On March 2, a seemingly dormant visa war reignited when the European Parliament called for an end to visa-free travel for Americans. Luckily, the European Commission has announced this month that it will not reinstate visa requirements for U.S. travelers – yet.
Wondering where is this all coming from? U.S. citizens can currently travel to all E.U. countries without a visa, yet citizens of five E.U. countries – Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Poland, and Romania – don’t enjoy the same freedom in America. The Commission is hoping to work with the American government in the coming months to reach an agreement for full visa reciprocity.
Meanwhile, travelers across the globe are questioning why these five countries are causing such an uproar in the first place. And while Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Poland, and Romania might not be on everyone’s bucket list just yet, they certainly should be. Check out some reasons why each country involved in the visa war is worth a visit.
6 Reasons to Travel to Bulgaria
1. The history
Bulgarian civilization dates back to the 7th century. In fact, Plovdiv is one of the oldest cities in Europe.
2. The sites
UNESCO sites are waiting along the twists and turns of Bulgaria’s beautiful hiking trails. You won’t want to miss the Rila Monastery. Thanks to some seriously thick stone walls, it’s survived for more than a millennium.
3. The food
So. Much. Feta. And kufteh meat patties. And mekitsa, which is basically a more delicious version of funnel cake. A mixture of Slavic, Greek, and oriental influence has done wonders for Bulgaria’s food scene.
4. The dancing
Don’t get us wrong, Bulgaria has plenty of that famous Eastern European nightlife; however, the best dancing happens around the dinner table. In traditional Bulgarian restaurants, folk dancing can get almost any visitor out of their seat. Bonus points if you kick up your heels in traditional garb!
5. The mineral baths
A high density of thermal springs, like the Chifte Bath in Kyustendil, has made Bulgaria a popular wellness destination. These bathhouses are a great place to unwind after all the eating, dancing, and hiking.
6. The price
Not only are there plenty of affordable flights to Bulgaria, it’s also cheap once you’re there. A 3-course dinner for two only costs around $40 and 3-star hotels have rooms for less than $60 a night, so even backpackers can enjoy a bit of luxury.
Also, many of the country’s top tourist spots, like the St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, are free to enter.
9 Reasons to Travel to Croatia
1. The yacht life
In addition to the cultural and music festivals, like Hideout, Ultra, and Fresh Island, Croatia is also the birthplace of Yacht Week, a weeklong festival of sailing, sunbathing, and partying popular among wealthy almost-adults.
2. The weather
A Mediterranean climate means mild winters and summers made for sunbathing, but Croatia’s weather takes it a step further: 2,600 average hours of sunshine per year makes it one of Europe’s sunniest destinations.
3. The snorkeling
Croatia’s seas are not just for yachting. Its beautiful beaches and islands are also great for snorkeling. Visitors can even snorkel among a World War II shipwreck in Zavratnica Bay, near the port of Jablanac.
4. The romance
Croatia’s stunning sunsets, seaside cafes, and medieval walls are the perfect backdrop for a romantic getaway. Old Town in Dubrovnik is the perfect place to start.
5. The natural beauty
In addition to 1,200 pebble-beached islands, Croatia is home to eight national parks, including the UNESCO-listed Plitvice Lakes, which is famous for its stunning waterfalls.
6. The ruins
The Romans ruled Croatia for more than five centuries and left plenty of ruins behind to show for it. If you make it to Split, be sure to check out the remains of Diocletian’s Palace, made from the same material as the White House.
7. The truffles
Croatia’s restaurants are bursting with fresh, locally-sourced olive oil and truffles. Local restaurants often serve homemade pasta like pljukanci or fuži with ingredients grown within walking distance. It doesn’t get more farm-to-table than that!
8. The vineyards
9. The price
5 Reasons to Travel to Cyprus
1. The history
Visitors to Paphos will get a sense of living history thanks to archeological sites like the Tombs of the Kings, which dates back to the second century A.D.
