The Secret Gems of Europe – Carmen Huter

The kind of experience I dream of when thinking about traveling Europe is not one to be found in a guidebook. Rather, it is the sort of adventure that – when reminded of it – transports you into a new universe. A magical place where the streets are narrow and tiled with uneven cobblestones. Where neighbours bake each other fresh bread and locals proudly invite strangers into their homes – just to say hi and show off their homebrewed Limoncello. Outside, washing graces the colourful walls and cars are being kept far away. Can you see it?

From quaint villages, I go on to dream of a radically different scene. One, whose natural beauty magnetizes you in a humbling and thrilling way all at once. It is a landscape so hypnotizing, you might as well be 15 again and have just met the love of your life. I am envisioning endless blue waters taking a dip in pink sunrise skies, breathless mountain tops overlooking dramatic alpine vistas and fairy-tale castles tucked away in ancient forests. What are you picturing?

In case you were in need of some inspiration, here are my current top five secret gems of the beautiful lands we call Europe. Go on. It is time to write your own story.

  1. Bled, Slovenia

The quiet town of Bled equals Slovenian picture perfection, featuring a medieval cliff-side castle, a church dotted in the middle of an emerald green lake and some of Eastern Europe’s highest peaks as a backdrop.

  1. Schlegeis Stausee, Austria

Don’t be fooled. The jaw-dropping Schlegeis lake may be artificial, but worth the detour either way. From Innsbruck, take the scenic route through the Zillertal (Ziller Valley) and soak up storybook Tyrol. Along the way, rural roadside scenes and alpine panoramas are plentiful. After crossing the basin, climb to Olperer Hut and be in for a visual and culinary treat. It does not get much better than this!

(Schlegeis Stausee, Austria- Credited: Carmen Huter)
  1. Annecy, France

As the waters of its mountain-framed lake – one of Europe’s cleanest – trickle through the vivid village of Annecy, step back in time and aimlessly walk the medieval lanes. Grab yourself a locally made gelato and a camera; you are all set.

    (Annecy, France – Credited Carmen Huter)
  1. Madeira Island, Portugal

Finding European gems without the crowds can be tough. Sometimes, drastic measures have to be taken. Instead of embarking on a Portuguese road trip, I invite you to step on a plane and dive into Madeiran adventure magic. We are talking rainforests, waterfalls, mermaid pools, and mountains; all to yourself!

(Madeira Island, Portugal- Credited Carmen Huter)
  1. Ronda, Spain

Ronda was one of Ernest Hemmingway’s preferred getaways. You can quickly see why. Dating back to the 9th century BC, this village set atop a 100m-tall gorge is no less than spectacular. Feast on Andalusian delicacies, head on day trips into the surrounding mountains or just watch the canyon go from golden to bronze and back as the sun moves along.

(Ronda, Spain Credited- Carmen Huter)
(Ronda, Spain Credited- Carmen Huter)

About the writer: Carmen Huter is an Austrian-born Auckland-based creative. Besides running a personal style and travel blog,, she is also a freelance writer, photographer, and creative consultant. To explore and experience the new is what inspires her the most.