Sometimes it’s the places we think we know best that can spring the biggest surprises, and the myriad nations of Europe offer enough variety for a lifetime of adventures. Historic cities, epic landscapes and a fascinating patchwork of languages and cultures lend the ‘old continent’ a diversity that belies its relatively compact size, and excellent infrastructure means you can squeeze an awful lot into a week-long tour. Southern Europe remains the most alluring region for most travellers, with its glorious weather, superb food and wine, cultural riches and ancient history. Mediterranean favourites such as Italy and Spain are popular for a reason, but new kids on the block such as Croatia and Montenegro are attracting ever more visitors with their blend of stunning coastal scenery, romantic medieval cities and Balkan hospitality.
Central Europe is the enchanting heart of the continent, defined by spectacular Alpine scenery, fairytale castles and grand imperial cities. During winter the green hills of Austria and Switzerland are carpeted with snow, and the great rivers of the Rhine and the Danube light up with twinkling Christmas markets. To the east lies Russia, a land sculpted by its fascinating history of Vikings and Mongols, tsars and revolutionaries. From the artistic treasures of St Petersburg and the onion domes of Moscow to the bleak expanse of Siberia, this vast and enigmatic country has so much to offer. Russia’s Nordic neighbours present a different proposition, with their magical landscape of spruce forest, plunging fjords and barren tundra, home to reindeer herders and the ethereal Northern Lights. Last but not least, don’t forget the islands of the North Atlantic, from the surreal volcanic landscapes of Iceland to our very own British Isles.