Exoticism in Europe - 10 holiday destinations with that long-haul feeling on your doorstep

Why go far when the good things are so close? We present you the most beautiful exotic places in Europe, which are in no way inferior to their famous counterparts on other continents. 

If you don't want to take a miserable flight, you can also discover the wonders of the world within Europe. Most of them can be easily reached from Central Europe by car, coach or train. By plane, of course, it's quicker; depending on the departure airport, the flight hardly takes more than 3-4 hours. Welcome to paradise on your doorstep!


Picture-book beach: Thailand vs Croatia

The characteristic Zlatni Rat beach in the south of Brac is considered one of the greatest natural beauties of Croatia - © Scott Wong / Shutterstock
© Scott Wong / Shutterstock

The epitome of a dream holiday usually has to do with sun, beach and sea. What could be more beautiful than lying on a white beach, listening to the sound of the waves and relaxing in the shade of palm trees? The Indian Ocean or the Caribbean are often mentioned as ideal destinations.

But in fact there is one place that fits this description and can be reached from Central Europe in a few hours by car: Zlatni Rat on the Croatian island of Brac. Island of Brac.

The "Golden Horn" is an idyllic headland of bright pebbles jutting into the azure blue Adriatic Sea. It is one of Croatia's greatest natural beauties and has often been voted one of the 10 most beautiful beaches in the world.

Palm Grove: Caribbean vs Crete

The palm beach of Vai on Crete, Greece, exudes vacation feeling like in the tropics - © FRASHO / franks-travelbox
© FRASHO / franks-travelbox

Coconut palms are also part of the overall picture of a dream beach. The European version of the palm beach is unfortunately difficult to reach by car, but by plane it takes hardly more than 2 hours. Europe's only palm beach is on the island of Crete.

Near Vai on the east coast of the island, the Cretan date palm forms the largest palm grove in Europe. No one really knows why more than a thousand palms form a real forest here. According to legend, they were created from date seeds that pirates once left here.

The fact is that the golden sands of Vai have a real tropical feel and the entire beach is protected. With sun loungers, parasols and catering directly on site, it is also ideal for a beach holiday in Crete!

Volcanoes: Hawaii vs Italy

The Lipari Islands are an archipelago of volcanoes located in the Mediterranean Sea, not far from the Italian coast - © maudanros / stock.adobe.com
© maudanros / stock.adobe.com

Hawaii, and especially Hawaii Volcano National Park, are known for their black landscape with glowing red lava flows. However, this very same spectacle also occurs regularly in the Mediterranean!


Europe's king of volcanoes is Stromboli, the continent's most active volcano. Its eruptions can be observed from a safe distance from the research centre. Particularly adventurous people undertake the spectacular hike to the crater rim - past the "fire trails" that flow over scorched ground into the sea.

Stromboli is located on the Lipari Islands off the coast of Sicily. These are a UNESCO World Heritage Site and attract visitors not only with their volcanic activity but also with their absolute natural beauty. Only in the high season during the Italian summer holidays do a few tourists stray to Stromboli and Co. Apart from that, the Lipari Islands are a real insider tip for those seeking peace and quiet.

Geysers: Bolivia vs Iceland

Arriving at the highest point of Namafjall, 482m above sea level offers an impressive view of the volcanic landscape, Iceland - © FRASHO / franks-travelbox
© FRASHO / franks-travelbox

Geysers also owe their emergence to the volcanic activity of our planet. The unreal vol canic landscape of Námafjall in Iceland is as spectacular as the Sol de Mañana geyser field in Bolivia. Around the volcano of the same name lie the two high-temperature areas Ódáðahraun and Möðrudalsöræfi.

The hiking trails in this smoking lunar landscape lead through bubbling mud puddles and steaming solfatars. The smell of sulphur is everywhere. The ever-present volcanic fumes make you think of a blast furnace that could explode at any moment. This is what the earth must have looked like shortly after it was formed!

Gorge: USA vs Montenegro

From the Tara Bridge there is a spectacular view of the gorge, whose walls reach up to 1,600m into the sky, Montenegro - © Miroslava Durcatova / Shutterstock
© Miroslava Durcatova / Shutterstock

Everyone who loves to travel has probably heard of the spectacular Grand Canyon in Arizona. But do you also know the Tara Gorge in the north of Montenegro? This impressive gorge in the equally impressive Durmitor National Park is the longest and deepest gorge in Europe.

