Top 10 Eastern European getaways

For years Eastern Europe was the undiscovered half of the continent - but things have changed. The diverse highlights of Eastern Europe are now drawing travellers by the trainload. Here are our top 10 Eastern European getaways.

1. Julian Alps, Slovenia

The Julian Alps form Slovenia's dramatic northwest frontier with Italy. Triglav National Park includes almost all of the Alps lying within Slovenia and its centrepiece is Mt Triglav. Our favorite spot within the park? The incredibly scenic Vršič Pass.

2. Sarajevo, Bosnia & Hercegovina

Image by borntosnore

In the 1990s Sarajevo was on the edge of annihilation. Today it's a cosy, vibrant capital whose humanity, cafe scene and East-meets-West ambience make it a favourite European summer destination. (Also handy for good-value skiing in winter.)

3. Mljet Island, Croatia

Of all the Adriatic islands, Mljet (Meleda in Italian) may be the most seductive. Over 72% of the island is covered by forests and the rest is dotted by fields, vineyards and small villages. Take the ferry from Dubrovnik and stay a few days of hiking, cycling and boating.

4. Orheiul Vechi, Moldova

The Orheiul Vechi Monastery Complex, carved into a massive limestone cliff in this wild, rocky, remote spot is unquestionably Moldova's most fantastic sight. The Cave Monastery was dug by Orthodox monks in the 13th century.

5. Tallinn, Estonia

Image by david__jones

Today's Tallinn fuses the medieval and the cutting edge – an intoxicating mix of ancient church spires, shiny skyscrapers, cosy wine cellars, sun-filled town squares, bike paths to beaches and forests – and a few Soviet throwbacks for added spice.

6. Loket, Czech Republic

Nestled in a bend of the Ohře River, Loket is a gorgeous place with a chocolate-box-style town square. Most people visit Loket as a day trip from Karlovy Vary, but it's also a relaxing place to ease off the travel accelerator for a few days.

7. Toruń, Poland

The first thing to strike you about Toruń, south of Gdańsk, is its massive red-brick churches, looking more like fortresses than places of worship. The city is defined by its striking Gothic architecture, which gives its Old Town a distinctive appearance and its promotional slogan: gotyk na dotyk ('Touch Gothic').

8. Ždiar, Slovakia

Decorated timber cottages line long and narrow Ždiar, the only mountain settlement inhabited since the 16th century. Several sections of the village are historical reservations, including the Ždiar House Museum, a tiny place with colorful local costumes and furnishings.

9. Rīga, Latvia

Image by Adrián Pérez

Riga has the largest and most impressive showing of art nouveau architecture in Europe - gargoyles and goddesses adorn over 750 buildings along the stately boulevards - while the Old Town is a fairy-tale kingdom of winding wobbly lanes and gingerbread trim that beats to the sound of a pumping discotheque.

10. Minsk, Belarus

Minsk will almost certainly surprise you. Here fashionable cafes, wi-fi–enabled restaurants, crowded bars and art galleries vie for your attention. There are relatively few traditional sights in the city but myriad places of interest for anyone fascinated by the Soviet period.