When you hear “European Isles,” your mind might drift to the isles in and around the Mediterranean Sea: Santorini, Mykonos, Ibiza and Capri. Scenic, sunny and serene, these isles might seem like the go-to for a European Vacation. But, you’re not alone in this thinking, which means you certainly wouldn’t be alone on your vacation. There are other isles that can offer the trip of the lifetime, as well as a taste of authenticity beyond the beaten path. For the greatest chance to have the best experiences, head to the biggest isles Europe has to offer—the Isles of the North Atlantic.
Everyone knows the southern staples of England: London, Oxford, Stonehenge. A trip outside of the ordinary and into new discoveries lies due north. Within the town of Liverpool alone you’ll find a cornucopia of world-class art and science museums, not to even begin to touch on its place in rock-n-roll history as The Beatles’ hometown.
For an even grander show than Beatles cover bands, head further up the country to the city of Edinburgh for the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo. Held in the capital of Scotland for the better part of August, the Military Tattoo offers a spectacle rarely matched in the world. Witness the precise excellence of the bands, drill and display teams of the British Armed Forces as they march and perform—and expect a grand finale.
While in Edinburgh, enjoy a stroll through the historic medieval Old Town. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Old Town provides access to towering, awe-inspiring structures in the likes of St. Giles Cathedral and the Edinburgh Castle. For a spookier peek back in time, try a visit to Real Mary King’s Close: an eerie, subterranean labyrinth of an underground graveyard.
Nature enthusiasts will certainly be excited to visit Ireland—its lush, sprawling plains crowned by a ring of coastal mountains make for scenes of absolute fantasy. Perhaps nowhere is the land more stunning than the Ring of Kerry: a 125-mile loop of the Emerald Isle’s most picturesque landscapes. While it is possible to make the trip in a day, that’d be against the nature of the place. Take your time over several days to take in the sights, like Killarney National Park and Derrynane Beach, and then revel in the craic with the locals in the evenings. If you prefer your travels to include castles, then you’ll definitely want to head east of the Ring of Kerry to Blarney Castle—home of the (in)famous Blarney Stone, or Stone of Eloquence. Legend has it that a quick kiss with the stone while upside-down will bless you with the gift of gab!
While all the isles are beautiful, Iceland is a world of extremes. Not of extreme weather or climate (though there is certainly ice), but of other kinds of extremes. Otherworldly sites featuring massive volcanoes and ancient glaciers seem to be in every direction. Explosions of color that ripple and stretch across the sky can be witnessed near nightly, as Iceland is one of the world’s best locations to view the Northern Lights. Beaches with sand as black as a no-moon night sky can be found at Reynisfjara on the south coast. And tales of Vikings blanket the land like the sheets of ice, begging for a visit to the Skogar Folk Museum. Truly, Iceland is a world of extremes—and it doesn’t take long once there to realize how extremely lucky you are to experience them.
Can’t wait to explore a whole new set of isles? Don’t go it alone: contact one of our specialists today! They can help you plan your trip and offer exclusive deals with prominent tour companies, such as CIE Tours International, who can help you enjoy an authentic venture off the beaten path.