Mastercard Top Hidden Treasures
Mastercard reveals top hidden gems across Europe that everyone can afford.
Asturias & Covadonga Convent
Asturias is located in the middle of Spain’s north coast, near to the beautiful Bay of Biscay. There are not many places that can offer so much variety within very little space. Uncrowded and amazing beaches with crystal clear water, hiking for all levels in complete wilderness, bustling cities, delicious cuisine and cultural highlights. Approximately one third of the region is protected natural space and Unesco has recognized four biosphere reserves. A must see is the Covadonga convent which is considered to be one of the most important historical locations in Spain. Covadonga is also one of the main entrances to the stunning Picos de Europa National Park. Asturias is still relatively undiscovered by foreign tourists and remains affordable. Accommodation is just €25, and a meal out approx. €18.
Mdina and Zebbug
Despite being the 9th smallest country in the world, Malta is a Mediterranean jewel and features amongst Mastercard’s top 15 hidden treasures in Europe. It attracts travelers with breathtaking landscapes and a stunning coastline during most part of the year. It also offers numerous outdoor activities ranging from golf to rock climbing or one can simply admire Malta’s rich medieval heritage. Mdina offers grand palaces, cultural treasures, and baroque architecture. The city of Zebbug has a fascinating Arabic influence and is famous for spectacular celebrations, a “festa” that can last 3 days or more with hundreds of people attending. Surprisingly, Malta still remains very affordable – eating out costs €25 and you can find a room in a guesthouse for as little as €24.
Lake Hallstatt, one of the most beautiful Alpine lakes in Austria, is hidden in the heart of the Salzkammergut region. With stunning views throughout the area, visitors will find many activities to enjoy, both during summer and winter months. A mountain railway connects Hallstatt to a historic salt mine, while the Dachstein Ice Caves and the Mammoth Cave in Obertraun can both be reached by cable car. Locally sourced, delicious meals are typically priced around €25, and accommodation can be found for a reasonable €35.
The Azores, an autonomous region of nine Islands located in the mid Atlantic, is an unspoiled paradise. Breathtaking landscapes, volcanoes, crater lakes, fishing villages and waterfalls make them a unique gem to be discovered. In 2009, UNESCO listed the Azores a Biosphere Reserve. Some islands are named after natural elements, like Pico the “Mountain Island,” featuring a volcano, and Ponta do Pico, the highest mountain in Portugal. Prices are also very affordable, with meals at around €15, and accommodation at €25.
If you’re dreaming of going deluxe without overspending, Montenegro is the right place for you. The quaint town of Perast on the coast is still waiting to be discovered by beach enthusiasts. Famous for its Venetian-heritage buildings, just a few hundred meters from the shore you’ll also find two spectacular settings: the island of St. George, and the Adriatic’s only artificial island, Our Lady of the Rocks. Beauty at a bargain, you can buy a meal for €13, and accommodation for just €12.
6- Czech Republic
Did you know that the 200 km2 Lednice-Valtice region is Europe’s largest artificial geographical area? A major attraction is Lednice Castle, a palace built on a Renaissance chateau and Gothic fort. Take a fairytale walk and enjoy the stunning views after climbing the 60-meter high minaret or relax on a boat trip down the river, where you may spot wading birds. Discover the beauty that makes this region such a travel gem. Prices are very affordable, with meals around €10, and accommodation for approx. €20.
Croatia is stunningly beautiful and often very busy with tourists. The island of Pag is certainly one of the most striking and unique spots on the Croatian Adriatic coast, and cannot be recommended more heartily. Known for its moon-like landscapes and salt, lace and cheese production, the heat of hot summer days is helpfully reduced by a light sea breeze. Croatians welcome guests with big smiles and medium prices – €13 for a meal, and accommodation for less than €30.
