Horseback Riding in Europe: 10 Best Trails

Saddle up and head for the hills of Europe on 10 of the most popular horseback riding trails. With its varied landscape and long tradition of horsemanship, Europe is ideal for a horseback-riding holiday. Every country has its own distinctive history and natural wonders to be explored and horse riding offers a completely different perspective on popular European destinations. From the chateaus of France to the glaciers of Scandinavian, get ready for a ride of a lifetime.

10. France

With their centuries-old tradition of horseback riding, Renaissance chateaus from the 16th century, and vineyards of Bordeaux, France is an excellent place to experience the country by horseback. Like an aristocrat from the Victorian era, saddle up, English style, for an adventure into the ancient woodlands and castles of the Loire Valley. Another popular riding spot is Provence, an area known for its fine food and glorious landscapes that inspired Cezanne. Riders can also discover the rugged, remote Pyrenees of Pays Basque, the region that borders Spain, for a ride through the mountains and rolling hills. Get ready to gallop across sandy beaches of Landes and witness the castles and famous wine cellars of Bordeaux. Following the French riding tradition of Natural Horsemanship, riding experts encourage a non-violent approach to training, which is a horse whispering riding style that has been passed down through generations.

9. Portugal

With its natural diversity and pleasant weather, Portugal has excellent terrain for horseback riding. On a riding holiday of a lifetime, get ready for gallops on deserted sandy beaches, trail rides through mountain ranges, and breathtaking trails along windswept coastlines. In Lisbon and Porto, saddle up and discover the historic architecture of the medieval quarters. For more remote landscapes of the Portugal countryside, head to a romantic pousada, monastery, or manor house for an overnight stay in between trail rides. There are also beautiful rides in Alto Alentjo along the southwest coast and the farmlands and rolling hills of upper Alentjo. Portugal has a long dressage tradition, which is cultivated at the world-class training facility of Lusitano Riding Center. If you’re a novice rider, they offer beginner lessons on the Lusitano horse, a breed considered the best riding horse for its calm temperament and sturdiness.

8. Ireland

After a pint of Guinness and a hearty traditional Irish meal, saddle up on a Connemara pony and head out into the Irish countryside. Like most of Europe, Ireland has a rich history of horsemanship, making it easy to horseback ride across Emerald Isle. Horseback is a great way to explore the highlands of Kerry County or the dramatic coastal cliffs of the Atlantic coast. Ireland is also filled with vast grasslands and meadows, the perfect spot for an epic gallop. It’s also a chance for Americans to reconnect with their distant Irish heritage. Along the trails, you’ll find a rich Celtic heritage in the remote islands off the Atlantic with old stone ruins dotting the landscape. The countryside is also full of medieval castles, ancient monasteries, and famous landmarks. In between trail rides, pop in a historic pub that seems to be at the end of every path.

7. Iceland

Situated on the edge of the Arctic Circle is one of the most rugged and remote landscapes on earth. With its glaciers, dramatic fjords, waterfalls, and volcanoes, Iceland has some of the most scenic horseback riding trails. The region of the North Atlantic is so rough that extra horses are often brought along to prevent exhaustion along the trail. But the extra effort is worth it for an up close look at the country’s stunning natural wonders. But with the Icelandic horse leading the way, you can rely on the sturdy, even-tempered beast of burden to take you safely through the terrain. Often passing through the backcountry, the riding trails typically lead to rustic mountain huts amongst wild mountain backdrops. The landscape might be unyielding, but on horseback, it’s a thrilling ride through the world’s most dramatic natural scenery.

6. Cyprus

Known as Aphrodite’s Isle, Cyprus is full of romantic notions, particularly the legend of the goddess of love rising out of the waves. With its sandy beaches, hillsides, and mountain ranges, the ancient isle has a variety of trails that are ideal for horseback riding. Along the way, you’ll get to explore relics of the ancient world, medieval castles, and Byzantine churches. In a landscape filled with historic wonders and romantic legends, it’s no surprise that Cyprus is a popular honeymoon destination and a vacation on horseback ups the ante in the art of romance. Another horse riding trail is in the countryside of Mesogi in the Paphos region where the Eagle Mountain Ranch offers

5. Greece

In the Cradle of the Ancient World, explore the backdrop to Greek mythology by horseback just like the early pioneers. Starting in Crete, saddle up for a ride through traditional farmlands, rolling hills, ancient olive groves along the rugged coast of the Mediterranean. Back on the mainland, the country is full of major archeological sites, including the ancient city of Athens and the ruins of the Partheneon and Acropolis, among others. The mild Mediterranean weather is also ideal for horseback riding year-round and a cool gallop down the coast at sunset is a favorite activity for Greek riders. From the ancient city of Athens to the rugged coast, Greece is full of unforgettable trail rides for the novice or the expert rider.

