Coming Up: My Summer Travel Plans in Europe

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Montenegro Fjord

The late springtime weather hasn’t been great since I got home from Central America. Though there were one or two beautiful days (thankfully, my friend Lisa’s wedding was one of them!), it’s been mostly gray skies and drizzles following me from Boston to Milwaukee to Chicago, where I am now.

I really hope it doesn’t turn out as bad as “the summer that never was” — Boston in 2009. The weather was so bad, we were still wearing jackets in July. I actually went to Cancun that August just to get a bit of sunshine!

And once again, I’m booking a flight to someplace I hope will be warmer: Europe.

A few weeks ago, I had no plans beyond my flight; today, Most of it has already been booked, transportation-wise, so there’s not a lot of wiggle room. And believe it or not, this is all going to take place over a very busy two-month period!


Scandinavia is one of my favorite regions in the world. I love how clean and well-run it is, not to mention beautiful, and summers in Scandinavia and the Nordics are absolutely magical.

So northern Europe is a priority this summer. Here’s where I’ll be visiting in this region:


Image: FC Nikon


My first stop! If you’re crossing the Atlantic, Norwegian Airlines’ nonstop flight from New York to Copenhagen is just about the cheapest flight out there these days. You can actually get a one-way flight for under $300 if you book a few months ahead.

Copenhagen looks like a beautiful city and I might do a day trip to Helsingor. I’ve also got travel blogger meet up plans with Alex from Virtual Wayfarer, who has lived in Copenhagen for years, and Ali from Ali’s Adventures, who is just passing through.


I visited Iceland in May 2012 and had a rocking time. On this trip, I’ll be passing through for a few days (it’s a necessity for flights), but hopefully that will give me the time to do a few things I missed the first time around, like the Golden Circle and parts of the south coast.

Riga Town Hall Square

Image: Bernt Rostad


Just Latvia, but not Estonia or Lithuania, even though I haven’t been to either? Yep. I’m visiting to explore my Latvian ancestry. I’ll be based in Riga, which I hear is a lot of fun, but I’d like to check out the Baltic beach scene at Jurmala as well.

Edinburgh Castle via Instagram


Edinburgh has been one of my favorite cities since my first visit. However, my last several visits have been during the winter (and believe me, the damp Scottish winters leave you colder than you’ve ever been in your life). I’m excited to visit during the summer months and finally experience festival season!


What is there not to love about the Mediterranean in the summer? Great food, great beaches, great-looking guys, and a lifestyle you wish you could bottle and take home with you.

Etna 21° Parossismo

Image: andrea


You know how much I love Italy, and this is a new Italian region for me! Sicily is the kind of place where you could easily spend weeks or months, so I’m going to spend this visit concentrating on eastern Sicily: think Taormina, Mount Etna, Siracusa, etc.

This is actually where I’m spending the longest time this summer. If it’s feasible, I’d love to check out the Aeolian Islands as well.



You may remember that Barcelona and I have never really meshed well together. The first time was disappointingthe second time was better but I still didn’t really love the city. This time, however, I’m throwing myself in hard — I WILL fall in love with Barcelona!

I think a big part of what I didn’t like about Barcelona was how overwhelmingly touristy the parts I visited were. So for this trip, I want to get an Airbnb rental and stick to neighborhoods where tourists don’t go. And the beach. I have yet to visit Barcelona’s beach!

It will definitely help having blogger friends around like Mariana from Travel Thirst, who has lived in Barcelona for years, and the best dressed travel blogger in the world, DJ from Dream Euro Trip.


Image: Antonio Castagna


What a dreamy island! You may recall that I was supposed to go to Santorini (and Greece for the first time) last fall but canceled at the last minute and stayed home in Massachusetts. It was definitely the right decision for my mental health, but still I yearned for Santorini.

So I’m definitely going this time! Nothing’s going to stop me.


My favorite region in the world. I love the wild coastline on the Adriatic, the cafe culture in cities like Ljubljana and Bitola, the bright turquoise water that shimmers in the sunlight.

I’ve been to the Balkans every summer for the past three years: Croatia, Bosnia, and Montenegro in 2012; Macedonia and Kosovo in 2013; Croatia and Slovenia in 2014; and this year I’m adding both old and new destinations to my itinerary.

Corfu Town


This time my Balkan journey will start in Greece: the far northwest island, close to the Albanian border. I don’t know much about Corfu beyond the fact that one of the craziest party hostels in Europe is there (The Pink Palace — do I go? Do I go for ironic reasons?).

But the old town is World Heritage-listed and it’s very beautiful. Two great reasons to go!


