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Secret Europe: Discover its Best Hidden Places this Summer

From Mysterious Macedonia to Croatia’s Dalmatian Islands to Intriguing Iceland

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Ohrid, Macedonia

EXPLORE MYSTERIOUS MACEDONIA

Calling all adventurers. On this eight-day guided itinerary from Austin Adventures, go hiking, horseback riding, kayaking, and caving in Macedonia, a landlocked Balkan nation that was previously part of Yugoslavia. A crossroads between East and West, the country is a fascinating mélange of civilizations evident in its traditions, cuisine, customs, and languages. The towering mountains that encircle the country have helped preserve a rich cultural heritage in art, architecture, and music — with both Ottoman and European influences — as well as a unique collection of flora and fauna. You’ll visit 13th century mosques, cave churches, and monasteries; underground rivers and waterfalls; and sprawling green highlands and iridescent lakes. And you’ll sample traditional food (sheep cheese polenta, anyone?) and local wines. Go now, before the country muscles its way onto center stage.

For more information and reservations, visit austinadventures.com or call 800-575-1540.

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Croatia

BIKE CROATIA’S DALMATIAN ISLANDS

Bol. Jelsa. Split. No, they’re not crossword puzzle clues, but rather gorgeous Croatian towns dotting the country’s Dalmatian Coast and its islands, which await discovery on a 10-day tour with VBT. This guided cycling trip focuses on two of those Adriatic islands — Brac and Hvar, the latter called one of the world’s 10 most beautiful islands by Condé Nast Traveler.

As you explore medieval villages and fishing towns, never far from the sparkling Adriatic Sea, experience the local culture first-hand: visit one of the few stone-cutting schools left in the world, meet local residents during two home-hosted dinners, and learn secrets of Croatian cuisine during a cooking demonstration. There’s also plenty of opportunity for seaside swimming in those crystalline waters. Ahh!

For more information and reservations, visit vbt.com or call 800-245-3868.

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Slovenia

SEE SLOVENIA ON FOOT

Slovenia. The name rolls off the tongue like a romantic incantation. Called by some the prettiest little country in Europe, Slovenia — formerly part of Yugoslavia —boasts scenery that begs to be painted: snow-tipped Alpine mountains, storybook villages, shimmering lakes, dense forests, and Old World architecture. On this seven-day guided walking trip with Country Walkers — Slovenia: Julian Alps to the Adriatic — you’ll take in all this and more as you hike the scenic Soca Trail connecting country villages with family farms, cruise Lake Bled on a traditional pletna boat, and visit Velika Planina, one of Europe’s few remaining shepherd settlements. When you tire of so much scenic beauty (not likely!), stop to sample innovative Slovene cuisine and excellent local wines aged in ancient earthenware vessels buried underground. And revel in your good fortune at exploring this hidden corner of Europe.

For more information and reservations, visit countrywalkers.com or call 800-234-6900.

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Iceland

CIRCUMNAVIGATE ICELAND ON A YACHT-LIKE CRUISE

Remote fjords. Rushing waterfalls. Massive glaciers. And steaming hot springs. Iceland’s dramatic volcanic landscape is unlike any other on earth. During a weeklong circumnavigation of this Nordic island nation with Windstar Cruises, explore its otherworldly beauty by luxury yacht. Check off experiences worthy of a bucket list: Soak in the world-famous Blue Lagoon, luxuriating in water that’s 98°-104°F. Sail past Surtsey Island, the youngest place on earth, created by an eruption in 1963. Take a polar flight to Grimsey Island and stand half in, half out of the Arctic Circle. And visit small fishing villages and the lively capital, Reykjavik, where you’ll meet hardy independent-minded Icelanders, descendants of Viking settlers. At day’s end, enjoy personalized pampering aboard an intimate luxury yacht with fewer than 300 passengers.

Remote fjords. Rushing waterfalls. Massive glaciers. And steaming hot springs. Iceland’s dramatic volcanic landscape is unlike any other on earth.

On every sailing in Europe, Windstar offers one of 23 exclusive and elaborate Private Events ashore as a complimentary cruise element. It gives guests the opportunity to experience a unique cultural tradition. For example, in Iceland they visit Seyðisfjörður, a gorgeous fjord and scenic town of about 700, where they enjoy a concert and traditional ring dance. And new in Northern Europe on the 11-day Lands of the Midnight Sun itinerary is “Molde: The Magnificent Caves of Bergtatt Private Event” in Norway. Guests take a boat deep into the glistening marble caves, traversing an underground lake by barge. Afterwards, they sample traditional Norwegian fare and are entertained by local singers and dancers.

For more information and reservations, visit windstarcruises.com or call 800-258-7245.

For more travel experiences available from Xanterra Parks & Resorts and its affiliated properties, visit xanterra.com/explore.