4. Norway

With its dramatic fjords, rugged mountain ranges, and ancient woodlands, Norway is full of horseback riding trails. Saddle up on a sturdy, sure-footed Icelandic horse and head out into the Scandinavian countryside for an unforgettable horseback-riding holiday. In the southwest, riders can explore the fjords under the midnight sun, a place where the sun never rises in the winter or sets in midsummer. Norway also contains Justedalsbreen, Europe’s largest glacier, which can be explored by horseback on a guided tour. Along the way, you’ll get the chance to see the Sognefjord and Nordfjord, which cut through each side of the glacier. Deep in the rural area, riders often stop off at rustic mountain cottages before heading out for another day of trailblazing against the backdrop of the Scandinavian heartland.

3. Romania

Deep in the heart of vampire country is the mysterious and ancient Transylvania, the jewel of Romania. Get ready to gallop through green fields, past steep snow-capped mountains, and old monasteries left by monks of antiquity. As the setting for Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Romania is an land of intrigue, legends of the Old World, and natural wonders. Follow the trail through quaint folk villages that haven’t felt the passage of time and still plow the fields with horses. The region is also known for the mountains that were featured in the movie Cold Mountain and the medieval villages in the nearby Carpathian Mountains. For an unforgettable experience that will take you back to the 18th century, take a horse and carriage ride to Borgo Pass for a spooky overnight stay in Hotel Castle Dracula.

2. Spain

In a world of stunning natural landscapes, historic landmarks, and medieval villages, Spain is a great place for horseback riding adventures. Starting in Catalonia, head out to the trails leading to volcanoes and pristine sandy beaches. Spain also contains part of the Pyrenees Mountain Range, a rugged landscape ideal for cross-country horse riding. Outside Madrid, a popular trail takes riders to medieval villages that dot the countryside and finally to the Kingdom of Castile in the Gredos Mountains, an area known for its red-roofed Romanesque architecture that was popular in antiquity. The Spanish horse, known as the Andalusian, is the most ancient horse breed in the world. Although their exact origin is unknown, they are believed to be a distant relative of the mustang and quarter horse breeds that are popular in the US.

1. Turkey

At the crossroads of the East and West, Turkey has been a major center of trade and culture throughout the centuries, dating back to the ancient world. For horseback riders, the country has some unique trails the pass through ancient ruins scattered throughout Anatolia, the eastern part of Turkey. Further south on the coast of the Mediterranean, you’ll find a different landscape of dramatic coastal cliffs and sandy beaches for a spirited seaside gallop. Other trails will take you through the Anatolian Plateau, which is considered the heartland of Turkey with its tranquil countryside surround by woodlands. Further along the coast is the Turkish Riviera, also known as the Turquoise Coast. Here you’ll find deserted beaches, mountain scenery, and the famous Lycian tombs carved out of rocks jutting out from precarious cliffs, making the carvings a natural wonder of the ancient world.

The Fairy Tale Tour: 10 Best Medieval Castles in Europe

Since ancient times, Europe has been layered in history, and one of the best ways to see the culmination of different architectural styles is the famous castles. Many started out as medieval fortresses that served as strategic defense systems against nearby invaders. After the 15th century wars, royalty and aristocrats transformed many of the crumbling fortress into opulent, captivating pleasure chateaus that inspired Walt Disney and other famous fairy tale writers. From Rapunzel to Cinderella to Belle of Beauty and the Beast, discover the ancient medieval castles of Europe at these 10 stone fortresses.

10. Chateau de Chenonceau -Chenonceaux, France

Walt Disney drew inspiration for Cinderella’s Castle at Disney World from several castles in Europe, including the Chateau de Chenonceau, the crown jewel of France’s Loire Valley. Situated on the river Cher in the small village of Chenonceaux, the chateau is one of the most visited private historical monuments in France. With its magical five arches and four corner turrets, it’s a lasting relic of medieval Gothic architecture with a touch of ornate Renaissance detailing. Such an enchanting palace is fit for Cinderella and Prince Charming, especially the moat filled with swans and richly decorate rooms with paintings by Rubens, Le Tintoret, and other great masters. Like a page out of a fairy tale, Chenonceau is a treasured castle of the Loire Valley and a testament to the passion and influence of the French Renaissance.

