Christmas and the New Year holidays are largely done and dusted, and this week much of Europe has returned slowly to work. For us, it is the cue for some travels. And, for those in the know, the period from about January 10 to mid-March is one of the best times of the year for exploring many parts of coastal Europe.
Beat those Winter Blues
Those few leisure travelers who are out-and-about are heading in the main for Europe’s winter sports regions. Buck that trend and you will have much of Europe to yourself.
We traveled last week along Denmark’s windy North Sea coast, enjoying empty roads and clear blue skies. This past weekend we rode by train through northern Germany: ten trains in all, and never more than a handful of people aboard. Spread out, and enjoy the space on trains which would be crowded in mid-summer.
Low season rates and heavy discounting by hoteliers still don’t woo the crowds. So travel is cheap. Bleak weather is still interesting. And there is a peculiar charm to many off-season coastal resorts. Expect dramatic skyscapes and wild seas. Go dressed for the worst.
Five of the Best
Here are a handful of our top coastal choices for January travel:
Gozo: Malta’s kid sister is at her best in the depths of winter. Catch it when the fierce grigal winds blow in and you’ll see a moody Gozo far removed from the sedate Mediterranean island featured in guidebooks.
Connemara and Galway: Western Ireland can be formidably crowded in summer, yet even popular spots like Clifden offer space to breathe in deepest winter. Watch and feel Atlantic waves and winds roll in off the ocean.
Istria: This little pocket of territory near the head of the Adriatic, where the Latin and Slavic worlds collide, is the perfect antidote to winter blues. Piran (Slovenia) is our favorite winter hideaway on the Istrian coast.
The North Frisian Islands: It just happens that’s where we are staying all this week. The chic set who celebrated New Year here has gone and everyday life has returned to this happy scatter of Danish and German islands in the eastern North Sea. Off-season in the region is hard to beat, whether you opt for the islands of Sylt, Amrun and Föhr (all on the German side of the border) or head further north to the Danish islands.
Galicia: The north-west corner of Spain teems with summer visitors, yet is deserted in January. The seafood is as good as ever and if you drive out to the headland at Cape Finisterre on a stormy day you really will have a sense of having reached the end of the earth.