To fuel your desire to explore this massive continent, we hand picked Spring Break Destinations in Europe! Five gorgeous destinations!
Whisper it, but Interrailing is back! For many people, riding the rails of Europe on a single Interrail ticket has long been the best way to explore the continent. Covering 33 countries with a specified number of ‘rail days’ you can travel on within a one or two month period, Interrail has long been beloved of the traveller crowd, and we fuel your desire to explore this massive continent with five of spring break destinations in Europe’s most scenic rail routes.
COVID-19 has of course put a lot of travel plans on hold. Interrail was all but suspended while the normally open European borders were thrown up again and individual countries imposed their own travel restrictions. Years before the pandemic hit us all hard, I wrote a piece why working felt good instead of traveling around Europe. Looking at this guide and now living indefinitely in Munich, I must say that I must do this myself.
But things got started again in summer 2021 when EU countries agreed to let their citizens move around freely within the bloc once more. That means Interrail tickets are very much available. And although if you’re from outside the EU you will have to be careful of individual country’s entry rules (Germany, for example, still requires visitors from ‘high risk’ countries including the UK to quarantine on arrival), there is no reason not to start making plans for 2022.
If you’ve never been Interrailing before, don’t believe the stereotypes about it being just for students and backpackers – it’s a fantastic way to see more of Europe than you have perhaps ever seen in an affordable, straightforward way. Just buy your ticket and start looking up the places you want to visit!
Another big attraction is that travelling by rail lets you see some stunning scenery – you get much more up close and personal than you do travelling by road, and it’s much more comfortable, too. Here are five of Europe’s most beautiful rail routes to give you ideas to kickstart your route planning.
Norway is famous as a land of breathtaking landscapes and has several rail lines traversing it that could justifiably lay claim to being among Europe’s most beautiful. But by common consensus, the Bergen to Oslo route – which happen to be Norway’s two biggest cities – is the best of them all. The stretch between Bergen and Honefoss, which takes in the Hallingskarvet National Park, is particularly celebrated, weaving its way through dramatic mountains and majestic fjords. You can also jump off at Myrdal and take the 20km branch up an impossibly picturesque valley to Flam- it might only be 20km long, but that doesn’t stop people claiming it is the world’s most beautiful railway line!
The highest railway in the Alps, the Bernina Express connects St Moritz in Switzerland with Tirano just over the border in Italy, via the Bernina pass. Negotiating no fewer than 55 tunnels and 196 bridges, a trip on the Bernina Express lets you experience a true miracle of railway engineering as well as some of the most dramatic Alpine scenery you could ever hope for. If you wanted to extend the adventure travelling from Tirano, on arriving in St Moritz you could then take the Glacier Express to Zermatt, another incredible feat of engineering that traverses the Matterhorn glacier.
Talking of miracles of railway engineering, they don’t come much more spectacular than this. The 296-mile line from Bar in Montenegro to the Serbian capital Belgrade cuts straight through the Dinaric Alps, some of the most rugged and impenetrable mountains in Europe. If you decide to do the full route of the Montenegro Express, you will take in an unbelievable 254 tunnels and 435 bridges, not to mention the breathtaking views – a truly epic journey.
Famous as one of the great rivers of Western Europe, the Rhine carves a gorgeous valley through the rolling hills of west Germany and along its borders with France and Switzerland. The Mittelrheinbahn, or Central Rhine Railway, weaves its way through arguably the most attractive stretch between Mainz and Koblenz, a fairytale landscape of cliff-top castles, vineyards and thick forest. From Koblenz, you can carry on along the West Rhine line – with some no less attractive stretches – on to the historic cities of Bonn and Cologne.
Finally, a change of scenery out of the dramatic mountain (and valley) routes included so far. The train from Rome to Palermo, capital of the island of Sicily, is notable for two reasons. Firstly, it hugs closely to the Tyrrhenian coast all the way down Italy’s western flank, taking in the famously beautiful Amalfi coast, the Bay of Naples, Mount Vesuvius, and the charming Calabrian countryside further south. For much of the journey, you are sandwiched between cobalt sea and golden sands on the one side, and verdant green hills on the other – like taking a train through paradise. That’s why we included it as one of our spring break destinations in Europe!
Then, as you reach Villa San Giovanni right in the ‘toe’ at the bottom of Italy, you are in for a unique experience – your train gets rolled onto a train ferry to cross the Straits of Messina before hitting the rails again once the boat arrives in Sicily! One of the few places in the world where a train ferry still runs, it is an experience definitely not to be missed.
While Interrail is one of the most cost effective ways you can explore large stretches of continental Europe in a single trip, a ticket will still set you back a couple of hundred pounds per person minimum for four or five travel days. In the current climate, you just don’t know what will happen a few months down the line when you might want to travel, or when a last minute COVID test might scupper your plans. It pays to cover yourself – if you do plan an Interrail trip next year, make sure you take out European travel insurance.
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