Guests can take boats onto Lake Bled in Slovenia, an emerging European destination for 2016. // © 2015 Intrepid Travel
Feature image (above): Tour operators report that clients are looking for new experiences in Europe. // © 2015 Intrepid Travel
As 2015 rapidly draws to a close, travelers are already busy booking their tickets for their European vacations in 2016. And with the dollar remaining strong against the euro, Europe continues to be in season. So where exactly are Americans going? We chatted with several tour operators, who gave us the scoop on which European countries will be stamping the most U.S. passports next year.
One of the new contenders for 2016 is Slovenia, a country that embodies what travelers picture when they think of Europe: food, mountains, architecture and culture. Slovenia sits on the Adriatic Sea near Croatia, making it a great destination for water experiences, as well. For foodies, Slovenia should be at the top of the list, as it offers local delicacies including olives, asparagus fritaja and more. The forests are also famous for truffle hunting. To burn off the food, adventure travelers can explore the foothills and trails of Mt. Vogel, or mountain bike through Triglav National Park. The Sava Dolinka River is prime for whitewater rafting, as well.
Intrepid Travel is betting on Slovenia, as well as Macedonia and Montenegro, to become more requested in 2016.
“What we’re seeing in Europe is a larger demand for more off-the-beaten path experiences,” said Leigh Barnes, vice president of North America for Intrepid Travel. “We are not only seeing new destinations emerging, but also new ways to experience the long-standing favorites. Cruising and sailing are becoming increasingly popular styles of travel, as well as more active offerings such as hiking, mountain biking and rafting.”
The Baltics are also looking popular for 2016. Tauck has unveiled its portfolio of European journeys for next year, a collection of 35 tour itineraries, including a new one through Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Finland. The itinerary starts with a two-night stay in Vilnius, Lithuania. The eight-day itinerary continues on to Riga, Latvia, and Tallinn, Estonia, and wraps in Helsinki.
Vanessa Parrish, channel marketing manager for the Globus Family of Brands, reports that Central Europe is rising in the ranks as a popular destination.
“Year after year, Italy continues to shine as our No. 1 destination,” Parrish said. “Britain and Ireland are next in line, with France, Germany, Austria and Switzerland following.”
Most agree: Now is the perfect opportunity to travel abroad.
“The dollar is stronger than it’s been in years,” Parrish said. “Everything from airfare and a prosecco tasting in the Italian countryside to a romantic dinner out in Paris and a pint of beer in an Irish pub is less expensive for Americans. You’ll see a noticeable drop in our tour prices, along with some great promotions going on now for early 2016 bookings.”