Located in the Baltic Sea, Saaremaa is Estonia’s largest island. Windmills and the famous local home-brewed beer are considered its symbols. Its most attractive site is, no doubt, the Kaali craters – the result of several meteorites that impacted some 3,500 years ago – the largest forming the unique, green-colored Kaali Lake. Kuressaare is the island’s only town and features a medieval and bishopric castle dating from the 13th century. Eating out will cost €18, and accommodation approx. €23.
Volos and Pelion region
Volos, located in Thessaly in the Pagasetic Gulf, is halfway between Athens and Thessaloniki. Its rich historical and architectural sites, good restaurants and vibrant nightlife, make it a city you’ll love. Bordered by beautiful beaches on one side, and by Mount Pelion on the other, the movie Mamma Mia was filmed in Damouhari, the only natural harbor on the east Pelion coast. The region isn’t overcrowded, and prices are very reasonable; around €15 for a meal out, and just under €25 for accommodation.
It is hard to believe that the tiny territory of Slovenia has so many beautiful places to visit. Take the breathtaking Velika Planina uplands in the Kamnik Alps, just an hour from Ljubljana, or the wooden huts of the oldest preserved herdsmen settlement in Europe which will give you the illusion of time travel. Plus, Slovenians love to party – there are numerous festivities and events, and the Kamnik Alps region hosts over 60 festivals in just one season! Eating out is around €15, and accommodation costs up to €40.
Small, traditional villages are typical forKaszuby, a picturesque region in the North of Poland near Gdansk. Lake Wdzydzkie is a paradise for kayakers and sailors. In Kaszuby you’ll find stone circles called the ‘Polish Stonehenge’ – these places of worship and burial were also used as an ancient astronomical calendar. According to some, they even have the power to heal! Eating out is very affordable at around €12, and accommodation can be found for just under €20.
12 The Netherlands
Fans of castles and fortresses may have heard of Naarden, located only 30 minutes from Amsterdam. The town, shaped in the form of a star, has 16th century fortress architecture and is the only fortification in Europe with double walls and moats. Walk through the streets and admire charming historic buildings and magnificent churches. Spend a couple of days in Naarden and enjoy the unique atmosphere of the fort and the green scenery. Expect to pay around €30 for a meal, and €60 for accommodation.
Cape Kolka is located at the junction of the Gulf of Riga and the Baltic Sea. Following complete isolation as a military base during Soviet times, Cape Kolka is strikingly beautiful and still untouched by crowds of tourists. The two seas kissing each other is an unforgettable experience, and results in different colored waters swirling and merging. It’s stunning, and also relatively affordable. Meals can be found for around €14, and accommodation for just €20.
The Danube, Europe’s second longest river, divides into countless sub-branches and channels, leading to reeds, sand dunes and forests that form the Danube Delta. The area is home to some 1,200 species of plants, over 320 types of bird, and 45 varieties of freshwater fish. It became a national park in 1938, and the Romanian part of the Delta was included in UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites. A wide range of accommodation, from authentic guesthouses to fully equipped spa hotels, can be found at very reasonable prices (€15), and eating out is just over €10.
Locals refer to Lake Balaton as the “Hungarian sea”, and with good reason – it is Central Europe’s largest freshwater lake. To avoid crowds, travel a few kilometers to the North. The Balaton-Uplands are Hungary’s version of Provence or Tuscany – providing natural beauty and spectacular views of the lake, tiny villages with century-old whitewashed houses, and picturesque restaurants and guesthouses. All at very reasonable prices – eating out is around €13, and accommodation is possible for under €20.
Çanakkale, a city located in the Marmara region of northwestern Turkey, is still relatively undiscovered and will surprise with its fine beaches and amazing restaurants and bars. Located not far from the site of ancient Troy, fans of Brad Pitt can admire the “wooden horse” from the 2004 movie based on Homer’s great epic. The Archaeological Museum is also well worth a visit, and friendly prices – a meal out costs just €10, and accommodation below €20 –add to Çanakkale’s attractiveness.
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