From island hopping in Croatia via kayak to ice caving in Austria, here are unforgettable adventure holidays in Europe of a lifetime
Europe is a hub of diverse cultures, landscapes, traditions and values. Whether it is to enjoy a country’s particular cuisine, embrace its climate, to venture to its world famous attractions, there are many different kinds of adventures to be had in this continent. Below I explore a selection of adventurous activities and the best European country that you can travel to, to experience each in. These are adventure holidays in Europe you’ll never forget!
Croatia – Island Hopping
If you get bored of spending your entire holiday in just one place within a country, then an island hopping adventure could be just for you. Not only will you be kept captivated, as you could potentially travel to a different island each day but this way of holidaying is a fantastic way to really get to know the various sub-cultures that make up a country.
Ecophiles recommends: How to explore wild Croatia and island-hop on a kayak
Croatia is a known for its exotic beaches, incredible summer festivals, beautiful national parks and incredible tasting olive oil, truffles and pag cheese (a variety of hard cheese made of sheep’s milk). With approximately 1000 islands residing around the country (although not all are inhabited or accessible), it is hard to know where to start. Each island has its own charming characteristics and are all a short boat ride away from one another.
Here are a couple of the most well-known and travelled to islands in Croatia; Mljet is perfect for nature lovers as it has a beautiful national park, many walks and trails, a wide variety of sea creatures and two salt lakes. As well as having offering beautiful views and interesting culture, Murter and Pag host some of Croatia’s biggest music festivals and consequently have an extensive nightlife scene. If relaxing on shimmery, golden, sandy beaches is the main reason that you go on holiday, then the rustic island of Rab should definitely be on your itinerary.
Santorini, Greece – Sailing
Whether you rent your own boat or embark on a tour, sailing is an adventurous way to appreciate the beauty of a country’s land and its waters.
Santorini, found within the Cyclades islands of Greece, offers travellers a heavenly stay, worthy of Greek Gods and Goddesses. The villages of Santorini are built on the steep cliffs of a caldera, a crater left exposed by the collapse of a volcano that is now mostly submerged beneath the sea. The white washed walls of buildings, peachy coloured houses, perfectly shaped blue domes and uneven cobbled streets makes it an iconic destination for its architecture.
Ecophiles recommends: How to sail the Santorini caldera in style
The sea that surrounds the island is idyllic and many individuals enjoy the views and peace that the waters provide by going sailing. Boat tours are a popular choice of sailing in Santorini. This way you will be able to fully experience the island’s beauty, stress free, and depending on which tour you book, you could be shown around the other active volcanic islands, enjoy the sunset over the sea and get to snorkel in the crystal clear waters.
Love Greece and the water? Here’s another exciting adventure you can’t miss:
Ecophiles recommends: Explore the Athens Riviera and kayak to the Temple of Poseidon
Eisriesenwelt, Austria – Ice caving
Our planet is full of breathtaking landscapes but once you get beneath the top surface even more unusual and beautiful formations can be found. Often known as spelunking or potholing, caving is an adventurous activity that involves exploring the network of natural caves formed by either chemical reactions or erosion.
In Werfen, Austria, you can discover the world’s largest natural limestone and ice cave inside the mountain of Hochkogel. The ice cave is called Eisriesenwelt and covers an area of approximately thirty miles. The magnificent ice structures are formed by water, trickling through the cracks and gaps of the limestone exterior and as they enter the cave, the water freezes and slowly builds upwards.
Once visitors enter the cave, the only light emitted is by a few lamps and hand held torches, making the ice glow and glitter. On the tour you will be able to marvel at the extraordinary natural and also man-made ice sculptures, ice lakes and experience the freezing temperatures, stillness and silence of the ice cave. Visiting Eisriesenwelt will be a truly magnificent adventure but remember to wrap up warm, even in the summer months!
Cuevas del Drach, Spain – Sea caving
There are many sea caves around the world, formed by waves of water pushing against a coastline’s cliffs. This erodes the cliff’s material and leaves a hollow opening.
Majorca or Mallorca, whichever you know it as, is a popular Spanish holiday destination recognised for its gothic cathedral (Le Seu) and paradise beaches. Majorca is also home to Cuevas del Drach, a series of four gigantic, natural, limestone sea caves; Black Cave, White Cave, Cave of Luis Salvador and Cave of the French and also Europe’s largest underground lake; Lago Martel.
When inside the caves, there are paths to follow and ladders stationed, allowing you to explore their different heights. The caves are known for their impressive stalactites, which are long, pointed formations that hang from the ceiling, creating very sinister almost teeth like structures. These configurations are the consequence of water precipitation. The tour of the cave concludes with a magical, floodlit serenade from a group of boating musicians.
Babadag Mountain, Turkey – Paragliding
Imagine being able to soar through the sky in a paraglider. Your only source of control is from the pulley strings that are attached to the edge of the wings, that allow you to alter its shape, but other than that you are completely reliant on the force of the wind. As adventure holidays in Europe go, this couldn’t get any more picture perfect.
