9 excellent Europe tours for under £500

1. Be charmed by the Baltic’s historic capitals

A narrow street in Riga (Shutterstock)

If it’s history, culture and untouched old towns you’re looking for, you can’t beat the charming Baltic capitals. On this seven-day tour with Tucan Travel, you’ll visit them all – and still have change from £500.

Starting in Tallinn, one of the best untouched medieval towns in Europe, you’ll make your way through to the Art Nouveau charms of Latvia’s capital Riga, the uncrowded cobbled streets of Vilnius in Lithuania, before ending your journey in Poland’s surprising highlight, Warsaw.

This is a great introduction to one of the most beguiling parts of Europe. You’re bound to want to return.

Type: Small group

When: Apr to Oct

How long: Seven days

How much: From £383 (exc. flights)

2. Walk through Italy’s stunning Cinque Terre

The gelato hues of Cinque Terre (Shutterstock)

Gelato-coloured villages, fantastic food, crystal clear seas and bustling harbours – Italy’s famed Cinque Terre has it all. And this self-guided walking holiday with KE Adventure Travels will take you to its very heart.

Based in Corniglia, in the centre of this UNESCO-listed regions villages, you’ll walk the famous Cinque Terre coastal path, swim in the clear blue waters and explore the gorgeous villages of Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore.

A boat journey from Porto Venere to Monterosso reveals the villages from a rarely seen angle and each night a feast of local food and wine awaits. Perfecto!

Type: Tailor-made

When: Mar to Nov

How long: Seven days

How much: From £440 (exc. flights)

3. Discover the Ullswater Way

The pier near Pooley Bridge (Shutterstock)

One of the most breathtaking views in the Lake District await on this three-day stroll along the Ullswater Way with Ramblers Walking Holidays.

Only opened in 2016, the 20-mile Ullswater Way has quickly become a favourite with walkers looking to get away from it all. Starting and finishing at Pooley Bridge, you’ll enjoy panoramic views of the central and north lake and towards Scotland and Eden Valley.

With its calm and tranquil waters, Ullswater is the most reflective lakes in the Lake District, ensuring a vista guaranteed to soothe your soul.You’ll stay in the wonderful Hassness Country House, with all transport over the two days included.

Type: Small group

When: Apr & Oct

How long: Three nights

How much: From £325 (exc. flights)

4. Enjoy a long weekend in Istanbul

The interior of the Blue Mosque in Istanbul (Shutterstock)

Set on the mighty Bosphorus, with Europe on one side and Asia on the other, Istanbul really is a city where East meets West. Capital of the great Ottoman Empire, it is crammed with history, amazing architecture and an ancient souk, bursting with bargains.

On this four-day mini-break with Cox & Kings, you’ll get the chance to explore its ancient alleyways and modern restaurant and cafe scene at your leisure. Tick off Topkapi Palace.

Watch the light and sound show as the sun sets over the Blue Mosque. And enjoy a delicious seafood meal at a restaurant overlooking the bustling harbour.

Type: Tailor-made

When: Flexible departures throughout the year

How long: Four days

How much: From £325 (exc. flights)

5. Be mindful in Helsinki

Relaxing near the Allas Sea Pool in Helsinki (Shutterstock)

Looking to relax and recharge your batteries after a stressful few week at work? This four-day break in the chic Finnish capital, organised by Magnetic North Travel, is designed to do just that.

Start with a luxurious stay at the St George Design Hotel. Recently refurbished, the St George will nourish your mind and body, offering a superb Nordic-style spa, in-house bakery, and fine Finnish food.

The laid back charms of Helsinki will play their part, too, as you explore the city on a guided e-bike tour, discover its coastline and surrounding forests and spend a day at leisure either exploring Helsinki’s ocean-facing urban spas, or one of its many museums.

Type: Tailor-made

When: Flexible departures throughout the year

How long: Four days

How much: From £490 (exc. flights)

6. Cycle the Loire Valley

Chateau de Chambord in the Loire Valley (Shutterstock)

Discover the charms of one of France’s most beautiful regions on this eight-day, self-guided cycling holiday through the Loire Valley with BSpoke Tours.

Your base is Candes-Saint-Martin, a charming village that sits on the point of confluence of the Loire and Vienne rivers.

