European Countries: 51 x 51 Challenge

European Countries: 51 x 51 Challenge

A friend recently asked ‘are you trying to visit every country in Europe?’ Up until that point, I had never really thought about it. Are we without even realising it? I will be honest I’d rather visit a new country than a different city in a country we’ve already visited. I sat and thought about it for a while and realised I didn’t even know how many countries there actually are in Europe. A quick Google search informed me that there are in fact 51.

51 (or 50 if you are in the ‘I don’t class Vatican City as a country’ school of thought)! I couldn’t believe it, I’d like to think I’m pretty good at geography and I would have made a guess of around 35. So my next (self-appointed) task was to count up how many countries we have actually visited whether it be on our own or together. I was actually shocked that we had not been to as many as I’d have thought.

Ones we have visited:-

  1. Belgium
  2. Cyprus
  3. Czech Republic
  4. Denmark
  5. Finland
  6. France
  7. Germany
  8. Greece
  9. Hungary
  10. Ireland
  11. Italy
  12. Latvia
  13. Malta
  14. The Netherlands
  15. Norway
  16. Portugal
  17. Spain
  18. Sweden
  19. Turkey
  20. United Kingdom
  21. Vatican City

Countries we will be visiting within the next year (including a month-long road trip in June 2017)

  1. Austria
  2. Bosnia and Herzegovina
  3. Croatia
  4. Iceland
  5. Montenegro
  6. Slovakia
  7. Slovenia – on Friday – yeah 🙂

So, it turns out that we still have 23, YES 23 countries still to visit to complete the set! Way more than I thought we would have. Having seen our results I have set us a little task – all 51 by the time Mr ESLT is 51. That gives us 9 years which should be pretty doable, I hope, as I am super competitive even with myself! Do you think we can do it?

  1. Albania
  2. Andorra
  3. Armenia
  4. Azerbaijan
  5. Belarus
  6. Bulgaria
  7. Estonia
  8. Georgia
  9. Kazakhstan
  10. Kosovo
  11. Liechtenstein
  12. Lithuania
  13. Luxembourg
  14. Macedonia
  15. Moldova
  16. Monaco
  17. Poland
  18. Romania
  19. Russia
  20. San Marino
  21. Serbia
  22. Switzerland
  23. Ukraine

The definition of Europe isn’t uniform and there is a lot of debate whether a few listed are actually in Asia rather than Europe. For the purpose of my challenge I am using the 51 countries as listed above. On my Google quest I also found a handy list from BuzzFeed which allows you to tick the countries you have visited and it then gives you a little summary of how well you know Europe. Please note this list does not include Kazakhstan like my list does.

How many have you visited? Have you visited any of the ones we haven’t? If, so we’d love your recommendations on where to stay and what to do?

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  1. April 13, 2016 / 6:01 am

    That’s an awesome challenge! I’m hoping at some point to visit all the US states and national parks, but it never occurred to me to tally up all the countries in Europe. Good luck with the challenge!

    • April 13, 2016 / 6:05 am

      Thanks Amanda! I think the US states will be next on my list having only actually visited 5! If we hit the 51 x 51 European challenge I’ll actually only be 42 so plenty of time (benefit of having an older husband :)) hope you manage to do it! I love having a little challenge to work towards!

  2. April 13, 2016 / 6:13 am

    Bulgaria is great for skiing if you don’t fancy the beach and Monaco is an easy day trip from Nice. I did both last year and would recommend. Good luck with the rest of the unvisited list!

    • April 13, 2016 / 6:17 am

      Thanks Rachel! We’re not really skiers (although the apres ski always sounds VERY appealing!) so I think Sofia would be on our list. Oh very jealous of Monaco! That’s very high on the list – very Casino Royale 🙂

  3. April 13, 2016 / 10:43 am

    Good challenge! We have been trying to get the complete set too and are only missing 7 (although a couple only 1 of us has been to so lets round up to 10 each):

    San Marino
    Vatican City

    Would thoroughly recommend Eastern Europe (especially Kosovo, Albania (go on a perilous drive to Theth a tiny mountain village it is STUNNING and we had tons of fun pretending we were in Skyrim) and Belarus as they are so unique) – most of it is easy to cover and have amazing time saving nice nice t night trains. if you like the mountains like we do then Armenia and Georgia are great too and the hospitality is just amazing – a kindly local I simply asked where he got his beer from even gave us his jeep to use when we landed up in Mestia in Georgia, just telling us “Text me and tell me where you left the keys”!

    Good luck and look forward to keeping up with your progress – if you’d like any logistics tips feel free to give us a shout as our itinerary was approved by 2 Estonian travel agents in the pub so we consider ourselves professionals now haha.

    • April 14, 2016 / 9:46 am

      Thanks guys! Only 7 missing – that’s amazing, although I’m surprised to see Greece still on the list? Any plans? I say I’m surprised but in reality I’ve only been to Faliriki in Rhodes (don’t judge)! Thank you for your tips regarding Eastern Europe, I’ll bear them in mind when I get round to planning our adventure over that way, I also secretly hope someone offers us the loan of their jeep gratis too! And just so you know I feel any deal or spoken agreement made over a pint is considered legally binding!

  4. April 14, 2016 / 9:27 am

    I love challenges like that! Mine started as wanting to visit 100 countries before I died. Then when I got to around 98, I decided to move the goal posts as I wasn’t ready to die yet, nor hang up my travelling boots. Now I am hoping for 150 countries before I die. It’s doable (we’re on 137 and I am ‘only’ 58), but becomes more and more difficult the more countries we visit. The ones left are the more unusual ones, and often difficult to get to, either because of inaccessibility or safety. In the last year we had to abandon a visit to Eritrea and also later to Burundi as a result of political instability. Both with the loss of the money for the flight. 🙁

    We are visiting our penultimate European country in September – Moldova – then we will only have Macedonia left.

