Top 10 Trips for First Time Travelers to Europe

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One of the reasons that Europe is so special is that, within a relatively small geographic area, you can visit incredibly diverse landscapes with their own histories, cultures and scenic wonders. While Backroads provides everything you’ll need to enjoy any of our trips, these 10 destinations are especially great for first time travelers to Europe. With accessible airports and hotels, friendly locals who often speak English and dependable public transportation, among other welcoming attributes, they offer a perfect introduction to European beauty, food and charm.

1. Provence, France

Gordes, Provence-Alpes-Cote d'Azur region, Southeastern France

Provence is strikingly beautiful, so you can see how this region drew artists like Cézanne, Picasso and Matisse. Honey-colored limestone villages gaze upon fields of lavender and vineyards heavy with fruit. Whether traveling by bike or on foot here, you’ll fall in love with the slower pace of life. French grandfathers play pétanque (French lawn bowling) while puffing away on cigars and laundry flutters in the breeze as neighbors chat over an afternoon glass of rosé. Provence has some of the best of France on offer, with its world-class wines, Michelin-starred meals and superbly elegant hotels to accent the scenery.

2. Iceland

Cliff and waterfalls in Iceland

A wondrous landscape of glacial waters, exotic geological formations, colorful fishing villages, deep blue fjords and natural hot springs is just waiting to be explored. Only a six-hour flight from the US East Coast, Iceland will feel as if you’ve stepped through the wardrobe and entered another, more magical, world.

3. Tuscany, Italy

Tuscany Vineyard and rolling hills on a Backroads trip

The day’s scenery of iconic Tuscan cypress trees and rolling vineyards dancing in the reflection of your wine glass over dinner. Stone courtyards ringing with the laughter of locals sipping an aperitivo in the golden evening light. Servers carefully garnishing your handcrafted pasta with aged Parmesan and hand-pressed olive oil. The images and tastes of Tuscany are sure to stimulate your senses whether you explore this region on our Biking trip or on our Active Culinary Walking adventure.

4. Holland and Belgium

Windmills and canal in the Netherlands

From the sky, Holland’s tulip fields resemble a child’s crayons dragged across the landscape in bright, bold rectangles. Pedaling past these magnificent color palettes, you suddenly understand why tulips were once used as currency in the Netherlands. As a country with more bicycles than people, you’ll feel right at home in the saddle alongside the Dutch as you whiz along dedicated bike paths and quiet canals into Belgium. Once you arrive in the medieval brick city of Bruges, you’ll discover that Trappist monk beers and famous chocolates are the perfect post-ride snack.

5. Norway

Backroads hiking in Norway

Norse mythology calls to mind Viking ships and warriors as we pass through the inky blue fjords and green valleys of Norway. Rainbows materialize in the mists of moss-covered cliffs and tumbling waterfalls. This land of fairy tales and deep blue waters will no doubt capture your imagination as you hike past wooden stave churches and trek across the glittering Nigardsbreen glacier.

6. Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast

Backroads Trip Leaders on Croatia's Dalmatian coast.

Terra-cotta roofs glow orange against the azure waters of the Dalmatian Coast. A stone’s throw across the Adriatic Sea from Italy, experience the same warm, welcoming Mediterranean spirit but with Croatian spice. Seafood lovers will savor the local catch-of-the-day at our favorite mom-and-pop restaurants as fresh steaming bread that rivals French baguettes sits in woven baskets. This island-hopping adventure weaves a route past castles and forts (think Game of Thrones), quaint seaside villages and breathtaking views along the rugged coast.

7. Switzerland

Backroads Switzerland Walking and Hiking tour

Bees buzz in fields of wildflowers as your boots quietly crunch across the dirt paths above quaint Grindelwald. Gazing back, snowy white peaks jut out above the numerous sparkling glaciers in the distance. Backroads has selected some of the best routes from Switzerland’s 40,000 miles of hiking trails. At the end of a full day, chic spas rejuvenate and bubbling fondues satisfy grumbling bellies. Nestled in the heart of Europe, Switzerland has some of the most accessible and spectacular natural scenery on the continent.

8. Ireland

Knightstown Coffee Shop, Kerry, Ireland

Feel transported back in time as you pass bright green pastures dotted with woolly sheep, misty villages and ancient, moss-covered stone walls. The possibility of rain is only an excuse to duck into a cozy, dimly-lit Irish pub to warm up with a nip of whiskey or a pint of Guinness. Between the enchanting landscape and the hearty laugh of a local fisherman, you’ll fall in love with Ireland in no time.

9. Camino de Santiago, Spain

Image licensed from Shutterstock - Monument to pilgrims, Camino de Santiago, Lugo.

Scallop shells, the centuries-old symbol of the Camino, lead the way as Backroads takes you along the best portions of the traditional pilgrimage route. Beginning in Portugal, our path weaves into Spain along the rugged Atlantic coast before culminating with fellow pilgrims in Santiago de Compostela. You’ll also be accompanied by fresh seafood and port wine to help ease you through this unique corner of Portugal and Spain.

10. Loire Valley, France

Loire Valley, France: Chateau d'Artigny

This is the Valley of the Kings, French-style. Only a few hours from Paris, pedal from opulent hunting castles and party palaces, reveling in the outrageous splendor of nobility before the French Revolution. Gentle hills and lush pastures of sunflowers and wheat parallel the lazy Loire River as you spin along quiet country roads. You’ll feel like royalty yourself as sparkling Vouvray swirls in your glass and you savor delicately seared duck breast in the fading evening light.

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Sophia Treakle

Sophia Treakle

Trip Leader at Backroads
Sophia loves to explore the world by foot whether she’s running or hiking. She’s run throughout western and northern Europe, Hawaii and Costa Rica thanks to four years of leading trips with Backroads. Sophia completed her Bachelor’s at Duke University, where she captained the women’s track and field team as a 400-meter hurdler. Born and raised in the Appalachian Mountains, she feels happiest spending the day on a dusty trail followed by a hearty meal of beans and corn bread.
Sophia Treakle

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