best Europe itinerary: Top destinations for off the beaten path adventures
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There’s a reason Europe is one of the world’s most popular travel destinations. It’s honestly hard to not like Europe. The colorful buildings and cobbled streets, the endless waterfalls and huge mountains, and the small villages filled with green meadows. While each country in Europe is slightly different, you can’t go wrong with any trip to Europe. These 8 itineraries are all great ways to experience Europe!

Back in 2016, we flew from the States and landed in Europe for our first trip to Europe. For the first six weeks, we lived out of a tent as we road tripped through Norway, Ireland, and Germany. Then, we rented an RV, or camper as they call them in Europe, and road tripped through 13 more countries in western Europe and the UK. It was incredible and a life changing experience to say the least.

While we still ventured into the big cities, our main goal was to find great destinations to hike, surf, and rock climb. If you too want to immerse yourself in culture, gorgeous nature, and seek adventure, try one (or all) of these great European itineraries.

Since the entire 6 months we visited were spent camping, I’ve included recommended camping spots in the descriptions of each destinations however if you’re not interested in camping, recommended accommodation links are included at the end of each Europe itinerary

A Few Tips for A Trip to Europe

If You Are On A Road Trip: In most European countries, the grocery stores are closed on Sunday! Stock up on Saturday. I can’t tell you how many Sundays we starved because I’d forget what day it was and not stock up.

If You Plan on Camping: If your Europe trip keeps getting put on the back burner because of your small budget, I highly recommend considering camping. Camping can greatly reduce the cost of your trip and in Europe camping is SO EASY. Check out our blog, Tent Camping in Europe for more tips. Campervanning in Europe is even easier than tent camping.

1 | Ireland

Fly In and Out Of: Dublin

The Irish are some of the nicest people you will ever meet. But don’t think for a second that they speak English  While the accent sometimes makes it hard to understand what they are saying, the Irish love to chat and you’ll likely get caught up in an hour conversation on weather, politics, or food.

The Guiness is better than you can imagine and that is saying something because I don’t drink stouts, but Guiness is so good I couldn’t resist. And while I did see a lot of gluten free options in Ireland, I was glad I didn’t have to test them because the scones, soda bread, and cakes were to die for.

Driving in Ireland is an adventure. Remember, if you are coming from the States, not only are you on the opposite side of the road, you are on the opposite side of the car, which in some ways helps because as the driver, you just stay focused on the center line. We rented a manual transmission car so shifting with my left hand felt bizarre and it was hard to get used to having cars pass me on my right side.

Also, if you leave Dublin and head to smaller cities, the roads in Ireland get narrow fast and it’s not abnormal to see tractors on the road. Getting around takes a lot longer than you might be used to if you are from the U.S. What was shocking to me was how tall the hedges were on all the small, single lane roads so it was hard to see oncoming traffic and getting to places like the Burren entailed taking the turns slow and pulling over often to let traffic pass. In many parts of Ireland, and Wales too, the roads are only wide enough for one car. For this reason I was very glad we didn’t have an RV in Ireland.

Hiking trails in Ireland are a loose term and everywhere you hike feels like you are hiking through bogs.  Your shoes get soaked and it might be worth the investment to hike in gaiters like the locals do.

Some other interesting facts about Ireland. In Dublin airport, there were waters (not locked up) for sale with an honesty box for you to put your euro in if you wanted to buy one. That pretty much summed up Ireland. I couldn’t even imagine something like that in the States (at least not in California). Gas Stations have really good food. There are sheep everywhere in the middle of the road. Don’t try to outrun the rain

Don’t touch the fences, most are electric for the cows. The temperature stayed between 8-11 degrees celcius the entire 2 weeks

You don’t need to drive the entire island. It’s pretty much all great, but all the same. If I only had one week, I’d spend a day in Dublin, a day in Limerick, three days near Sligo, and a day at the Cliffs of Mohrer.  I’d only add Connemara and Clonakilty if I was staying longer.

Ireland Itinerary

  • Dublin
  • Clonakilty
  • Gap of Dunloe
  • Limerick
  • Cliffs of Mohrer
  • The Burren
  • Galway
  • Connemara
  • Sligo

Dublin

We actually didn’t get to go here because we had surfboards strapped to the roof of our rental car and our shuttle driver at the airport said they’d likely get stolen if we parked in Dublin. I wasn’t going to risk it since we were just at the start of our 6 month trip. But from what I hear, Dublin is amazing.

