There are many different types of vacations to choose from in this amazing world we live in. But if active and adventure travel is what you’re looking for then this is the article for you. We have asked some of the most well-traveled people we know what their favorite active and adventure travel destinations in Europe are and have compiled their answers for you right here.
Whether you’re looking for moderate activities like nature hikes, cycling and kayaking or if you want to challenge yourself with more extreme adventures like mountain climbing, white water rafting or even base jumping our travelers have provided some fabulous options all over the world.
Travelers Choice for Adventure Travel Destinations in Europe
One of our personal favorite destinations for active and adventure travel destinations in Europe is Cappadocia, Turkey. This semi-arid region in central Turkey is famous for its surreal landscape formed by ancient volcanic eruptions and centuries of wind and river erosion.
Aside from just simply open-mouthed gawking at the amazing moon-like scape and “fairy chimneys” there are plenty of exciting active pursuits in Cappadocia. Hiking through the valleys from town to town reveals all sorts of interesting sights including honeycombed caves and other unique geological features. Exploring the underground cities, some dating back as far as the prehistoric period, is an adventure in itself and a real challenge for those not fond of tight spaces. But our absolute top experience in Cappadocia is riding in a hot air balloon.
Two things make a hot air balloon ride in Cappadocia very unique. One is the fairytale landscape and the other is the sheer number of balloons in the sky. It’s not unusual to have up to 100 balloons in the air which makes for a spectacular sight.
One of the most beautiful fjords in Norway, Lysefjord, is home to incredible hikes, stunning sea kayaking, scenic cycles and, for adrenaline junkies, there’s even the opportunity to base jump.
Lysebotn is most famous for its three incredible hikes at Preikestolen, Kjerag and Flørli. Indeed, it was a picture of Kjeragbolten, a free hanging rock impossibly wedged in a mountain crevice overlooking Lysefjord, that sealed the deal on our Norway trip. If you want to witness a pure adrenaline rush watch the base jumpers leap from the top of the Kjerag or, if you’re an experienced base jumper, you might want to make the leap yourself!
The iconic Pulpit Rock, jutting out into the Lysefjord, is one of the most recognizable spots in Norway and it’s from the summit where, like a preacher on a pulpit, you can gaze down the sheer cliff face into the Fjord below. Flørli 4444, the stairway to heaven, is a challenging 4,444 step hike up the longest wooden stairway in the world.
Sea kayaking and cycling are other popular Lysefjord activities and provide the perfect opportunity to appreciate the vastness of the fjord and check out its famous sights from a different perspective.
Salzburger Saalachtal, Austria
Salzburger Saalachtal is a fantastic place to go for an adventure travel and outdoors trip. This region is in west Austria and nestled in a valley with the Saalach River running through and breathtaking mountains and scenery all around.
While in Saalachtal a few of the fun activities you’d have the opportunity to do, include rock climbing or a Via Ferrata up sheer rock faces. Or you could try your luck down the Saalach River for White Water Rafting. This involves working as a team to steer the boat, avoiding protruding rocks and tackling rapids. And for those that want to see some of the most beautiful landscapes in Austria head up to Almenwelt Lofer, which is a ski resort in the winter and an incredible place to hike or mountain bike in the summer. Up there you’ll also find typical Austrian cows and huts, and you’ll feel like you’re having the perfect escape.”
The region offers numerous hiking paths with different terrains. Thus, hardcore hikers can enjoy the steep Lousã Mountain while exploring the unique and slowly disappearing schist villages; those who prefer easier paths can have fun in the Serra d’Ossa, a beautiful eucalyptus forest, get a free aromatherapy session, and check out the cork plantations.
To combine nature & history, head to Marvao, a white walls hilltop village where you can get some awesome views of the region.
Not a hiking person? Then have a refreshing dip in the natural and serene lakes near Portalegre, or get your suntan fix on some of the best beaches in Portugal – Praia do Malhão, Farol or Odeceixe, which is an ideal place to get into surfing thanks to many surfing schools there.
Alert for wine lovers! In Alentejo, you can visit the wine cellars or adegas by bike, and taste some of the best wines in the country. Make sure to visit the wineries near the towns of Borba, Vidigueira, Montemor-o-Novo, and Estremoz.
I had been hearing and reading about hiking the Cares River trail in Picos de Europa National Park for years. The park is a hiking mecca filled with breathtaking trails. The Cares River trail is said to be the most challenging, running right through the heart of the national park between the provinces of Asturias and Leon in northern Spain. The land is crisscrossed by rivers, deep gorges and dotted with lakes, forests and peaks, some over 7,000 feet high. The wild landscape is vast and just stunning.
