Pack your passport because these three new-to-the-scene adventures are worth the jet-lag.
Forgoing a tropical summer vacation with sprawling hotel pools and palm trees for the older traditions of Europe? You've come to the right place. Whether it's a picturesque hiking adventure, a foodie excursion, or cinematic history you're looking for, here are three new spectacular activities to see on your next trip to Europe.
Hiking Ireland's Historic Kerry Camino Trail
This one's for those of you who have always been intrigued by Europe's penchant for "walking holidays." The famous pilgrimages to Spain's Santiago de Compostela have become a popular rite of passage -- although fulfilling adventures that are scenic, yet low-cost mean certain roads through France and Italy are practically mobbed with backpackers of all types. Now Ireland is officially joining the party -- with the Kerry Camino walking trail that was just initiated this spring. (Kerry hikers can now get their camino passport stamped along the way, as they do in Spain.) Its equally beautiful European vistas have far less people, rolling green hills, and unique Irish history.
Located in the South of Ireland, the Kerry Camino links the towns of Tralee and Dingle on a specific Dingle Way route believed to have been followed by navigator Saint Brendan back in 512AD. You'll also be walking in the footsteps taken by Dingle-bound monks and pilgrims, who then continued their Camino de Santiago journey by boarding a boat to Northern Spain. Currently, the Kerry Camino is run by a group of heartbreakingly genuine locals eager to share and preserve the trail's history. They've partnered up with Ireland Ways to bring tourists to their part of the country. Now, self-guided Dingle Way-Kerry Camino walking tour packages (ranging from three to eight nights) are available year round. Ideal for intermediate-level hikers, this hiking tour guarantees stunning ocean and mountain landscape views with a mix of terrain. On a recent trip, not a single other hiker was spotted in days - of course the mountains of Kerry are such that if a group was five minutes in front of you, you might never even spot them.
The pros at Ireland Ways will help you with travel plans, and they book your hotels, too. But to show you how eager Ireland is to show off its hospitality, know that Aer Lingus now has direct flights from Boston, Chicago, New York, Orlando, San Francisco, Washington DC. Book now, and have a big plate of fish 'n' chips (and a pint or two!) for me at the end of the trail.
Beer Tasting in Prague
The days of downing Pilsner morning, noon, and night in Prague are over. More than 25 years after the Velvet Revolution ended Communism, the city is in the middle of a craft beer explosion -- there are now a whopping 26 microbreweries in the city of only a million people.
Beer-centric bars are booming all over town, giving pub-heavy cities such as London and Brussels a run for their money. There are now plenty of rare beers, ales and lagers on tap at top brewpubs around Prague, such as The Vinohrady and Zlý časy, which pours rare brews from as far as Bavaria and Belgium. One of the best IPAs in town is just a stone's throw from the Prague Castle, at the Strahov Monastery, so pop in for a pint after seeing one of the world's greatest tourist sites. There's also the touristy (with reason) U Fleku, which has been pouring beer since 1499, more than 500 years.
For the first time ever, Prague also has stylish, trendy beer bars and sampler pubs (flights of some of the rarest beers in the world are a fairly new treat in Prague). Try the new BeerGeek Bar, the modern Nota Bene & Beerpoint, or the highly-rated Anker Terrace, which is somewhat hard to find unless you're an in-the-know local. The trick is to look for the service elevator at the Kotiva department store.
Take in eleven centuries of history, and then relax over a few beers -- right on the cusp of its revolution in Prague. I couldn't think of a tastier travel adventure. Plus, the beers are more affordable than in other European cities -- and Prague's excellent public transportation system means you can pub crawl until your heart's content.
Visiting The Hills Of Austria As The Sound Of Music Turns 50
The Europeans sometimes shake their heads, but Americans can't get enough of The Sound of Music. Now its golden anniversary has inspired a new tour: "Walking Austria, Germany and Czech Republic: A Bohemian Rhapsody." Travelers can experience three different countries while getting a chance to visit scenic filming locations the Von Trapp family made famous 50 years ago. From snow-capped peaks to picturesque lakes, guests will be in awe as The Sound of Music's breathtaking scenery comes to life.
Expect a visit to Lake Fuschl (which appears in the film's opening shots), and a hike through the pine forests to the quaint town of Fuschl for lunch. Next up is a stop at the village of St. Gilgen am Wolfgangsee via optional foot or shuttle. The seven- or 10-day visit also includes a bevy of excursions and activities such as a stroll along the Tree Top Walk with panoramic views of Bavarian Forest National Park, a journey to the Mount Schafberg summit via train, a cruise on Lake Wolfgang, a guided walking tour of medieval city Tabor and a performance of traditional Austrian Schulplattler dances. The trip of a lifetime is topped off with a farewell dinner cooked up by an acclaimed Czech chef.
For an extra splurge, take advantage of the optional pre-trip add-on of Salzberg. The stunning Austrian city boasts lush alpine landscapes you'll recognize from the movie. As the birthplace of Mozart, there's plenty of rich culture and history to take advantage of including museums, cathedrals, the Hallein & The Dürrnberg Salt Mines or Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.