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Off-beat Europe - ten ways to see Europe away from the crowds

Saaremaa, Estonia

Some places in Europe in summer can get crowded - take the Cinque Terre or places like Venice, Rome or Paris. But even in such a populated continent as Europe there are places to be found that are wonderfully quiet and waiting for you to be discovered. So where in Europe can you go to get away from the crowds?

Here are ten ways to see Europe away from the tourist hordes.

Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania - backroads and capital cities

While much-loved Tallinn's Old Town can get crowded, the extensive forests, pretty islands and sparsely populated countryside of these three tiny countries make for a great place to recharge your batteries. While Estonia has firmly embraced Europe, much less developed Latvia offers lakes, woods, beaches and a captivating history. Outside its baroque capital, Lithuania has splendid coastal wetlands and remnants of its dark past as well as its enduring faith. Cycle the Baltics or Discover the Baltics are great tours. For an expert led discovery of the three capitals and Helsinki, consider A&K's The Baltics & Helsinki.

Norway - the fjords on foot or by rail

One of the most beautiful countries in the world, Norway is a land of fjords, mountains and glaciers, endless forests and midnight sun. Hiking and scenic drives are around every corner, while the cities display a Scandinavian sophistication and flair for design. One of the best walking trip is Walking the Fjords while Arctic Circle and Fjords by Rail trip has you travel the length of the country, including the spectacular Oslo to Bergen railroad.

Iceland - a circumnavigation

Volcanoes covered by ice loom over a verdant green coastline,, glaciers grind their way to the ocean, geysers erupt and the northern lights dance in the sky. And while you won't have the place to yourself, a short walk will make you feel like you do. For t he budget conscious there is Iceland Discovery while the most comprehensive tour is Grand Tour of Iceland. If you really want to get into otherwise unreachable places, the Circumnavigation of Iceland promises to be an adventure of a lifetime.

Ireland on foot

While the Ring of Kerry is a popular circuit toured by coachloads of tourists, we do things a little differently. We explore the best of the area on foot, away from the crowds as we journey along a network of ancient paths which weave between the main points, on the long-distance track known as the Kerry Way. If you want to see more than just the southwestern tip of the country, Hiking the Emerald Isle is a splendid trip.

Portugal - the other Camino

Considered the most spiritually connected pilgrimage route, following the path St James' body took to its resting place at the site of Santiago de Compostela, this quiet stage offers a wealth of history. From the lively city of Porto, the walk north travels through small hamlets, past eucalyptus and pine woods, over ancient bridges and through larger market towns dating back to Roman times. The Portuguese road - Porto to Santiago

Spain - cycle the backroads

La Rioja - land of ancient hills where walled hilltop towns stand guard over undulating vineyards. Cycle across the gentle rolling countryside seeking out ancient monasteries, tasty tapas and best wines. Cycle La Rioja. If cycling is not your thing, on Secret Trails of Medieval Spain you venture on a fantastic journey along secret pilgrims’ routes, all the while exploring rich mediaeval heritage and enjoying the typical warm Spanish hospitality.

France - walking the Pyrenees

The Pyrenees, with its stunning landscapes and quaint villages has been enthralling walkers in-the-know for many years. On Walking in the French Pyrenees, you explore the rugged ridges, peaks and passes of the central Pyrenees while the evenings offer the chance to enjoy the fantastic local mountain cuisine and of course, an extensive range of local wines. If you looking for something a little easier, A Ramble in the Pyrenees is for you, while this trek along the GR10 is meant for those looking for a challenge.

Italy - go off season or go off track

Avoiding the worst of the crowds, spring (April, May) and fall (September, October) are delightful times to visit Italy. Even then you may need to choose places well off the beaten track. Join an authentic truffle hunt for the day on our Piedmont & Parma Food Adventure, walk one of the wildest Italian islands in the Mediterranean on Walking in Sardinia or unveil one of the world’s best yet largely undiscovered wine regions, the Prosecco Hills.

Albania - a touch of the Iron curtain

Enjoy wild landscapes, rich culture and outstanding natural beauty in undiscovered Albania. It is a fascinating, little known country with an incredible history set impressively against a wild and rugged landscape. Walk it, ride it, or simply take it all in.

Greece - post-recession

Hit hard by the economic crisis, tourism in Greece took a nose-dive. Now is the time to enjoy the country without the crowds. Between the must-see historical sites of Athens and Delphi, the rugged plateaus of the fabled Samariá Gorge, personal encounters in isolated Cretan villages and the breezy sway of Santorini at sundown Best of Greece is a fabulous trip. Hikers should try Santorini to Crete Guided Walk, Mountains and Village of Evia or Ancient Greece on Foot.

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