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Europe as we know it has changed almost continuously over the past 20 years and there are some amazing destinations that are left off many travellers "must see" lists that offer great travel experiences.

Even if you haven’t experienced as much of "Old Europe" as you would like, we’re pretty sure that you probably have got access to a travel book on your shelf that will give you the details of a perfect city break or European holiday. But here at Gapwork.com we like to look at alternative destinations for your gap years, career breaks or over 40’s holidays, and if you include Romania, Albania and Croatia in your European gap year, career break or holiday plans plans we think you may be pleasantly surprised.

Romania

Romania lies in Southeast central Europe on the Lower Danube. It shares a border with Albania, another one of our hot places to visit at the moment. Romania is equally hilly and flat. The Carpathian Mountains dominate the centre of Romania and are one of the country’s biggest tourist draws. For those who like the great outdoors Romania is ideal. Romania has the largest areas of undisturbed forests in Europe – perfect for hiking in. Wildlife found in Romania’s forests include brown bears and wolves. Romania’s climate is also perfect for those who like being outside. Seasons are generally similar to the UK but a few degrees higher in each month. However, high on the mountains temperatures can reach as low as -15 degrees Celsius which makes it perfect for ski lovers.

Other than the central mountain ranges other must sees in Romania include Bucharest; the capital, the Black Sea resorts, the medieval churches of Moldavia and Bukovina, the mighty Danube delta, the famous Transylvanian castles and Hateg Island. Other places of note include the Burca mud volcanoes and Scarisoara cave.

Romania is still way behind its Western neighbours in terms of modernism, but is fast catching up so to experience this former Eastern Bloc country before it catches up with the rest of the West, you’ll need to hurry and visit it now.

Albania

On a tight budget? Head for beautiful Albania for some glorious white beaches. Just don’t tell anyone else! Unspoilt tiny fishing villages nestled into small coves, forts perched on top of cliffs and basic but romantic beach huts to chill out in.

Albania is also in Southeastern Europe with the Ionian Sea to the Southwest and the Adriatic to the West. Beaches here are less polluted, less crowded and much more relaxing.

Food on the coast is based around seafood surprisingly and is also very good. Crusty bread, tomatoes, creamy white cheese and cucumbers supplement the main course. It’s all local and all fresh; and because of Albania’s lack of modern farming techniques – all organic too.

A word of warning, don’t come here if you expect to be waited on hand and foot with a variety of restaurants, bars and clubs. The Albanian coast just isn’t geared to tourism (yet) but this is its beauty. If you’re sociable you may well be invited to a small bar with locals but otherwise this holiday is a total chill out affair with plenty of time for horizontal soul searching or reading the latest blockbuster book from cover to cover.

Croatia

Croatia is in southern central Europe. The Croatian Islands cover over 1000 islands, islets and reefs. Unlike Albania Croatia is much more geared to tourism and has a huge range of activities on offer for all including windsurfing, spas, wine tasting, all night dance parties, fishing trips and hiking. Vis is great for fishing and wine buffs; Brac is Croatia’s most famous beach; the Kornati archipelago is good for those who do want to get away from the mass crowds, with basic eco living and sustainable tourism being order of the day as is Palagruza, a wild Robinson Crusoe affair; Murter is great for sailing enthusiasts; Hvar is Croatia’s most fashionable island for those who love to live it up in style and sip cocktails all night.

Also now well known is the fortified city of Dubronik in Croatia’s far south. Another UNESCO World Heritage Site, its one of the most beautiful towns in the Med.

The best time to visit Croatia is between April and September. July and August are the most expensive times being in the holidays and will also be the most crowded. However this also means more will be on offer and islands will be easier to reach than out of season.

 
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