The best view of the Tara in its gorge is from the Tara Bridge. Here the view falls on its steep walls up to 1,600 metres high (only 200 metres less than in the US Grand Canyon).

Those who want to experience the Tara Gorge properly, however, do so in an inflatable boat. Rafting on the Tara is an unforgettable test of courage, especially from Šćepan Polje! The last 30 kilometres of the Tara have the highest waterfalls, the most rapids and the deepest regions of the gorge.

Coastal Landscape: Australia vs Portugal

The Cabo de São Vicente forms the most south-westerly point in Europe, dropping spectacularly into the sea in a cliff up to 70m high, Portugal - © Andrea Seemann / Fotolia
© Andrea Seemann / Fotolia

The Great Ocean Road on the south coast of Australia is one of the most beautiful panoramic roads in the world and offers stunning views. But the dreamlike Algarve on Portugal' s Atlantic coast is in no way inferior. Here, too, rugged rock formations defy the constant roar of the waves and the omnipresent wind, which unfortunately does not even stop at the visitors.


A striking point to experience the Algarve is Cabo de São Vicente. The most south-westerly point of the European continent lies on a 70-metre-high cliff and was considered a magical place by many cultures. Accordingly, there are numerous chapels, places of power and stone symbols in its vicinity.

Somewhat less spiritual sights of Cabo de São Vicente are the lighthouse with the most light in Europe and the "last bratwurst before America".

Mountains: Canada vs Switzerland

Magnificent winter landscape at the Jungfraujoch in Switzerland - © Krissanapong Wongsawarng / Shutterstock
© Krissanapong Wongsawarng / Shutterstock

What the Rocky Mountains are to America, the Alps are to Europe. The peaks in the Canadian ski resort of Whistler/Blackcomb north of Vancouver - or in Switzerland- are particularly impressive.

Special highlights in the Swiss Alps are the Jungfraujoch with the highest railway station in Europe and the beautiful Matterhorn. At the foot of what is probably the most photographed mountain in the world lies the famous mountaineering centre of Zermatt.

By the way: The ski area at Whistler Mountain and Blackcomb Peak was even built according to the European model.

Glaciers: Chile vs Austria

Over the glacier and through the glacier it goes at the Kaunertal Glacier in Tyrol, Austria - © FRASHO / franks-travelbox
© FRASHO / franks-travelbox

Apart from Greenland or Antarctica, the largest ice field in the world is located in the south of Argentina. With its magical landscape of mountains, lakes and gigantic glaciers, Los Glaciares National Park is the most visited national park in Argentina.

A not quite as extensive but nevertheless impressive glacier park lies in Tyrol. Between Imst, the Pitztal and the Kaunertal there are some superlatives to be found: Austria's highest and youngest glacier, the highest café with the highest cable car, the highest lake and the largest herd of ibex - surrounded by the spectacular panorama of numerous peaks and the picturesque Kaunertal Glacier Road.


Sand Dunes: Egypt vs Gran Canaria

The Dunas Maspalomas is the only sandy desert in Europe - it has something to offer party animals as well as families or holidaymakers who long for peace and quiet, Gran Canaria, Spain - © Anilah / Shutterstock
© Anilah / Shutterstock

When you think of sand dunes, you obviously think of the Sahara. Yet this is not even the largest sand desert in the world (this is the Rub al Khali on the Arabian Peninsula). The European continent also has impressive sand dunes to offer, namely on a Canary Island.

At the southern tip of Gran Canaria lies the Dunas Maspalomas, the only sand desert in Europe. The idyllic dunes are now under nature conservation and are a popular holiday destination for party animals, families and those seeking relaxation. The 4-kilometre-long beach is one of the best-known naturist areas in the Canary Islands.

Jungle: Brazil vs Ukraine

The primeval beech forests of the Ukrainian Carpathians are the largest in Europe and are home to the world's tallest and oldest beech trees - © Brykaylo Yuriy / Shutterstock
© Brykaylo Yuriy / Shutterstock

Believe it or not, Europe even has its own primeval forest! In terms of biodiversity, Ukraine can't hold a candle to the Brazilian Amazon basin, but when it comes to unspoilt nature, it can certainly keep up with the Primeval beech forests of the Ukrainian Carpathians.

Whoever wanders through this mecca for nature lovers will walk among the highest and oldest beech trees in the whole world. Of the 80,000 hectares of vast forests, around 30,000 are protected.

This natural cathedral of infinite shades of green is home to over 70 species of mammals, making Ukraine's primeval beech forests the most animal-rich UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site in Europe - a true primeval forest!