Image: Artur Malinowski


Albania is one of the countries I’ve wanted to visit the most, but now I know it’s time — because lately I keep meeting Albanians everywhere I go! Erisa and Bianka on our second Central American tour; a guy I met outside a bar in Maine, a couple sitting next to me at my friend’s wedding — all Albanians!

I plan on basing in Saranda, a resort city in the south, and using it for day trips to places like Ksamil, above. Then up to Berati and Tirana. Possibly a bit of Lake Ohrid if I have time.

Bay of Kotor Sunrise


Even after spending time in Norway and Croatia, I still think that Montenegro is the most naturally beautiful country in Europe. Just look at that fjord!

I’m not sure how much time I’ll have, but I’d like to visit two new places, Ulcinj and Durmitor National Park, and I’d like to re-photograph places I’ve been previously.

I’ll finish with the train from Bar to Belgrade, which the Blonde Gypsy calls one of the most beautiful train rides in Europe.

Serbia-0364 - Entering Belgrade

Image: Dennis Jarvis


I have the feeling I’m going to love this city. Rough and young and with a party around every corner. Sort of like a smaller, more under-the-radar Berlin. Say no more.


There’s one final destination that doesn’t quite fit into the other categories.

It’s small, it’s mountainous, and though it’s close to the Mediterranean, nobody would call it a Mediterranean country…

Esglèsia romànica Sant Esteve, Andorra la Vella -2015



Why Andorra? Why not? I do want to visit every country in Europe. After this summer, I will have visited 36 of the roughly 46 countries in Europe. And Andorra is just a three-hour bus ride from Barcelona.

But it’s not just about checking it off; it looks quite beautiful. My friend Rob visited on a whim and I love how the city of Andorra la Vella is enveloped by the Pyrenees in every direction.

What do you think?

Am I crazy? Probably. Is this too much travel? Oh, absolutely!

But if you’ve been to any of these destinations, I’d love to hear ONE travel tip you have for that place.

What are your summer travel plans?

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138 thoughts on “Coming Up: My Summer Travel Plans in Europe”

  1. So to your question, “is this too much travel?” I have to ask, why so many flights / long train trips? There’s so much great stuff to see and do near every one of your destinations why not spend more time in a region rather than hopping around?

    We usually exhaust our visa days long before we exhaust a country.

    1. It’s a lot of travel, but that’s not a bad thing! She doesn’t just go to a country once and never again. Sometimes the whirlwind travel is a good way to find out where you want to spend a longer session next time!

  2. Wow, sounds like you have a crazy summer planned out! I’m sure it’s going to be amazing, I’ve been waiting to hear more about your Europe travel plans ever since you announced it on Snapchat. Can’t wait to read about it when you get there!

  3. Spain is, hands down, one of my biggest dream destinations — Barcelona in particular! Seriously excited to follow your travels and hear all about finally falling in love with it 🙂 good luck!!

  4. This. Is. It.
    Europe travel is my kryptonite. I share your “meh” about Barcelona (except Barrio Gotico – love at first sight for me); I am curious to see if you will have a change of heart. And I am REALLY looking forward to more of your Montenegro posts – I am still on the fence about the Balkans but it’s a rare country to which I do not need a visa, so it lands on the perpetual travel shortlist based just on that. I just booked a Bologna agriturismo stay pretty much bc of your blog – till reading your posts about it neither of those things was even close to my travel radar – so after this summer preview I am excited to find out which place Adventurous Kate will put on my Europe Travel radar next!

  5. Iceland: The black pebble beach near Vik, I didn’t look up your earlier reports to see if you’ve been there, but the sound of the waves hitting the pebbles is incredibly soothing.

    Santorini is well known for their spectacular sunset of course, but I went to see the sunrise (because I was only there for a day or so). Not bad either, but cold 🙂

    Edinburgh: Not that far from there is St. Andrews, I visited a friend there a couple of years ago and was pleasantly surprised by the atmosphere in the town, the beatiful cliff sides, beach and golf course (apparently this is where they invented golf, who knew? who cared? ;)). If you can get a local to show you around definitely worth a visit for a day or maybe two 🙂

    For the other places (of those I’ve been to) I don’t have anything that is not very likely in all guides already (and outdated). I haven’t been to the Balkans yet either, which is really a shame 🙁 (but I’ll take care of that)

  6. Great plans again! The weather here is now good, hopefully for a longer period. Latvia is great, I’ve been there twice. But I was more blown away by Estonia. The national parks and the islands are amazing. I never saw so many shades of green! And don’t feel bad about not falling in love with Barcelona – neither did I. 😉 Which is a shock for most people I guess :p I just liked Madrid and the south coast a lot more, but unfortunately Madrid is too damn hot in the summer. Have a great time!