If you are staying near Dublin, Wicklow Mountain is nice to explore. There’s rock climbing there and an old mine to hike to. Be sure to drive Sally Gap.

Clonakilty

This small town is south of Cork, near Inchydoney Beach where we had planned to surf. I liked how foody this town was and while I wouldn’t go far out of my way to get here, I do recommend it if you are close by. Try to make it to the farmer’s market. I loved staying at this campground. It reminded me of the dwarf’s house from Snow White and the owner, who is hopefully still alive, was a hoot to talk to.

Gap of Dunloe, Best Europe Itinerary, Limerick Itinerary
Driving through the Gap of Dunloe

Gap of Dunloe

This is right by the Ring of Kerry, which we skipped because it sounded like way too much driving. Instead, we parked at Kate Kearney’s Cottage where we got hustled into paying for a carriage ride that took us into the Gap of Dunloe. It was pleasant, but after only getting to go partly into The Gap, since our horse had trouble pulling seven of us!, we decided to drive the entire thing. I’m not sure if it is technically allowed but since we saw others doing it, we followed suit. The drive is gorgeous!

Limerick, Best Europe Itinerary, Limerick Itinerary
View of Limerick from the top of King James castle

Limerick 

This was my favorite larger sized town. King James castle is a must do. Our whole family loved it, especially the part where you can walk the castle courtyard and stand on top of the walls overlooking the entire city. The entire thing was really informational. The Milk Market is another must do. Bring your appetite and a lot of money. This huge farmers market had such good sandwhiches, breads, cheeses, fruits, and more. We even found raw milk and the reddest strawberries I’ve ever seen!

Cliffs of Moher, Best Europe Itinerary, Limerick Itinerary
View of the Cliffs of Mohrer

Cliffs of Mohrer + The Burren

Cliffs of Mohrer is another must see, but I recommend parking about a mile north of it and hiking the trail along the cliff to get the best views. I really liked the Burren and wish we could’ve hiked more here, but Tatiana wasn’t in the mood that day. Even if you don’t hike it, just seeing all the limestone pavement and the difference in geology is unique.

Galway

This was not one of my favorite places in Ireland because it’s too big and touristy for me, but I think most people would find it worth stopping at for a day or at least to grab lunch on your way to Connemara or Sligo. We enjoyed having a beer and lunch at Oslo Bar in Galeway.

Best family friendly hikes in Ireland
Gorgeous views from the top of Connemara

Connemara National Park

We are a bit spoiled since we’ve hiked so many epic destinations. Overall, hiking in Ireland is lovely, but not mind blowing. Connemara was a very pleasant hike with great views.

Sligo

I liked this surf town a lot. It reminded me of being back in one of the smaller surf towns of California (much smaller). The entire area from Downs Patrich Head and Easky to Ballina and Sligo I found to be just perfect for our family. If you surf or want to feel Irish culture and just rub elbows with locals, this is a great area. 

Related Blogs

Non Camping Accommodation

2 | Central Norway

Fly In and Out Of: Oslo

Norway is the perfect destination if you love nature. On this road trip you are constantly driving past thousand foot waterfalls, lakes so still they form perfect reflections of the surrounding hillsides and farm houses, and gorgeous stretches of snow as far as the eyes can see.

Norway is easy to road trip through. If you rent an RV, there will be plenty of places to pull off and camp. Finding free dump stations is simple here too making it a great road trip if you like to free camp off the beaten path. We rented a car and tent camped on this trip. Camping in Norway is very easy also and the campers kitchens in the campground made it simple to prepare food or take shelter from the elements.  Just remember that from June to September the sun only sets for a few hours so bring eye masks or blackout tent. If you rent a camper in Norway it will probably have blackout curtains.

Norway Itinerary

  • Bergen
  • Fläm
  • Sogndalsfjøra
  • Stryn
  • Geiranger
  • Randsverk
Bergen, Best Europe Itinerary, Norway Itinerary
View of Bergen from Fløyen

Bergen

Hike to Fløyen and play on the rad playground by the restaurant. This hike is famous for all the troll statues and has some really cool playgrounds. You can also choose to ride the funicular train up and down, but where’s the adventure in that?! There’s a great bakery right by the bottom of the funicular and I highly recommend going to the Bergen farmers market. You can sample whale!

