One of the things that we love about travelling is the different people, cultures and places that we are able to visit on a daily basis. Inevitably, when people find out that we’ve been travelling for a year, there’s one question: “Which is your favourite country?” Usually the “correct” answer is whichever country we’re in at the time, but as we get to the end of our first year, we had a proper think about it. We can’t pin down one favourite country, but we have five that are well worth visiting for anyone looking for a European getaway.
In no particular order:
Austria was one of the countries we visited early in our travels when we were still figuring out that we were now travelling and weren’t just on holiday. We could start to take things a little slower, spend an extra day in places we loved & move on if we didn’t. As a result we probably didn’t see as much of it as we should have but what we did experience has left us wanting more. Vienna was one of our favourite cities so far and the Salzburg Lakes added to the charm of the country. Everywhere we looked was something to love from the beautiful mountains to the lush forests, the centuries of history and incredible architecture to the relaxed (yet efficient) pace of life. When I think of Austria, I think of the clear blue (freezing!) water of the Salzburg lakes, bike rides along the shore and finding the tranquil garden in the heart of bustling Vienna. When a country can make you feel that relaxed, there’s something special going on.
One of our favourite things about Croatia was the amount of national parks, which allowed us to see some of our favourite natural places. Plitvice national park contains a series of wooden pathways which wind in and out of the waterfalls that run the length of the park, giving some truely unique views over the river & through the forest. Risnjak is home to a large group of lynx (unfortunately we didn’t see any whilst we were there), whilst Krka park contains no less than 7 waterfalls! The cities along the coastline were equally amazing, from Krk Island in the north to Split in the south, we spent time in olive groves, took an underwater boat tour, cycled on cliff paths and explored forgotten crypts underneath busy cities. Not bad for a single country! We were there in October, just after the tourist season had ended, which is our favourite time to explore places: things are still open but it is much calmer.
Greece was our home for five weeks in November/December and again our visit was outside of tourist season. Every city was brimming with history, from Sparta and the Parthanon to Alexander the Great and Ali Pasha, there were stories everywhere you looked. Outside of the cities, you could barely turn a corner without finding another awe-inspiring mountain range (the Peloponnese is just magnificent!) or smelling the tell-tale sulphuric waft of a natural hot-spring. We met some of our best travel friends in Greece with whom we made some of our most unforgettable memories including sea swimming in December with our santa hats on, driving the motorhome to places it probably shouldn’t have fitted, our first real forays into wild camping, having several beaches all to ourselves and finally embracing this full time travel life. We could have spent four months there, but unfortunately we had to move on. It was one of our favourite places to date and we’ll certainly go back again one day, hopefully to explore many of the islands that are a bit more difficult to access with our motorhome.
Spain will forever hold memories for us, both good and bad. It was where we spent 9 weeks of coronavirus lockdown and some of our worst luck happened when we hadn’t long been in the country (I won’t go into it here, but there’s a blog about it here). Despite that, we fell in love with the people, the culture and the country itself. We started in Barcelona, arriving by ferry and were immediately taken with how friendly the locals were. From beers and burgers to last minute ski trips, we’d met people just days before and we were being treated like family (something that continued even during COVID). The food was amazing wherever we went, we could have a night out (including entertainment) for under €20, their cycle paths went for miles and everywhere we looked we found more to love. We hadn’t expected to find lush forests and huge mountains alongside sandy beaches and waterfalls in Spain, but it has it all! Spain is also fantastic for wild (off grid) camping & vanlife in general with emptying, filling & laundry facilities to be found all over the country. It’s also home to Valencia, Callum’s favourite city, which certainly didn’t hurt it’s chances in making this list. Although we only made it down as far as Granada before COVID hit, we’re very much looking forward to returning to explore the rest of the country soon.
The final must-visit country on our list is one of our final stops of this year, Norway. Whilst the mountains in Spain and Greece were impressive, the Norweigen mountains are something else. We loved the other Scandanavian countries that we visited too, Denmark & Sweden, but Norway has given us some of our most unforgettable moments (& best photos!). Wild camping is freely allowed throughout the country (as long as you’re not on private land or obstructing a pathway) so we woke up to an amazing view almost every day that we were there. We were surrounded by waterfalls, huge mountain ranges, breathtaking sunsets and the bluest water we’ve ever seen. We tend to avoid toll roads unless we’re in a rush to be somewhere, so almost every mountain that we saw had to be traversed along narrow winding roads (like Trollstigen pictured below), although this was made easier by the huge number of tunnels and ferries available. We did find Norway quite tiring, especially with driving every day rather than every couple of days which had become our routine. It was also pretty expensive (fuel, food & attraction fees especially) but we are so glad that we adjusted our budget to squeeze it into our first year. Norway is also home to our #1 Adventurous Motorhome moment (Tronfjell) and our #1 Paid Activity (Viking Valley), making it truely one of our favourite countries so far.
Tell us about your favourite country in the comments below, we’re always looking for our next adventure!