Following five different cycle routes and a couple of walking itineraries as well, you’ll discover all that the valley has to offer, from vineyards and medieval river ports, to stunning châteaus, including Château de Montsoreau, the setting of a famous Dumas novel.

Stylish self-catering accommodation, bikes for the duration of your stay, including panniers, water bottles and repair kits and support from a local representative are all included. There’s a welcome pack on arrival as well, including two bottles of the local wine!

Type: Tailor-made

When: Flexible departures

How long: Eight days

How much: From £500

7. Spend a long weekend in perfect Porto

Enjoying the good life in Porto (Shutterstock)

Spend four days in gorgeous Porto and still have change to bring home a bottle of its famous wine on this short break adventure with Evaneos.

The Portuguese capital is the perfect bite-sized break, a baroque gem with great food, terrific wine and a walkable charm.

After exploring the historic centre – recognised as an UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996 – you can explore the beautiful Douro River and valley, enjoy an incredible white wine tasting tour or catch the train to Guimarães for a beautiful day-trip!

Type: Tailor-made

When: Flexible departures throughout the year

How long: Four days

How much: From £480 (exc. flights)

8. Enjoy a sunny short break in Split

Sunny Split (Shutterstock)

Located at the heart of Croatia’s stunning Dalmatian Coast, Split is the perfect base for exploring the islands and history of this region, as well as for soaking up a bit of well-deserved sunshine.

On this four-day break with Cox & Kings, you’ll be based in the heart of the city, with the old town, Diocletian’s Palace and the palm-lined harbour right on your doorstep.

There’s plenty of history to discover, in addition to foodie discoveries: strong Croatian coffee and restaurants offering the freshest seafood. It’s also handy for exploring nearby attractions like the wooded island of Solta, the ancient Roman ruins of Solin and the many old fishing ports of the area.


Type: Tailor-made

When: Flexible departures throughout the year

How long: Four days

How much: From £460 (exc. flights)

9. Hike the Dingle Way in Ireland

Clougher Bay on the Dingle Peninsula (Shutterstock)

Prepare to fall in love with the Wild Atlantic Way in the west of Ireland as you hike along rural roads, coastal paths and mountain trails on this walking holiday with Evaneos.

Passing through Gaeltacht areas (Irish-speaking region), you’ll discover the best of authentic Irish culture, music and entertainment.

The town of Dingle, one of the main stops along The Dingle Way, was once named as ‘the most beautiful place on earth’. But to be honest, you’ll find plenty of places challenging for that title on the route. Accessible for all levels of fitness, this is a great way to spend an unforgettable nine days.

Type: Tailor-made

When: Flexible departures throughout the year

How long: Nine days

How much: From £440 (exc. flights)

We’ve found the tours. Now you go and find a cheap fare on Wanderlust’s exciting new Fare Finder. You’ll be surprised by the bargains you’ll find…

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Totally mired: The most beautiful bogs from around the world

1. Kemeri Bog, Latvia

Kemeri National Park Bog trail in Latvia (Shutterstock)

For a long time Latvians were wary of their bogs. Latvian folk stories are full of tales of naughty children who go missing in the swampy waters. And during the Second World War, the Germans lost many a tank – and quite a few men – to Latvia’s voracious mires.

Today, Latvians have embraced their bogs, appreciating their ethereal beauty and recognising their importance in the country’s ecosystem. They have created national parks around them and built walkways that allow visitors to venture deep into the mire, without causing mischief to themselves or the bogs.

One of the most beautiful and accessible is the bog trail in Kemeri National Park, just 44km west of Riga. The boardwalk here takes visitors to a world of moss, small pine trees, deep pools, tiny dark lakes, and the smell of wild rosemary. There are two walks available, both leading to a wooden observation tower that is perfect for watch the sun set over the ethereal landscape.

2. Cranberry Bog, Carlisle, Massachusetts, USA

Red cranberries in flooded bog during annual harvest (Shutterstock)

This extraordinary bog in Massachusetts is at once a ‘farm’ and a nature reserve. The Lowell Cranberry Company harvests the wild cranberries that grow here every autumn, and the local authorities maintain a nature reserve and trail for the rest of the year. Native Americans have harvested the wild cranberries here for hundreds of years.