  7. WOW! What an amazing summer you have ahead of you 🙂
    If you have a few day over on Edinburgh, I’d suggest you’d take a trip up to the Highlands and Isle of Skye 🙂

  8. I totally hear you on the Barcelona situation. It can be a difficult place to love for many. I was pretty meh about it my first time back in 2006 but I recently went back list past January and ABSOLUTELY FREAKING LOVED IT!!!! I could even see myself moving to Barcelona. Ditch the crowds and go for a wander. There are so many lovely neighbourhoods and parks that are basically devoid of tourists. You can do it!

  9. Copenhagen is beautiful! Make sure you jump on the train to Malmö for the day, 20mins from Copenhagen and you’re in Sweden! The Tivoli is also a must see for a fun afternoon. In summertime they have live bands on a Friday night. It’s fab!
    As for Scotland…there is more to us than just Edinburgh! Get up into the Highlands and Islands to see some real beautiful places and unique experiences! (Not that Edinburgh isn’t beautiful but I wish people would travel to more than just the central belt!)

  10. I am so glad you’re going to Greece! I can’t wait to see what you make of it! I’ve been to Corfu twice – it’s good for a party holiday, though there is far more to the island. And Santorini! Dreamy indeed. Although despite 11 trips to Greece I’ve never been. Purely because it’s always worked out cheaper to go to elsewhere and I’ve never found an island I didn’t like (this year I’m off to Crete for the 5th time – it’s so diverse). As for your other plans – well I shall follow along naturally. Love that you’ll be in Europe. Oh and Copenhagen! I visited in July a couple of years ago and it was honestly amazing.

  11. Have a great time at the Edinburgh Festival! I went to Edinburgh University and spent many happy summers sampling the comedy and street entertainment. It’s a great atmosphere. Our old student union – Potterow – is one of the main venues!

  12. Hi Kate, I like knowing we will be in the same continent. Now I can only hope we can meet up and I can pick brains with another travel/adventure blogger. I’m in Croatia now where it is currently 26°, and will travel all through eastern and northern Europe to get more content for my blog before going to TBEX in October. How soon will you be in the Balkans? I really enjoyed all your posts and advice for South America. I volunteered to work at the Olympics in Rio next year and if I am picked your data will be invaluable.

  13. For Barcelona: Climb up Tibidabo! Or just take Metro L7 from Placa de Catalunya. 😉 Awesome and overwhelming view over the whole city, especially at sunset. There is also an old and colourful amusement park with a plane above abyss and a nice church.

    Travel plans? It’s alwas too much or too less, just follow your mind. You know it the best! 🙂

  14. Great that you’re heading to the Balkans again! 😉 I was in both Albania and Montenegro last year (did the train ride) and am eager to see if anything has changed there.
    If you need some information especially on Albania (where to stay, what to see), everything is covered on my blog. 😉 and I can also answer some questions. 😉 Looking forward to some pictures from those places!

  15. You will absolutely love Santorini! DEFINITELY ride the donkeys up the cliff, and visit the other side of the island for a relaxing/non tourist black beach. See the sunset & sunrise in Oia. Worth it.

    Otherwise, sounds like an amazing trip!!! I would love to read more about your budgets for each location and how you’re paying for your travel this summer!

    1. You know, I’ve never been big on writing about budgets. I make my money online and have a bigger budget than I used to, but I don’t even track money. And a lot of my lodging is free through Airbnb stays (I have a LOT of credit and earn more constantly ever since my “where to stay in paris” post went viral).

  16. The Edinburgh festival is seriously amazing! See everything, eat everything! Definitely make time to see some comedians!

  17. It’s a nice plan but how can you miss out the Canary Islands, especially Tenerife? I traveled a lot but never found a nicer place to live, but ok… that’s me… Have fun in Europe and keep up the good work on your blog. I’m not a woman but nevertheless enjoy your posts a lot 😉

  18. You will absolutely love Sicily. I went for 3 months and those 3 months turned into 3 years! Taormina is special, the gardens, the people, watching the ships come in…it is hands down one of my favorite places on earth. Try and make an effort to trek up Mt. Etna, if possible.

  19. Kate!! I’m excited about your plans and look forward to following you via Facebook! I have to agree with Anna about Barrio Gotic in Barcelona! It was quite impressive and less touristy than any other area with such beauty.

