You’ve probably been on many hectic, chaotic vacations in the past, making you feel even more exhausted when you return home than when you first left. Well, imagine a vacation where you can take in all of your surroundings at a relaxed pace, spending a week on a charming Greek island instead of frantically touring five capitals in just as many days. This is what slow travel is all about, a movement that has slowly been becoming extremely popular, especially as a way to counter all of the stressors that come with modern day life.
At first, you may think that you’re missing out. After all, you’ll only be seeing one destination rather than multiple different places. However, the incredibly immersive experience that you will have at that one destination will be infinitely more rewarding, satisfying, educational and fulfilling, and that’s exactly what a vacation should be about.
When it comes to choosing a destination for a slow travel vacation, Europe has plenty to offer, with these seven destinations earning themselves a place at the top of the list.
A mountain city located in east-central Spain, Cuenca is often visited as a day trip from Madrid. However, only spending a day in this city means that you will miss out on all that Cuenca has to offer.
Things to Do in Cuenca
With Cuenca being constructed way back in the 12th century, many of its attractions are historical, but there are several other spots in the city to keep you entertained too:
- Cuenca Cathedral – featuring one of the oldest examples of Gothic architecture in Spain, the Cuenca Cathedral boasts colorful stained glass windows, unique decor, and a beautiful terrace that offers up panoramic views of the city. Take an after-dark tour to add even more mystique to your visit
- Casas Colgadas – also known as the Hanging Houses, these 14th century cliff-side homes have now been turned into a gallery for Spanish abstract art
- Castilla-La Mancha Paleontology Museum – this part of Spain is famed for its historic fossils, and the city’s paleontology museum is the perfect place to check them out
- The Jucar River – for outdoor enthusiasts, this river, which seems to glow green in the sun, is where you will find several different hiking trails that vary in difficulty levels
- Alfonso VIII Street – beneath this colorful street lies a network of tunnels that have served as everything from aqueducts to air raid shelters in the past, and are now open for people to tour
Where to Stay in Cuenca
For the ultimate in luxury, book yourself in to the Parador de Alarcon; a riverside hotel situated in a historic castle. From antique furniture to stone-walled rooms to an extensive wine list, this hotel is a great way to really treat yourself.
Nisyros Island, Greece
Greece is home to numerous islands that tourists flock to each year, but Nisyros is different…
This small island also happens to be an active volcano that has experienced at least three major eruptions in its lifetime of 45,000 years. As you can imagine, the landscape on Nisyros Island is completely unlike anywhere else in the world, making a slow travel vacation the perfect way to thoroughly take this all in.
Things to Do on Nisyros Island
From exploring the island’s natural beauty to learning more about its history and heritage, there is plenty to do on Nisyros:
- Visit some of the island’s untouched beaches, with Lies and Hohlakoi being especially scenic
- Lie back and relax in the island’s thermal springs, which are heated by the geothermal activity taking place beneath the surface. These springs can be found throughout the island, with the water in some places reaching a scalding 60 degrees Celsius
- Check out some local art, with Nisyros being nicknamed Island of the Arts
- Explore the island on foot, with more than 40 hiking trails to choose from. Most of these trails will end up taking you to Lakki, which is the volcano’s crater
- The island contains several castles and monasteries that will teach you more about Nisyros’ past
Where to Stay on Nisyros Island
Located in a quiet part of the island, yet just a five minute walk from the central square and harbor, the Porfyris Hotel is a friendly, family-run hotel, with each room offering either sea or mountain views. The hotel boasts everything from an elaborate breakfast buffet to a stunning outdoor swimming pool, making it perfect for taking some time out from your busy life.
Located in the west of Germany, not too far away from its border with Belgian, Monschau is a quaint German town that hasn’t changed much over the past three centuries. Although this is the main cultural hub for the beautiful Eifel area, the town’s half-timbered houses, medieval architecture, and cobblestone streets keep its original heritage intact.
Things to Do in Monschau
There is plenty of history to see in Monschau, but the arts plays a huge role here too. Some of the things to busy yourself with include:
- Visiting Rotes Haus, an 18th century red brick house that is now a museum
- Exploring the Monschau Castle
- Learning more about the town’s famous mustard at the Mustard Mill Monschau
- Taking relaxing strolls around the Old Town area
- Explore the Eifel National Park from the water by taking a cruise
- Taking a day trip to nearby Dusseldorf to treat your skin to a luxurious facial at the OROGOLD Dusseldorf store
Where to Stay in Monschau
For a prime location in the heart of Monschau, go with the Hotel Graf Rolshausen, which dates back to the 1500’s. Complete with its very own wine cellar, stocked with wines from all over the world, this historic hotel will help you to immerse yourself in Monschau’s heritage.
With its medieval architecture, sprawling vineyards and charming hilltop villages, just about everyone falls in love with Brisighella on their very first visit. Time really does seem to stand still at this small village, making it the perfect spot for some slow travel.