Tip: It’s a long drive to get from Oslo airport to Bergen so you may want to get a hotel halfway between them. Geilo would be a good option if you are skipping Fläm as it is a big enough town with restaurants, hotels, and stores.

Central Norway, Best Europe Itinerary, Norway Itinerary
Views on the way to Jostedalsbreen glacier

Fläm

This is a place you could easily spend days in, but the main attraction here is riding the Flam railway, which takes you to Myrdal. You can ride it in both directions or choose to hike or mountain bike one (or both) of the ways.

Sogndalsfjord, Best Europe Itinerary, Norway Itinerary

Sogndalfjørd

This was a nice place to stay as a jumping off point to some great hikes and rock climbing. The town itself is big enough to find restaurants and stores if you need to restock supplies. There is a great campground with a gorgeous view of the fjord.

Geirangerfjord, Best Europe Itinerary, Norway Itinerary
View of Geirangerfjord from the hike above

Stryn + Geiranger

The town of Stryn is another great jumping off place for adventure. It had great rock climbing, gorgeous hikes, and the famous Jostedalsbreen glacier.

Make sure to drive up to Geiranger and do the hike above the fjørd. 

Randsverk

We stumbled upon this area the day before we had to fly out so we didn’t get enough time to explore it. There was a ton of great hiking and mountain biking here that I hope to go back and do one day.

Related Blogs:

3 | Southern Germany

Fly Into: Munich

Fly Out Of: Luxembourg or Cologne

Germans love to camp which means you will have no problem finding campgrounds if you choose to road trip through Germany. Showers are almost always free in Germany. It’s easy to camp here too because many of the campgrounds have restaurants on site and bread is delivered hot and fresh every morning. The beer is cold and delicious and you can find sausage wrapped pastries all over the place. Best of all, the beer and bread are very cheap! Don’t forget to go to the metzer for your meat. Yum!

The Mosel River Valley is where you can tour one of the most gorgeous castles, Berg Eltz. Climbers will want to check out Frankenjura although I personally enjoyed climbing near Sonthofen just south of Kempten more.  

If I only had a week to spend in Germany, I’d spend 2 days in Munich, 2 days in Frankenjura, and 2 days exploring the Mosel River Valley making sure to stop at the Berg Eltz castle on the way. If you have two weeks, make it a loop and go to the Black Forest, Baden Baden, and Frieberg before heading east and exploring Kempten, Sonthofen, and Fussen.

Germany Itinerary

  • Munich
  • Bamberg
  • Rothenburg ob der Tauber
  • Mosel River Valley
  • Baden Baden
  • Kempten
  • Fussen
Munich, Best Europe Itinerary, Germany Itinerary
River surfing in Munich is way harder than it looks but fun nevertheless

Munich

I’m not a city girl, but I enjoyed Munich a lot and wish we had stayed more days there. Munich is beautiful and has a huge park similar to Central Park in New York that you can spend the day in. A river runs through the park and people line up to surf this one spot where the water hits concrete and forms a wave. It draws a huge crowd of spectators and we decided to #braveforadventure and give it a try. It’s hard!  If you are going to try, rent or bring a wetsuit since the water in the river is very cold. Also, use a beater board because when you mess up, your board hits the concrete sides of the canal.  If you can’t find it, ask a local where the Eisbach is.

The city also has really amazing architecture to see and a great farmers market. You could easily spend a few days here just so you can take in all the great food.

Bamberg, Best Europe Itinerary, Germany Itinerary

Bamburg 

I wouldn’t necessarily make this my main destination, however it is central to a lot of outdoor experiences, especially rock climbing in the Frankenjura area. Bamburg itself is full of great food and unique architecture, like the Old Town Hall that sits precariously in the middle of a bridge and looks like it is going to fall into the river.

I loved camping on the canal, getting up early to rock climb, stopping at the bakery for sausage wrapped pastries, and finishing the day in Bamburg with a beer and walking the city.

Note to rock climbers: The bolting in Frankenjura is spaced very far and the climbing was very polished. However, the areas down by Kempten were not.

