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Advice for country to visit

Hi all,
This forum and the posters are fabulous and I’m hoping to get a few good ideas again.
1. Would need to travel between Christmas and New Years week
2. Prefer beautiful scenery to shopping,entertainment, clubs
3. Train travel only- no car rental
4. Safe for young women

Thanks for any ideas

Posted by
3661 posts

This year? Next year? Any year or just in general?

Solo or with other young women? How young?

These questions may seem silly, but all are relevant to getting the most useful answers.

Posted by
826 posts

What do you consider beautiful scenery? Mountains, beaches, lakes?

If budget is not an issue, I would head to Switzerland and spend a week in Murren or Wengen. But mountains are my happy place.

Posted by
5483 posts

In addition to the other questions - what kind of weather are you seeking? I hate cold and snow, so Switzerland would be a no for me - or anywhere else at significant altitude.

Do you want to stay in rural places or just pass through them on a train? In many rural parts, a car is the best way to get around. Also, public transport may be limited during the festive season. It’s dark by 4pm in northern Europe. It’s also likely to be wet and cool/cold.

How many nights do you have actually on the ground in Europe?

If the trip is for this year, most of the decent accommodation will have been booked months ago, so you may find that what is left blows your budget.

Depending on how long your trip is, I would suggest Lisbon in Portugal with day trips by train to Evora, Cascais and Sintra or the coast. Alternatives - Seville in Spain with day trips to Cadiz and Jerez by trainir York in England with a day trip to Durham to see the cathedral.

Posted by
75 posts

This year- week between Christmas and New Years
2 young women
Cold climate is okay
Mountains preferable- no skiing though

A free week vacation just popped up and they are anxious to get out after COVID. Realize it is incredibly short timing for a big trip - but youth, you know? I once planned/took a trip and left the day after finding points available for a flight and left the day after, no hotel reservations, just asked taxi driver to take us to nice part of London for stay! Ha, can't do that anymore!

Portugal and Switzerland both good ideas. Flights are crazy $$ to Switzerland that week.

Y'all are always so gracious to reply- many thanks!

Posted by
180 posts

I think Prague is a beautiful city with lots to do that could easily fill a week or you could pair it with a trip to Vienna and/or Bratislava. Slovenia also has some beautiful scenery, Ljubljana, Lake Bled, and Lake Bohinj are all good locations to look into.

Posted by
27476 posts

are they flying domestically within Europe, or transatlantic?

Posted by
27476 posts

Cairngorms for hiking - check weather very much first -, and Edinburgh for Hogmanay?

Remember UK public transport non existent on Christmas Day, winds down early on Christmas Eve, spotty on Boxing Day, interesting in Scotland on and around Hogmanay...

Posted by
75 posts

Hi Nigel!
You've helped us plan trips before! Thank you!!! Love your beautiful country!
Flying from Atlanta. Will look into the area mentioned.

Posted by
2517 posts

This year- week between Christmas and New Years
2 young women
Cold climate is okay
Mountains preferable- no skiing though

I think that Spain might fit your bill! In Spain our holiday season extends into January, with the main celebration being Dia de los Reyes Magos (three kings day) on January 6th. So our holiday festivities extends past Christmas day and through New Years.

Also, be sure not to miss our Christmas markets in Spain! Our Christmas market tradition is a little know part of our culture (It's not just the Germans lol). Since we mainly celebrate the Three Kings Day (Jan 6), you will find most of our Christmas Markets are still up into early Jan.

You could stay in the Basque Country, in northern Spain, with a few days in San Sebastian and Bilbao for example. With easy day trips into the western Pyrenees mountains. Alternatively you could spend the week in Barcelona, also very festive this time of year, and take the local train up into the Pyrenees Mountains to visit the Vall de Núria sanctuary.

Posted by
198 posts

I'm hoping to go to Spain during Christmas week ... fly into Madrid then trains to the golden triangle of Cordoba / Granada / Seville (with NYE at the Plaza Nueva in Seville which, from what I've read, is more my speed now (slow) compared to my youth growing up in NYC and Times Square at midnight) ... back to Madrid then home ... here's a few other ideas:

1) Bavaria ... and there may be a few Christmas markets still open (Nuremberg? ... Munich?) ... easy train to Salzburg also
2) Rome and it's surrounding areas ... not as cold as Germany and no snow (I think)
3) A trip I did 5 years ago ... fly into Zurich, Bernina Express through Switzerland into Tirano (with a stop for lunch at St. Moritz), then train to Bellagio on Lake Como, then on to Milan (NYE at the Duomo) before home ... or you could continue to Florence and/or Rome

Keep us posted on what you decide ... have fun!