Chateau de Chenonceau

9. Windsor Castle -Berkshire, United Kingdom

Another quintessential fairy tale castle is Windsor Castle built by William the Conqueror in the 11th century. Today, the ancient medieval fortress is still the primary castle of the royal family. Although it suffered a fire in 1992, it was renovated a few years later and fully restored to its original glory, including Gothic turrets and towers, and romantic moat, all cornerstones of a fairy tale castle. The castle was also a favorite spot for Queen Victoria and Prince Albert who were the first monarchies to open parts of the fortress to the public. Now, visitors have the chance of seeing the same rooms where royalty entertained top aristocrats and dignitaries. Head to Berkshire and begin the long walk to the enchanting castle, which is considered one of the finest examples of English Perpendicular Gothic architecture.

Kiev.Victor / Shutterstock.com
Kiev.Victor / Shutterstock.com

8. Chateau Fontainebleau -Loire Valley, France

You might recognize the towers, moats, and turrets of the Chateau Fontainebleau from Disneyland’s Sleeping Beauty Castle, since Disney is noted to have drawn inspiration from this Loire Valley treasure. With its French Renaissance style architecture and famous horseshoe staircase, the castle is the perfect setting for princesses and visiting royalty. Today, France’s largest castle is a World Heritage Site and national museum where visitors can tour the boudoir of Marie-Antoinette, the throne room of Napoleon, and the apartment of the Pope. The Fontainebleau started out as a fortified castle in the 12th century. After the wars of the 15th century, castles were no longer a viable defense, so Francis I decided to rebuild the crumbling medieval fortress and transform it into a lavish pleasure palace in the 16th century. Later on it was taken over by Henry II and Catherine de’ Medici who continued to expand the chateau.

Chateau Fontainebleau France

7. Prague Castle -Prague, Czech Republic

The city of Prague is full of some of the best-preserved medieval, Classical, and Renaissance architecture in Europe, making it a real life fairy tale town with Prague Castle as its crowning achievement. Situated on a hill overlooking the Charles Bridge, the Prague Castle is home to centuries-old myths and legends passed down through the generations. Popular Czech fairy tales were set here, including Dalibor’s Tower where the Knight Dalibor of Kozojedy was imprisoned. It also was the setting for Golden Lane, the age-old tale of alchemists trying to invent gold. Looming above the Vltava river, the castle overlooks the ancient city like a fairy tale fortress with spires, towers, and enormous palaces. Meander through the galleries, historic buildings, and museums to catch a glimpse of Prague’s most beloved national treasures.

Prague Castle

6. Krivoklat Castle -Bohemia, Czech Republic

Krivoklat Castle in central Bohemia is classic fairy tale with its ancient towers, stone turrets, and Gothic detailing, making it an ideal setting for the movie The Brothers Grimm (2005). Built in the 12th century by Bohemian kings, it got several major overhauls by powerful members of the monarchy. Later on, the castle suffered some setbacks, including several fires that caused considerable damage. But luckily, Krivoklat has a fairy tale ending. During a wave of romantic époque in the 19th century, the family of Furstenberg saved the castle from ruin and had it rebuilt with a glorious mix of Gothic, Classical, and Neo-Renaissance styles. During that time, aristocrats all over Europe were transforming crumbling fortresses into lavish palaces, a trend that symbolized the lasting legacy of wealth and idealism of the Renaissance.

Krivoklat Castle

5. Chateau de Chambord -Loire Valley, France

After the wars of 15th century, the French aristocrats and royalty saw the idyllic countryside of the Loire Valley as the perfect spot for building extravagant pleasure castles, many which were Walt Disney’s inspiration for Cinderella’s Castle at Disney World. In fact, the Chateau de Chambord is among them, particularly for its 16th century turrets, Gothic towers, Renaissance style detailing, and opulent interiors. If you look closely at Disney’s version, it looks very similar to Chambord, making it a real-life castle out of a fairy tale. Standing out against the lush, verdant landscape of the French countryside, the chateau contains all the fairy tale touchstones, including a swan-filled moat, hundreds of ancient frescoes, and fancywork ceilings. In its heyday, it drew 16th and 17th century A-listers, including visiting dignitaries and high society aristocrats.

