Eastern Europe Travel Guide
Eastern Europe: a mesmerizing tapestry of landscapes, cultures, and histories waiting to be unraveled. It is a place where old meets new, where ancient fortresses cast shadows over bustling cities and where timeless traditions still play an integral part in daily life.
From the rugged Carpathians stretching across Romania to the vibrant arts scenes of cities like Prague and Budapest, Eastern Europe beckons with stories yearning to be told.
Discover our travel tips, articles and virtual tours for Eastern Europe !
List of destinations in Eastern Europe
Eastern European Countries
Quick Facts About Eastern Europe
- There are 9 countries in Eastern Europe, according to the United Nations geoscheme, including Hungary, Poland, and Romania for example.
- Ukraine, with its vast plains and Black Sea coastline, is the largest country.
- Moldova, nestled between Romania and Ukraine, is the smallest country.
- Key geographic facts:
Diverse Landscapes: From the Carpathian Mountains spanning Romania, Slovakia, and Poland to the Pannonian Plains of Hungary, Eastern Europe offers a varied geographical canvas.
Major Rivers: One of Europe’s longest rivers, the Danube River flows through or borders four of these Eastern European countries, namely Bulgaria, Hungary, Slovakia, and Ukraine. It’s a crucial waterway for trade and transport. The Dniester River stretches from Ukraine and forms the entire western border of Moldova.
Mountain Ranges: A major mountain range of Europe, the Carpathian Mountains extend through the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, Hungary, Ukraine, and Romania. It is home to diverse flora and fauna. The Balkan Mountains are a prominent mountain range in Bulgaria, it serves as a natural barrier between Bulgaria and Serbia.
Lakes and Seas: Ukraine, Romania, and Bulgaria all have coastlines along the Black Sea, a crucial hub for maritime trade and tourism. Lake Balaton, located in Hungary, is the largest freshwater lake in Central Europe, and a popular vacation spot.
- Białowieża Forest: Straddling the border between Poland and Belarus, this is one of the last and largest remaining primeval forests in Europe.
- Mátra and Bükk Mountains: These are the two main mountain ranges in Hungary. Mátra is home to Kékestető, Hungary’s highest peak.
- Polesie: A natural region located mostly in Belarus, Ukraine, and Poland. It is one of the largest European swampy areas.
Caves and Caverns: Aggtelek Karst: Located in Hungary, it’s a UNESCO World Heritage site. The region has over 700 caves formed by the limestone landscape, including the famous Baradla Cave.
Rich Soil and Agriculture: Regions of Ukraine, Moldova, and parts of Bulgaria are covered in Chernozem, also known as “black earth”. This is one of the most fertile soils in the world, making these regions agricultural powerhouses.
- Rich Linguistic Diversity: The region is home to a myriad of languages including Polish, Czech, Hungarian, Romanian, and Ukrainian, among others.
- Cyrillic and Latin: While many countries here use the Latin alphabet, Bulgarian and Belarusian, for instance, utilize the Cyrillic script.
- Christian Dominance: The majority of Eastern Europeans are Christians, with a mix of Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Protestant communities.
- Diverse Beliefs: Aside from Christianity, there are pockets of other religions in the region, reflecting its rich history and diverse culture.
Eastern Europe, A Region of Many Records
Oldest Inhabited City: Plovdiv in Bulgaria claims to be the oldest continually inhabited city in Europe, with a history dating back over 6,000 years.
Longest European River: The Danube, touching four of our countries in this region, is the second longest river in Europe, offering a multitude of ecological and historical sights.
Diverse Fauna: The Carpathian Mountains, particularly in Romania and Ukraine, host the largest population of brown bears, wolves, and lynxes in Europe.
Primeval Forests: The Białowieża Forest between Poland and Belarus is the last and largest remaining parts of the immense primeval forest that once spread across the European Plain.
Largest Underground Salt Mine: The Slănic Salt Mine in Romania is one of the largest salt mines in Europe and a popular health resort.
Deepest Underwater Cave: The Hranice Abyss in the Czech Republic is the world’s deepest flooded cave, reaching depths over 400 meters.
10 Handpicked Eastern Europe Highlights
10 fantastic places and experiences in Eastern Europe, in no particular order.
