It should come as no surprise that Europe is the world’s most popular holiday destination. It’s home to some of the best-loved attractions on the planet: the Eiffel tower, the Acropolis, and St Peter’s Square to name a few.
Europe also encompasses some of the most diverse scenery on Earth, from snow-clad mountains to enchanting forests, and warm seas to deep blue lakes. This vast continent offers something for everyone.
However, with so many amazing places in Europe, deciding which to visit and organising your trip, can feel like a daunting task.
That’s why Europe is one of the best places in the world to take an escorted tour, led by trusted, expert guides. They’ll do all the research and planning for you – allowing you to relax and enjoy the journey.
With this in mind, we’ve partnered with escorted tour company Cosmos to show you just how easy (and surprisingly affordable) it can be to take a tour in Europe.
With professional tour directors in charge of hotels and transportation, local guides bringing each destination alive, and enough free time to explore at your own pace and in your own way, an escorted tour with Cosmos can turn travel dreams into reality.
So, to get you inspired, here are six enchanting Europe holidays for 2023.
1. Apulia (Puglia), the Heel of Italy
The Apulia region – the legendary ‘heel of the boot’ of Italy – is one of the most popular holiday destinations with Italian people. Renowned for its beautiful landscapes, diverse architecture, and enchanting coastline with sparkling turquoise sea, it offers an off-the-beaten-track adventure for travellers on a budget.
Jutting out between the Ionian and Adriatic Sea, Apulia encompasses three characterful towns: Bari, Lecce, and Fasano. And if you want to explore them all, an escorted tour is a great way to see as much as possible.
An eight-day tour with Cosmos begins and ends in Naples, one of the oldest cities in the world (and the birthplace of pizza). From here, you’ll visit the octagonal 13th-century Castel del Monte on the way to the beautiful port of Bari on the Adriatic coast.
Explore the wonderland of stalagmites and stalactites at the limestone caves of Castellana Grotte, and the distinct conical-roofed houses of Alberobello, before heading to lovely Lecce.
In Lecce, you can marvel at magnificent Baroque buildings. You’ll also have the option to take excursions to Santa Maria di Leuca, which has stunning art nouveau architecture; and to the ancient Greek city of Gallipoli, whose winding streets lead to an underground olive press.
Apulia is famous for its olive oil, which once lit the city’s lamps. Though, we also can’t forget about its wine, which is mostly red and full-bodied. In Manduria, you’ll get to taste some of Apulia’s best wine and olive oil at a Primitivo wine cellar; while a stop in Ostuni, with flat-roofed, white houses, will remind you that Greece is just across the water.
You’ll have free time to soak up the atmosphere and pick up some souvenirs in sleepy Fasano, surrounded by olive groves and vineyards. Or you might be tempted to join the trip to the prehistoric rock city of Matera, with its impressive cave dwellings and the stone-clad city of Altamura.
Whatever you choose, at the end of this trip, you’ll not only be rested, but will also have discovered a whole new region that you perhaps never knew existed.
Fall in love with Apulia
2. The Best of Greece
Why not step back in time and immerse yourself in the magic and beauty of Greece? It’s the birthplace of civilisation and home to some of the most incredible archaeological sites on the planet
You can discover the history and mythology of Greece on this 10-day tour, which includes lovely landscapes, jaw-dropping ancient sites, and the chance to indulge in local specialties.
The tour starts and ends in Athens, where you’ll visit the mighty Acropolis (an ancient citadel overlooking the capital) and the Parthenon (a temple dedicated to the goddess Athena). This is all before heading to the coastal city of Nauplia, on the Peloponnese peninsula.
From here, a morning excursion will transport you to the town of Epidaurus, which is home to an open-air theatre and the temple of Asklepios, where you’ll gain insight into the healing cults of the ancient world and the emergence of scientific medicine.
That same day, you’ll also visit the imposing ruins of the great city of Mycenae (which has links to Homer’s epics, the Iliad and the Odyssey), before ending up in legendary Sparta.
After Sparta, you’ll step back into the Middle Ages at the medieval Byzantine citadel of Mystra, once known as ‘Florence of the East’, before heading to Olympia, to learn about the first Olympic Games. And, later, a trip over the modern Rion-Antirion Bridge – one of the world’s longest cable-stayed bridges – will take you back to the Greek mainland.
Once there, you’ll visit Delphi, where you can marvel at the legendary Oracle; a place where ancient Greeks sought advice or predictions about the future. And, last but certainly not least, you’ll be awestruck at the mystic mountain landscape of Meteora, with over 20 monasteries set on top of towering sandstone peaks.
Find history and culture in Greece
3. Treasures of the Balkans and Transylvania
This fascinating off-the-beaten-track adventure through Eastern Europe explores the treasures of Hungary, Serbia, and Bulgaria on the Balkan Peninsula, and the mythical region of Transylvania in Romania.
This 13-day tour starts and ends in Budapest’s beautiful old city, which is spectacularly split in two by the River Danube. You’ll get plenty of opportunities to soak in sights of the diverse architecture and try delicious local food and wines, before heading to Serbia’s capital, Belgrade, and Bulgaria’s capital, Sofia.
Highlights in Sofia include visits to the Parliament building, Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, and Boyana Church – after which, you’ll take excursions to Rila Monastery and the Roman Amphitheatre in Plovdiv.
The next day, you’ll pass through magnificent scenery as you head over the Stara Planina mountains to Veliko Târnovo and nearby Arbanassi, which was once the summer home of the Bulgarian kings. Here, you’ll find plenty of unusual fortress-like houses and outstanding wall paintings in its Church of the Nativity before enjoying a guided tour of beautiful Bucharest – Romania’s capital city.
