Most people think of Europe as a splurge vacation. Paris, London, Berlin… all incomparable world-class cities, but all on the pricey side. But Europe is much bigger than just its most famous — and hence expensive — cities. There are tons of mountain towns, castles, and markets just waiting to be explored. Best of all, they won’t bankrupt you. Here are the 5 cheapest European destinations to visit this summer.
Note: This article is based on the calculations of Budget Your Trip, which determines average costs based on what travelers spend. You should definitely check them out when you’re planning your next trip.
Average daily cost: $47 USD per person
Nestled along the Adriatic coast, to the northwest of Greece, Albania has long been considered the most enigmatic of the Balkan nations. Albania was closed to the outside world for half a century during the Cold War, and while tourists are starting to rediscover the country, it has yet to become oversaturated with tour groups.
In some sense that’s a shame, because Albania has much to offer. It has a long Adriatic coastline dotted with castles and beaches; in the north, the Albanian Alps beckon hikers; in the south, azure lakes line the borders with Greece and Macedonia. If you like castles and old churches, you’ll find this country a rich prize indeed.
Albanians are also notably hospitable, believing as they do that guests deserve special respect and consideration.
When you add all this up, what do you get? A welcoming, historic, and relaxing destination that’s also easy on the wallet.
Average daily cost: $29 USD per person
Okay, I know what you’re thinking: is it safe to visit Ukraine? Isn’t it in the process of being slowly swallowed by Russia?
The answer is yes and no. You should definitely avoid the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, where the Ukrainian government doesn’t have total control and there is a risk of violence and kidnapping. Similarly, Crimea should be considered off-limits. But there’s a lot to see in the rest of the country, and you can do so in relative safety and at a great discount.
The Carpathian mountains are a great destination for hikers. If you’re crossing UNESCO World Heritage Sites off your list, the town center of Lviv won’t let you down. Meanwhile, those with a degree of morbid curiosity can take a tour of Chernobyl, site of the infamous nuclear disaster.
On the other hand, if you just want to summer on the beach, the Black Sea port of Odesa won’t disappoint.
Just be prepared: outside the capital of Kiev, you might not find the standard of accommodations quite up to western standards.
Average daily cost: $27 USD per person
You might consider Turkey to be part of the Middle East, but it does retain a small stretch of land on the other side of the Bosphorus so it could really go either way.
Semantics aside, Turkey is a treasure trove of history, a legacy of the many civilizations who have fought over and claimed her. Greeks, Romans, Ottomans — all have left their mark upon Turkey.
The jewel, of course, is Istanbul, the great city that commands access between the Balkans and Anatolia and between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean. The Hagia Sofia, the Blue Mosque, the great underground cistern built by the Romans: all these landmarks and more make Istanbul unmissable.
But there are many other highlights: the subterranean cities of Cappadocia, the WWI history of Gallipoli, the ruins of the old Armenian capital at Ani. And all this in one of the cheapest European destinations!
Average daily cost: $21 USD per person
Serbia is another Balkan nation that has yet to come to the full attention of travelers.
Perhaps the best thing about Serbia is that it’s an equally enticing destination in both summer and winter. In the east of the country, you’ll find great rafting in the warmer months and exceptional skiing once the weather turns. In fact, Serbia’s extremely diverse geography makes it a haven for outdoor sports fans.
The capital, Belgrade, is also a major attraction. Located where the rivers Sana and Danube meet, Belgrade is perhaps the most underrated capital city in Europe. You won’t want for things to do and see, given the impressive collections of palaces, monasteries, and museums. Perhaps best of all, the city’s best park is an old fortress that overlooks the confluence of the great rivers.
Speaking of rivers — although Serbia is landlocked, it doesn’t really feel that way since so many important tributaries run through its valleys. If you’re taking a Danube boat cruise, you should definitely make it a point to see some of what Serbia has to offer.
Average daily cost: $20 USD per person
Belarus is a former member state of the USSR, and some have described it as a bit of a time capsule. Of all the former Soviet possessions, Belarus has probably changed the least and maintained the closest ties to Russia. Despite the fact that it is the cheapest European destination, it has not been a particularly popular one historically.
However, this has begun to change in the past few years; between 2014 and 2015, the annual number of tourists soared from less than 150,000 to more than 2,500,000!
The capital, Minsk, is the most popular attraction. Unfortunately, most of the city was destroyed during WWII, and it was rebuilt in the 1950s under the aegis of Stalin. In that vein, perhaps the most important thing to see here is the Museum of The History of the Great Patriotic War, which painstakingly documents the horrors of the Eastern Front.
Another of Belarus’s most popular sites is Mir Castle, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
We hope you enjoyed reading about the 5 cheapest European destinations.