The recommended round trip hike covers 24 kilometers. You can start the trail in either of the two provinces. We started from Poncebos in Asturias to Cain in the province of Leon.
There is so much more to do besides hiking in this often neglected but unique part of Spain. There are several adventure sports outfitters in the area offering rafting, caving, climbing, biking, paragliding, horseback-riding and kayaking. It’s the kind of place you should go to before everybody else finds out about it.
Read more from Travels With Talek
High Tatra Mountains, Slovakia
Hikers especially love the High Tatras for hundreds of kilometers of well-marked paths, some of which require clambering up ladders or chains. Most hikes are doable in a day, and you can create your own multi-day trek adventure in the Tatras if you overnight in alpine chalets.
Likewise, rock climbers, alpinists, and mountaineers enjoy the granite peaks for more strenuous activity, some in the winter as well.
Come snow, slopes fill with downhill skiers and snowboarders. In recent years, snowbiking, snowscooting, and snowtubing have been available, as are dog sledding and cross country skiing
And if you want to take it easy, just stroll around historic towns like Starý Smokovec or Tatranská Lomnica; eat at a traditional restaurant; relax at a spa; visit a gallery, museum, or a botanical garden; or canoe in the Štrbské pleso tarn.
Want to escape the crowds for a solitary hiking holiday in the mountains? Head to Georgia. This former Soviet state has yet to become a popular destination like its neighbour Turkey. As a result, it’s hiking routes are in pristine condition, and you don’t have to worry about overcrowding even in high season.
Kazbeki, located in the north eastern parts of Georgia and is home to some of the best hikes. If you are travelling on limited time, hike up to Gergerti Trinity Church. It is a steep climb, but you can reach the top in about two hours.
For those that have more time on their hands, try the popular hike through Chaukhi pass. It’s a 2 to 4-day hike if you return through Arkhoti. The route will take you past the Chaukhi massif with its seven peaks and three beautiful alpine Abudelauri lakes.
Read more from Lauren Melnick at Wanderlust Movement
West Coast of Ireland
The beautiful unspoiled West Coast of Ireland is a paradise for any outdoor enthusiast. There are lots of things to do in Ireland, whatever your level of experience and aspirations are you will surely find some amazing outdoor adventures in Ireland. No surprise it’s popular for adventurous Ireland backpackers as well.
The powerful waters of the Atlantic Ocean and the strong wind make Ireland perfect for lovers of water sports. The coast is ideal for windsurfing, kite-surfing, and surfing. Yet you can find plenty of lakes, rivers, sheltered coastline and quiet bays that will be great for swimming, kayaking, canoeing, fly fishing or sea angling.
The dramatic scenery and landscape is also excellent for walking, hiking, running, cycling, rock climbing, and horse riding over the hills or at the beach. Ireland is also a golfer’s paradise as one-quarter of the world’s real links courses are located on this island, many of them with breath-taking sea views. The range of opportunities for outdoor activities in Ireland is almost endless.
The Azores, Portugal
There are many reasons to fall in love with the Azores, one of the greenest places on earth and also deemed one of the most sustainable. Located in the North Atlantic Ocean, this autonomous region of Portugal has a tag line that says it all-”Certified by nature.” Nine temperate volcanic islands, each with a unique personality, offer an abundance of activities for the active and adventure traveler.
Hike the 8,000 ft. summit of Mt. Pico or the rugged coastline of Terceira. Bike across the black lava fields of a Unesco World Heritage site. Lava tubes and collapsed calderas allow for geotourism. Caving, hang-gliding across emerald lakes and kayaking all add to the outdoor allure.
Faial is a renowned sailing capital where boats often stop on their trans-Atlantic journeys. Each of the islands has their own marina. Deep waters provide a paradise for fishing enthusiasts, and world records for some species have been caught in the Azores. The mild climate allows golfers to enjoy a game with beautiful views year round. After all that activity, hot springs and natural pools warmed by volcanic fissures offer soaking spots for tired muscles before diving into all the great food on the islands’ menus.
There are definitely hiking trails more demanding than the ones found in Italy’s region of Umbria, but few are as satisfying. Umbria, situated in a landlocked position, is the most verdant region in Italy and is considered it’s “green heart”. There are many hills and valleys, replete with vineyards and groves, that make for romantic jaunts. This region is also home to some of the most sacred Christian pilgrimage sites, not the least of which is the hill town of Assisi; where one can make the same trek Saint Francis himself did in his many hours of prayer. With this said, it’s almost as if the whole town is always hiking.
