‘I wanted the 17-hour trip to go slower, not faster’: readers’ favourite European journeys | Europe holidays

Ferry through the fjord, Albania

Instead of a four-hour road trip from Koman to Fierzë, relax and enjoy the Albanian fjords via the Drin River. We reversed on to the Berisha ferry, which takes 10 cars, plus foot passengers. Everyone sits on deck, regardless of the weather, to take in the views, which began with an incredibly straight white line high in the rock, showing the water level during the rainy season. The scenery was magnificent with forest-clad hills and high, rocky mountains with various coloured strata. Occasionally, a remote, isolated house could be seen. After two hours, we began spotting small tourist boats and hardy kayakers before arriving at Fierzë.
Roy Messenger

High ride on the bus, Montenegro-Croatia

A road through the mountains above Kotor Bay. Photograph: Naeblys/Alamy

The scenic bus journey from Podgorica to Dubrovnik unveils a tapestry of natural Balkan splendour. After filling up on Njeguški steak and black risotto in the Montenegrin capital, it’s a blissful trip winding through rugged landscapes, the vistas of Kotor Bay being one of many highlights. Serpentine roads hug the coastline, offering glimpses of azure waters against cliffs adorned with lush greenery. The hues of the Adriatic Sea contrast with the earthy tones of the coast. The finale is Dubrovnik’s ancient walls coming into view, welcoming visitors with its timeless charm and allure.

Cycling adventures on Norway’s Lofoten Islands

A cyclist on the road to Nusfjord, Lofoten Islands. Photograph: Stephen Fleming/Alamy

The mountains of the Lofoten Islands in the Norwegian Arctic Circle are ideal for exploring by bike as you pass between them rather than over them. I’ve never seen such striking serrated peaks from a bicycle – and with such little effort. Bridges linking the islands add to the interest. I started at Svolvær and finished at the southern tip of the archipelago at Å, the prettiest of the villages, all with red wooden houses and, invariably, racks of cod hanging out to dry. You can put your bike on the bus for the return journey.
Paul Kirkwood


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White night delight on a Scandi ferry ride

On board a Helsinki to Stockholm ferry. Photograph: Dmitry Naumov/Alamy

One leisurely romantic trip I enjoyed last summer was an open-air deck passage across the Baltic Sea from Helsinki to Stockholm. Even better, the route is part of Interrail, so there is 30% off the €95 one-way fare on Tallink ferries. I was lucky enough to take it in June, so watched the sun set at 3am, and then rise a couple of hours later. This time in Scandinavia is known as “white nights”. To be on the water watching the setting sun cast its rays on the waves and the moonlight play with the ripples as a ship glides towards its destination, land lights twinkling in the distance, is magical. I wanted the 17-hour journey to go slower, not faster!

Following Theroux’s tracks across Europe to Istanbul

Sirkeci station, Istanbul. Photograph: John Bracegirdle/Alamy

On a quest to replicate the European leg of Paul Theroux’s The Great Railway Bazaar, I travelled from the suburbs of Manchester to Istanbul. Using an Interrail global pass, I attempted to follow the route of the Venice Simplon-Orient Express. Slow trains, fast trains, communist-era trains and graffiti-covered trains got me to my destination (plus a small detour by bus). With stops in Lausanne and Zagreb and an overnight train from Sofia, I skirted the lakes of Geneva and Maggiore, drank a cool beer in alpine Austria and kept my head down through dystopian-feeling Serbia. I marvelled at the pastel yellow stations of Croatia and felt the wonderful glow as I walked out of Sirkeci station into the wild throb of Istanbul.
Lee Hanvey

Lazing our way across the Aegean for market day

Datca at sunrise. Photograph: Aliaksandr Mazurkevich/Alamy

When I was on holiday in Kos last summer I treated my parents to a ferry trip to Datça in Turkey for the day. It was a 31/2-hour (about €30) return trip. Chugging out of Kos harbour, the pleasant breeze on the Aegean, was welcome, taking the heat off scorching temperatures as we sat outside. Pulling into Datça, I was immediately knocked over by the serene harbour, hillside houses and white boats moored bobbing on the water. It was market day so we enjoyed a whiff of exotic local spices and were invited to drink brewed Turkish tea by sellers who were happy to chat to us and offer us figs and dates. One seller even gave us a lift back to the ferry in his open truck to help us carry a hand-woven rug we’d bought. A beautiful sun set and some simit (a twisted bread with sesame seeds), cheese and olives we’d been given helped the return trip pass peacefully.

The best Belgrade train trip Bar none

The scenic route … Belgrade to Bar takes 11 hours to cover. Photograph: Aleksa Aleksic/Alamy

The train trip from Belgrade to Bar must be one of the slowest in Europe, taking 11 hours to cover 296 miles, but to compensate it took me through some of the most dramatic scenery I’ve ever seen. Passing through deep gorges, canyons and mountain peaks, the train crossed more than 400 bridges and seemed to stop at every village. At one point it was overtaken by an old lady on a donkey. It’s best in summer when long daylight hours will allow you to appreciate its beauty.

To Tropea, Italy, on the Coast of the Gods line

Spicy Calabrian peppers and local onions for sale in Tropea. Photograph: Isaac74/Alamy

The train line from Pizzo to Reggio Calabria follows the Coast of the Gods, named for its turquoise seas, sheltered coves and rocky scenery. The train calls at Tropea (a town founded by Hercules in Greek mythology, that is more famous for onions), the castle and pretty beach of Scilla (of Scylla and Charybdis) and Reggio (home to lifesize ancient Greek bronze statues). Calabria makes a virtue of cucina povera, with wonderful vegetable dishes, and the local Bergamotto liqueur makes a great spritz.

Winning tip: Bicycles, birds and beaches in Vlieland, the Netherlands

Sunset on Vlieland. Photograph: Henk Meijer/Alamy

Two ferries to a car-free paradise. After boarding the Newcastle ferry to Amsterdam, I headed straight for the sun deck for a G&T. In Harlingen, farther north, another ferry took me in 1½ hours to the island of Vlieland. I cycled through the dunes to its endless sandy beaches. I enjoyed Kroon’s Polders, a birder’s heaven, where I spotted many spoonbills and a host of other birds. It’s so quiet. The small island has lots of cycle paths and the only village, Oost-Vlieland, has restaurants; Herbergh van Flielant was my favourite.
Monique Gadella


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