Hidden Gems: Seven Last Minute Holiday Destinations in Europe

While you’re caught up in the hustle and bustle of juggling working and family life, it can be easy to miss the boat on booking your summer getaway. Fortunately, last minute breaks are now part and parcel of the holiday industry with many of us looking for a late bargain by booking a week or sometimes even just hours before take-off. That said, booking a last minute holiday can often mean a more restricted choice of destinations and current global events has meant that long-held popular destinations such as Spain and Greece are only becoming more popular as people avoid countries posing potential danger. But rather than opting for a popular destination offering crowded beaches and an inauthentic taste of foreign life, we recommend exploring one of Europe’s many hidden gems to avoid tourist traps as well as for a genuine experience of life in your host country. To inspire your sense of wanderlust, here is our selection of seven less-known European destinations perfect for your last minute summer holiday.

  1. Soča River

    River Soča, Slovenia

    Situated 150km north-west of the Slovenian capital of Ljubljana and just a short ride from the country’s Italian border, the River Soča is famous for its emerald green waters which have seen the river take on a nickname of “The Emerald Beauty” among locals.

    Running through the broader Soča valley, the area surrounding the river is a hotbed for outdoor activities with white water rafting, zip lining, paragliding, climbing and much more going on all at the river’s edge. With temperatures averaging between 25-30°C throughout July and August, you can rest assured that you can top up your tan while exploring the natural beauty of the Slovenia’s best-concealed gem.

    Fly to: Trieste Airport.

  2. Saint-Jean-de-Luz

    Saint-Jean-de-Luz, Basque Country

    Nestled in the French Basque Country, Saint-Jean-de-Luz is a quintessentially Basque town famous for its crescent-shaped bay as much as its timbered houses coloured in the red, green and white of the ikurrina flag.

    The Basque Country is famed for its proud and distinct culture at the heart of which is food, and Saint-Jean-de-Luz offers a plethora of authentic Basque restaurants and pintxos bars perfect for discovering Basque cuisine. Also, the nearby towns of Biarritz—which conveniently offers an airport—and San Sebastián are known to have two of the best surfing beaches in the world.

    Fly to: Biarritz Airport or San Sebastián Airport.

  3. Lampedusa, Italy

    Lampedusa, Italy

    Located off the south coast of Italy halfway towards the African shores of Tunisia, the island of Lampedusa is an unspoiled nature reserve offering one of the best preserved white sand beaches in Europe in addition to crystal clear turquoise waters. A unique mix of European and African architecture provides a distinct reminder of the island’s geographical position, while the island’s beaches play host to bonfires, barbecues, spaghetti cookouts and musical performances throughout the summer months. The island is also one of the few places on the Mediterranean where loggerhead sea turtles still lay their eggs.

    Fly to: Lampedusa Airport.

  4. Kravice Falls, Bosnia & HerzegovinaKravice Falls, Bosnia & Herzegovina

    Kravice Waterfalls, Bosnia & Herzegovina

    Dubbed the Niagra Falls of Europe, Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Kravice Falls are truly one of the most spectacular hidden gems in Europe. Less than 50km south of the city of Mostar, the Falls are 28 metres high and made up of  a 120-metre semi-circle of gushing springs which burst into a large emerald lake you can swim in and picnic beside.

    Fly to: Dubrovnik Airport or Split Airport.

  5. Lake Thun, Switzerland

    Situated on the northern tip of the Alps in the heartland of Switzerland, Lake Thun is a huge body of clear blue water set against the picturesque mountains of the Swiss mountains. Its 2,500 km² of waters offer a wide range of water-based activities—from sailing and scuba diving to wakeboarding and swimming—while the lake’s shores host the grand Swiss castles of Spiez and Oberhofen as well as large stately houses and rolling green mountains ideal for summer walks and picnics.

    Fly to: Thun Airport.

  6. La-Roque-Gageac

    La Roque-Gageac

    200 km east of Bordeaux and eight south of Sarlat lies La Roque-Gageac, an ancient village comprising a row of riverside houses constructed neatly between the banks of the River Dordogne and large overhanging cliffs to the rear. A frequent presence on lists of France’s most picturesque villages, La Roque-Gageac is steeped in history and also offers a 15th-century manor house, prehistoric cave systems as well as some of France’s best-known and -preserved castles from the Hundred Years War. We recommend seeing the village by canoe which gives a magnificent vista of the village with the images of the houses reflected on the cool blue waters of the Dordogne.

    Fly to: Bergerac Airport or Bordeaux Airport.

  7. Lecce, Italy

    Tucked away in Italy’s heel in the region of Puglia lies Lecce, a pearl of rich Baroque architecture, Roman history and untainted white sandy beaches with tropical turquoise waters. Highlights of the city include the Basilica di Santa Croce, a Roman Ampitheatre built in the 2nd century and the nearby beaches which even offer you a choice of seas to swim in (Adriatic or Ionian).

    Fly to: Bari Airport.

Images property of Flickr/Chris Walts/SBY59TH/Pepolino…/ Mark Gregory/libelluleco/jaumebcn/Hervé Simon.

Header Image property of Flickr/jaumebcn.

Sarah Atkinson

Sarah Atkinson

Writer and expert