Rothenburg, Best Europe Itinerary, Germany Itinerary
Rothenburg

Rothenburg ob der Tauber

This is a very memorable destination in Germany. What makes it unique is that the entire city is walled and you can actually walk the entire perimeter of the wall for free. My kids loved all the armor shops in town that sold real metal armor and weapons, as well as the delicious snowball pastries that are sold all over town. Splurge and take a carriage ride tour of this unique city.

Berg Eltz, Best Europe Itinerary, Germany Itinerary
The Berg Eltz castle looks straight out of a fairytale

Mosel River Valley

This could be a destination in itself. We loved this area and hope to get back soon to bikepack it. There are 3 great destinations along the river– Berg Eltz, Bernkastle, and Trier. There are great campgrounds along the river, cobblestone villages, and wineries everywhere you look.

Fussen, Best Europe Itinerary, Germany Itinerary
Looking down at Baden Baden from the ancient castle ruins

Baden Baden & Freiburg

We loved exploring the black forest of Germany and exploring the free ruins of the Baden-Baden castle. The town of Baden- Baden is rad, but yuppie, so my fellow dirtbags, Clean up first 😉

Then head south to the college town of Freiburg. It’s busy with tons of bikes just like Amsterdam but on a smaller scale. Go to the church to see the carving used to measure the size of the bread and again, check out the great farmer’s market.  The campground near town was great to stay at and we loved how everyone gathered together to watch the Euro Cup when we were there.

Fussen, Best Europe Itinerary, Germany Itinerary
Our exploring our favorite farmers markets in Fussen

Kempten

We loved the farmers market here and the square is gorgeous with the cathedral towering over it. I wouldn’t have known to come here if it hadn’t been for trying to get some beta on climbing, but I was so glad I did.

We spent a few days just 30 minutes south of here in near the town of Sonthofen. This area of Germany is gorgeous with it’s flower boxed houses, large rolling hillsides, and steepled churches. If you want an outdoorsy and off-the-beaten-path cultural experience, spend a few days here.

Munich, Best Europe Itinerary, Germany Itinerary
A birds eye view of the less popular castles that sit right next to Neuschwanstein Castle

Fussen

The drive from Sonthofen to Fussen is beautiful. Unlike the Sonthofen area, Fussen is touristy and expensive. It was hard to free camp here and the campgrounds are pricey. If you choose to do the Neuschwenstein castle, it feels like a Disneyland shit show. Sorry, but compared to so many other badass places in Europe, it’s way too commercialized for me.

I did loved hiking the easy trails above the castle and wish we had hiked even higher to get bird’s eye view of the two castles.

Related Blogs:

Non Camping Accommodation

4 | The Netherlands + Belgium

Fly in and out of: Amsterdam

The Low Countries have a distinct vibe of their own. They are a melting pot of cultures and you will find people are very friendly. Ghent had incredible architecture and Brugge is a romantic city that we enjoyed a lot, but Delft was definitely the favorite. The Netherlands are as flat as can be but that made it nice for running and biking. We especially loved the bread and apple, nut-filled pastries in the Netherlands. They certainly gave France’s chocolate croissants a run for their money. Amsterdam is a must see once but be alert, bikes are racing past you all the time and it is a big city. We preferred the smaller, quainter city of Haarlem.

The Netherlands + Belgium Itinerary

  • Luxembourg
  • Brussels
  • Ghent
  • Bruges
  • Delft
  • Haarlem
  • Amsterdam
Amsterdam, Best Europe Itinerary, Belgium Netherlands Itinerary

Amsterdam

Wow! I never could’ve imagined the number of bikes zipping by when we walked the city. It’s cool, but you really do have to pay attention or you’ll easily get clipped by a bike in a rush. 

Haarlem, Best Europe Itinerary, Belgium Netherlands Itinerary

Haarlem

This city is much smaller city than it’s neighbor, Amsterdam. We stayed in an apartment overlooking the town square and cathedral here and had such a wonderful time. We enjoyed getting to walk from our apartment to buy our bread, cheese, coffee, chocolate, and wine all from small shops and the food was so good!

Brussels 

We actually ran out of time to visit here and but wish we had. Everyone tells us that you have to go visit Brussels for oysters.

Ghent, Best Europe Itinerary, Belgium Netherlands Itinerary

Ghent

Besides all the incredible architecture, my kids really liked these cool statues that were all over the town. We only spend half a day here, but it was definitely worth stopping at. It is a busier city and good if you like restaurants and shopping. If you want quaint or romantic, stick with Bruge and Delft.

