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Southern Europe Travel Guide

From the azure coasts of the Mediterranean to the rugged peaks of the Balkans, Southern Europe is a region that bursts with cultural richness, culinary delights, and unparalleled scenic beauty. With a history that dates back millennia and has seen the rise and fall of empires, the birth of philosophy, art, and sciences, this region offers travelers a captivating blend of the old and the new.

Sun-drenched beaches, ancient ruins, bustling markets, serene vineyards, and vibrant cities: Southern Europe is an experience waiting to be unraveled.

Discover our travel tips, articles and virtual tours for Southern Europe !


List of destinations in Southern Europe

Quick Facts About Southern Europe

  • Countries:
    • There are 19 countries and territories in Western Europe, according the United Nations geoscheme, including Spain, Italy and Greece.
    • Spain, spanning vast landscapes from coastal areas to mountainous regions, is the largest country in Southern Europe.
    • Vatican City, an independent city-state enclaved within Rome, Italy, is the smallest country.
  • Key geographic facts:
    • Major Mountain Range: The Dinaric Alps stretch from Italy through Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, Albania, and North Macedonia.
    • Significant Water Bodies: The Mediterranean Sea borders many Southern European countries, offering picturesque coastlines and historic ports.
    • Notable Islands: Sardinia, Sicily, Crete, and Cyprus are among the region’s most significant islands known for their cultural and natural treasures.
    • Rivers: The Tagus, originating in Spain and flowing through Portugal, is the longest river in the Iberian Peninsula.
  • Languages:
    • The region is linguistically diverse with major languages including Spanish, Italian, Greek, Portuguese, and Serbian.
    • Numerous other languages and dialects are spoken due to the area’s rich cultural heritage.
  • Religions:
    • Predominantly Christian, with Roman Catholicism being especially influential in countries like Italy, Spain, and Portugal.
    • Eastern Orthodoxy is prevalent in Greece and parts of the Balkans, while pockets of Islam are found in countries like Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Southern Europe, A Region of Many Records

  • Deepest Underwater Cave: The Gouffre Berger Cave in France is renowned for its deep passages and was once considered the world’s deepest cave.

  • Highest Peak: Mount Olympus in Greece, apart from being legendary as the home of the ancient Greek gods, stands as the highest peak in the region.

  • Largest Canyon in Europe: The Tara River Canyon in Montenegro stretches for over 82 kilometers and is one of the deepest river canyons in the world.

  • Largest Mediterranean Island: Sicily in Italy is not only the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea but is also famed for its natural beauty, including Mount Etna, one of Europe’s highest active volcanoes.

  • Oldest National Park: The Brijuni Islands in Croatia hold the title of being the first national park established in Europe.

  • Smallest Country with Natural Beauty: Despite its size, San Marino boasts breathtaking mountain landscapes, including Monte Titano.

10 Handpicked Southern Europe Highlights

10 fantastic places and experiences in Southern Europe, in no particular order.

  1. Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia: A UNESCO World Heritage Site, this mesmerizing national park showcases cascading lakes interconnected by a series of waterfalls, set amidst lush forests.
  2. Triglav National Park, Slovenia: Named after Slovenia’s highest mountain, Triglav, this park boasts deep gorges, serene lakes, and towering peaks that are a haven for trekkers and nature enthusiasts.
  3. The Blue Caves, Greece: Located on the island of Zakynthos, these caves are famed for the mesmerizing blue light that reflects off the white cave bottoms, creating a surreal underwater world.
  4. Mount Etna, Italy: Europe’s most active volcano, located on Sicily, offers both an adventurous trek and a lesson in geology with its frequent eruptions and lava flows.
  5. Caminito del Rey, Spain: Once known as the world’s most dangerous path, this walkway pinned along the steep walls of the El Chorro gorge in Malaga is a thrilling experience for nature and adventure lovers.
  6. Biševo Blue Cave, Croatia: Accessible only by boat, this sea cave on Biševo Island is renowned for its stunning blue glow when the sunlight reflects through the water and illuminates the cave.
  7. The Picos de Europa, Spain: A magnificent mountain range in Northern Spain, it’s a haven for trekkers, offering dramatic landscapes and diverse fauna.
  8. Amalfi Coast, Italy: Dramatic cliffs, turquoise waters, and picturesque towns make the Amalfi Coast a dreamlike setting. The drive along its winding roads offers countless breathtaking vistas.
  9. Navagio Beach, Greece: Also known as Shipwreck Beach, this stunning cove on Zakynthos is surrounded by towering golden cliffs and is only accessible by boat, adding to its secluded charm.
  10. Durmitor National Park, Montenegro: A UNESCO World Heritage site, it offers a range of attractions from the Tara River Canyon, Europe’s deepest gorge, to the pristine Black Lake, surrounded by centuries-old pine forests.

When to Go to Southern Europe

Southern Europe, covering a broad range of landscapes from the sunny beaches of the Mediterranean to the mountainous terrains of the Balkans, offers diverse climates.

Generally, coastal areas feature a Mediterranean climate, meaning hot, dry summers and mild winters. Conversely, inland and higher-altitude areas tend to be cooler.

For beach and island holidays in places like Croatia, Greece, Spain, and Cyprus, the summer months (June to August) are the most popular but can be crowded. 

Spring (April to June) and autumn (September to October) are milder, less busy, and ideal for activities like sightseeing, hiking, and exploring. Those inclined towards winter sports might look towards Slovenia’s ski resorts in the colder months.

Traveling to Southern Europe

Staying Safe

  • Beware of Pickpockets: Touristy areas, especially in cities like Barcelona, can be hotspots.
  • Secure Travel Insurance: Always cover theft, health issues, and trip cancellations.
  • Respect Local Traditions: This is crucial in religious sites across countries like Italy, Greece, and the Vatican City.
  • Limit Flashy Displays: This is particularly true in areas less frequented by tourists.
  • Stay Alert: Especially in unfamiliar areas or late at night.
  • Use Trusted Transport: Opt for known taxi companies or rideshares.
  • Check Beach Flags: In countries like Spain and Portugal, colored flags often indicate water safety conditions.
  • Stay Informed: Some regions might have occasional protests or strikes.
  • Emergency Contacts: Keep a list of emergency numbers, typically 112 in many European countries.
  • Group Travel: In lesser-known areas, traveling in groups can be safer.

Getting There and Around

  • Airports: Major international airports include Madrid-Barajas Adolfo Suárez (Spain), Leonardo da Vinci–Fiumicino Airport (Italy), Athens International Airport (Greece), Barcelona El Prat (Spain), and Dubrovnik Airport (Croatia), among others.
  • Trains: While countries like Spain and Italy have extensive rail networks with high-speed options, countries in the Balkan region might have slower, less frequent services.
  • Buses: Major cities and tourist spots in these countries are well connected by bus services. Companies like BusCroatia connect cities across the Balkans.
  • Cars: Renting a car is practical, especially for areas less accessible by public transport, like the countryside of Andorra or Montenegro’s coastline.
  • Boats/Ferries: Essential for island-hopping in Greece or traveling along Croatia’s coastline.


From the luxury hotels of Monaco to the historic inns of Spain, Southern Europe offers varied accommodation choices. Budget travelers can find hostels and guesthouses, especially in popular tourist areas. In countries like Greece and Croatia, villa rentals are a popular choice for longer stays.

Prices can be higher during peak season, so advanced booking is recommended. Always consider local festivals or events, as these can significantly influence accommodation availability and pricing.