You’ve popped champagne in Paris, circled the Colosseum in Rome, and marveled at the Changing of the Guard ceremony outside Buckingham Palace in London. Now, it’s time to see a different side by going off the beaten path in Europe with these five trip ideas.

(P.S. You can even see the Alps, Lake Bled, and more on this incredible 10-day train journey through some of Western Europe’s most iconic sights and sites with Inspirato Only.)

Tour du Mont Blanc in the Alps of France, Italy, and Switzerland

In the southeast corner of France, Mont Blanc pierces the clouds at 15,777 feet tall—and because mountains know nothing of manmade boundaries, much of the massif spills into northwest Italy and southern Switzerland, too.

This is the setting of one of the world’s most stunning overland hikes: the 106-mile trail known as the Tour du Mont Blanc, which encircles the namesake peak coursing through glacier-carved valleys in France, Italy, and Switzerland. Along the route are rustic mountain huts, or rifugios, where hikers fuel up with frosty mugs of beer and hearty bowls of soup as they swap tales from the trail at communal tables.

Most begin the route in the charming French town of Chamonix, a posh ski retreat that swells with eager hikers in the warmer months. It takes only eight to 11 days (depending on how swift your gait and how efficient your lungs) to complete the entire circuit, ending up right back where you started.

The Azores, Portugal

Located just a five-hour plane ride east of New York City—smack dab in the heart of the Atlantic Ocean—the Azores’ location is baffling to most Americans. This archipelago of nine volcanic islands belongs to Portugal, despite floating roughly 1,000 miles off the coast of mainland Europe.

São Miguel, the Azores’ largest island, is where many visitors spend the bulk of their time, and understandably so, as most planes touch down in Ponta Delgada, the regional capital. The entire island is pitted with hollowed-out volcanic craters, hissing geysers, and natural hot springs. Rent a car to make your way around the island’s perimeter and prepare to stop often. Lagoa das Sete Cidades boasts twin lakes in its massive crater—one electric blue and one a shocking shade of green. And in the center of the island, Lagoa do Fogo’s crater is arguably the most photogenic.

Sicily, Southern Italy

Nestled in the Mediterranean Sea, like a soccer ball perched on the toe of Italy, Sicily is often overlooked by travelers who mostly flock to the country’s more famous northern counterparts.

Smaller than the state of Massachusetts, Sicily punches above its weight as a melting pot of European and African culture, with a palpable influence from the civilizations that ruled over it the last 2,500 years: Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Normans, and Spaniards. Here, you’ll find the most active volcano in Europe as well as the continent’s most important ancient Greek sites outside of Greece, like the Valley of the Temples.

You won’t go hungry, either. Sicily is known for its incredible cuisine, which runs the gamut from wood-fired Sicilian pizza to impeccable local wine, pasta, and fresh cannolis piped full of sweetened ricotta cheese.

Hallstatt, Austria

Imagine a quaint mountain village plucked out from a snow globe and seemingly brought to life. The closest thing we’ve got is Hallstatt, nestled in Austria’s famed Salzkammergut lakes region. Located a little over an hour outside of Salzburg, this fairytale village is perched on the shores of Hallstätter See, a dark, brooding lake. A ferry, conveniently timed to the local train schedule, whisks visitors across the water to the sleepy alpine town.

One of Hallstatt’s focal points is easy to see as you approach: the pointy Gothic steeple of the town’s Lutheran church. Timber-framed houses and candy-colored shops huddle together, a pleasant jumble scattered up the town’s steep hillside. A fast-flowing waterfall plunges over a cliff at the very heart of town.

Hike (or ride the funicular) up to the town’s salt mine, Salzwelten, for a bit of local history. Hallstatt (derived from the Celtic word for salt, “hal”) was founded in this location some 7,000 years ago due its surplus of salt deposits, which turned it into a major hub in prehistoric Europe.

Lake Bled, Slovenia

You’ve likely seen a photo of Lake Bled and thought to yourself, “I should go there someday,” but without really knowing where “there” was. Well, it’s Slovenia—sandwiched between Austria and Croatia.

Surrounded by the Julian Alps, Lake Bled is home to the country’s most photogenic landmark: a gorgeous church plopped on an island in the middle of an alpine lake. Board a traditional wooden pletna boat to row out to The Church of Mary the Queen (also known, fittingly, as Our Lady of the Lake), and ask to ring the bell inside. (According to local superstition, if you ring this bell three times and make a wish, it will come true.)

This article first appeared in the Spring/Summer 2022 Issue of Inspirato Magazine—it’s been heavily edited for length. Read the full article here.

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