastline, and head inland to see the wild landscapes that Iceland is famous for, before ending the day in true local fashion by taking advantage of the many thermal hot springs found in the region.
Turkey’s long Mediterranean coastline is a treasure trove of ancient cities and Greek and Roman ruins that few travellers realise are so well preserved. Ephesus is just one such ancient ruin, a place lost to time but rediscovered close to the modern city of Izmir.
Ephesus has over 10,000 years of history, and during the Roman era, the city was a bustling and busy port. Extravagant buildings, temples, churches and monuments were built by the prosperous locals, but the glory days weren’t destined to last forever. Invasions and the collapse of the Roman empire led to the city’s decline and by the 15th century after too many conflicts and natural disasters the region was completely abandoned.
Today, the vast amphitheatres and impressive ruins are a sight to behold, but a sight that will have you questioning the permanence of human civilization.
Montenegro is a destination that just seems to go from strength to strength. Emerging from the ashes of the Yugoslav wars with but a scratch in comparison to the surrounding new nations of the Balkans, Montenegro just quietly gets on with life, knowing full well that its natural scenery and laid back lifestyle will continually attract visitors from abroad.
Kotor is one of Europe’s most underrated and under-visited destinations. This historic city is found along Montenegro’s coastline, but hidden away within the vast Bay of Kotor. Cruise into the dramatic natural harbour, as high mountain peaks rise surround you.
Explore the narrow streets of the old city of Kotor, walking the high stone walls of this beautifully preserved medieval settlement and visiting the many charming museums and cafes found within the shadow of the fortifications.
Take the long, steep path above the city to the Castle of San Giovanni which towers over the bay below. It’s a long, sweaty trudge, but the views from the summit are quite unbelievable.
6. A Transatlantic Journey
A Transatlantic journey is not exactly a destination, but rather an offbeat experience that in the age of plane travel few ever really get to appreciate. In many ways, this is the ultimate form of slow travel, as you cross the wild and windswept waves of the Atlantic Ocean on a journey from Europe to the Americas.
In centuries past, this was the only form of transport and a hazardous journey endured by millions in order to reach the so-called New World. These days, it’s a journey made by few, but one that is immeasurably more comfortable than ever before with all the delights and comforts of a cruise ship to enjoy en route.
Sit back, relax and make an iconic Transatlantic crossing, a journey that will leave you with a new found appreciation for the vast distance between Europe and America, and a new appreciation for the journey itself.
This post was created in partnership with Celebrity Cruises!