Chateau de Chambord

4. Bran Castle -Transylvania, Romania

Commonly referred to as Dracula’s Castle, Bran Castle in Transylvania, Romania, was the setting for the world famous Bram Stoker’s Dracula, making it a top destination in Europe. Built in 1211 as a customs post along the mountain pass from Transylvania to Walladia, it also served as a defense against the Ottoman Empire. Vlad Tepes, the real-life man characterized as Dracula, never actually resided in the castle but stayed in the dungeon for two days when the Ottomans invaded Romania. An exciting way to see the castle is by an authentic 19th century horse and carriage ride that will bring you through the countryside and to the Gothic gates of Dracula’s Castle. Once inside, get ready to enter an ancient, medieval world where time stands still.

Bran Castle

3. Blenheim Palace -Woodstock, Oxfordshire, England

Serving as the backdrop to Disney’s live action version of Cinderella starring Cate Blanchett, Blenheim Palace is considered England’s crowning glory and an architectural achievement of the ages. Built in the English Baroque style in the 18th century, the castle was commissioned to celebrate the victory over the French in the War of the Spanish Succession. Designed by Sir John Vangrugh, the monumental country house is till home to the ancestors of the dukes of Marlborough who opened its doors to the public in 1950. The palace has had its share of ups and downs, particularly at the end of the 19th century when it was saved from ruin by the 9th Duke of Marlborough and restored to its former glory. The surrounding gardens are full of ancient oaks and tranquil moats, a classic example of English landscaping.

Amra Pasic / Shutterstock.com
Amra Pasic / Shutterstock.com

2. Mont Saint-Michel -Normandy, France

Situated in Normandy is Mont Saint-Michel, one of the most revered and culturally significant chateaus in France. It also inspired the depiction of Rapunzel’s castle in Disney’s animated feature Tangled. Like many castles in Europe, its origins can be traced back to medieval times when the island was a fortified defense system strategically located at the mouth of the Couesnon River near Avranches. Since the 10th century, the castle has undergone extensive renovations and rebuilding, the most significant construction in the 17th and 18th centuries. In the 11th century, William de Volpiano, an Italian architect, designed the abbey in the Romanesque style followed by the building of Gothic elements in the 12th century. Opened year round, pilgrims, tourists, and locals travel here to see some of the best-preserved medieval architecture in Europe.

Mont Saint-Michel

1. Neuschwanstein Castle -Fussen, Germany

Of all the enchanting fairy tale castles in Europe, Neuschwanstein Castle in Fussen, Germany is one of Europe’s top destinations and the most-visited castle in the country. Built by King Ludwig II of Bavaria, the architectural design was actually inspired by the fairy tale operas of world-renowned composer Richard Wagner. In fact, his ballet opera “New Swan Castle” was set at Neuschwanstein, which also inspired Walt Disney’s Cinderella Castle at Disney World. Also known as the “Fairy tale King,” Ludwig cherished Wagner’s fairy tales so much that he designed the castle and interiors based on his characters. In fact, when it was built in the 19th century, a time when European castles were no longer a strategic or viable defense, it was considered by many to be extravagant and over-the-top, even for a king. But today, the village of Fussen treasures its grand castle, which is now a major tourist destination.

Neuschwanstein Castle

5 Things to See and Do in Transylvania

Transylvania is one of Eastern Europe’s most captivating regions and although it is often known as the land of bloodthirsty vampires and wolves, it is in fact loaded with incredible things to see and do, all without the fear of being bitten by a vampire. It is here where visitors will experience lush countrysides, undiscovered forests and lost-in-time villages. The birthplace of Vlad the Impaler, a man-made road that will have driving enthusiasts cheering and an abundance of wildlife that will have you snapping more photos than you ever thought await visitors here in the beautiful region.

5. Bran Castle

It wouldn’t be a visit to Transylvania without visiting the castle that actually fits Bram Stoker’s description of Dracula’s Castle. It is open almost every day of the year and costs a mere 6 euros to enter. Visitors here will find a beautiful mix of culture, art and architecture and recently the castle underwent an extensive renovation. For the full Dracula experience make sure to take a ride in the glass elevator that lets you experience Dracula’s escape route. All year round there are music festivals, food fairs and children’s activities that draw over half a million visitors each year. Of course the most popular time to visit is around Halloween where the really spooky stuff comes out and night tours are offered throughout the castle.

