One of the great treasures of travelling throughout Europe is by heading inland to discover some of the gorgeous and less well known areas and villages. Escape the big cities and bustling crowds for a unique insight into rural Europe. Here are five villages that should be at the top of your travel list. For info on how to get to them, check out this website.

1. Castelo Rodrigo, Portugal

In Portugal’s north, not far from the Spanish border, you’ll find the 12th century walled village of Castelo (Castle) Rodrigo. Inside its walls you can ramble around the ruins of this castle, the outcome of constant territorial disputes. You’ll also find Medieval streets, stone-walled houses and a distinctive fountain. This captivating and peaceful village is worth a visit for its past glories and panoramic views of the vast plains of the Beira region (Portugal) and nearby Spain.

2. Giverny, France

Visit Monet’s home in his beloved village of Giverny, where he lived and worked for more than 40 years. He transformed what was once an orchard into a magical garden that inspired his greatest works of art. Stroll through the gardens and admire the objects that are so well known from his most famous works, such as the Japanese bridge and water garden.

3. Kinderdijk, The Netherlands

Windmills of Kinderdijk

by Frank Kehren via Flickr

About 15km east of Rotterdam, in the south of The Netherlands, you’ll find the small village of Kinderdijk. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is home to an ingenious network of windmills, dykes, reservoirs and pumping stations. You’ll be able to see a windmill in use, including a tour of its inner workings and living quarters. Learn how windmills work, why they were built and how this device has established the Dutch as international experts in flood management.

3. Durstein, Austria

Located in the Wachau Valley on the Danube River, is the small and incredibly charming baroque village of Durstein. Situated between the towns of Melk and Klems, the entire 30km Wachau Valley is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You can either stroll around this quaint river-side village; tour the Domane Wachua cooperative winery or hike up to the ruins of the Durstein Castle where Richard the Lionheart was held captive in 1192-1193. Make sure you sample some of the apricot jam and white wines!

4. Szentendre, Hungary

Szentendre is a picturesque village that lies at the foot of the Pilis Hill, on the Danube River north of Budapest. The crooked coble-stoned streets are dotted with shops specialising in embroidered tablecloths and shirts, pottery, wines and paprika. The village almost has a Mediterranean-like atmosphere, which possibly explains why it draws and inspires so many Hungarian artists; past and present. Because of this, Szentendre abounds in art museums and galleries. If this is your thing, allow at least a day to visit all the exhibitions.

By touring the regal rivers of Europe, you’ll get the opportunity to access many areas that a lot of travellers won’t. You will also be able to enjoy beautiful landscapes passing you by and get a real taste for the more rural and remote parts of this glorious part of the world.