One of the unique trails is one that can be taken from the town of Spoleto to the town of Norcia, in which one can hike along the trail of where the former railroad tracks that joined the two cities exists. It’s a beautiful narrative of nature taking over industry. This hike can be as challenging as one wants it to be.
What Umbria lacks in coastline, it makes up with its unequaled, beautiful, land. To find a region more gratifying to hike would be your greatest challenge.
Although most people visit the Algarve for a week of soaking up the sun on the beach, the Algarve is also a surprisingly good destination for activities like hiking, cycling, paddleboarding, kayaking, and surfing.
Walking, in particular, is well-established across the Algarve both for self-organized walks and organized walking holidays. There are plenty of short walks, both coastal and inland, all over the Algarve. There are also several multi-day hikes like The Algarve Way and The Fisherman’s Trail, which cover large sections of the Algarve. Although hiking isn’t a popular Portuguese hobby, the walks all tend to be incredibly well-signposted and maintained.
What’s great about the Algarve – surprisingly, considering it’s mainly known for its beaches – is the variety of walks available. Stay in the Central or Western Algarve and you can easily access the mountains of Monchique for hilly walks, the nearby coast for walks along the Algarve cliffs, and the Algarve’s West Coast for walks in the South-West Alentejo National Park.
September to June is the best time for walking (or any outdoor activities). The weather is still warm, but there are fewer tourists than in the summer months and accommodation is considerably cheaper.
Read more from James at the Portugalist
Lake Garda, Italy
One of our favorite adventure travel destinations in Europe is Lake Garda, Italy’s largest lake. If you look at a map of Lake Garda, it’s wide at the bottom and narrows at the top – and the northernmost section, belonging to the Trentino region, is where the fun is really at!
There are so many things to see and do in Lake Garda– the lake is surrounded by mountains reaching up to 2000 meters above sea level and offering a range of adventure activities that has no equals in the country. Naturally, you can hike in the mountains and swim in the lake – but the region is also one of Europe’s best rock climbing hotspots, with nearby Arco having some world-famous crags, and there are opportunities for canyoning and via Ferrata. The lake is also great for water sports – it’s windy every day, making it ideal for sailing, windsurfing, kitesurfing…. truly an adventurer’s paradise.
I know your first thoughts of Scotland’s summers are rain but that does not stop us from hitting the hills or treading out waters. Did you know that Thurso in Scotland has hosted two surfing competitions? Rad eh! Scotland sure is famous for its scenery but those mountains are not just for looking at. Visitors to the Scottish Highlands can hike amongst nature and not all of the treks are strenuous or require a guide (some do). For example, the Stac Pollaidh in Ullapool (which is one of the bigger villages on the increasingly popular North Coast 500 road trip trail) takes a mere two hours to get up and down again and the views are worth it.
Adventure travelers can also take to the waters in the Scottish Highlands. There are companies that offer kayaking, canoeing, river rafting and tubing and, of course, you can take your own devices into the turquoise seas of Mellon Udrigle or Clachtoll. We may not see the sun as often as the Maldives but we certainly have beaches that can compete with theirs.
The beautiful island of Hvar located just off the Croatian coast is well known in the travel world. The island is world-famous for hosting celebrities, fancy yachts, and being a backpackers’ party haven. However, there is so much more to Hvar than that. Hvar is one of the best places in Europe to live a balanced lifestyle.
Hvar Island is a Croatian jewel with so much natural beauty it is hard not to want to be outside and hike. There are many great hiking trails around the island you could spend a whole week here covering just a few. Rock climbing and cliff diving are also great adventures to have in the Mediterranean. And the clue turquoise waters make Hvar a great destination to try your hand at diving and snorkeling. However, one of my favorite activities to do on the island was rent a kayak our and explore the 21 islands that make up the Pakleni Islands.
There are so many great adventure activities for all ages as well as delicious Mediterranean cuisine it’s easy to see why this is such a fabulous spot to live a healthy lifestyle on. It also makes a great day trip from Split.
If you like adventure and hiking you may want to take a look at these articles:
- Best Adventure Destinations in Asia
- Best Adventure Destinations in North & South America
- Best Hikes in Asia
- Best Hikes in Europe
- Best Hikes in Australia & New Zealand
- Best Hikes in North & South America
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Born in England, Sarah developed her wanderlust at a young age as she traveled around Europe with her parents. As a young adult she spent every penny she could on experiences as opposed to possessions. Eventually she found a way to earn a living doing what she loved: traveling, writing and capturing images of the wondrous world we live in. When not on the go Sarah enjoys time in her “sometimes home” of Vancouver.