Way before the demise of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, well-to-do adventurers were exploring Europe in varying degrees of grandeur, pomp and philosophical outlook. These days, European tours are less a rite of passage for the wealthy and more an affordable chance to experience multiple countries in one tour, with guides, tickets and accommodation organised in advance so travelers can make the most of some of the world's best loved cities, and lesser known rural scenes. Bucharest to Istanbul, Estonia to Lithuania, Paris to Marrakech; these are just a few of the overland European tours that have enchanted and enlightened travelers for generations, and if you’re looking to join a small group and follow in the footsteps of the past then there’s no time like the present to do just that. Cycling, sightseeing and public transport all feature within our fixed itineraries to offer an affordable and efficient means of touring Europe where rucksacks still rule but Lonely Planets are redundant.

Find out more in our European tour travel guide.


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Our European tours follow a small group format where you’ll be traveling with no more than 16 like-minded individuals and an English-speaking tour leader from the local area. The limited size of the group lets you stay in small, locally-owned guesthouses or family homestays as well as being able to use public transport, including overnight trains, which makes the experience as authentic, efficient and cost effective as possible. Accommodation is hand-picked to ensure comfort, character and sustenance reflects each region as well as providing a private retreat or space to socialise.
Most European tours last a week or two; however, there are some epic month-long adventures, such as Paris to Marrakech, that do require more time off but are just amazing. Our European tours often feature cultural sightseeing combined with country walks or bike rides and visits to rural towns and villages. This spreads the benefits of tourism, and allows travelers to see a side to life rarely touched upon by larger groups solely centring on capitals.

Finally, our tours pretty much always start in one country and finish in another; and although there might well be some longish journeys in between, watching scenery pass by your window is definitely part of the experience as is digging out your old rucksack as opposed to that shiny wheeled suitcase.
Steph Millington, from our supplier Intrepid Travel, shares her thoughts on small group travel: “A small group creates a social vibe and allows you to connect with people you meet along the way without feeling like you’re just a face in the crowd. It allows you to stay in smaller, family run hotels with character, travel on local transport easily and avoid touristy restaurants by eating at smaller venues, with local people. You’ll usually have some free time on itineraries but you might also find you’ll spend time socialising with fellow travelers rather than heading off on your own. Travel with an open mind, a sense of humour, a spirit of adventure and grab opportunities as they’re presented. You’ll be a traveler, not a tourist.”



Things to do on a European tour…

Europe has no end of marked cycling networks to lead cyclists over borders and onwards to cultural landmarks and characterful places to stay. Average days in the saddle will usually equate to around 70km, with Prague to Budapest, for example, or crossing all three Baltic States, each accomplished in 11 days. Bus transfers between cycle routes are an efficient means of covering more ground with the added security of a tour leader allowing you to switch off, a little, as you cross the continent.
A European tour is not only a really fascinating way to discover the differences between countries and how communities are defined by their landscapes, and their neighbours; it's also a great way to untangle the historical threads of a region and learn how the past has shaped what you'll find today. Listening to a local guide or just researching off your own back provides a precursor to sightseeing with audio options also offering an excellent opportunity to learn, and understand, as you explore.
There are some glorious train routes throughout Europe that not only conjure up the romance of rail but also offer an opportunity to simply sit and observe both what's passing by the window as well as what's unfolding within the carriage. Budapest to Belgrade, Paris to the Pyrenees, Prague to Poland; taking the train on a European tour is a great way to travel like a local with overnight journeys an efficient means of extending experiences as you bed down in one country and wake up in the next.

Things not to do on a European tour…

Cheese, baguettes and beer in Paris; cheese, baguettes and wine in Milan; cheese, baguettes and vodka in... The European tours of our youth may have got us from A to B with plenty of fun in between but these days we’re probably more inclined to want a little more. Traveling without a guide is tantamount to entering an art gallery with your eyes closed and not listening when someone tells you that you've just walked into the broom cupboard.
It's all well and good traveling from Bucharest to Istanbul or cycling around the Baltics, but if you don’t make the most of your free time then you might be returning home in need of a vacation. Allowing time for organic adventures or optional activities, or just giving yourself a moment to take things in, is really important on a European tour, and also invites the chance to explore on your own or get to know your tour group as you rest, relax and prepare for days ahead.
Although a European tour may well involve road and rail transfers and the occasional ferry ride, the majority of your time, if you're not into cycling, is going to be on two feet. City sightseeing in cultural capitals, such as Sofia, Vienna or Dubrovnik, is always going to be on the agenda with guided walks around Europe's grandest properties and finest art galleries and heritage museums definitely not advisable if you forgot to bring your best walking shoes, even if you're not climbing every mountain.



Locations: Greece | Paris | Vienna
Either side of summer is the best time to go on a European tour with countries, such as Austria, Slovenia, Slovakia and the Czech Republic absolutely alive with wild flowers and fast-flowing rivers in Apr-May before woodlands explode with colour in Sep-Oct. Jul-Aug get busier with vacation crowds, but also allow time for Baltic and Mediterranean beaches in between al fresco picnics on sun-scorched hills. City sightseeing is also best outside summer although if you can stand the heat you'll find that many city dwellers up sticks and head to the coast, leaving the likes of Sofia, Bucharest and Istanbul pretty much all to yourself.
Photo credits: [Topbox: Harold Litwiler] [Entail1: NH53] [Entail quote: NH53] [Rainfall: Bad Kleinkirchheim]
Written by Chris Owen
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