London, Paris, Rome, Amsterdam, Barcelona – lovely cities full of amazing sites and culture, but when you're looking for a beautiful, nature-filled destination that leaves you feeling renewed and inspired as opposed to exhausted and overwhelmed, I’ve got a list for you!
Here are five of the most beautiful places to have a restorative and exercise-filled vacation in Europe:
1. Lac St. Croix, France
The South of France is often packed with tourists on the glitzy Cote d’Azur (picture beaches covered entirely with people and towels – no sand or stones visible!), and although the region of Provence is popular with American tourists, if you want a bit more calm, nature, and beautiful surroundings than St. Tropez, head a bit further north to the Lac St. Croix, in the Gorges of Verdon. This beautiful lake with turquoise waters is surrounded by beautiful mountains and hills that provide amazing hikes in spectacular scenery. Swimming, sailing, water-cycling, kayaking and rafting are popular on the lake. Visitors can stay at one of the charming Provencal towns in the region and take advantage of the local scenery and charm of France’s summertime playground.
2. Skagen, Denmark
If Scandinavia has been on your wish list and you want to stray further than the capital cities, I highly recommend a pit stop in Skagen. A fishing port and artist’s haven on the northern most point of Denmark, Skagen has a spectacular coastline and huge sand dunes that will leave you feeling as healthy and alive as the magnificent scenery surrounding you. Spend your days walking, biking and eating fresh fish. Charming pottery and glass shops, jewelry stores and local art galleries line the streets near the harbor.
3. Cinque Terre, Italy
Calling all walkers out there! Cinque Terre is a vacation spot not to be missed, at least not if you want to spend your days walking in some of the most magnificent scenery in Europe. Take a break from the bustle of Rome, Florence and Milan and head down to Cinque Terre to switch gears. Pair the calm and glorious scenery with good walking shoes, and you can enjoy all the pasta, gelato and delicious foods Italy has to offer without a second thought! Cinque (which means five) refers to five fishing villages set amid dramatic coastal scenery. Take a beautiful hike – with some swimming thrown in for variety.
4. Annecy, France
Full disclosure: I live here! Annecy is possibly the healthiest and most beautiful tourist destination in France, and one of the country’s best-kept secrets. A medium-sized French city that boasts Europe’s purest, cleanest lake, and the beautiful Alps a stone’s throw away, Annecy is known as France’s “sports capital.” Not only can you access all water sports imaginable, mountain sports (think skiing in all of its varieties) plus hiking and cycling (Tour de France cyclists train here and the race passed through Annecy in 2013), but the scenery in which you do these sports is so magnificent and inspirational, even the French who come here for the first time are awed. Beautiful beaches alongside the lake, a charming old town, great shopping and amazing restaurants complete the experience.
5. The Lake District, England
Located in Northwest England, the Lake District is a welcome respite from busy and overwhelming London. If you’re headed to the capital, consider making the trip up north to enjoy the amazing scenery – lakes, forests and mountains (known as “fells”) – all part of the Lake District National Park. Walking, hiking and cycling in magnificent scenery, plus boating, charming restaurants, inns and pubs are among the reasons why the Lake District is a perfect getaway for health-minded tourists.
Tell us – what locations would you add to the list of healthy, European vacation paradises?