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Destinations - Europe

Europe is a classic backpacking destination and rite of passage for many students. There's loads to see in a small area, public transport is good and there's little in the way of culture shock for visitors from other Western countries.

In some ways Europe has too much to offer - there are more historical cities, castles, churches and museums than you could possibly visit in several years of travelling. Picking an itinery of the continent is pretty challenging, although there are some favourite places that shouldn't be missed.

The great cities - London, Paris, Rome, Florence, Venice, Vienna, Prague and Budapest - are a good place to start. These all have world class museums, architectural treasures and vibrant night life. They also have very good transport links to the rest of the country so you are likely to have to travel through them even if you don't plan to stay long.

Next on your list might be the smaller cities and towns that have much to offer. Cities such as Salzburg in Austria, Pisa in Italy, or Bath in the UK have historic centres to rival anywhere - and there are many more to explore across the continent.

You won't want to restrict yourself to just cities and towns - after a few weeks around the historic centres you'll want a break in the open air. Although harder to get to with public transport, there are many beaches that will allow you some relaxing time. Some of these are overdeveloped package holiday destinations and best avoided, but others offer the perfect mix of sun sea and sand. Croatia's beaches come without the sand - but the clear water more than makes up for it and the west coast setting leads to stunning sunsets. France too has its share of sandy beaches, from the wild, surf friendly Atlantic to the calmer but busier Mediterranean resorts.

Finally the National Parks across Europe are worth exploring. High mountains, waterfalls and glaciers span Switzerland and Austria, while further afield, the Tatra mountains of Slovakia and Poland offer dramatic locations for hiking. The waterfalls and lakes of Croatia's Krka and Plitvice Lakes National Parks are truly stunning, while the Donana of southern Spain and France's Camargue offer areas of unspoilt nature.

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