Posted by
75 posts

Ooh DQ. and fastEddie - I love the idea of Switzerland. Now just need to find flights that don't bust the budget! One of them has traveled to Switzerland before and was enchanted with Lake Lucerne. Guess that would be frozen in late December and no boat rides though? That was an incredible experience and then the gondola to the top of Pilatus - amazing!

I'm playing travel agent for my dear daughters.

Posted by
959 posts

My go-to is always the train route(s) between Munich and Verona or even on to Venice. You can easily explore Bavaria, the Austrian Tyrol including Innsbruck, the Italian Tyrol with Bolzano and neighboring towns, the Dolomites - San Candido, down to Verona and over to Venice. Plenty of scope to spend a week and all via train. Some of the Tyrolean Christmas markets run beyond December 25. Since I am not travelling this year, I have not researched the dates, but I believe San Candido/Innichen market is open after Christmas. If choosing not to go down to Verona, a route can be taken that winds back up to Salzburg and back to Munich to fly home. Given a week, I would narrow the places to stay to perhaps two/three.

PS, I also think a scenic Swiss train ride sounds attractive.

Posted by
1117 posts

Keep in mind that the week between Christmas and New Year is a very popular week to travel for Europeans too, so hotels might get expensive, trains might be crowded, stores will be closed for the holidays.

Make sure that your daughters read the fine print on all train schedules. There are usually tons of exceptions from the general schedule for the Christmas Days. If they are lucky, trains may simply operate on the Sunday schedule, but some trains may not run at all, or on a special schedule. Be aware that in several countries the 26th of December is also considered a holiday, and so is New Year's Day.

I'm playing travel agent for my dear daughters.

Just curious...

  1. Prefer beautiful scenery to shopping,entertainment, clubs

... is that their wish or yours? ;-)

Posted by
5507 posts

Mountains / scenery / efficient trains / safe

They belong in Switzerland, Germany, or Austria...

Switzerland only if their trust funds are suddenly available.

Scroll down on this map of Bavarian railways to the bottom. Find "A" towns on the far right; "B" towns cluster at the bottom, just lest of center.

A. Salzburg / Berchtesgaden / Burghausen / Passau

B. Garmisch-Partenkirchen / the Zugspitze / Mittenwald / Innsbruck / Oberammergau

They'd have time to spend a few days in each of these two areas.

Posted by
3661 posts

I looked through the responses, but found no mention of the ages of the daughters. As you are doing the planning, be sure to check for any rules on the minimum ages to do some things, like check into a hotel or even fly or be admitted to a country.

I was surprised to learn recently about issues around traveling under the age of 18 (https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/general-europe/traveling-in-europe-as-a-17-year-old). I also was surprised to see a hotel saying that 25(!) was the minimum for checking in.

Of course I'm sure you're checking on the Covid rules for where they might go. If they aren't fully vaccinated, that could be deal breaker for some locations. A number of countries have been mentioned here and this forum discussion gives an illustration as to how there is no consistency among them: https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/trip-reports/so-many-inconsistencies-travel-in-the-time-of-covid

Apparently there will be lots of paperwork. My observation is that the discussions about traveling now with Covid requirements are scattered, so you might need to use the search option to gather it for specific countries. But, going to the Covid forum would also be helpful:
https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/covid19

Good luck with the planning. Last minute trips are always complicated, but they're even more so these days.

Posted by
1117 posts

Good point, yes, if they are minors, or if one of them is, there may be a lot of paperwork and legal stuff involved regarding the country they will be traveling to and the airline(s) they will be using. Even single parents traveling with their children have to produce paperwork to prove that they are not abducting their own child from the other parent; airlines have become quite picky about that. I doubt that an older sister will pass as a legal guardian...

Posted by
75 posts

@ Anna - Yes, they do prefer beautiful scenery - their words, not mine (but glad all the same:))
@ Russ - no trust funds here - just hard working young women in their late 20s (a structural engineer and a sales exec.) - their dime all the way
Excellent points on European holiday closings/bus schedules/COVID travel
Thank you all so very much!!!

(a mom with too much time on her hands who loves travel too :))

Posted by
14788 posts

Lots of great ideas. Here's another thought. . . . You're going when days are at their shortest. Scenery is fine, but remember that you're going to have long long evenings and if most of what you have is scenery, those evenings are going to be really really long.
The farther south you are, the more daylight you'll have. Also consider that if the weather's a little foggy or cloudy, that scenery may not be visible.

Consider southern Spain (Seville, Granada) or Italy or the French Riviera. All are more likely to have better weather, and pleasant scenery, even if it's not breath-taking. And a lot more to do in the evenings.

Posted by
1117 posts

That's an excellent point, yes. Unless you choose to make that an asset and go way up to northern Scandinavia to experience scenery and aurora borealis.