With its stunning panorama views and ideal flying conditions, Babadag Mountain, is a top spot for paragliding in Europe. The incredible paragliding spot is located in Oludeniz, a town located in South Western Turkey, known for its beautiful blue lagoon, blooming national park and divine beaches, all of which you will hover over.
There are many different companies that you can go through, most of which offer tandem paragliding, which is where an instructor and another individual can be both strapped into the paraglider together. Hand over the control to your instructor and allow yourself to enjoy the exhilarating feeling of flying and beauty of the landscapes!
River Guadiana, Spain – Zip Lining
Perhaps you are an adrenaline junkie or a lover of nature. Either way zip lining will excite thrill seekers as well as allow individuals to appreciate the diverse and undisturbed surroundings as they glide from one platform to another.
Sanlúcar de Guadiana, a village in Spain, sits alongside the River Guadiana. This river marks the border between Spain and Portugal. There is much cultural value in this area as in the past smugglers used to follow the border’s route in order to trade goods and both countries used the River banks as a strategic, defence position when they fought against one another.
You can experience a unique adventure in the village; there is a zip line that crosses 720 metres, taking you from the Spanish side of the River, to the Portuguese side. This is the world’s first cross-border zip line! Whilst riding the zip line cable, you can reach speeds of up to 70 to 80 km/h. A ferry ride back to the other side is included in the package price too.
Laugavegur, Iceland – Trekking
Trekking trips are full of extraordinary scenery and adventure. It is not surprising that Iceland is a popular country for trekking as it is full of geological wonders such as; the Göoafoss waterfall, the Sólheimajökull glacier, Myvatn Nature Bath’s lagoons, the Landmannalaugar Mountains and Lakagígar’s volcanic craters.
There is a particular route that attracts a lot of trekker’s attention called The Laugavegur trail. Although the weather can affect the difficulty of this trail, it is considered to be fairly easy. It can take up to 5 days to travel, depending on your pace and you will travel approximately 34 miles (54km). If you aren’t a fan of camping then this trail is suitable for you too as along the way there are huts that you can pre-book to stay the night in.
There are around 130 volcanoes in Iceland and their presence has created very interesting land formations. Along this Icelandic trail you will discover some of them including; solid lava structures with moss and snow patches, volcanic ash which looks similar to black sand and naturally hot Springs, which water’s are heated by intrusions of magma. Through the wilderness you will also encounter some other impressive and surreal environments like glacier lakes and colourful mountains, created by different types of rock building up on top of one another.
Ljubljanica River, Slovenia – SUP (Stand up paddle boarding)
Sometimes surfing can be quite daunting; especially if the waves are quite rough, but SUP otherwise known as ‘stand up paddle boarding’ is another far more peaceful way to enjoy the sea. However rather than getting an adrenaline rush from catching and riding a wave, the thrill comes from trying to keep your balance and using the paddle to propel you at the same time, preventing you from toppling over into the water below.
Slovenia is a small country within the continent of Europe and has borders with the Adriatic Sea and the Alps. It is made up of different water ecosystems such as one of the striking, still Alpine Lakes; Lake Bled, The Soca River which has turquoise waters and is a place to experience flying fish and Lake Cerknica, which, depending on the season, disappears and the land that appears becomes an area for cattle grazing.
The Ljubljanica River is a particular favourite adventure of paddle boarders as it allows you to explore historic sites along the River. Some of the highlights include; Ljubljanica’s picturesque Old Town, the medieval fortress; Castle of Ljubljanica and the unique Three Bridges which connects the historic Old Town to the modern side of the city.
Graubünden, Switzerland – Mountain biking
Mountain biking is definitely not for the faint hearted or inexperienced bikers. You must be confident at controlling your bike as your route will often cover steep, bumpy and possibly slippery terrain. But if the idea of riding over uneven ground sounds like a thrill to you and you enjoy being surrounded by nature, then mountain biking is certainly an adventure sport you should try.
Switzerland has four official languages; French, German, Italian and Rhaeto-Romantsch (with Latin roots) and is known for its shimmering glaciers, flower filled fields and snow slopes. The Alps almost covers half of Switzerland and this creates beautiful mountain ranges, perfect for biking through. Graubünden is a well known destination within Switzerland for this adventurous sport. It has a very large network of trails and paths, including steep and muddy flow-trails that link together in s-shapes, more gentle routes suitable for family rides and it has an extensive lift system which means that you experience the joy of descending, without the effort of getting up there in the first place!
So to sum it all up, Europe is a great continent to travel to and explore. Its countries are overflowing with adventures! Whether you want to experience the different areas of a country, discover attractions in unusual ways, enjoy the natural wonders or just want your next adrenaline hit, there are brilliant adventure holidays in Europe to be had by everyone.