Top European escapes for SA travellers


Portugal, Greece, Italy and Spain are just some of the spots local travellers are seriously considering when heading on a continental break. 

Turns out, South Africans have not given up on an European escape, despite the low rand exchange rate - with an appetite for international travel far from lagging.

Let's face it, Europe has an allure all its own, with culture and old-world charm unlike anywhere else in the world.

And there are in fact destinations that offer South Africans great value, along with this depth of experience.  

Here's why these European getaways need to be on your radar…

1. Greece

Deciding where isn't easy but a good start would be either of the seaside towns of Mykonos or Santorini to find your happy place on a balcony overlooking this sumptuous Mediterranean escape. 

Said to be a jet set hotspot, you can stroll through the Mykonos maze of narrow streets and marvel at the many tiny chapels and whitewashed houses. Laze the day away on stunning beaches, and with a buzzing nightlife you’ll be ready for a sunrise cruise at dawn.

Similarly the island of Santorini is perhaps the most striking of all the Greek Islands. Best described as the stuff island dreams are made of - with its Bright blue cloudless skies as the peak of a volcano rises up from the ocean and white cave rooms dot the cliffs of the caldera.

• Visa Info: Visa required 

See: Quick Guide to Greece: Fun under the Mediterranean sun

2. The French Alps

Snow holidays ‘late’ in the ski season over March and April are most suitable for South Africans. Skiing over the festive season in December - as well as in January before school begins, shouldn't be overlooked if you're a seasoned adventurer. But if you're a beginner then the European summer is the obvious choice. 

Since most locals will most definitely be new to skiing and snowboarding, it's vital to pick a resort that offers the complete package – including equipment and lessons, as well as snow passes. 

• Visa Info: Visa required   

SEE: Quick Guide to France: Vive la wanderlust

3.  Hungary 

The buzz about Budapest has been steadily building since Hungary joined the European Union in 2004. Tourists and multinational companies alike have gravitated to the city's humming core. But the former imperial capital owes at least some of its prosperity to centuries of experience with slowing down, taking a breath and sinking neck-deep into blissful relaxation.

• Visa Info: Visa required 

SEE: Hot mineral waters: Budapest all the rage + where to get your local fix

4. The Netherlands

The Netherlands is an engineering feat of extraordinary proportion when you consider that although almost half of it was once under water, it is now one of the most urbanized populations in the world.  Famous for so much more than clogs and cheese, locals can make the most of its pancake-flat landscape, exceptional architectural delights and museums showcasing Renaissance grandmasters. 

• Visa Info: Visa required 

SEE: Amsterdam bars in pictures

SEE: Quick Guide Netherlands: Going Dutch for your next Euro trip 

5. Romania  

Mountains, hills and plains provide plenty of opportunities for outdoor entertainment and relaxation in Romania. The country is home to the last real wilderness of Europe where packs of wolves and bears can still be spotted. Another draw is the region of Transylvania known for its medieval castles and a former resident also known as Count Dracula. 
• Visa Info:Visa required  

Home to the well-preserved medieval cities of Rothenburg, Frankfurt, Cologne and Munich -  Germany allows you to experience the Lorelei Rock, Marienberg Fortress and the Prince-Bishops' residence in Würzburg, and Melk Abbey.

Views of the Cologne Cathedral, the Golden Roof in Innsbruck and Mozart's birthplace in Salzburg are just some of the things to add to your itinerary, along with the Neuschwanstein Castle, the inspiration for Walt Disney’s Magic Castle. 

• Visa Info: Visa required

SEE: Jo-Ann Strauss shares why she loves Munich... and more

7. Russia

Since late Soviet times, Russia has seen an influx of international tourists who come to experience the rich cultural heritage and visit the country’s 23 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Russia has much to offer in the way of outdoor and natural activities ranging from emerald green forests of Siberia to subtropical desert plains. 

• Visa Info: No Visa required

SEE: Quick Guide: Plan your trip to Mother Russia

8. Portugal

Portugal seems to have the sweetest spot on the Iberian Peninsula. It is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean for more than 1 200 km, and is a popular choice for your perfect surf holiday!

North Canyon beach is located in the picturesque fishing village of Nazaré, along the center of the country’s coastline. In case you didn’t already know, North Canyon beach was home to the most famous wave in Europe, if not the whole world. In 2011, surf legend Garret McNamara made the Guinness Book of World Records when he rode the biggest wave in history.

• Visa Info: Visa required

SEE: Quick Guide to Portugal: For the love of Latin charm and wonder

9. Spain

Despite its own Brexit turmoil of sorts Spain keeps on breaking tourism records, with the number of tourists visiting the European Union nation up 12 percent in the first six months of the year.

Spain has broken its own tourist number records each year for the past four years in a row, as economic and security concerns elsewhere lure visitors away from rival Mediterranean destinations.

• Visa Info: Visa required

10. Italy

There are many destinations across Europe you can fly into but when the destination in question is Venice, a unique city that lures 25 million tourists to its fragile shores every year, there’s simply no better way to arrive than by boat.

Venice known for its romantic setting and being one of the most elegant cities in the world and with an endless network of waterways in Europe - recreational boating is an increasingly popular way to holiday and skippering yourself down the River Sile into Venice is a classic experience. It also means you own your time, stopping spontaneously to explore small towns along the way-whenever and wherever the mood dictates.

SEE: Quick Guide: The Mamma Mia of your Italy trip planning sorted!  

• Visa Info: Visa required

What to read next on Traveller24:

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