10 reasons Eastern Europe tops Western Europe for travel


Tourists flock to Western Europe. And, sure, Western Europe is nice. But it’s also overflowing with tourists, and tourists can really take the shine off a place. Below is a list of sights in Eastern Europe that rival those of Western Europe, and – here’s why I prefer them – they come with just a fraction of the tourists.


#1 Eastern Europe Highlight

Ushguli, Georgia

At 2,100 m elevation Ushguli is the highest inhabited town in Europe. The haunting watchtowers give the settlement an incredible Old World charm. And as yet there’s hardly any tourists.

Ushguli, Georgia

Ushguli, Georgia. Photo credit: Amrita Ronnachit


#2 Eastern Europe Highlight

Berat, Albania

It’s known as the Town of a Thousand Windows. Berat is full of stunning Ottoman architecture and comes complete with a huge castle and a sprinkling of Illyrian ruins. The town is mostly unrestored, and amazingly un-touristed.

Town of Thousand Windows, Berat, Albania

Berat, Albania. Photo credit: Benjamin White


#3 Eastern Europe Highlight

Spiš Castle, Slovakia 

Spiš Castle is an incredible medieval fortress – one of my favourites. And completely empty the day I visited. It’s also where they filmed Dragonheart 🙂

Spišské Podhradie, Slovakia

Spiš Castle, Slovakia. Photo credit: Benjamin White


#4 Eastern Europe Highlight

Rock sculpture of Decebalus, Romania 

Like rock-cut architecture? Here’s a unique example that might give you visions of Legolas and Gimli. Guess how many people were at this site in Iron Gates National Park the day I visited? Not a single one.

Rock sculpture of Decebalus, Romania

The rock sculpture of Decebalus, Romania. Photo credit: Benjamin White


#5 Eastern Europe Highlight

Baku, Azerbaijan

Baku comes with modern flame towers and ancient flame temples. There are also mud volcanos, and a UNESCO-listed petroglyph site. For a bustling capital city, it is surprisingly un-touristed.

Shirvanshahs Palace, Baku, Azerbaijan

Palace of Shirvanshahs. Photo credit: Amrita Ronnachit


#6 Eastern Europe Highlight

Sea Stone Hotel, Nagorno-Karabakh

The Seastone Hotel, in little-heard-of Nagorno-Karabakh, is proof there’s fun to be had living in this separatist-controlled unrecognised republic.

Lion carving, Seastone Hotel, Vank, Nagorno-Karabakh

The lion sculpture at Sea Stone Hotel, Vank, Nagorno-Karabakh. Photo credit: Benjamin White


#7 Eastern Europe Highlight

Plovdiv, Bulgaria

Like Roman ruins? Well, you don’t need to visit Italy. Plovdiv holds one of the best preserved Roman theatres in the world. There’s also a Roman stadium, a Roman forum, and many other parts of the Roman city of Philippopolis to explore.

Roman Theatre, Plovdiv, Bulgaria

The Roman Theatre. Photo credit: Benjamin White


#8 Eastern Europe Highlight

Noravank, Armenia

Armenians have a thing for building monasteries in gorgeous landscapes. And you can see from my photo below how many tourists you’ll have to share the site with.

Noravank, Armenia

Photo credit: Benjamin White


#9 Eastern Europe Highlight

Sighișoara, Romania 

Sighișoara has nine remnant guild towers, a medieval clock tower, and it’s the birthplace of Vlad the Impaler (the man who was the inspiration for Dracula). It’s also one of the best preserved medieval cities in Europe.

Sighișoara, Romania

Photo credit: Benjamin White


#10 Eastern Europe Highlight

Mostar, Bosnia & Herzegovina

The famous Ottoman Bridge, Stari Most, was blown up in 1993 during the Yugoslav Wars. It has since been painstakingly restored. Local daredevils jump from the highest point of the bridge as a demonstration of their courage.

Diver jumping from the top of Stari Most, Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina

Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina. Photo credit: Benjamin White




Worthy contenders:

Belogradchik Rocks, Bulgaria

Photo credit: Benjamin White


Kotor, Montenegro

Cathedral of Saint Tryphon, Kotor, Montenegro

Kotor, Montenegro. Photo credit: Benjamin White


Lake Ohrid, Northern Macedonia

Tsar Samuil's Fortress, Ohrid, Republic of Macedonia

Tsar Samuil’s Fortress, Northern Macedonia. Photo credit: Benjamin White


Morskie Oko, Poland

Winter, Morskie Oko, Poland

Morskie Oko in winter, Poland. Photo credit: Benjamin White


Dubrovnik, Croatia

Pile Bay, Dubrovnik, Croatia

Dubrovnik city walls, Croatia. Photo credit: Benjamin White


Vardzia, Georgia

Vardzia, Georgia

The cave city of Vardzia, Georgia. Photo credit: Benjamin White


Zorats Karer, Armenia

Zorats Karer, Armenia

Zorats Karer, Armenia. Photo credit: Benjamin White


Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria

Tsarevets Fortress wide shot, Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria

Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria. Photo credit: Benjamin White


Bojnice Castle, Slovakia

Bojnice Castle, Slovakia

Bojnice Castle, Slovakia. Photo credit: Benjamin White


Bran Castle, Romania

Bran Castle, Romania

Bran Castle, Romania. Photo credit: Benjamin White

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