Bran Castle

4. Trek the Carpathians

A whole hidden world of hiking awaits those looking to get outdoors in Transylvania and renowned hikers from around the world come to trek through the Carpathians. First time hikers won’t want to miss The Heroes Cross at the top of Caraiman peak, a memorial built to honor the First World War. This magnificent sight is truly one of a kind. Another great place for hikers to explore here is the Piatra Craiului National Park, also known as King’s Rock. The park is home to hundreds of species of plants and animals including thousands of bears, wolves and lynx that are a part of the Large Carnivore Project. Spend some time here with your camera capturing wildlife at every turn.

Piatra Craiului National Park

3. Drive the Transfagarasan Highway

It is one of the best roads to put the pedal to the metal and experience some thrilling hairpin turns, rated as one of Europe’s most spectacular driving experiences. It is arguably one of Transylvania’s greatest man-made achievements, a complex system of switchbacks and runnels driven through the mountains. The highway is only open from June until October and is a total of 56 miles in length. Plan on zig-zaging your way up barren valleys to Lake Balea, driving through 900m-long tunnels and experiencing the forests. The highest point of the drive is at 6,670 ft alongside Lake Balea where waterfront restaurants make it the perfect stopping point for a bite to eat. Expect this road to be crowded when it’s open, but it is definitely a must do.

Transfagarasan Highway

2. Visit Peles Castle

It is considered one of the most beautiful castles in all of Europe and for that reason alone, deserves a visit. It was originally commissioned as a summer residence during the reign of King Carol I of Romania and there is no shortage of breathtaking views everywhere in sight. The castle can be reached by a quick twenty-minute walk from the village of Sinaia, through an incredible forest. Once at the castle grounds visitors will delight in the Neo-Renaissance architecture, pristine courtyards and amazing gothic sculptures. The castle is closed on Mondays to visitors and also during the month of November. Visitors will have to join a guided tour to get inside the castle and can choose from tours ranging from one floor to all three.

Peles Castle

1. Explore Sighisoara

It is the alleged birthplace of Vlad the Impaler and this medieval-style town shows visitors what Romanian village life is truly about. It was founded by Transylvanian Saxons during the 12th century and remains one of the most beautiful and well-preserved medieval towns in Europe. The focal point in this city is the towering Clock Tower that stands 64m high and is today a museum of history. Think cobbled streets, ornate churches, steep stairways, secluded squares, tower, turrets and more. Eat, drink and be merry in this quaint village that offers a mix of historic architecture, friendly people and culinary delights.

 

Sighisoara

The Top Countries You Can Visit For Less Than $50 a Day

With more people traveling around the world, countries are getting even more expensive to visit. Despite popular beliefs, it is possible to pick the right place where you can stretch your dollar for days, even weeks. Doing your research, opting for public transportation, and eating in local spots will all go a long way to helping you stick to your budget.

10. Thailand

Despite its popularity, Thailand has remained one of the cheapest countries to visit over the years. The north side of the country is definitely cheaper than Bangkok and the islands but you will be hard-pressed to spend more than $50 a day. Rooms go for about $6-10 per day and a meal from a local restaurant will run you $5. The picture-perfect islands are even a bargain here, provided you don’t want to stay in a luxury resort. Local buses are cheap, beers are cheap and activities and sightseeing rarely runs you over $15. It is no wonder Thailand remains a hugely popular destination for budget travelers and although many continue to flock here, there is still plenty to explore without being engulfed in the crowds.

Phang Nga Bay Thailand

9. Greece

Greece has always been a bit of a budget traveler’s paradise when it comes to Europe. The fall of the economy in Greece has only made it more affordable to visit. Whether you are choosing to visit one of the islands or the mainland, there are bargains to be found. In the past few years, tourism has actually been on the decline of this beautiful country and has dragged the low prices even lower. Street vendors will sell you fresh delicious gyros for under $3 where a huge lamb meal complete with local alcohol might run you $10. Hotels and rooms can be as cheap as $20 a night and take local buses to save even more. Stay away from the touristy islands to save on accommodations and meals and choose to visit the roads less traveled.

Athens, Greece

8. Peru

Peru is one of South America’s liveliest and friendliest countries and it just so happens to be one of the cheapest to travel in. Although most travelers come here for the Inca trail, Peru is absolutely loaded with other things to see and do. Stay in a hostel for around $10 or splurge for a guesthouse that will run you $25 a night. Sit down meals are rarely over $5 and the local intracity buses cost around $1. What costs the most in this country are the activities you do. Book last minute specials when you arrive in Peru to visit Machu Picchu at half price or explore other ruins of Inca destinations for less. Hit the deserted white sand beaches, sail the Amazon and explore a beautiful country full of happy and funny people.

