Now that Europe has dropped all travel restrictions and tourists are back en masse, you may be wondering which European countries are your best bet for a crowd-free, relaxing summer vacation.
Italy, Greece, Spain, Croatia and the like are simply riddled with Instagrammable spots, and while there is nothing we love more than the scent of orange blossoms in the air, and the Mediterranean waves crashing against an ancient port, we know the gathering can get a bit much, particularly between the months of June and August.
Thankfully, these 4 postcard-perfect European beach destinations have not yet been spoiled by mass tourism, and other than being less crowded, their beauty will simply take your breath away:
The Montenegrin Dalmatian Coast
Many travelers mistakenly associate Dalmatia with Croatia exclusively. That’s understandable, seeing that the Croatian littoral encompasses this region almost entirely, but a little-known fact often ignored by visitors is that a second country is (partly) included in this sub-region.
Montenegro is a Balkan country sharing deep ties with Croatia, both due to its northernmost coastal province of Kotor being part of Dalmatia and their common Yugoslav heritage — they formed, at one point, a single country.
Unlike its sister nation, however, Montenegro is still fighting for relevance as a Mediterranean power.
It has the same pebbly beaches and crystal-clear waters but far fewer tourists, and an up-and-coming resort scene that is yet to strip the neighboring Dalmatian towns of their authenticity.
History enthusiasts will want to take their time wandering the cobblestone alleyways of Kotor, and beach bums might want to hit those sandy crescents in Budva early in the morning before anyone else.
Looking for further inspo? Here are 7 reasons why you should add Montenegro to your bucket list this year.
The Albanian Riviera
Yet another pearl of the Adriatic, Albania has an extensive coastline dotted with deserted swimming spots and picturesque villages where time has stood still for centuries.
Due to the lack of a coastal airport, and limited connectivity to the rest of Europe, the Albanian Riviera remains largely unspoiled by tourism.
Sarande, the main city on the Albanian Riviera, offers easy access to hidden beaches where frequented mostly by locals, particularly along the road to Butrint.
Our favorite, Ksamil, is an undisturbed patch of rocky sand bounded by the translucent waters of the Mediterranean, lined with a few restaurants and guesthouses.
Recently, Travel Off Path named Albania the best European country for long-term stays.
If there’s one thing we learned after swapping Tulum, in Mexico, for the lesser-known Lake Bacalar, it is that the summer holidays do not necessarily need to be synonymous with oceanside drives.
Lakeside beaches can be just as incredible and enjoyable, if not better.
Ohrid, in the Balkan country of North Macedonia, is one of those massively underrated inland sunny getaways.
Straddling the turquoise-blue Lake Ohrid, it is an ancient city dating back at least two millennia, originally established as a Greek colony.
The city, only 42,000 people-strong, is still quaint without the usual Instagram hordes, though it is definitely postcard material, what with its Ottoman-era houses, ruined Greek theater, and iconic medieval church perched on a crag facing the lake.
Beyond its numerous museums and centuries-old churches, Ohrid has both sandy and pebbly beaches on the edge of the lake, where residents go for refreshing dips in summer or hang around with friends.
On the lake itself, tourist boats are a common sight, as well as sailboats.
Narbonne is a French city in the Occitanie region, located further inland than other destinations on this list but still only 15 km away from the sea, and a historical Mediterranean port whose relevance dates back to the Roman period.
While a majority of tourists will flock to the French Riviera, it is only a small section of the country’s vast Mediterranean coast, which extends for a total of 600 kilometers.
The provinces closer to the Italian border tend to see visitor numbers quadruple over summer, especially closer to the Italian border, where Nice, St. Tropez, Menton, and Antibes are located, but out West, approaching Spain, the atmosphere is much more relaxed.
Despite its cultural wealth, being home to numerous Roman-era landmarks and an unfinished yet impressive medieval cathedral, and the long, sandy plage lining the Mediterranean Sea, Narbonne is yet to be discovered by the foreign populace.
Of the 8.8 million nights spent by tourists in the city in 2019, 69% of those were French citizens.
If you’re looking to discover France off the beaten path this summer, Narbonne is one of your best bets.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com