    As for the countries you have left on your list – Tblisi is amazing – one of my favourite European cities, in fact I loved Georgia (I have a very good recommendation for a guide there if you are interested).

    If you go to Ukraine, I would recommend a day trip to Chernobyl – one of the weirdest places we have ever been. You have to apply well in advance for that one though as you need special permission from the government.

    Albania is full of cold war bunkers, Mercedes stolen to order and intimidating-looking men in leather coats. Some cool UNESCO Heritage sites though.

    Azerbaijan is another really unusual destination, complete with mud volcanoes, ancient petroglyphs, oil derricks and burning hillsides.

    Romania is well worth a visit – Dracula’s Castle, bear watching and many UNESCO Heritage sites including some amazing painted churches. It is also very photogenic in a ‘backwards’ way as well as being CHEAP!

    We found Luxembourg surprisingly interesting – having driven through it on a couple of previous occasions, we decided to spend a long weekend there, and found lots to see and do. We drove over from the UK and stayed in a converted mill.

    Tallinn is easy and relatively cheap to do for a weekend from the UK.

    Andorra and Bulgaria we did on skiing trips. Both relatively reasonably priced.

    I would remove Kazakhstan from your Europe list – it’s not really worth a visit IMHO. You may want to add Transdnistr though…?

    I don’t know whether they are still available, but back when we were working and we’d run out of annual leave for the year (that happened every year!), we would take a day trip from the UK to a European city. Both Airtours and Transun did these, in the winter only, in order to fill up their planes during the quiet season. We went to Bergen, Reykjavik, Stockholm, Copenhagen, Monaco, Vienna, to see Father Christmas in Lapland, whale watching in the Norwegian fjords, Krakow, Leipzig and Colditz, Budapest, Prague, Warsaw, Rüdesheim just for the day over the years. That way we could get a feel for whether we wanted to go back and explore in more depth or we’d ticked it off the list and moved on. Typically we would leave the UK (we flew from Bristol, Manchester, East Midlands or Gatwick) at around 6.30 or 7.00 in the morning, get to our destination at around 10.00, allowing for time difference. The trip included an organised sightseeing tour in the morning and sometimes lunch, then the afternoon free. We’d leave there around 8pm for a 10pm flight and get home around midnight.

    • April 14, 2016 / 9:42 am

      Grete I love hearing from you! You always have great advice and I love your tips and recommendations – your comment is full of them!!! I’m at 65 countries at 32 (ok 33 next month) and I’d love to hit 100 before I die, let alone the 137 you have already! Romania sounds like it is one I would love to visit next (annual leave permitting). The day trip option sounds great but our local airport only flies to Aberdeen and Amsterdam (maybe a couple more but not many) I need to check out East Mids and Manchester as they are the closest ‘big’ airports to us (but still 2 hrs drive each way). Thanks Grete!

    • April 26, 2016 / 5:26 pm

      Where did you go in Albania? We didn’t find it at all like that – one of our favourite places but we only really went to Skodra and the mountains. And seconded on applying in advance for Chernobyl – we applied a week or so in advance (it’s only supposed to take a few days for the paperwork) and our hostel in Kiev (who were supposed to be organizing it) just didn’t bother to do it! So that’s still on our to-do list!

      • April 27, 2016 / 6:51 pm

        We went to Tiranë, Kruja, Rinas, Durres and Berat – mind you, it was a while ago now, back in 2002.

        Shame you missed Chernobyl, it was a totally freaky and absolutely fascinating place.

        • April 27, 2016 / 10:04 pm

          Yeah, a friend has invited us there in June for his birthday but unfortunately we’re fully booked! They’re film makers too so it would have meant lots of arty apocalypse clips! Sad times. We went to Albania in 2012 so I think maybe it could surprise you now?

  5. April 19, 2016 / 6:15 am

    Romania is fantastic. We were really pleasantly surprised, from the friendliness of Cluj to the odd Hungarian community hidden away in the hills, we had a great time. Let me know if you need any tips- we have contacts with coworking spaces, if needed, and also something called ‘Village Life.’ It’s a reacreation of traditions- hubby milked his first cow. Grin. Safe travels!

    • April 26, 2016 / 10:56 am

      It sounds fantastic Mel! It’s on the list, looks like next year now though but I know where to come for tips and recommendations – especially about where I can milk a cow because I’ve never done it before either!!! Thanks

      • May 18, 2016 / 4:06 pm

        Most welcome. 🙂

  6. October 3, 2017 / 6:50 pm

    Albania is incredible! Since its about time you got your 2018 itinerary planned I’d suggest adding it to the list.
    We spent 9 days there and absolutely loved every second of it. The beaches are amazing, the people hospitable and everything is so cheap! In 9 days we only spent £600 each including flights, accomodations and a bottle of rum to share daily.
    You can fly easily from all over the UK and then its only an hour ferry to get to Sarande which is the perfect base for exploring the southern coasts 🙂

    • October 3, 2017 / 6:58 pm

      Well, as I am overly organised (understatement!) flights have been booked and Albina will be ticked off in July as we travel through Croatia, Montenegro and Albania for a few weeks 🙂 looking forward to drinking a bottle of rum a day too ha!

      Thanks, for the comment and recommendations. When we sit down to plan out the finer details, we know where to come!