Vacations with a Difference

From a night in an ice hotel to ballooning in the Alps and putting a MiG through its supersonic paces, there's a lot more to Europe than castles and cathedrals

By Justin McLean

There are plenty of exotic locations within reach of the well-to-do traveler. So why would one choose to spend time in Europe, the world's most-visited continent? Here's the answer: The Continent's history, civility, and variety still make it an attractive choice for adventurous vacationers.

Indeed, the sheer breadth of eclectic options -- especially in the luxury market -- means that you could visit many times and do something completely different each time, not least experiencing a new climate, fresh languages and cultures.


  The options range from classic to quirky. At the traditional end, charming villas in the Italian countryside or on the sun-drenched Island of Crete have been pulling in wealthy visitors for ages.

Similarly, English country and estates and the stately Victorian grandeur of the Royal Scotsman rail line allow tourists to immerse themselves in some good old-fashioned European gentility.

Europe offers some unique thrills as well. For the past 16 years, several artists have banded together to build the annual Icehotel on the banks of Sweden's Torne River, just north of the Arctic Circle. This cutting-edge lodge, constructed completely from ice and snow, is best-suited to the hardier traveler, although the hotel's organized tours and fine amenities such as a cinema, church, bars, and theater make this 60-room tavern one high-end igloo.


  The Russian military has also opened up its hardware to tourists willing to drop some dollars -- for a little over $20,000, you can feel the extreme g-force of a supersonic flight aboard MiG fighter jet, and then watch the souvenir video back at your five-star Moscow hotel.

Whatever your tastes, Europe really does have something for everyone. Take a look at our vacation slide show.

McLean is a producer for BusinessWeek Online in New York

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