3-Week Southern Europe: 4 Itineraries

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The south of Europe is probably one of the most famous destinations in the world when it comes to stunning beaches, tasty dishes, and historical sites. From the coast of Portugal, France, Italy, Spain, and Croatia to Cyprus and Greece – you won’t run out of places to explore.

This region has so much to offer that it gets super crowded during the peak season, plus the price hikes can be incredibly too much if you plan to make a last-minute trip. But don’t worry. You can do many things to ensure you will have the trip you imagined.

This list of travel itineraries for 3-week Southern Europe will help you find a route that works for you. You will also find some tips on how to plan your trip, where to go, and more.


4 images - top right is the statues in ancient ruins of Athens, top right is the Eiffel Tower, bottom right is the Medieval walls in Croatia, bottom left is La Sagrada Familia in Spain - 3-Week Southern Europe Itinerary

Let’s start with basic information such as when to go, how many days to spend in each place, the best way to get around, the estimated cost, and the travel documents you need. You should also read our list of best 3-week cruises.

When is the best time to go to Southern Europe

If you’re after the beach and water activities, the summer (June to August) is a great time to visit the south of Europe. But it’s also the peak season, which means the prices are higher than usual and booking your accommodation must be done in advance (at least 6 months or even a year).

For those who want to avoid the busy crowd and high prices, September to October or March to May is the best time to visit Southern Europe. The weather is neither too hot nor cold, the prices are reasonable, and there are fewer people.

Are 3 weeks enough for South Europe

20 days can offer a rewarding experience exploring Southern Europe, though you’ll have to prioritise. For example, Cities like Rome, Barcelona, and Athens provide rich historical and cultural immersion. The Amalfi Coast in Italy and the beaches of the Greek Islands like Santorini or Mykonos are perfect for relaxation and breathtaking vistas.

You might also consider adding less-touristy destinations like Portugal, Montenegro, Croatia, and Malta. What you want to avoid is trying to do too much. Seeing more than 3 countries is a little over the top. You’ll catch flights and wait in bus terminals instead of relaxing.

What to pack

For summer in Southern Europe, lightweight, breathable clothing is key, along with a high SPF sunscreen and a wide-brimmed hat to shield from the intense sun, especially on a trip from May to September.

A waterproof jacket and boots are a must during the rainy season. Regardless of the season, a power bank, your phone, an extra emergency credit/debit card, and your passport are the top items not to forget.

Our general 3-week packing list is a great place to start. Then, visit our packing list for summer, spring, autumn, and winter, which you should check out depending on the season you plan to go.

How to get around

To get around South Europe, you will have to use a combination of trains, buses, planes, and ferries. If you plan to rent a car, some can be taken across the border, but not all, so remember to check that out from the rental agency.

The bus option will be the most affordable but the slowest. The trains are fast and well-priced, but not always an option. Flying is a good choice if you want to save time, especially for domestic. The prices are higher in peak season though.

For within the cities, there are ride-hailing apps you should install on your phone, such as Uber, Bolt, iMove, Beat, and Free Now are the ones available. Not all these apps work in all the countries listed, so ensure you have the right one before arriving at your destination.

Language and currency

Southern Europe has various languages as there is not one language. However, since it’s a popular area for foreign visitors, you will be able to get around with English and the help of a translation app just fine.

Euro (€) is the main currency here. However, some areas might still be using their own currency, such as Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Paying with a bank card is easily accessible, but you must still carry some cash, especially when visiting rural areas.

2 images - on the left is the houses along the river in Toulouse in France. On the right is the Gondola boats in Venice in Italy

Average travel cost for 20 days in South Europe

The cost varies a lot depending on when you plan to visit. During the busiest season, the accommodations are almost double the cost. However, on average, you should plan to spend around €150 a day (€3,000) covering accommodation, food, transportation, and tour.

For backpackers, you can budget €100 per day (€2,000), if you don’t mind staying in hostels, booking tip-based walking tours, and using public transportation. For mid-range cost, €120 to €150 (€2,400 to €3,000) is a good budget for mid-range hotels, food, tours, and transportation.

A luxury trip, a budget of €300 to €450 (€6,000 to €9,000) and more. You’ll be able to stay in 5-star hotels, fine dining restaurants, premium tours, spas and massages, and more.