Lima Peru

7. Romania

Romania is the perfect country to experience old-world charm at half the price. Although many people associate this country as a decrepit ex-Communist nation, Romania is actually full of awesome things to discover. This Eastern European country offers medieval villages, castles and beautiful countryside. The time to travel here is holiday season which is the low season where you can stay for even cheaper. Expect to pay around $10 for a room and $5 for most meals. Entrance to the museums and galleries are quite cheap at $5-10 and makes for a perfect way to explore the cities. Try to stick to the smaller towns here as the touristy ones can charge double or triple for rooms and meals. If you have always wanted to explore Europe but found the price point to be high, try hitting up Romania for the ultimate European adventure.

Radu Bercan / Shutterstock.com
Radu Bercan / Shutterstock.com

6. Portugal

The cheapest place to visit in Western Europe is the beautiful and lively country of Portugal. Beaches, wine country, historical cities, and towering cliffs make it an exciting place to discover. Dorm beds can be found for about $20 a night and an even cheaper option is to camp as this country is home to spotless campgrounds located right on the beach. Meals can be a bit pricey and the bigger cities such as Lisbon often offer the most affordable food choices. Lisbon also happens to be one of the most affordable cities to stay in a five-star hotel, just in case you feel like splurging for a night. Take advantage of the free admission days that most cities offer with access to museums and galleries, ride the cheap and efficient public transit systems and enjoy this wonderful country at an extremely low price.

Porto Santo, Portugal

5. Cambodia

Cambodia is one of the cheapest countries on this list to visit and much like its neighboring country of Thailand it offers rich history, great cuisine, and a good nightlife.  This country is also less developed and less explored and therefore comes in even cheaper than Thailand. A fully private room in a typical hostel with air conditioning will only cost you about $8 a night where a typical hotel room with A/C will only run you $15-20. Food is even cheaper, most costing $2 for local food and $6-8 for a more typical Western meal. Even exploring the jungles, the cities, and the ruins won’t cost you a lot. With some of the nicest people around and raw rugged beauty at every turn, it is easy to understand why travelers often call this country their favorite. You will be hard-pressed to spend $50 a day here unless you want to live like a king.

Cambodia Floating Market Seller

4. Nicaragua

It’s the largest country in Central America but one of the least discovered and therefore extremely cheap to travel in. That is until it becomes more popular like neighboring Costa Rica. For now, though it is easy to make your way through the country experiencing the lively people, colorful towns, surfing, wildlife and volcano trekking that will keep you entertained for weeks and all for the cost of less than $50 a day. Sleep in a hammock for $5 or splurge for a room with a bathroom for $20. Food costs just mere dollars whether you are eating from a street vendor or local restaurant. Getting around is cheap and easy, either by using local buses or hopping in the back of a local truck, an ever-popular choice with locals and visitors alike. Stay away from the touristy area of San Juan del Sur as prices tend to be inflated and there are more beautiful beaches and jungles to the north.

Nicaragua

3. Indonesia

This beautiful chain of islands looks to be expensive with its stunning blue waters and silky sands. But don’t let the pictures fool you. If you can get away from the more touristy places it is actually quite affordable to travel within the country. In fact, it’s the plane ticket to get here that costs so much. The touristy south near Ubud and Kuta are where visitors will want to avoid, as they are full of dirty beaches and overpriced resorts. Head to the rather unexplored areas instead and it is easy to find a room in a hostel or guest house for less than $4 a night. Street food will only cost you a couple of dollars where a restaurant meal may run you $6. For well under $50 a day you will find rice terraces, black and white sand beaches, volcanoes, food markets, and jungles.

Mount Bromo, Indonesia

2. India

India is extremely cheap to travel to and instead of asking how one should survive on $50 a day most people ask how they can do it on $20 a day. Yes, it is possible. Local Indian vegetarian food is the way to stick on budget with the occasional splurge on meat and you can bank on spending no more than $10 a day total on food. Rooms can be found for about $5 a night. Take rickshaws instead of taxis and local buses. The flight to India is definitely the most expensive part about traveling here but once you have arrived, everything else is truly a bargain. With the exchange rate being as it is, changing dollars into rupees is advantageous for the traveler and they are seeing 50% more money to travel with, thus making India one of the best bargain countries on this list.

