Hillary Clinton once said that 'Europe is a miracle'. She may not have meant it in a strictly luxury travel sense but flattery will get her everywhere, and we at Original Travel most certainly agree. Our expert team has selflessly travelled the length and breadth of the continent in search of the very finest destinations, luxury hotels and adventurous activities, so we have the inside track on the miracle, as Mrs Clinton put it, that is Europe. So after some serious debate (and a little argy bargy, if we're honest), we've compiled our definitive A-Z of the best that it has to offer.
A is for… Aurous
We've dived straight in with a biggie here, in every sense of the word. The Aurous catamaran is brand spanking new and will spend the European summers in Corfu, from which you can explore myriad other Greek islands. In the words of M&S: this is not just a catamaran, this is a lesson in luxury travel.
The best of the rest: Amsterdam, Are (a ski resort in Sweden) and Areias do Seixo in Portugal
B is for… Brody House
Europe is a continent jam-packed with boutique boltholes and Brody House in Budapest (it's Bs all-round) is one of our absolute faves. Think hipster-chic run wild in prime culture-vulture territory - the former parliament is next door.
The best of the rest: Berlin, Bodrum and, er… baguettes
C is for… Cyprus
The sun shines, on average, 326 days per year in Cyprus so those looking for guaranteed sun without having to leave Europe should look no further. Besides its beautiful coastline, complete with alluring sandy beaches, there are numerous historic sites (and sights) to be explored.
The best of the rest: Comporta and Champagne (obvs)
D is for… Dog Sledding
In Swedish Lapland, if we had to choose just one location. Aside from the potential to see the Northern Lights (tick that off your bucket list), the experience of gliding through beautiful winter landscapes and staying overnight in log cabins is hard to beat.
The best of the rest: Douro Valley, Dolomites and Dubrovnik
E is for… Estonia
The forgotten child of European travel, Estonia is a place for those who fancy getting truly off the beaten track without having travel to the ends of the Earth. Combine a visit to one of Europe's most beautifully preserved Medieval capitals, Tallinn, with a stay at the immaculate Padaste Manor on Muhu Island for the ultimate city break meets spa break.
The best of the rest: Elaphiti Islands (on the Dalmatian Coast in Croatia)
F is for… Flamenco
Native to Southern Spain, flamenco is sadly something of a dying art, unless you head to the hyper-touristy shows. For something more authentic head to the gypsy quarter in Seville where you will find a tiny bar called Casa Anselma. Opening at midnight, you'll find live music and spontaneous outbreaks of flamenco dancing by the locals themselves.
The best of the rest: France, Finland and Flora - one of our resident Europe experts
G is for… Gamirasu Cave Hotel
The dictionary definition of quirky, Gamirasu Cave Hotel in Turkey comprises several houses set into a rock face. The food is homemade, the rooms are individually designed and decorated, and it just so happens to be located in one of the very coolest corners of Europe - Cappadocia.
The best of the rest: Georgia, Gozo and Gelato
H is for… Hygge
There are few cooler places to be during the winter months (or any months - discuss) than Copenhagen, which becomes ensconced in hygge - roughly translated as the concept of cosiness. Think bracing fresh air, snug cafés and festive cheer all round.
The best of the rest: Hans Christian Andersen and Harriet (not quite a famous author but famous in the Original Travel office for her unparalleled knowledge of Europe)
I is for… Istria
This Croatian gem has learnt a thing or several from its Italian neighbours and is the place to go in Croatia for top-notch food and wine. If you want to experience the glory of Tuscany without the price tag, Istria is the place to be.
The best of the rest: Istanbul and the Ice Hotel, Sweden
J is for… Jökulsárlón
Nope, I haven't fallen asleep on my keyboard; Jökulsárlón is in fact an Icelandic glacial lagoon, stemming from Europe's largest glacier. The fun doesn't stop there - Iceland is a truly one-of-a-kind destination, where the majority of people believe elves exist, nudity is popular, nay, required in some parts and raw puffin heart is considered a delicacy
The best of the rest: Juvet Landscape Hotel, Norway
K is for… Kinsterna and Kyrimai
These two are just so good we couldn't separate them. Both located in the Peloponnese region of Greece, they make a great cool combo for those who want the best of both worlds, or are equally immaculate as standalone choices.
The best of the rest: Kate - another member of our lovely Europe team
L is for… Lofoten Islands
Norway is known for its spectacular scenery (Fjords, anyone?) but the Lofoten Islands take it to the next level. This archipelago is typified by dramatic mountains and peaks, sheltered bays, beaches and under-explored lands.