Other travel tips


Click the enlarge button on the top right corner. Credit: map data: Google


Itinerary #1: Italy, Spain, and France

This is an awesome itinerary if it’s your first time in Europe. You’ll have a chance to visit top historical sites, adventurous islands, exciting water activities, and try out local dishes. Because these three places are next to each other, you won’t be wasting too much time in airports and transport terminals.

Starting your trip in Italy is ideal since many international flights are landing and leaving here. Flying between Italy and Spain is not a probably either. If you’re on a budget, you can easily take a bus that will cross the border.

Finishing a trip in France means you can find many flights leaving Paris and returning home. Imagine a trip ending in a culturally rich city featuring many fantastic attractions. For a more in-depth plan, see our 3 weeks in France, Italy, and Spain itinerary.

Italy for 1 week

There are lots of places to see in Italy, such as the Colosseo, the Roman Forum, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the Venice Grand Canal, and the active volcano of Mount Etna. It can be hard to choose where to go if you only have 7 days.

It’s also not a secret that Italy is a destination perfect for couples. You can start your trip with a gondola ride along Venice canals, dine at Italy’s food capital Bologna, and finish your trip with a glass of wine at Sicily. These three are some of the most romantic places in Italy.

If you like history, go to Rome or then make your way towards south to Sicily, where you could enjoy the beautiful coastline of Naples and do water activities in Sicily. You can also go north of Rome and discover Florence, Pisa, Bologna, and Venice, where you can explore Italian fashion, food, and architecture, then finish off by getting on the dreamy gondola ride.

One thing to consider is, when it comes to your end destination in Italy, make sure there’s a direct flight or easy way to get from there to your first destination in Spain. For example, if you end up in Catania (Sicily), there’s a non-stop flight to Barcelona in Spain.

2 images - on the left is Colosseo in Rome, Italy. On the right is the waterfalls in Krka National Park in Croatia

Spain for 1 week

A 3-week Southern Europe trip must include Spain. With its rich history, friendly culture, and yummy dishes, there’s always something to do whether you’ve visited before or have been here a hundred times.

But when it comes to Southern Europe and Spain, we’re talking about the coastal cities and islands such as Barcelona, Valencia, Malaga, Palma, and the party island Ibiza.

The Andalusian region, with cities like Seville, Granada, and Malaga, offers a blend of Moorish architecture and Flamenco passion. Catalonia boasts the cosmopolitan city of Barcelona alongside picturesque coastal towns like Sitges.

Valencia is loved for its futuristic architecture and lush orchards, while the Balearic Islands serve as a Mediterranean paradise. And when it comes to partying, don’t miss a crazy night out on Ibiza Island.

France for 1 week

When it comes to France, perhaps you only want to see the southern parts, such as the Riviera, Nice, and Marseille. The Southern French coastline, a jewel of the Mediterranean, draws travellers with its azure waters, white-sand beaches, and glamorous lifestyle.

Cities like Nice, Cannes, and Marseille serve as perfect bases for exploring quaint coastal villages, historic landmarks, and natural wonders. Whether you’re sipping rosé in a beachfront café in St. Tropez, hiking in the Calanques National Park, or soaking up art and history in Aix-en-Provence.

You can fly from Barcelona on a direct flight or Valencia with a connection to Paris. Flying from Ibiza (Spain) to Nice (France) is also possible. You can finish your trip in Paris, where you can wrap up your trip by exploring the Eiffel Tower, Versailles, the Catacombs, and the iconic Champs-Élysées.

Itinerary #2: Greece, Croatia, and Italy

This is actually my personal favourite itinerary in this 3-week Southern Europe article. It’s because it’s a perfect balance of famous areas, good food, and unexpected destinations. Italy and Greece are both amazing regions regarding history, ruins, and food.

Italy is an expensive country, but don’t worry. The affordable Croatia and Greece will balance it out. Croatia might not be on your radar of places to go, but it’s definitely worth a visit. If you’re a fan of Game of Thrones, you can also visit some remarkable filming locations.

Italy for 1 week

Italy is a classic destination and surely a must-visit at least once in your lifetime. The fact that the country was able to preserve many historical sites is just incredible. For those who love to explore the local cuisine, you can never go wrong about spending a week in Italy and eating out every single day.

When choosing where to go in Italy for 7 days, don’t try to see more than 2 cities. Focus either in the north where you can visit Milan and Venice or Florence and Bologna, for example. In the south, you can discover Sicily for a week.