Things to Do in Brisighella
Brisighella is all about embracing the traditional Italian way of life, and visitors are always warmly invited to do just that:
- Climb the three peaks of Brisighella, with each one offering up a unique historic landmark, from a 14th century fortress to an 18th century sanctuary
- Tour the local olive groves and sample some of the best olive oil in the world, with the local microclimate ensuring that the area’s 70,000+ olive trees are always flourishing
- Explore the village’s colorful streets, stopping at local eateries to sample some delicious Italian cuisine, along with copious amounts of gelato
- Visit the Parco Carne wildlife park
- Tour local vineyards and indulge in some wine tasting
Where to Stay in Brisighella
The luxurious Grand Hotel Terme is situated in a beautiful park, and has been around since 1870. This Art Nouveau hotel is authentically historic, but still provides plenty of modern comforts, from its relaxing solarium to its hydromassage swimming pool to its exquisite Italian restaurant.
Nicknamed the Glacier Village, due to its proximity to mainland Europe’s biggest ice cap, Fjaerland is a small village that boasts some not-so-small natural wonders. For those who love outdoor adventure, Fjaerland will not disappoint.
Things to Do in Fjaerland
Taking the time to soak in the beauty of nature is what many of Fjaerland’s top activities center around:
- Try glacier walking, which you will need to arrange with an experienced guide
- Check out some of the hiking trails around the mountains of Fjaerland
- Kayak through some of the town’s calm fjords. Row boating and fishing are also popular activities here
- If you visit in the winter, give some cross-country skiing a try, with slopes of varying difficulty levels to choose from
- Learn more about your natural surroundings at the Norwegian Glacier Museum
- Treat yourself to some books at one of the town’s 14 bookstores, which is an impressive figure when you consider that there are only 300 residents in Fjaerland
Where to Stay in Fjaerland
The Fjaerland Fjordstove Hotel and Restaurant is one of the best places to stay in Fjaerland. Although this hotel is only officially open from April to the end of September, they will open up in the winter too if you arrange this in advance.
One of the 21 islands that make up the Maltese archipelago, Gozo is known for its quiet and laid-back way of life. Although quite a few big-budget films have been shot on the island, Gozo is steeped in history, culture and serenity, all of which are ideal for a slow travel destination.
Things to Do in Gozo
While you could spend your entire vacation relaxing on the beaches of Gozo, there are quite a few other things on the island that could occupy your time, such as:
- Visit the Ggantija Temples, which are considered to be one of the most important archaeological sites in the world, dating back to 3600 BC
- Visiting the many historic churches on the island, including the spectacular, cliffside Our Lady of Ta’ Pinu Basilica, which dates all the way back to 1534
- Dive into the waters of Gozo to check out coral reefs, underwater caves and world war wreckages
- Explore the Citadel, a fortified city with stunning views, eerie tunnels and its own cathedral
- Watch the locals pan for salt – you could even give this a try for yourself
- Take a day trip to Malta, where, in addition to its scenic beauty, you will also find an OROGOLD store, where you will be able to treat your skin to product demonstrations and VIP facials
Where to Stay in Gozo
For a relaxing, five-star hideaway, choose the Kempinski Hotel San Lawrenz, located near the gorgeous Dwejra Bay. Tucked away within sprawling tropical gardens, this rustic but elegant hotel offers several restaurants, multiple swimming pools, a decadent spa, and one of the best Ayurvedic centers in all of the Mediterranean.
Vipava Valley, Slovenia
This lush, wine-rich valley boasts a mild climate and extraordinary natural beauty, making it a perfect destination for a slow travel vacation. Expect gourmet food, delicious wines and some of the best scenery in the world.
Things to Do in the Vipava Valley
While sustainability is something that has only recently made its way into the mainstream world, this has always been the natural way of life in the Vipava Valley. While fine wines and fresh foods are what most visit for, there are plenty of other things to do here too:
- Explore Stanjel, the oldest settlement in the area with a castle that dates back to Roman times
- Paragliding is extremely popular in this breezy region, and you will definitely be rewarded with some unforgettable views from your high vantage point
- Tour some of the local vineyards and wineries – if you visit at harvesting time, you can even help to pick the grapes
- Visit the ruins of the Stari Grad Castle, which dates back to the 12th century
- Take a day trip to Ljubljana if you’re craving big city life
Where to Stay in the Vipava Valley
Located in the small village of Spodnha Idrija, Hotel Kendov Dvorec boasts a secluded location, a gorgeous garden with 100-year old apple trees, and a restaurant that cooks up delicious local specialties.
There are so many peaceful, untouched parts of Europe that lend themselves perfectly to a slow travel getaway. Whether you’re into fine wine and gastronomy or history and culture, it won’t take you long at all to fully immerse yourself into these seven destinations.