    I will also be in Santorini in July! It’s my first time and I cannot wait.

    Enjoy and safe travels! Ciao!

  20. If you’re a tapas fan (and let’s face it, anyone going to Spain likely is!), you NEED to make your way to El Xampanyet when you’re in Barcelona. I went for the first time last year and it is to die for – rightly so, since the name translates to champagne. They make their own champagne in house, and if you don’t know what you want, just ask for a sampling of everything.

    I went with three friends when I was in Barcelona last year, and we were there for so long (re: ate and drank so much) that the owner came out to greet us and joked that we’d have to wash for dishes to pay for our meal!

    If you do go, though, be patient. It’s a tiny place and it gets so crowded, but the wait is worth it.

    1. Oh no!! Why did I read this!?? We stayed right next to this place. From the time we left our apartment each day to the time we arrived back, it was always jam packed. We never got a chance to try it 🙁 Another reason for us to go back to Barcelona!

  21. Kate, amazing plan! For sure you will love Riga, it’s not only a great fun but it is so beautiful especially in summertime. Old Riga, Andrejsala, Kalnciema kvartals, Riga Central Market, Berga Bazars – just few of many spots you should visit in Riga! Jurmala and Baltic Sea beach- spectacular, but if you have time – take yourself to Pavilosta and Liepaja – sea coast there is more wild and the most beatiful. If you have time – go to visit Sigulda ( little Switzerland as we call it) and Rundàle Palace – the biggest and most majestic baroque style palace in Baltics with beautiful Versailles type garden. Enjoy the summer of your life 🙂

  22. I can’t wait to follow along!
    I have spent the past four months exploring Europe and have only been to one place your going to. I love that about Europe, it almost feels endless!
    Safe travels!

  23. Hi Kate,
    Just a few suggestions:

    1. When in Sicily, Palermo is a must. Every town in Sicily is unique, my suggestion is to start with Palermo, then go to Cefalu, then Etna, Catania, Siracusa…I am afraid you won’t get the true vibe of the island if you don’t see Palermo. Trust me on this! Try to find locals to hang out with and you will love Sicily forever! Amuni!

    2. Since I live in Belgrade, it can get really hot in August and the city might feel a bit empty since people are mostly on holidays somewhere abroad. Try to come to Belgrade in the second part of August, when people start to slowly return to the city. Local dishes are a must!

    Contact me and lets meet in Belgrade!

      1. Great, just let me know when you will be in Belgrade, since I will be in Africa and will be back to Belgrade after August 10th.

  24. Wow that’s a lot, but also a lot of fun. I just went to andorra on a whim as well, a one day trip from barcelona (there’s direct buses so i left 8 and was back in Barcelona at 23) I didn’t like the capital at all but it is just a short busride to Ordino a very lovely small town in the mountains. You will be there in summer and this could be even better as there are also are special every day a differen circuit tourist buses going from the tourist office in the capital.

  25. Hey Kate,

    I’m very envious of your summer!

    My tips:

    Edinburgh- if you haven’t and are a big HP fan, for sure eat in The Elephant House Cafe and check out the graveyard out back, to see where Rowling got name inspiration!

    Barcelona- I’m not gonna lie, Barca and I aren’t amigas, but there’s parts I liked. My best tip is to take the bus to Tibidabo, which is this little amusement park that sits above the city to get STUNNING views!

  26. Helsingor is fine, but nothing super special. It’s easy to get to if you want to check off another UNESCO site, but if you’re just having too much fun in Copenhagen don’t bother. You can CLEARLY see Sweden from the castle though. That’s cool – makes you want to invade.

  27. I visited Sicily and the Aeolian islands last May. I spent three weeks exploring, but I honestly could have spent three months and not been bored! The majority of the time was spent in Catania and Palermo – both are wonderful. Be sure to check out the open markets; they’re reasonably priced and such a heartbeat of the city. The Aeolian islands I could have skipped (but maybe I’m alone in that?) – they just seemed super touristy. If you go, I’d recommend mainly focusing on hiking because there’s not much else to do.

  28. I totally understand not loving Barcelona, I’ve just been for the second time & luckily liked it a lot more. Might I suggest that if you want beach then head to one of the nearby coastal towns in the train, can’t remember the bane of the one I visited as it was years ago but it reminded me of villages on the cinque terra, a refreshing change from hectic touristy Barcelona. Was around an hours journey so an easy day trip! Andorra is a great idea, had thought of doing the same on my last trip but couldn’t spare a couple of days so maybe next time!