At the same time, Rome and Naples are a good combo since they’re not too far from one another and offer historical sites, great beaches, and tasty food. A 3-week Southern Europe itinerary must include Italy, especially if it’s your first time in Europe.

Croatia for 1 week

For hiking enthusiasts, Croatia is filled with exciting national parks, waterfalls, and perfect beaches. If you’re not a big city lover, skip Zagreb. You can head right to its magical waterfalls, such as the ones in Krka National Park and Plitvice Lakes.

Those who enjoyed watching Game of Thrones, don’t miss out on visiting Dubrovnik, where you can walk through GOT filming locations. Visiting waterfalls and Dubrovnik is a great itinerary for 7 days in Croatia, but swapping one of the locations with Split and Hvar (great for beaches and water activities), is a good idea, too.

2 images - on the left is the white stone houses in Santorini Greece. On the right is the dome of Pantheon in France

Greece for 1 week

Finish your trip to the unbelievable Greece – another great destination for history, food, and beaches. Discover the birthplace of Democracy, The Olympics, the home of Socrates, and interestingly, the inventor of alarm clocks, maps, and umbrellas.

If you’ve never been here, you can honestly just stay in Athens, where there are plenty of things to do. From here, you can choose one island to explore and relax. Crete, Santorini, Mykonos, Naxos, and Paros are all easy to reach from Athens (either by plane or ferry).

Itinerary #3: France, Italy, and Greece

This itinerary is what I love to call “beach, history, and food trail”. French, Italian, and Greek food are all popular when it comes to mouth-watering dishes and wines. While in history, all countries have managed to preserve so many remarkable sites and arts.

Finally, for those who want to enjoy the beautiful and warm Mediterranean Sea, all three countries offer unique experiences. I recommend starting in France since the airports there are major hubs that have direct flights to North America, Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia.

France for 1 week

France is the biggest country out of these three, so you must choose your destinations wisely. If you don’t care about the big city of Paris and prefer the countryside, head down to Southern France and enjoy the Alps for hiking and the coastal cities for the beach.

Western France is a good choice for a less-touristy region with a visit to the Northern part (Dunkirk, Calais, and Caen) for a perfect historical itinerary. You don’t need to return to Paris to catch your flight to Italy. If you finish in Eastern France, you can take a train or bus to Northern Italy or fly from Lyon, Marseille, or Cannes.

Italy for 1 week

Continue your 3 weeks in Southern France by exploring Rome and the Vatican for its ancient ruins. In comparison, Bologna and Venice are great food destinations. Sicily, Naples, and Bari are all fantastic areas to go hiking, enjoy the beach, and relax for a week.

You can easily get around Italy by train; if the drive is longer than 6 hours, look at domestic flights. Since your next destination is Greece, you might want to end your trip in a bigger city that caters direct flights to Athens, such as from Rome, Venice, and Milan.

2 images - on the left is the Medieval Walls on the coast of Dubrovnik Croatia. On the right is La Sagrada Familia in Spain

Greece for 1 week

Greece is the gateway of ancient ruins. Start with Athens, where the Acropolis stands as a testament to the country’s rich history. For natural beauty, Meteora’s monasteries perched on towering rocks are a surreal sight to the must-see Delphi and the ruins of Olympia.

With its iconic white-washed buildings and sunset views, Santorini is perfect for romance and relaxation. If you’re more of an adventurer, the island of Crete offers the Samaria Gorge for hiking and beautiful beaches like Elafonissi.

Itinerary #4: Croatia, Montenegro, and Malta

This itinerary is perfect for people who want to get out of the usual tourist trail and explore the region of Southern Europe that is less travelled. Croatia can be busy, but nothing compared to Italy, France, and Spain.

While Malta can be a bit expensive, it’s a really nice place to do some surfing, visit ancient temples, appreciate Baroque architecture, and discover unique cuisine. Conversely, Montenegro is known for its interesting stone houses, calm beaches, and the untamed beauty of Durmitor National Park.

Croatia for 1 week

This Balkan beauty offers a compelling mix of history, stunning landscapes, and azure waters. For fans of Game of Thrones, a stroll through the medieval walls of Dubrovnik is a must. If nature is your calling, Plitvice Lakes National Park and its cascading waterfalls will mesmerise you.

Looking for a beach escape? The islands of Hvar and Brac are perfect for soaking up the sun and enjoying water activities. Don’t overlook Split, where the ancient Diocletian’s Palace offers a blend of history and vibrant modern life.

2 images - on the left is the houses along the beautiful Kotor Bay with mountain views. On the right is the colourful houses on the street of Valleta in Malta

Montenegro for 1 week

Is Montenegro worth a visit? Definitely, it’s a lesser-known gem that offers a rich mix of experiences. Check out the medieval Kotor Old Town, perfect for history buffs. If beaches are more your style, head to Budva. Don’t skip Durmitor National Park for a nature escape, known for its stunning landscapes.

Getting to Montenegro from Croatia looks complicated, but it’s actually not. There’s a bus that will take you from Dubrovnik to Kotor, and the drive is around 3 hours. But if you’re coming from Zagreb or other parts of Croatia, it might be better to fly, although expect a connecting flight.

Malta for 1 week

For Croatia and Montenegro, 7 days might be too short, but it’s the perfect amount of time for Malta. Don’t dismiss this country; although small in size, there’s honestly so much to see.

This Mediterranean jewel is a paradise for history enthusiasts, beachgoers, and food lovers alike. Start with the ancient city of Valletta, a UNESCO World Heritage Site brimming with Baroque architecture and historic forts.

Take a ferry to Gozo for a quieter vibe and explore the Ġgantija Temples, some of the world’s oldest freestanding structures. If you’re a fan of diving or snorkelling, the Blue Grotto and the Azure Window are must-see underwater havens.

Since Malta is in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, it can be challenging to catch a flight home. In this situation, plan to fly from Malta to either Paris, Rome, Madrid, or London, where you can catch a direct flight from bigger airports to your next destination or a plane back home.


3 images of food - on the left is paella, in the middle is moussaka, on the right is peka - 3-Week Southern Europe Itinerary

I personally cannot decide which cuisine in Southern Europe I love the most. Each has its own unique and remarkable dishes. I could eat paella every weekend and devour tiramisu right after while washing it down with some Bordeaux wine.

Here’s a small list of popular dishes from various countries I featured on this 3-week Southern Europe itinerary. See which ones you like the most and will be dreaming months after your trip:

  • Paella (Spain): Rice, saffron, vegetables, and various meats or seafood
  • Gazpacho (Spain): Cold tomato and vegetable soup
  • Pizza Napoletana (Italy): Traditional Neapolitan pizza with simple toppings
  • Osso Buco (Italy): Braised veal shanks cooked with vegetables, white wine, and broth
  • Moussaka (Greece): Layered eggplant, minced meat, and béchamel sauce
  • Souvlaki (Greece): Skewered and grilled meat, often served in a pita wrap
  • Ćevapi (Croatia): Minced meat sausages, often served with onions and flatbread
  • Peka (Croatia): Meat and vegetables cooked under a bell-like dome, or ‘ispod čripnje
  • Bouillabaisse (France): Provençal fish stew originating from the port city of Marseille
  • Ratatouille (France): Vegetable stew featuring eggplant, zucchini, and peppers
  • Churros (Spain): Deep-fried dough, often dipped in chocolate
  • Tiramisu (Italy): Coffee-flavored Italian dessert made of ladyfingers dipped in coffee, layered with a whipped mixture of eggs, sugar, and mascarpone cheese
  • Baklava (Greece): Filo pastry filled with nuts and syrup or honey
  • Tarte Tatin (France): Upside-down caramelized apple tart
  • Sangria (Spain): Red wine mixed with fruits, soda, and spices
  • Limoncello (Italy): Lemon-flavored liqueur




















Naxos and Paros:



Spending a vacation in Southern Europe is easily one of the most educating and exciting trips you’ll ever take. If you’re a person who wants a more relaxing holiday, that’s also can easily be arranged.

In the early stages of planning your own itinerary, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Try to balance your travel plan by visiting your top sites and mixing it with a week of reading a book, swimming, going to spas, and watching sunsets.

I really hope that this list of 3-week Southern Europe itineraries has been helping in creating and planning your own trip. Next year, my own itinerary looks like this: France, Slovenia, and a 7-day cruise.


A trip for three-week journey through Southern Europe, discovering ancient ruins in Rome, sun-kissed beaches in Greece, and vibrant markets in Spain. Immerse in diverse cultures, savory cuisines, and breathtaking landscapes. via @threeweektraveller