These 8 countries are easily accessible from Europe, budget friendly and most importantly not part of the Schengen Area.
Ok so if you are like me at all, you want to experience all summer in Europe has to offer. You dreamed of being at music festivals all over Europe, spending sunny summer days on the beaches of Spain or Greece, and hiking the alps without a parka. You can easily spend three months busy chasing these dreams across the continent. This isn't a problem unless, like me, you also dream of being around for Oktoberfest or some ski/snowboarding sessions later in the year.
Most of the countries in today's European Union belong to an agreement defining the area known as the Schengen Area. To non-europeans this is the magical little agreement that allows free travel across EU boarders without going through customs. While we benefit from the ease of travel, there is one downside to this agreement. As a non-eu citizen we are only given 90 days within a 6-month period on a tourist visa to explore. My destinations pages will always include information on visas and let you know if its a Schengen area country.
So how do you walk among the stars at the Cannes Film festival in May and cheers a beer at Oktoberfest? Learn the Schengen Map and explore some less conventional places around Europe. Here are eight different countries to consider when trying to extend your trip around Europe. I haven't been to all 8 yet, but I'll include links to my blog where relevant.
Beaches, Yachts, Game of Thrones & Natural Parks. Croatia has become one of Europes hottest travel destinations in recent years, so nobody should be surprised its topping the list here. This will be a short-lived spot as the country is set to fully join the EU soon. Until then, it will remain at spot number one. Things not-to-miss in Croatia include:
Plitvice Lakes National Park
Dubrovnik (Kings Landing in GoT)
Bosnia & Herzegovina
While "technically" I have been to Bosnia & Herzegovina and have the stamp to prove it, my time in country was limited to the 20 minutes it took to drive across the narrow strip that sits between Dubrovnik and the rest Croatia. That being said, the country is gaining increasing popularity amongst backpackers, and I look forward to the day I can pay it a proper visit.
Things I won't miss during my visit include:
Istanbul is a short flight from most of Europe, and a few days of wondering the exotic country will erase any doubts you have about your choice to visit. Whether its the incredible food, rich history, or diverse landscapes that attract you to Turkey, I can promise you once you here you won't regret it.
Things not to miss in Turkey:
Hot Air Ballon Ride in Cappadocia
Walk the Grand Bazaar of Istanbul
Try traditional Turkish cuisine
Bath in a traditional Hamam
Crossing the Straight of Gibraltar by ferry is a short 30-minutes from Tarifa, Spain to Tangiers, Morocco. From Tangiers, getting around Morocco is easy. Buses and high speed rail connect Tangiers to other major destinations in Morocco. Morocco is all about the sights and smells. Things not to miss in Morocco include:
Jemaa el-Fnaa, Marrakech
Chefchaouen (The Blue City)
Staying in a Riad
Erg Cherbi Sand Dunes
An affordable and safe country, Bulgaria is an easy destination to add to a road trip to Turkey or as an independent trip. A few things to check out in Bulgaria include:
Black Sea beaches and resorts
Without a well established tourist infrastructure, Montenegro is not as popular a destination as neighboring Croatia. This leaves a great opportunity for you to visit before the crowds arrive. Some things to add to your Montenegro bucketlist include:
The bay at Kotor
Budva (Most famous beach town)
The ruins at Stari Bar
Kayaking in Durmitor
The country is huge, and could easily take months to explore in its entirety. In recent years, Russia has been the home to multiple international sporting events. Look out for large events like this as a great time to visit the country. A few must see things in Russia are:
Red Square, Moscow
St. Petersburg Church
Serbia is an affordable country thats easily accessible from its surrounding European countries. Some things not to miss in Serbia:
Belgrade House Boat Clubs
Belgrade Beer Festival
Novi Sad's Exit Festival