  29. Bunker del carmel in barcelona is definitely worth a visit. One of the most amazing viewpoints in barcelona. Absolutely nothing glamorous about it but that’s part of the charm! Enjoy 🙂

  30. In Montenegro defininately do the drive from Kotor to Budva over the mountains as the bay of Kotor looks amazing… One of my fave drives in Europe 🙂

  31. Loved your previous posts on Montenegro – it looks stunning. So glad you’re going back as I’m hoping to get there later this year…

    Edinburgh is great, the festival is so much fun, but I wish visitors would look beyond it too! An hour on the train and you’ll be in Northumberland – a beautiful part of Northern England with loads to see – yet very few travellers make it here! Incredible castles and beaches (Google Bamburgh Castle and Alnwick Castle – filming location for Harry Potter), boat trips to the Farne Islands to see puffins, seals, seabirds, whales etc., little country pubs, amazing seafood… And of course Newcastle – you have to go for a night on the toon!

    Always happy to show a fellow Kate around – just shout!

  32. Oh, wow! Lots of amazing places. You will LOOOVE Edinburgh at the height of festival season. I went for The Fringe, and the atmosphere was overwhelming in the best possible way! Enjoy your European summer! I’ll be in central Europe for six weeks myself!

  33. Wow, what a great trip!

    I know exactly what you mean about Barcelona, but the beach is definitely a highlight. It can get packed during the day, but at night is a whole other experience.

    Last time I was in Barcelona, we didn’t have the best time, but then we spent the last night sitting on the beach watching the waves rolling in and it really redeemed the city for me.

    I had the absolute best time in Varna, Bulgaria! It’s on the Black Sea coast, is dirt-cheap, has a great party scene (although a bit young when I was there) and an even better beach. If you ever end up with some extra time in Eastern Europe and are looking for inspiration, it’s a good spot off the beaten track for Americans.

  34. Yes, that is a crazy amount of travel but it all sounds fabulous! Edinburgh is one of my FAVORITE cities as well and I’ve only visited in the winter! It was freezing cold but surprisingly sunny the entire time so I definitely got lucky. Enjoy!! I can’t wait to follow along.

    Happy travels 🙂

  35. Great plans! However, I’m “meh” on Copenhagen. I prefer Stockholm over Copenhagen. Beware the CPH restaurants & other establishments will charge for tap water. I didn’t find the metro system to be super extensive within the zones. If you love coffee, go to the Coffee Collective. I just didn’t click with the city. I found Stockholm more interesting, more things to do/see and easier to get around.

    Malmö is definitely worth a day trip. It’s a quaint city; cute.

  36. My one tip would be to visit Cefalu in Sicily. It is about a 2 hour drive from Taormina and hands down my favourite place in Sicily. It has a very Arabian feel, a gritty and traditional town centre, a beautiful beach and a giant rock mountain that sits above town and is beautiful to climb and explore the ruins at the top. Drive through the Madonie mountains to reach it which are stunning with lots of lovely mountain villages.

  37. This is amazing Kate! All of these countries are so beautiful. I absolutely fell in love with Montenegro! There this hike that reaches the mountain peak with the most unbelievable views!!

    Have the best time ever! xx

  38. “Is this too much travel?”… Absolutely no. Especially the countries you are visiting.
    And Kate, Montenegro?? Stunning place

  39. Sounds like an exciting summer! I’ve stayed at the infamous Pink Palace and the only advice I have is to watch out for Sue, the infamous Pink Palace bartender! Dangerous woman with the never ending supply of ouzo! I’d also highly recommend renting an ATV for the day on Santorini to explore. It’s pretty cheap and some of my favourite experiences on the island were from exploring the smaller and less touristy towns on the island. Enjoy!

  40. Thanks for the shout out, Kate! Sounds like an intense but amazing summer and hope you enjoy that train ride as much as I did. Just had a look and it seems the schedule is somewhat back to normal so no 17 hour journey time and now one leaving around noon I think it said? Will take up a day but definitely worth it for the scenery. I’m leading a tour through Kosovo and Albania towards the end of August (21st-31st) so maybe I’ll catch you there – we’ll be hitting all those spots at some point.

    1. That’s good to know! I’m actually not a big fan of overnight trains so during the day would be the best! Won’t cross paths that late in the summer but I hope you have a great time!

  41. Sounds like a great few months of travel! Andy and I were in Siracusa in the fall and loved it. Gorgeous! I don’t blame you for going to Andorra, it’s too tempting to skip it if you’ll be that close. And it is a really pretty place. Just make sure you get outside of the capital, even if just for an afternoon.

    See you in a few days!

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