India Market

1. Turkey

Turkey is a unique mix of eastern and western culture which visitors should plan on spending at least a few weeks discovering. Luckily it is easy to live on much less than $50 a day here and despite popular beliefs, it’s actually not that expensive to reach. Istanbul happens to be one of the handfuls of cities around the world where airfare bargains are the norm. Hostels will be your most expensive part costing about $20 a night but the quality is high and often includes a wonderful breakfast. Typical food such as kebabs and shawarmas will only cost you about $2. The good news is the buses run frequently and are cheap, offering the chance to explore a lot of this country. Turkey offers spectacular landscapes, delicious food, fantastic sights and plenty of things to do all for the mere price of $50 a day.

Istanbul, Turkey

The 10 Fastest Growing Destination Cities in Europe for 2015

It’s little surprise that Europe is full of destination cities. From Rome to Paris to London, people love getting a taste of the “Old World” charm of various capital cities and cultural centers on the continent. But what do you do when you’ve visited some (or most) of the tried-and-true destinations? You can visit some of the up-and-coming destination cities the continent has to offer. Explore 2015’s 10 fastest growing destination cities in Europe—your next escape may be waiting for you on one of these slides!

10. Barcelona, Spain

Whether you consider Barcelona part of Spain or as the capital of an autonomous Catalonia state, the fact that tourism to the city is rapidly growing cannot be disputed. Long an important cultural center in Europe—medieval cathedrals spurred pilgrimage and the kings of Aragon had palaces in Barcelona—the city has been more recently overshadowed by Madrid, Spain’s capital. As Spain’s second-largest city, however, Barcelona has many sites and attractions—something more than 7.5 million people will experience in 2015 alone. Tourism to the city has grown over 6.5 percent since 2009 and is a major factor in the city’s economy. Barcelona’s location has also rewarded it with many world-renowned beaches. With eight UNESCO World Heritage sites, many museums and a fantastic climate, it’s little wonder Barcelona is receiving so much international attention.

Barcelona

9. Düsseldorf, Germany

Düsseldorf, the capital of the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, might seem to be an odd destination for tourists, but the city is on track to receive nearly two million foreign overnight visitors in 2015—a growth rate of nearly seven percent since 2009. Düsseldorf has been a major economic hub since at least the 1960s; today, the city is well-known for its fashion and trade shows, which attract many visitors. The city also has a large number of museums, historic buildings and sites and art galleries, which lend credit to the idea that Dusseldorf is an excellent choice for tourists. Nightlife includes the famous Kom(m)ödchen cabaret and the city is home to several internationally known bands, including the avant garde Kraftwerk. The celebration of Karnevel, the “5th season,” is one of Düsseldorf’s biggest cultural events, and occurs from November until February.

Düsseldorf, Germany

8. Warsaw, Poland

Since the fall of the Berlin Wall almost 30 years ago, tourism to Eastern Europe has been increasing, which means that cities like Warsaw, the capital of Poland, are experiencing year-over-year growth in the number of visitors; Warsaw averaged seven percent growth between 2009 and 2015. While conceptions of places like Warsaw as underdeveloped and poor continue to exist, nearly 1.5 million visitors in 2015 will discover a vibrant (and growing) city with a rich cultural heritage. Warsaw’s historic city center was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1980, and almost one-quarter of the city’s parks and gardens, meaning that there’s ample greenspace in this urban location. Warsaw has many museums, although collections suffered heavy losses during World War II; nonetheless, museums like the Museum of Posters—the first and largest museum collection of posters in the world—continue to have internationally renowned collections.

Warsaw Poland

7. Budapest, Hungary

Another city that’s benefited from increased tourism post-1989, Budapest is the capital city of Hungary and home to some 1.74 million inhabitants. Since 2009, tourism to the city has increased nearly 7.5 percent, and over three million people are expected to visit in 2015—and with good reason. Budapest is frequently cited as one of Europe’s most beautiful cities, ranking alongside Prague. Although many of the buildings were gutted by the communist government after 1949, restoration work was undertaken more recently and sites, such as Buda castle have been added to the UNESCO World Heritage list. Budapest’s long history has resulted in a mix of almost every conceivable architectural style, from ancient Roman to the ultra-modern. Famous buildings include the Hungarian Parliament and the State Opera House, as well as many churches and basilicas.

