5 Uncommon European Destinations to Escape the Crowds

While famous cities like Paris, Rome and Barcelona rightly lure many travelers to Europe, the continent also abounds with lesser-known gems awash in culture, history and natural splendor. For those seeking to get off the well-trodden tourist trail, here are five uncommon yet captivating European destinations to discover.

Rila Monastery, Bulgaria Set against the striking backdrop of the Rila Mountains, this massive 10th-century Eastern Orthodox monastery complex is considered one of Bulgaria's most iconic sites and a UNESCO World Heritage site. Wander the atmospheric courtyards and churches adorned with vibrant frescoes and iconic striped brickwork. The bucolic surroundings provide ample hiking opportunities as well.

Zahara de la Sierra, Spain This tiny Spanish village in Andalusia seems plucked from a fairytale with its cluster of whitewashed houses spilling down a hill, topped by a Moorish castle and 12th-century tower. Get lost in the winding cobblestone streets, marvel at the dramatic El Gastor rock formations, and relax at scenic plazas over tapas and local wine.

Wroclaw, Poland
While Krakow may reign as Poland's top destination, don't overlook the charm and energy of Wroclaw. This university city on the Oder River dazzles with colorful architecture, quirky statues and photogenic squares like magnificent Salt Square. Take a cruise on scenic canals past impressive cathedrals, grand bridges and green spaces.

Lake Bled, Slovenia Tucked into the Julian Alps, this glacial lake with its iconic chapel-topped islet at the center looks like it was dreamed up by a romantic artist. Stroll the shores for awe-inspiring Alpine scenery, venture out on a traditional pletna boat or hike up to the cliff-hanging medieval Bled Castle for even more epic views.

Kotor, Montenegro Situated along one of Europe's deepest fjords, the walled medieval city of Kotor will transport you back in time with its labyrinth of plazas, churches and stone palaces. A UNESCO World Heritage site, highlights include the 12th-century Cathedral of Saint Tryphon and scenic hikes on the surrounding ancient fortification walls.

From quaint villages and dramatic landscapes to culturally-rich historic cities, these five off-the-radar European destinations prove some of the most rewarding adventures await those who wander from the well-trodden tourist trail. Start planning your own uncommon escape today!