Bruges, Best Europe Itinerary, Belgium Netherlands Itinerary
I think Bruges might be the prettiest town in all of Europe. Everywhere you go feels like a real life gingerbread house

Bruges 

Bruge was one of the highlights of our trip.  Next to Paris, it is the most romantic city.  There are beautiful canals, gorgeous architecture, and beer, waffles, and chocolate everywhere, which is probably why I loved it.

Delft

Delft is the most beautiful hidden gem we came across in Netherlands. We arrived late at night and were looking for a bite to eat and found a cute little restaurant called Kobus Kuch. Mind blown! This affordable restaurant has the absolute best apple pie (with delicious homemade whipped cream on top) I have ever had. We were so obsessed we went there again first thing the next morning. besides the great pie, the city is also beautiful with the canal and cathedral.

Non camping Accommodation

Extend this Itinerary: Luxembourg

If you have time, I recommend linking the Germany road trip with the Belgium/Netherlands or France road trip by driving through Luxembourg. Luxembourg has some unique geological areas and I recommend hiking part of the amazing Mullerthal Trail.

You don’t even need to do the whole thing. The section from Berdorf to Echternach had these cool rocks you could hike through and one section is pitch black and requires headlamps. Don’t worry, you can avoid this part if you choose. We had the most incredible hamburgers with anduluise sauce at one of the campgrounds. There is great rock climbing in Berdorf, but even if you don’t climb, you will want to hike down to check out the beautiful sandstone rocks surrounded by large moss covered rocks and streams.

5 | Croatia

Fly in and out of: Zagreb

Croatia has so much outdoor adventure to explore. I highly recommend visiting at least the two of the national parks. They were great ways to experience Croatia’s gorgeous nature. You should also try to ferry to at least one island. However, I felt it wasn’t that necessary to see a lot of them. They all kinda have the same feel. There are so many small coves to explore along Croatia’s coastline that you will want to travel slow and allow time to stop when you see something you like.  The water was quite brisk when we were there in Septmenber, but still nice enough to go for daily swims in. The food, being highly influenced by it’s neighbor, Italy, is delicious and incredibly cheap. There is amazing gelato, pizza, and wine everywhere.

Croatia Itinerary

  • Rovinj
  • Plitvice Lakes National Park
  • Paklenica National Park
  • Split
  • Brač
  • Orebić
Rovinj, Best Europe Itinerary, Croatia
One of the most unique, scenic climbing destinations in Croatia: Rovinj

Rovinj

I think Rovinj could be a destination in itself. You can get a great taste of Croatia architecture, food, and arts here while still having access to nature and adventure. I loved the slippery cobblestone streets of Rovinj and the gorgeous views of the sea all around you. There was great rock climbing very near the city and a boardwalk along the sea where you can walk and ride to restaurants and the campgrounds near by.  We stayed at Camping Polari.

We also spent a few days on the Krk peninsula. There was a great campground there that sold wine on tap in the campground and it cost only $3USD to fill a 2 liter bottle with wine!

Plitvice Lakes NP, Best Europe Itinerary, Croatia
The teal waters and messy waterfalls of Plitvice Lakes NP are one of a kind

Plitvice Lakes National Park

This national park is so touristy but for a good reason. The waterfalls are gorgeous! Hiking and boating to see the numerous cascading waterfalls and turquoise lakes is a great way to spend one of your days in Croatia. Just make sure you go early.  Check out the related Croatia blog below for more details on how we recommend hiking it.

Paklenica NP, Best Europe Itinerary, Croatia
The short approach and family friendly environment makes Paklenica National Park one of our favorite climbing destinations n the world

Paklenica National Park

The rock climbing is world class, so easily accessible, and I really enjoyed how it was a melting pot of cultures. Even if you don’t climb, you should come and hike to the cave. 

Split, Best Europe Itinerary, Croatia
The views from the luxurious Split Campground

Split

While a little bigger of a city than I tend to enjoy, I thought stopping in Split was great for one day to walk through the castle and down it’s crowded waterfront and much less crowded alleyways. I found the campground in Split to be very enjoyable and this too could’ve been a destination in itself. Even if you aren’t traveling by camper, Camping Split has cabins to rent and this resort like campground is a wonderful place to spend a day or two.