The best of the rest: Lisbon, Ljubljana (again, I promise I haven't fallen asleep on my keyboard) and L'And Hotel in Portugal
M is for… Montenegro
Montenegro is something of a hidden gem for British travellers, with Italy and Croatia tending to steal the limelight in this part of the world. However, head to Montenegro and you will discover unspoilt and dramatic mountain scenery, sun-drenched hillsides, clear azure waters and the odd glamorous superyacht.
The best of the rest: Malta, Malhadinha Nova, Portugal and the Maddalena Islands, Italy
N is for… No More Noma
The world's best restaurant is upping sticks from Copenhagen and heading for Sydney. Luckily, Copenhagen isn't short of good eateries. Still, Europe's loss is Australasia's gain.
The best of the rest: Naples, Nice and Negroamaro (a red wine from Southern Italy)
O is for… Olive oil ice cream
At Capri Palace in Italy, to be precise. There are many things that make Italy the (bold statement alert) complete package when it comes to travel but the food is a big one; pizza, pasta, ham, cheese and, yes, olive oil gelato… yum.
The best of the rest: Oia in Santorini and Ostuni in Puglia
P is for… Paris
It's only right to mention the devastating recent attacks on Paris. Nonetheless, it remains one of the best cities on the planet in terms of art, culture, history, architecture and food, and is one we stand in absolute solidarité with.
The best of the rest: Puglia, Plitvice (a beautiful national park in Croatia) and Pip - the final member of our European dream team
Q is for… Quinta da Bela Vista
Madeira is a destination with something of an image problem. Many think of it as, frankly, God's waiting room. It is in fact perfect for a spot of adventure (tobogganing in a wicker basket, anyone?) and is home to some lovely boutique hotels, including Quinta da Bela Vista.
The best of the rest: Queuing… or lack thereof when you book with Original Travel (please excuse the shameless self-promotion there; we were scraping the barrel with the 'Qs')
R is for… Russia
Not short on controversy, Russia is definitely one of the more interesting and mysterious destinations on the planet. It's also one of the most beautiful with, in particular, its iconic architecture.
The best of the rest: Rome, Riksgransen in Sweden and Romania
S is for… Slovenia
Another Eastern European gem. From the beautifully preserved streets of Ljubljana (think Prague without the stag parties) to the, quite simply, jaw-dropping beauty of Lake Bled, Slovenia is one to watch over the next couple of years.
The best of the rest: Skiing, sailing and Sami culture
T is for… Tbilisi
For the ultimate off the beaten track city break experience, head to Tbilisi. Not only is the place steeped in history but the food and wine is fabulous and the hospitality of the Georgian people second to none.
The best of the rest: Trulli houses in Puglia, truffle hunting and tapas
U is for… Uffizi Gallery
Take a gander down many a bucket list and you will see the words 'visit the Uffizi gallery, Florence'. It is, after all, one of the oldest and most famous art galleries in the world. Da Vinci, Raphael, Michelangelo, Titian - they're all there.
The best of the rest: Union Oye in Norway and Umbria
V is for… Valletta
Valletta, the tiny Maltese capital (its population numbers just over 6,000) has been described by UNESCO as 'one of the most concentrated historic areas in the world', with Baroque, mannerist and Neo-Classical influences on show.
The best of the rest: Vongole, Volcanoes and Verdura Resort in Italy
W is for… Wine Tasting
"Beer is made by men, wine by God" - that Martin Luther had a point, you know. And there's no better place on the planet to sample some of the grapey stuff than Europe, from France to Italy, and Portugal to Germany.
X is for… (El)Xampanyet
The concept of tapas is very much something we can get on board with here at Original Travel - why have just one thing on the menu when you can have a little bit of everything? And the best place for tapas is at El Xampanyet in Barcelona.
The best of the rest: Xara Palace in Malta
Y is for… Yeatman
Aside from the Port, which is obviously a major draw in and of itself, the Portuguese town of Porto is simply delightful - meandering cobbled streets, lovely architecture, picturesque river. And the place to stay is undoubtedly The Yeatman with its panoramic views, delectable food and, yes, excellent wine and port tasting sessions.
The best of the rest: Yachts… lots and lots of Yachts
Z is for… Zalanpatak
There's off the beaten track and then there's Transylvania - the land that time forgot. It's a veritable smorgasbord of medieval cultural history, rolling green pastures and looming mountains. Lodged in amongst this is Zalanpatak - Prince Charles and Count Kalnoky's guest house.
The best of the rest: Zermatt and Zeus