Later, in Transylvania, you’ll marvel at Peles Castle, which is considered to be one of the most romantic castles in the world. And, in the charming medieval town of Brasov, you’ll find plenty of Baroque architecture and inviting outdoor cafes.
En route to Transylvania’s most famous and mysterious site, Bran Castle, you’ll get to stop in the attractive Saxon walled town of Sighisoara, which is renowned for its cobblestone streets, ancient churches, and medieval towers. Bran Castle was owned by Vlad the Impaler, who was the inspiration for Dracula – and this gothic fortress certainly lives up to the hype!
Back in Budapest, you’ll have free time to indulge in one of its famous spas built over natural hot springs, and wander its streets to pick up souvenirs.
Explore the Balkan Peninsula and Transylvania
4. Focus on Scandinavia
With vibrant cities, distinct and sophisticated cultures, and unspoiled landscapes, the Nordic countries consistently rank among the top 10 happiest in the world. Where better then, for a feel good holiday?
On this spectacular 12-day Scandinavian tour through Denmark, Norway, and Sweden, you’ll discover its fascinating cities, quaint towns, and breathtaking landscapes.
Starting with an orientation in Denmark’s capital, Copenhagen, you’ll drive across the Great Belt Bridge – one of the world’s longest – to take the ferry to Norway. A guided tour of its modern capital, Oslo, takes in the famous Vigeland Sculpture Park, Viking Ship Museum, and avant garde Opera House, where visitors can walk on the roof.
Norway is best known for its mirror-like fjords and hulking mountains – and the beautiful coastal city of Bergen is surrounded by them. You’ll have free time there to take the cable railway system up Fløyen Mountain for panoramic views and hiking trails.
Another trip highlight is the awe-inspiring cruise on Norway’s longest and deepest fjord, the Sognefjord. And, Norway’s Telemark region, scattered with lakes, winding valleys, and rugged gorges, is equally stunning. It includes a stop at Steinsdalsfoss, where you can walk behind the cascading waterfall without getting wet.
A scenic drive also takes you past Lake Mjøsa, Norway’s largest lake, to Värmland in Sweden, where 10,000 lakes are dotted among the forested landscapes. From here, en route to Stockholm, you’ll get the chance to explore the fairy-tale-like Gripsholm Castle.
Your visit to this inspiring region will end with a guided tour in Sweden’s attractive capital on the Baltic Sea, and free time to explore the museums, enjoy the waterside eateries, and scour the shops for Scandi souvenirs.
Experience Scandinavia’s unspoilt beauty
5. Adventure across the Alps
If you want to experience the breathtaking scenery of the Alps in a single trip, then a guided tour is one of the best ways to do it.
This unforgettable 13-day train adventure, which spans four European countries, takes you to many of the Alps most iconic sights. It even includes a ride on the famous Glacier Express from Zermatt to glitzy St Moritz, passing thundering waterfalls, snow-capped peaks, and glacial ice fields.
Your train odyssey begins in Munich, with a stop at the rococo-style Linderhof Castle in Bavaria – a fairy-tale palace modelled on Versailles. You’ll be able to marvel at the amazing alpine landscapes, as the journey continues through the Austrian and Italian Tyrol. Along the route, you’ll pop in to see Novacella Abbey, which is a Baroque masterpiece still inhabited by Augustinian monks.
In the spectacular Dolomites – Italy’s ‘Rocky Mountains’ – you can enjoy views over the emerald-green Lake Carezza, before descending into Switzerland’s Engadine National Park. With deep-blue lakes, larch forests, and imposing peaks, some consider this the world’s most beautiful mountain scenery. And if that doesn’t take your breath away, a ride on the Bernina Express – the highest railway in the Alps – just might.
Though, this tour isn’t all about alpine scenery. You’ll have free time in St Moritz (which is the oldest and most famous winter resort in the world), and a guided tour of Turin (the former Italian capital at the foot of the Alps), before finishing up in Zurich.
Marvel at breaktaking natural scenery in the Alps
6. Europe’s highlights
If you want to see as much of Europe as you can in a single journey, this splendid 14-day tour across six countries, takes in its most spectacular scenery and must-see attractions – with local experts to bring each place alive.
The first stop is Amsterdam, where you can enjoy a scenic canal cruise, before heading along the river Rhine, dotted with castles from the Middle Ages. Once, in Germany, you’ll also visit the fairy-tale Neuschwanstein Castle, nestled in the Bavarian Alps.
The scenery on this trip ranges from rolling Tuscan hills and French vineyards to the stunning Swiss Alps and the resort of Interlaken in Austria – which is squeezed between two lakes and surrounded by three magnificent mountains.
In Italy, you’ll take in the iconic sights of St Peter’s Square in Rome (the heart of the Vatican), Piazza Signoria in Florence (renowned for its ornate statues), and the Basilica of St Francis in Assisi, which is home to art by the famous Giotto. Romantic experiences also range from a boat ride to ‘St Mark’s’ Square in Venice to an overnight stay in picturesque Lake Como.
By the time you arrive at your last stop, Paris, and climb to the top of the Eiffel Tower, you’ll have seen the very best that Europe has to offer.
Be charmed by some of Europe’s best attractions
Europe is such a large and diverse continent that trying to plan a holiday here can seem overwhelming. From the rich cultures and history of European cities, to the scenic beauty of the Norwegian fjords, Italian Lakes or Swiss Mountains (not to mention the outstanding food and wine on offer), this magnificent continent has something for everyone – you might just need a guide!
With Cosmos, all the research and planning is done for you by expert guides and tour directors, meaning you can focus on sightseeing and enjoying your surroundings – whether you choose to explore by rail, road, sea, or all three!
To find out more about Cosmos and browse their extensive range of Europe escorted holidays, you can head over to their website.