- Białowieża Forest, Poland/Belarus: An ancient woodland straddling the border between Poland and Belarus, it’s home to the European bison and represents European lowland forests in their most pristine state.
- Rila Monastery, Bulgaria: Nestled in the Rila Mountains, this monastery is a masterpiece of the Bulgarian Renaissance and holds immense cultural, historical, and architectural value.
- Transfăgărășan Highway, Romania: Deemed by many as the “world’s best road trip”, this road winds through the Carpathian Mountains, offering breathtaking views and thrilling curves.
- Bran Castle, Romania: Commonly known as “Dracula’s Castle”, it’s a historic fortress with Gothic architectural elements, steeped in myth and legend.
- Wieliczka Salt Mine, Poland: A monumental feat of engineering, this ancient salt mine near Kraków comprises chambers and chapels carved from rock salt, underground lakes, and majestic chandeliers made of salt.
- Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, Ukraine: An eerie testament to the world’s worst nuclear disaster, it’s now a unique sanctuary for wildlife and a profound experience for visitors interested in modern history.
- Danube Delta, Romania/Ukraine: Europe’s second-largest river delta, it’s a UNESCO World Heritage site and a paradise for bird watchers with over 300 species of birds.
- High Tatras, Slovakia: The highest mountain range in the Carpathian Mountains, they offer hiking, skiing, and some of Europe’s most scenic vistas.
- Prague’s Astronomical Clock, Czech Republic: Located in the heart of Prague, this medieval clock is a marvel of engineering and one of the city’s most celebrated attractions.
- Hortobágy National Park, Hungary: As part of the Great Hungarian Plain, it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site and represents Europe’s largest semi-natural grassland, offering a glimpse into traditional pastoral life and a refuge for various bird species.
When to Go to Eastern Europe
Eastern Europe showcases a temperate continental climate, meaning you can expect cold winters, especially the more eastward and northward you go, and warm summers. The coastal regions like parts of Bulgaria on the Black Sea can have milder winters. Generally:
Spring (April to June): A lovely time as the region bursts into bloom. Tourist crowds are thinner, and temperatures are mild.
Summer (July to August): Tourist hotspots, especially cities like Prague or the Black Sea coast, can get crowded. However, it’s the best time for beach holidays and mountain hiking. Temperatures are warm, sometimes even hot.
Autumn (September to November): A picturesque period, especially in forested areas, as the foliage turns a riot of colors. Temperatures start dropping, but it’s a great time for cultural sightseeing.
Winter (December to February): Expect snow, which turns the region into a winter wonderland. Perfect for winter sports in mountainous areas.
Traveling to Eastern Europe
- Be Aware of Pickpockets: Especially in crowded tourist spots and public transport.
- Stay Updated on Local News: Especially if traveling near border areas or regions with political unrest.
- Respect Local Customs: Especially in religious sites and rural areas.
- Avoid Flashy Displays of Wealth: Keep expensive items discreet to avoid unwanted attention.
- Stay Sober: Overindulgence can make you an easy target.
- Stay Informed about Scams: Especially in major tourist cities.
- Secure Important Documents: Keep copies of your passport, insurance, and other vital documents.
- Use ATMs During the Day: Preferably those inside banks.
- Trust Your Instincts: If something feels off, it probably is.
- Purchase Travel Insurance: Ensure it covers your activities and any potential medical needs.
Getting There and Around
- By Air: Major international airports include Warsaw Chopin (Poland), Henri Coandă (Romania), Budapest Ferenc Liszt (Hungary), and Kyiv Boryspil (Ukraine).
- By Rail: The rail network is extensive, with Eurail and Intercity options linking major cities.
- By Road: Well-maintained road networks and bus services, like PolskiBus in Poland or FlixBus, which operates in many Eastern European countries.
- By River: Cruises on the Danube River can be a scenic way to travel between certain cities.
Eastern Europe offers a wide range of accommodation options, from luxury hotels in cities like Prague to quaint bed and breakfasts in the Romanian countryside. Hostels are prevalent, especially in major tourist hubs, providing budget-friendly options for travelers.
For a more local experience, consider platforms like Airbnb or local guesthouses. Generally, the cost of accommodation in Eastern Europe tends to be more affordable compared to Western Europe, though prices can soar in prime locations during peak seasons. Always check reviews and ensure your choice adheres to safety standards.