8 great holiday destinations in Europe for adventure junkies
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Europe offers some epic one-of-a-kind adventures, from paragliding in the Costa Adeje, or snorkelling between tectonic plates at the Silfra Fissure.
For thrill-seekers who want to centre an entire holiday around adventure, some destinations on the continent have not just one or two, but a myriad of options to get that adrenaline pumping.
Here are some of the best destinations in Europe for travellers looking for an adventure-filled holiday.
All-inclusive resorts and package holidays may come to mind when thinking about the Canary Islands, but that’s not all these Spanish islands are known for. In fact, this island archipelago features some of the most unique adventures in all of Europe, especially Tenerife.
Whether it’s quad riding over craters through the Teide Natural Park to admire the Teide volcano, trekking through the tree canopies of Anaga Forest, kitesurfing on the breezy beaches of Médano or paragliding in the Costa Adeje, Tenerife has both land and sea adventures to satisfy even the wildest adventure seekers.
The entire country of Iceland was made for adventure lovers. Only about 80% of the county is inhabited, meaning plenty of wild landscape is just waiting to be explored.
Summer adventurists can surf at the Reykjanes Peninsula, hike one of many volcanoes such as Fagradalsfjall (there are around 30 volcanic systems in Iceland) or white water raft the East Glacial River. Winter daredevils can hike glaciers, ride snowmobiles, explore ice caves and dog sled at various spots. You can even dive or snorkel between tectonic plates year-round at the Silfra Fissure.
Naples and Amalfi Coast, Italy
Many travellers head to Italy’s Campania region to eat pizza, admire the stunning cliff drops that overlook the ocean or relax in charming seaside villages. What you may not know is that Naples and its surrounding area has plenty of adventure, from climbing the volcanic Mt. Vesuvius to visiting nearby forgotten cities like Pompeii and Herculaneum.
Visitors to the Amalfi coast can hike the Path of the Gods, an eight-kilometre trek that offers some of the most breathtaking coastal views in all of Italy. Divers can head underwater to see the sunken city of Baia, complete with underwater sculptures and temple remnants. And visiting the hilly, hectic streets of Naples and the twisted turns of the Amalfi Coast on the back of a Vespa is an adventure in itself — one that’s not for the faint of heart thanks to wild Napolitano drivers and hilly, cliffside roads.
Pico, one of the Azores Islands, is one of the few places in Portugal — and in Europe — where you can free dive with whales. Spring is best to swim with whales while summer is the season you’ll spot sharks. Hikers should head to Sao Miguel, where there are dozens of far-flung trails for trekking. Sao Miguel also hosts a paragliding festival each October, where participants can fly high over iconic natural landmarks like the Lagoa do Fogo and Sete Cidades.
Meanwhile, the island of Flores is the spot to go canyoning down waterfalls, and the island of Sao Jorge is where adventure travellers should go to do coasteering, which includes a combination of cliff jumping, swimming and rock climbing.
The Alps, Switzerland
Although Switzerland isn’t home to the highest peak in the Alps, it may be home to the one that’s the most difficult to trek: The Matterhorn. At almost 5,000 metres tall, the jagged peak is known for being infamously tough to traverse. Other summer activities in the Swiss Alps include jet boating, whitewater rafting, mountain biking, ziplining and paragliding.
In the winter months, skiing, snowboarding and ice fishing are calls to cold-weather-loving adventurists. And those that want an even more daring experience can ice dive to see the underwater world with a unique light and reflection.
The Fjords of Norway
Fjords are long bodies of water flanked by cliffs — and Norway has some of the longest and deepest in the world. Even driving roads among the fjords can pump up your adrenaline — think twisty switchbacks, hairpin curves and precariously steep drops. Drive these routes by car, or on a bike for a true adventure.
Troll Wall is one of the tallest and toughest mountains to hike, a vertical cliff wall that will leave even advanced hikers breathless. Or, those sans vertigo should hike the Romsdalseggen Ridge, a demanding high that rewards trekkers with incredible views of the surrounding landscape. Wild camping is also allowed in most spots around Norway — just remember to leave no trace.
The Black Forest, Germany
Germany’s Black Forest features endless pine colonies and a number of beautiful lakes. This is the perfect region to visit if some of your party needs more daring adventures, but the others are content with bite-sized adventures like light strolls through the woods or rowboat rentals on the lakes. For medium-sized thrills, hike up to see the Triberg Waterfalls or windsurf on Lake Titisee.
But those that need that big adrenaline rush should careen down the Mehliskopf Toboggan Run via sled or zip line over the treetops at the Mehliskopf Nature Park. Or, take a week to hike the 120-kilometre Black Forest Gorge Trail (Schluchtensteig), through gorges, forests, waterfalls and mountains.
From hiking and cycling mountains in the French Pyrénées to surfing in Biarritz, you’ll find plenty of outdoor activities for adventurists in the Southern French region of Occitanie. Thrill-seekers can go caving, rock climbing and canyoning, too. The region is famous for its water activities like kayaking and rafting, which can be enjoyed in a number of gorges within the region.
Winter brings ice climbing and off-track skiing and snowshoeing. And whenever weather conditions permit, there are many areas within the region where you can fly up high in a hot air balloon.
Europe is filled with adventure, and there are a number of destinations to visit to get that adrenaline rush. Your biggest challenge will be deciding where to go.
Remember to do your research and participate in adventure activities at your own risk.
(Feature image of hot air balloons in France courtesy of Laurie Noble/Getty Images)
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