Summer is finally descending on Europe and I can practically smell the mojitos which are calling my name as I relax on the beach of some far off country.
Summer Dreaming indeed.
If you haven't experienced a European summer yet then 2016 is the year. With low cost flights and convenient inter-rail passes, travelling Europe has never been cheaper nor easier.
But, alas, where to go on this hugely diverse continent?
We all know about the historical city of Berlin, and have seen photographs of the gothic architecture of Prague. We know Krakow has a great party scene and the baths of Budapest have become iconic.
But what you probably haven't heard of is the colourful city of Wroclaw or the enchanting little town of Cesky Krumlov. Have you heard the about the history of Dresden? Or seen photographs of the picturesque town of Salzburg?
This summer it is time to get off the tourist track and discover what else Europe has to offer. What I am going to offer you is the ultimate, alternative European itinerary. It will take you to far off places you've probably never even heard of and leave you stretching for the credit card to book your next flight.
1. Cesky Krumlov, The Czech Republic
This little town is a UNESCO world heritage site which looks like it's fallen straight out of a fairy tale. Located only a couple of hours from Prague, it even comes with it's own castle. Cesky Krumlov is the cutest of towns which you can't help but fall in love with.
2. Mostar, Bosnia & Herzegovina
This picturesque city in southern Bosnia is highlighted by the Stari Most (Old Bridge). This 16th century arc connects both sides of the city and although it was completely destroyed in the Bosnian War, it has since been restored to it's former glory. Mostar is one of the most underrated cities in Europe and will no doubt take you by surprise.
3. St Wolfgang, Austria
This alluring little town is located on the shore of Wolfgangsee. With it's turquoise waters and authentic Austrian charm, it is the perfect place to explore this summer.
4. Lake Bled, Slovenia.
Although this romantic lake looks like it has been hand painted, I can ensure you it really exists. Lake Bled is located not far from the capital of Ljubljana, and is every bit as lovely in real life. With sapphire coloured water and a backdrop of mountains all enclosing it's charming castle, what could be better than spending a summer day in a boat out on this breathtaking lake?
5. Dresden, Germany
Dresden is a city of grandeur whose architecture will leave you awe struck. Visiting the city today, it's hard to believe it was all but destroyed during the Dresden Bombing in 1945. Thankfully it has been elegantly restored, although it still bears the scars of WW2. Steeped in both history and beauty, this is one German city which should not be missed.
6. Sarajevo, Bosnia
Photo credit TwoScotsAbroad
Sarajevo is a city with a harrowing and horrific history and today the capital is still recovering, and it's wounds are still apparent. However, throughout the past twenty years it has made huge progress and is now the leading city of education and arts in Bosnia. The history of the Sarajevo coupled with the cosmopolitan area of Barscarsija, makes this one off the beaten track destination you must visit.
7. Salzburg, Austria
Salzburg is captivating. With snowcapped mountains and a skyline of spires and domes, it would be difficult to not be inspired by this Austrian city. Salzburg was the birthplace of famous composer Mozart and also home to The Sound of Music, it's old town is enchanting and it's only a short drive from UNESCO site Hallstatt. With so much to see and do, as well as a beautiful backdrop, Salzburg should be on everybody's bucket list.
8. Wroclaw, Poland
Wroclaw must be the most colourful city in all of Poland. While not as popular as Krakow or Warsaw, it means you can experience Poland away from the crowds and at your own pace. I loved exploring this vibrant city, meandering down the cobbled lanes and walking through the impressive and colourful main square.
9. Kotor, Montenergo
Kotor, a city nestled in-between the mountains of Montenegro, is truly breathtaking. The dramatic landscape itself is reason enough to visit, however it also has sparkling blue water, a 4000 year history, not many tourists and a maze of marble lanes. Kotor feels authentic and that alone is difficult to find in Europe, if you make the journey to Montenegro you will not be disappointed by what is waiting for you.
10. Lucerne, Switzerland.
Lucerne is the best of Swiss in one, walkable-sized city. Situated on the banks of Lake Lucerne, it has a charming old town and it surrounded by the majestic alps. It has cobblestoned streets, colourful buildings, sunny plazas and an alluring old world feel.
These are my top 10 alternative destinations this summer. Where else would you add to the list?