Budapest, Hungary

6. Bucharest, Romania

The tourism industry in Romania is still relatively small, as exemplified in the capital city, Bucharest, being expected to receive just slightly over one million foreign tourists in 2015. Growth, on the other hand, has been by leaps and bounds: the number of visitors has grown almost eight percent between 2009 and 2015, making Bucharest one of the fastest growing destinations in Europe. While Romania may seem to be off the beaten path for many, the capital’s charms are many: The National Parliament, the seat of the Romanian government, is the largest parliament building in the world and the former royal palace now serves as the National Museum of Art. The city is also known internationally for its music scene and nightlife, and is home to some of Europe’s best electronic dance music nightclubs, including Kristal Glam Club and Studio Martin.

Bucharest, Romania

5. Berlin, Germany

As the capital city of a reunified Germany since 1990, you’d expect Berlin to receive a lot of international tourists—and it does; the city is on track to welcome just over 4.5 million international visitors in 2015, a growth rate of eight percent since 2009. Berlin, much like other cities on the eastern side of the Iron Curtain, benefited from the fall of the Eastern Bloc in 1989 and has witnessed a revival of tourism, both domestically and internationally, since then. It’s obvious why: the city has long been a central location in German territory. The result is that Berlin boasts a wealth of historical sites and significant cultural importance in the form of everything from museums to monuments, art galleries to theater performances. Although much of Berlin was devastated by World War II bombing campaigns, many monuments have been restored, such as Schloss Charlottenburg, the largest castle in Berlin.

Berline Germany, Spree River

4. Lisbon, Portugal

Portugal and its capital city, Lisbon, are often overlooked by travelers to Europe; with major centers like Paris, Rome and Madrid close by, Lisbon tends to get bypassed in favor of cities that are considered more “iconic”. Nevertheless, tourism to Lisbon has been increasing—the number of visitors grew 8.3 percent between 2009 and 2015, with over 3.5 million foreign tourists expected to visit the city in 2015. Lisbon is one of the oldest cities in the world, predating even Rome by centuries. For that reason, Lisbon is famed for its especially rich architectural history. The Belem Tower, constructed in the 16th century, is one of the best-known monuments in the city. The city is also the birthplace of Portuguese pavement, which creates mosaic patterns through the use of stone; this unique form of art can be seen throughout Lisbon’s city streets.

Lisbon Skyline Portugal

3. Copenhagen, Denmark

Denmark’s capital city is expected to receive just over 1.5 million foreign visitors in 2015, but tourism has grown at almost 8.5 percent since 2009. The city, located on the Øresund Strait between Denmark and Sweden, has served as the Scandinavian country’s capital since the 15th century. Although Northern Europe may not be the first place you think of when planning a beach vacation, the city’s geography gives it many notable beaches. Landmarks include the Tivoli Gardens, the Christiansborg castle and the Little Mermaid Statue—the city was home to fairy tale writer Hans Christian Anderson. Copenhagen’s skyline is generally horizontal, broken only by church spires, giving it the nickname “City of Spires”. There are many parks and open spaces in the city as well. The restaurant Noma has been named as the best in the world by Restaurant magazine in four of the last five years.

Alt
Copenhagan, Denmark

2. Hamburg, Germany

While Hamburg is projected to receive just 1.32 million foreign tourists in 2015—less than many of the other cities on this list—growth of tourism to the unassuming Germany city has been well over 8.5 percent since 2009. Founded as part of the Hanseatic League of merchants, Hamburg has long had economic importance in Europe and remains one of the most affluent cities on the continent. Tourism is a major part of the city’s economy, although until recently, most visitors have been Germans. A typical city tour would include a visit to the old warehouse district and at least one of the city’s harbors, as well as a stop at city hall and St. Michaelis church. Reeperbahn is Europe’s largest red light district, while the Schanze neighborhood is noted for its numerous street cafes and laidback atmosphere.

Hamburg, Germany

1. Istanbul, Turkey

With over 12.5 million foreign tourists projected to visit in 2015, representing over 10 percent growth in visitor numbers since 2009, Istanbul is the fastest growing destination in Europe. Few would question why people want to visit the city: located along the Bosphorus, the city has been an important center of European civilization since the time of the ancient Greeks. The center of the Byzantine empire after the fall of Rome and then the center of the Ottoman empire until the early 20th century, Istanbul has a long and illustrious history—and one of Europe’s most multicultural, thanks to its unique positioning on the edge of both Europe and Asia. It was named a European Capital of Culture in 2012 and is the largest city in Turkey. The city boasts mosques and churches, bazaars and malls and a treasure trove of other attractions.

Top Cities 2013 - Istanbul