The sight of the bright red berries floating on the bog is something to see.The area is also rich in birds and wildlife, with frequent signs of beaver, fox, muskrat, mink, and otters. Swallows, bobolinks, herons and spotted sandpipers are regular visitors, too.

3. Waen Rhydd Bog, Wales

A competitor swims at a Bog Snorkeling Championship (Shutterstock)

Every August Bank Holiday weekend, thousands of people descend upon Llanwrtyd Wells in mid Wales to compete in one of the most bizarre sporting contests on the planet – the World Bog Snorkelling Championships.

Now in its fourth decade, the unorthodox event attracts competitors from as far away as Australia.The competition takes place in a trench in Waen Rhydd, a mile outside of town, and sees elite bog snorkelers try to swim through 60m of muddy bog water as quickly as possible. English swimmer Kirsty Johnson set the world record time of one minute, 22 seconds back in 2014.

For the less athletic, there’s a Fancy Dress Section, where competitors are rewarded for the originality of their outfits rather than any bog snorkelling capabilities.

4. Cuvette Centrale, Democratic Republic of Congo

Wading through the Cuvette Centrale bog (Shutterstock)

Deep in the Congo Basin, at least a week’s trek from the nearest signs of civilisation, lies Cuvette Centrale. The size of England, it is the largest tropical peatland in the world, locking in 30 billion tonnes of carbon and creating a unique ecosystem where an abundance of flora and fauna thrive.

Straddling the area where the Congo River crosses the Equator, the bog is incredibly remote. This has been both a blessing and a curse. It means the area has been allowed to remain relatively undisturbed.

But at the same time, the remoteness has meant that the government hasn’t bothered to introduce any conservation measures – a real concern should this huge sink for the world’s carbon ever be disturbed.

5. Lahemaa Bog, Estonia

Bog swimming in Estonia (VisitEstonia.com)

Ancient and beguiling, Estonia’s bogs and mires are an integral part of the Estonian spirit. Making up over a fifth of the country, they are places of great beauty, especially in Autumn when they are transformed into a wonderland of misty mornings and rustic hues.

Estonia’s most famous bogs are Soomaa and Matsalu in the south and Lahemaa and Viru in the north. Lahemaa, is perhaps the easiest to reach, being just 70km east of Tallinn, and is a popular spot for bog walking, a squelchy activity that will see you donning snow-shoe-type footwear to walk across spongy bog.

There are boardwalks for the less adventurous. And the opportunity to go bog swimming for those who are feeling brave. Your reward? A fabulous complexion. Bog water is rich in organic compounds found to tighten and soften the skin.

6. Bjaeldskovdal Bog, Denmark

Landscape near Silkeborg. Bog bodies not shown (Shutterstock)

The preservation of bog bodies in peat bogs is a natural phenomenon, caused by the unique physical and biochemical composition of the bogs.

The Danish bogs are better at this than most, particularly those on the Jutland peninsula. Salt air blowing in from the North Sea encourages peat growth and gets the chemical mix for preserving a human body just right.

The most famous peat body is Tollund Man, found in the Bjaeldskovdal bog, six miles outside of the small town of Silkeborg. He is on display, chestnut coloured and leathery, in a glass case in the Silkeborg Museum – 2,300 years old and looking quite good for it.

Bjaeldskovdal bog itself, is little more than a spongy carpet of moss. There’s a few spindly trees and a wooden post marking where the Tollund Man was found. Stick to the clumps of ochre-coloured grass if you want to avoid being dug out in a couple of thousand years yourself!

7. Monadh Mor, Scotland

Looking toward Monadh Mor (Shutterstock)

Scotland is home to over one million hectares of bogland. As forests have come and gone over the millennia, the bogs have remained, wide open spaces that haven’t changed much since the Bronze Age.

Bogs have always been an integral part of Scottish life. The dye used in Scottish Tartan originates from bog plants and water from the bogs give Scotch whisky its distinctive peaty flavour. It is home to carnivorous plants that feast on the rich insect life and provides sanctuary to otters, badgers, pine martins and stoats.

Monadh Mor, just north of Inverness, is one of the best places in Scotland to see rare bog woodland. The four mile trail here will take you mature Scots pine and birch, to boggy wet hollows, where standing water forms into ponds and the trees are stunted and small, the moisture performing a kind of natural form of Bonsai.

More places of extraordinary natural beauty around the world: