As concern grows about spikes in coronavirus infection rates in some European nations, including France, Malta and the Netherlands, The Independent can reveal places in five EU countries where no new cases have been reported in the past two weeks.
The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) has published a map showing that parts of Greece, Croatia, Hungary, Estonia and Finland offer a worry-free escape.
Greece, which is proving exceptionally popular this summer for British holidaymakers, has seen some surges in coronavirus cases on some islands.
But the extreme east of the mainland, nudging against the Albanian frontier, is graded green (actually a light shade of turquoise), showing no new cases for the past fortnight.
The Epiros region includes the attractive lakeside city of Ionnina, on Lake Pamvotis, and some spectacular mountain scenery. On the coast, Parga boasts a clifftop Venetian castle.
The region is served by Preveza airport, which has fairly frequent flights from the UK – and a celebrated taverna across the road for pre-flight farewell dinners.
Further northwest along the Adriatic, a long stretch of Kvarner Bay in Croatia is rated as Covid-free, extending inland to the Serbian border. The two gateways are Rijeka and Zadar, though neither is within the “safe” area.
The main scenic highlight is the Plitvice Lakes national park, which has been on the Unesco world heritage list since 1979.
Hungary has two “green” areas – northeast and southwest of the capital, Budapest, which is the easy access point. Neither area is particularly popular with tourists, though the northeast region includes Eger, celebrated for its bulls’ blood wine.
Estonia takes the prize for the largest proportion of its landmass rated coronavirus-free. The entire southern half of the Baltic republic has seen no new cases for two weeks.
Although the main arrival point and atmospheric capital, Tallinn, is further north, the “safe” zone includes the Hanseatic port of Parnu and several islands that were visited by the writer Arthur Ransome. They including Saaremaa, which the travel writer and historian Neil Taylor says “evokes a passionate response” from Estonians because of its troubled 20th-century history under Soviet domination.
Finland has Covid-free regions to the east and west, bordering the Gulf of Bothnia and the Russian frontier respectively. The latter extends almost to the Arctic Circle but does not include Rovaniemi, the claimed home of Santa Claus. Helsinki is the main gateway, though onward travel by rail is time-consuming and expensive.
While most of the UK is in yellow, indicating a rate of fewer than 20 new cases per 100,000 residents, parts are shown as amber, indicating a rate of 20 to 60. The affected areas are the East Midlands, Yorkshire, northwest England and north Wales.
ECDC figures are evaluated by the UK government along with other data to compile its list of quarantine-free countries. Travellers returning from these nations need not self-isolate for two weeks.
The worst-affected regions around Europe, highlighted on the ECDC map in maroon, have a rate of 120-plus cases per 100,000,
They include the Spanish region of Catalonia, all of Luxembourg, patches of Romania and Bulgaria – and a small patch of Croatia in the extreme east of the country, on the Serbian frontier.