Paphos is so significant that it was chosen as a 2017 European Capital of Culture, which means it highlights cultural richness and celebrates cultural diversity. As you explore, look out for Neolithic dwellings, Venetian walls, Roman mosaics, Byzantine castles, and Islamic mosques.
2. The mythology
Cyprus is known as the birthplace of Aphrodite, the Greek Goddess of love, which made its shores a pilgrimage destination for the entire Hellenic world. It’s said that if you swim around the rock three times, you’ll find true love.
The Mosaics at the Houses of Avion, Theseus, and Dionysus also have mythological significance. They depict the stories of Crete and Theseus killing the minotaur.
3. The cheese
Cypriots eat meze, a feast of small dishes that usually includes hummus, grilled sausage, and their culinary signature: halloumi. Picture a fusion of Turkish, Greek, and Middle Eastern cuisine, then add more cheese.
4. The crystal clear waters
Cyprus is full of wonderful beaches and resorts. Make the Blue Lagoon in Latchi a priority if you like clear blue waters, golden sand, and scalable sea caves.
5. The quaint villages
The city of Paphos is undoubtedly phenomenal, but the smaller towns and villages dotted throughout Cyprus are worth a visit too. The maze of cobblestone streets in Omodos are great for people watching, coffee drinking, and fresh bread eating.
7 Reasons to Travel to Poland
1. The World War II significance
Poland is full of World War II remnants like Schindler’s Factory, Wolf’s Lair military fortress, and the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp museum. You know what they say about those who don’t learn from history: they’re doomed to repeat it.
2. The pierogis
If you visit Poland, prepare to have a new vice. Stuffed with meat, potatoes, veggies, and other fillings, these pockets of deliciousness are best paired with the country’s equally famous Sauerkraut cabbage and sour cream.
3. The markets
Medieval open-air marketplaces, like the Rynek in Kraków, are filled with shops, bars, restaurants, and…doorknobs? Think of them as a shopping mall plus supermarket full of everything you might need – and some novelties you don’t.
4. The architecture
Polish architecture features structures in every state, from foundation-only ruins to exceptionally preserved Gothic masterpieces, like the Wawel Cathedral, where many of the country’s monarchs and luminaries have been celebrated and buried over the years.
5. The slopes
The Tatra Mountains offer world-class skiing and snowboarding without the hefty cost or crazy crowds you’ll get in Switzerland, Italy, or France.
6. The salt mines
The Wieliczka salt mines in Southern Poland are a big tourist attraction. Once you experience the underground corridors, lakes, chambers, and chapel, you’ll understand why.
7. The price
7 Reasons to Travel to Romania
1. The countryside
From 9,000-foot mountain peeks to the Black Sea shores, Romania is full of diverse scenery. Drive through the high altitudes, deep ravines, and wild twists of the Transalpina and Transfagarasan highways for a healthy dose of danger.
2. The castles
Romania is home to three of Europe’s top 25 castles: the stylish Peles Castle in the Carpathian Mountains, the supposedly haunted Hunedoara Castle, and Bran Castle, which was originally built in 1212 and looks eerily similar to Bram Stoker’s description of Dracula’s castle.
3. The connection
Even though it’s only the world’s 81st largest country, Romania’s railway system is among the largest in the world. Some stretches, like the “love tunnel” are more famous for their appearance than their speed, but most rides include both beauty and efficiency.
4. The wildlife
Over 300 species of birds live in the lakes and marshes of the Danube Delta, making it a bird watcher’s paradise.
5. The history
The Painted Monasteries of northeastern Romania date back to medieval times. Believed to be burial places for local nobility, they’ve been remarkably well preserved and completely unique in quality and form. The frescoes are so beautiful that some travelers call them the “Sistine Chapels of the East.”
6. The ‘sleeper hit’ cities
With hundreds of annual cultural events and streets full of artistic cafes, Sibiu is the perfect blend of aristocratic excellence and bohemian flair.
7. The price
By now, you’ve probably sensed a pattern. One of the best parts about visiting all of these countries are the prices. Since they’re not as popular for tourists, you can get a healthy dose of culture and adventure at a fraction of typical European costs.