One thing that I find really great about visiting Europe, even as a ‘European’ is that no matter where you go to, there are absolutely tons of brilliant day trips you can take when you are at your destination.
In this post I go into detail of my top three favourite day trips that I have taken in the past and why you should consider booking onto one of these if you are visiting any of these places!
#1 – Auschwitz and Birkenau Day Tour
On a half day tour from Krakow, Poland you can go and visit the Auschwitz and Birkenau concentration camp memorial sites that were used throughout the Nazi-German occupation of Poland during WW2 and see where over 1 million people from all over Europe we sent to be executed.
In the morning you are picked up and driven over to the site, which is about 90 minutes away from Krakow near a city called Oświęcim which is in the South-West area of Poland. Your english speaking guide who joins you from departure gives you a brief talk about some of the history of WW2 on your way to Auschwitz as well as some useful information about the does and don’ts of the site.
Once you arrive at the camp, your guide takes you around the grounds as well as inside some of the buildings that remain, where you can see some of the artefacts that have been recovered after the liberation of the camps. You are free to take photos throughout the tour except where otherwise stated (this is very clearly marked out and your guide will remind you too)
After leaving Auschwitz you are then driven over to Birkenau where the guide takes you around the grounds, you are given some free time over in the Birkenau camp to really take in the scale of the camp (which is significantly larger than Auschwitz) for yourself. After you have left Birkenau, you get back into the transport that you came over in and head back to Krakow.
Overall me and the group of friends that took part on this tour in March 2017 were really impressed with it and the public showing of such a sensitive area The conservation efforts that have gone into the site and the memorial are excellent, as were the guides. Considering the duration of the tour, the price of it made it very good value for money.
- Departing from: Krakow main square (hotel pickup also possible) – Krakow, Poland
- Duration: About 6 hours (including the 3 hour round-trip drive)
- Cost PP: 100PLN (around £20)
- More information: We actually booked this tour upon arrival into Krakow, we literally booked it from a ticket stand in the main Krakow centre, however if you were wanting to book it in advance then the closest thing I could find to what we did is this tour
#2 – Chernobyl exclusion zone and Pripyat day tour
On a day trip from Kiev, Ukraine you can step back in time and see the remains of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, as well as the soviet city of Pripyat. After the events that happened at the power plant in 1986 and the subsequent evacuation of the nearby city, now it is safe to go into the area for a brief period of time.
The morning of the tour, you need to meet at Kiev’s railway station around 7am, there is a bus stop where the bus you need to get on will be waiting. After a passport check and payment of the tour, you make your way up the exclusion zone. With a couple of security and photo stops along the way, the journey to the main plant takes about 4 hours.
Whilst on the bus up into the zone, the English speaking guide, goes into the history of the area and also some videos are played going into further detail of the events that happened.
After having dinner in the power plants canteen (its all safe to eat.. and was actually very good!) you get back onto the bus and head over to Pripyat. Once there you are given roughly an hour to loosely explore the area, under the visible supervision of your guide. Due to the state that the abandoned city is in, you are no longer allowed to head into any of the buildings as many of them are starting to fall down!
After returning to the bus, you have to proceed back through the security controls (to see that you are not carrying anything radioactive on you) then you board your bus back to Kiev, returning to Kiev around 10pm.
I travelled with another friend on this trip in April 2018 and we both absolutely loved the tour and the detail that it went into. It was quite a long day, however the guides that we had were fantastic from start to finish.
We were also very lucky to have done this tour before the Chernobyl TV series had come out and when it was a bit of a less common tour to do, I am under the impression that it has become very popular now as a result of the success of the show!
- Departing from: Kiev railway station – Kiev, Ukraine
- Duration: About 14 hours (including the 4 hour round-trip drive)
- Cost PP: $150 (a deposit is usually required prior to the day of the tour)
- More information: chernobyl-tour.com
#3 – Blue Lagoon and Golden Circle Day Tour
On a day trip from Reykjavik, Iceland you can experience that incredible Blue Lagoon thermal pools as well as see some of this countries absolutely amazing natural sites!
Departing around 7am and getting back into the city around 7pm, this tour has many stops on it and apart from the Blue Lagoon experience can seem quite fast paced. In winter, which was when I visited Iceland and took part in this tour there are very short days and you are very much having to race the daylight to see everything in the light, hence there is quite a strict schedule to stick to!
After getting picked up, you are taken to the Blue Lagoon where you can sit in the naturally heated pools and enjoy your surroundings! At the time of the year I visited, it was still dark and so you are sitting in these pools with the clear night sky above you.. a very surreal experience. The Blue Lagoon part of this tour you just do yourself and there is not really a guide or anyone to tell you what to do, you just need to know what time to be back at the bus by!
After the Blue Lagoon you head back to the bus station and meet your tour guide and then head straight up to Þingvellir, this area is famous in Iceland for where the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates meet and are pulling apart! You then head up one of the more heated areas in the country and where you can see a geyser erupting every couple of minutes, spewing boiling water high into the air! Finally the last stop of the trip is Gullfoss, a huge waterfall that freezes over in December! After seeing all the sites, you are then taken back to the city centre!
I took part in this day trip when I travelled up to Reykjavik on my own over the Christmas period in 2017 and was very impressed with Grayline as a company as well as the tour guide, who was an older Icelandic local who worked for Grayline. The guide was absolutely superb and was able to tell you so much about the tour route, as well as his home country of Iceland!
- Departing from: Reykjavik city centre (hotel pickup possible) – Reykjavik, Iceland.
- Duration: Around 11 hours (including all driving time)
- Cost PP: €174
- More information: Grayline.is
All 3 of the above tours I highly recommend, some show some of the most important events that have happened in Europe throughout the past century, other show some of the incredible sites this continent have to offer!
Have you been on any of these tours? If so let me know in the comments below!