Our world is an attractive place to experience. Here are my choices for 5 special scenic locations to explore on European tours, offered in Goway’s world. Each one consists of natural beauty and is exceptional.
I am well aware that my choices will not be the next person’s. However, I challenge anyone to disagree with the merits of the following (restricted to 5).
Norwegian Fjords, Norway
On a Norway vacation, there are more than one thousand fjords to visit along the west Norwegian coastline. A picture is better than a thousand words but I will endeavour to describe this attraction. A fjord is a long, deep, narrow body of water that heads from the sea, inland, usually with very steep towering walls of rock on both sides. The Norwegian fjords are nothing less than spectacular. Some of the major fjords include the following. The Sognefjord is Norway’s longest and deepest fjord extending just north of Bergen to the Jotunheimen National Park. Its depth reaches 1300 metres/4225 feet and the highest point is 1700 metres/5440 feet. It has an arm called the Naeroyfjord, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site and where you will find the highest mountains on European tours in Norway. The Hardangerfjord is just south of Bergen, and is the world’s 4th largest fjord and the second longest in Norway, stretching 179 kilometres/111 miles. Norway’s 3rd largest glacier is located here. The Geirangerfjord is surrounded by snow-covered mountain peaks and lush, green vegetation. Stretching for 15 kilometres/9.3 miles, it is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is surrounded by some of the steepest mountains on the west coast of Norway. The sides rise practically vertically out of the fjord. Dramatically beautiful waterfalls plunge down into the fjord. One way of seeing the fjords is to take the train from Oslo to Flam and start your trip to Norway and the fjords from this beauty spot.
Rhine River, Germany
Now, not the entire length of this river deserves to be of equal attraction. The section from Cologne south to Basel is, without doubt, the most scenic part. On European tours to Germany, you can meander down the river by car or train, which is fine, but the most satisfying and relaxing way to experience the Rhine is on a European river cruise. I suggest starting in Cologne, a city worth discovering. Stroll down its cobblestone streets in the old part and view Europe’s largest church, Cologne Cathedral. From here on, I have heard the words “romantic,” “bewitching,” and “captivating” used to describe the Rhine as you head south. You will pass by riverside castles such as Burg Maus, Pfalzgrafstein, and Marksburg. There are literally hundreds of castles. You will also pass by many vineyards and quaint towns. Suggested, halfway down the river, is a side trip up the adjoining Moselle River to Cochem, where you can sample some Moselle wines. The town of Koblenz is where the two rivers meet. Koblenz straddles both banks of these two rivers. Here, you can take a cable car up to the Ehrenbreitstein Fortress for panoramic views of the Rhine Valley. Continuing along the Rhine, the village of Rudesheim is the quintessential Rhine destination with its wine houses, garden taverns, and narrow laneways. Although not strictly on the Rhine, Heidelberg is very close by. It is an exceptionally attractive university city which will provide you with panoramic views of both the city and the river from its castle ramparts. Eventually, arrive in Strasbourg, technically in France, a lovely city, architecturally, as well as being the home of the European Parliament. Here you can visit the famous Notre Dame Cathedral and enjoy a stroll through “Petite France,” a medieval quarter with colourful half-timbered houses. Eventually, you arrive in Basel, having sampled the best of the Rhine on your visit to Germany.
Cliffs of Moher, Ireland
The Cliffs of Moher are located in County Clare on the west coast and are one of the most visited sites in the country on an Ireland vacation. These spectacular cliffs rise above the Atlantic Ocean to a height of 214 metres/702 feet and stretch 8 kilometres/5 miles along the coast. O’Brien’s Tower, a round stone tower near the midpoint of the cliffs built in 1835, is where, from the top of the tower, the views are exceptional. From here, you can see the Aran Islands in Galway Bay and mountain ranges in Connemara as well as the Dingle Peninsula and Blasket Islands in Kerry. Another aspect of this lookout point is that you are perfectly placed to see the puffin colony which makes its home on Goat Island, as well as viewing many other seabirds. From O’Brien’s Tower, you can walk 4 kilometres/2.5 miles to Hags Head where you can have more incredible views. You can then head to the Cliffs of Moher Visitor Experience, a state-of-the-art underground visitor centre which brings to life the many different aspects of the Cliffs. It is organized into four main themed areas: Ocean, Rock, Nature, and Man. The Cliffs of Moher are as much a historical landmark as they are a geographical phenomenon to be experienced on European tours.
Santorini is what you might imagine as an archetypal Greek Island, with its white-washed houses and churches and blue sky. This very beautiful island in Greece was formed from a huge volcanic eruption which created a large lagoon in the middle of the island. It is consequently surrounded by steep cliffs on three sides. It still has an active volcano, the only one in the world whose crater is in the sea. However, the last big eruption occurred 3,600 years ago. Santorini has a reputation as being a romantic island with its crystal-clear waters and the island’s amazing sunsets. The capital is Fira, a town of proverbial white-washed houses which lies on top of a series of high cliffs. It is where you will be rewarded with panoramic views of the island and an amazing view of the volcano. Akrotiri is an ancient city dating back to the Minoan civilization (2700–1420 BC) which was rediscovered only 50 years ago when it was found under the volcanic ash from an earthquake in the 1600s BC. Like the Roman ruins of Pompeii, it is remarkably well-preserved. Oia is a very pretty village, again situated high on a top of a cliff overlooking the sea, with cave houses and restaurants built into the cliff edge. This is one of the best places to watch the sun set. This is a special event every evening, as the sunset lights up the houses, the makings for a romantic and magical Greece vacation.
Amalfi Coast and Cinque Terre, Italy
I have combined these two scenic attractions as, in my opinion, they offer the same type of scenery and landscape. On an Italy vacation, the Amalfi Coast is one of the most breathtaking regions in the country. It is a stretch of coastline to the south of Naples, not far from Sorrento. The awesome nature of the Amalfi Coast is due to the way the mountains appear to drop down into the sea, with steep cliffs harbouring picturesque towns as well as spectacular scenery. On European tours, an awe-inspiring drive along the Amalfi Coast can be extremely rewarding, stopping at some of the resort towns along the way. The road itself is a major engineering feat and it is possibly not a good idea to get too close to the edge.
Cinque Terre, off the Mediterranean coast of north-west Italy is easily accessible from Florence and Tuscany. It has the same feature, a coastline of mountainous terrain with steep cliffs dropping down to the sea. Cinque Terre means “five earths.” It consists of a series of five small delightful and colourful towns almost equidistant from each other. From north to south, they are Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. There are three ways to see some or all of them. There is a train service which stops at each town and runs roughly every hour. You can also drive from one to the next, but I don’t recommend this as parking is very difficult. The third is for the athletic and energetic. There is a trail which runs from one end to the other of Cinque Terre. However, not only is it extremely steep in places but it also has very rough and rugged patches. To give you an idea, it took me 2 hours to walk from Monterosso to Vernazza over a distance of some 3 kilometres/2 miles. But it was well worth the effort as the views were simply spectacular.