For the life of me, I don’t have a clue why I didn’t write more about my tour of Europe – my FIRST ever SOLO tour – almost 4 years ago! Welllllll I do know why, life just gets in the way doesn’t it?
But now life has taken a crazy turn and presented us all with a mass of spare time on our hands that we MUST fill in order to save ourselves from going crazy.
So while travel isn’t possible now, I think it poses a great chance for us to look back, reminisce and appreciate the good we’ve seen around the world. I’m starting here, with six of my most favourite spots from my European tour with GAdventures and Contiki. Although the tour was way back in 2016, the memories are still very much alive, as is my urge to discover much more of Europe… when I can.
1. Interlaken, Switzerland
One of the first stops on the tour, following a train from Paris was the town of Interlaken, nestled in the Bernese Highlands region of the Swiss Alps. Following mostly coastal holidays throughout my life, I was excited to have my first real glimpse at mountains! And they didn’t disappoint. In the short space of time we spent in Interlaken, we enjoyed renting a pedalo on Lake Thun and taking the mountain cable car to Harder Kulm, ‘the top of Interlaken’, where sadly by the time we reached the top the view was totally obscured by thick cloud, nevertheless the views on the way up were beautiful!
2. Rome, Italy
Rome followed shortly after Interlaken, stopping first in the fashion capital of Milan. I had luckily been to Rome the previous Christmas, indulging in Italian festivities and enjoying the subtle decorations across the city. I was so excited to return in the height of Summer and witness a different side. On our first full day, nearly everyone on tour booked tickets to the Vatican and since I’d already been, I was even more excited to get out and explore completely on my own. I walked the streets all day, passing the Roman Forum, the Pantheon, picking up pistachio gelato in a fabulous little shop, Don Nino and strolling past the stores on Via Del Corso before finding the Spanish Steps and eventually making my way back to my hostel near Termini Station with a little help from locals.
That night, the whole group ventured over to the bohemian area of Trastevere to check out the nightclub scene, which was… pretty grimy to say the least but we managed to survive til gone 4:00am, and at least it became a night with new friends I’ll never forget.
3. Granada, Spain
Most definitely my all-time favourite on this whole tour. Granada, in the Andalusia region of Spain captured my heart almost instantly. From the moment we arrived late at night to our accommodation looking out upon the very lively Plaza Nueva, I knew it would be an incredible place to explore as soon as the sun rose the next morning. We began that day walking to the Albayzin, the medieval Moorish quarter, laneways upon laneways of white-washed houses, with flowers pouring out over their balconies and beautiful azulejos (Spanish tiles) framing their colourful front doors. That evening just before sunset, a few of us took a taxi to the Alhambra, the UNESCO World Heritage palace and fortress, situated with the stunning backdrop of the Sierra Nevada mountains. By night, we watched authentic (and VERY intense) flamenco in a cave in Sacromonte, known as the gypsy quarter of Granada. AMAZING.
So amazing that I returned on a mini Andalusian road trip two years later, check out my one week itinerary!
4. Seville, Spain
Two points to Spain! As much as I didn’t want to depart Granada so soon, our next destination was Seville – a much busier city than Granada but sharing the same Moorish history, stunning architecture and Spanish tapas culture. The first thing that struck us was the heat – SO INSANELY HOT that we couldn’t really walk around too much in the middle of the day.
Instead, we all needed some time to relax and decided to hit the streets again in the early evening (when it’s not cool by any means, just slightly less hot) to explore our surroundings, take some snaps at Plaza de Espana, drink a few more refreshing Tinto de Verano’s and choose somewhere for dinner. That night, our tour guide’s friends from Seville joined us and although there was an evident language barrier, still we seemed to connect over 1) appreciation of their beautiful city and 2) the love of good food!
5. Lagos, Portugal
Forever one of my favourite spots in Portugal. I had visited before with family actually, maybe once or twice. But I’d never hiked the cliffs along the coast or cooked a barbeque on the beach while using a surfboard as a table and watching the sun set in front of us. Lagos is a historic marine town, situated in Western Algarve which nowadays attracts a crowd of international traveller’s who have heard about it’s charm, nightlife, bohemian corners and big surf culture. Lagos is also home to one of my favourite hostels on tour, Tag Hostel – small, pretty, friendly and very well looked after with views out to the marina.
6. Mykonos & Santorini, Greek Islands (’cause I can’t pick one)
When my GAdventures tour ended in Madrid, I was on my own for a while but not for long as I was about to board a flight to Athens and begin my second tour with Contiki. This time, it was the Greek Islands and a HUUUUGE tick off my bucket list. After a day or two in Athens, we took our first boat across to the island of Mykonos. The lovely main town of Hora is all pristine white homes and a maze of cobbled streets, with blue evil eyes looking at you on every corner. Watch where you walk because you will inevitably get lost. Our couple of nights in Mykonos were spent partying in Paradise (beach club) or enjoying the more peaceful side of town, dining at a restaurant on the waters edge, with the iconic windmills just in sight.
We left Mykonos for Santorini and I couldn’t wait to see those blue domes and stunning sunsets. And that is, of course exactly what we saw. But more than that and what I had never expected was a boat trip to Nea Kameni volcano and hot springs and a donkey ride (which I now regret) up the steps to the town of Oia. It is from the terraces and cliffsides of Oia that all of the stunning photos you see time and time again of Santorini are captured. Above all of the beauty, the food in the Greek Islands was some of the best on the entire tour – give me gyros, moussaka and feta cheese any day and I’m happy!
I can STILL – 4 years on – never quite decide which of the islands I loved more.
Hope you liked checking out some of my European travel memories, how about re-living some of your own? Where are your favourite spots in the world?
Also, big shout out to GAdventures and Contiki for providing incredible tours and memories so strong they feel as though they happened just yesterday!