Take a step outside the cobblestone streets and museums for a more active getaway with horse riding, surfing, and cycling across and around the continent.
Surf and yoga in Portugal
Head completely off grid and retreat to a world of simple living and rolling waves. Surf Algarve sits in a secluded valley close to the village of Aljezur in western Portugal with accommodation in shared tipis. Every effort is made to be eco-friendly – expect composting toilets, water heated by the sun and an organic vegetable garden. The camp offers twice daily yoga sessions either on the beach or their yoga deck, as well as surfing lessons and guiding. In other words if you can’t get your chakras aligned here then it’s time to take up another hobby.
• Prices from €695 for five days including all meals, twice-daily yoga lessons, surfing lessons and equipment hire and transport to beaches; surfalgarve.com
Horse riding in Italy
Most of the Cilento region south of Naples is a national park with stunning rugged scenery lending itself perfectly to a week of horseriding on trails alternately running through ancient villages, olive groves, coastal paths and wild hilltops. The routes offered are suitable for beginner riders through to advanced and for those keen to taste more of Italian culture than horse hair, meals (along with accommodation) are provided at I Moresani, a farm which prides itself on its organic and home-grown produce.
• Seven nights and 14 hours’ riding from £526 which includes full-board accommodation and rides but excludes flights to Naples; inthesaddle.com
Multi activity in Sardinia
After the hordes of Italian holidaymakers have departed, but before winter sets in and everything closes, there is a delicious window of opportunity to enjoy the natural playground of Sardinia without being burnt alive in the midday sun. The Lemon House in Ogliastra on the island’s east coast is run by two mountain biking and rock climbing enthusiasts who are more than keen to impart their knowledge on routes – both up and down – as well as advise on hikes, road cycles and kayak trips. The house throbs with a love of physical activity which makes the classic Italian sundowner on the roof even more worthwhile.
• Bed and breakfast accommodation from €29pppn; peteranne.it
Canoeing in Sweden
Dalsland, the Swedish lake district, sits around two hours north of Gothenburg. Interconnected lakes and vast expanses of forest offer up the perfect combination of wild adventure and moderate activity. Nature Travels has a seven-day, six-night self-guided canoeing trip which leaves you free to adapt your route depending on your enthusiasm and fitness. And while pretty villages pepper the landscape as you drift past, accommodation each night is under the stars with wild camping spots and fireplaces adding a touch of Bear Grylls to the proceedings.
• £161pp based on two people sharing a canoe. Price includes canoe equipment, kitchen and camping equipment, maps, lock tickets and camping permits; naturetravels.co.uk
Cycling in France
Well it would be rude not to wouldn’t it, what with the British triumph in the Tour? But if the thought of hauling yourself over col after will-sapping col doesn’t appeal then Cyclomundo has a more relaxing trip on offer taking in the three main lakes of the Alps – Geneva, Annecy and Bourget. The route is on river paths so you get to experience the drama of the scenery – and the coffee shops of the towns – without having a coronary.
• Five nights from €785 which includes breakfast, three dinners, forward luggage transfer and maps but does not include bike hire; cyclomundo.com
Mountain biking in Austria
Maybe not the first place that comes to mind when you think of mountain biking in Europe, but Austria has some beautiful and uncrowded trails just a stone’s throw from major airports (if your stone takes one and a half hours to land that is). The village of Ellmau sits proudly at 2,700ft and slap bang in the middle of both the Wilder Kaiser and the Hartkaiser ranges. Take your pick from freeride, cross country and tight singletrack all with cable cars to transport you back up should your thighs require the help. Be warned though – the folks at Uphill and Downhill love going both ways. Accommodation is on a working dairy farm meaning you do not have to worry about being well fed after a hard day on the trails.
• Seven nights for €650 which includes full-board accommodation, bike hire and airport transfers; upanddownhill.com
Swimming with dolphins in the Azores
Inspired by the Olympic aquatics centre but feel like you’d still rather swim with real fishes? Rather than just lobbing you off the side of a boat in the open ocean, Dolphin Connection takes a real interest in marine conservation and ecosystems, encouraging guests to develop their understanding of the environment they are swimming in and offering lectures on marine biology. Its week-long swimming with dolphin trips include five boat trips as well as guidance in how to develop confidence in the open water.
• Trips run until end of October. Seven nights from £570 including bed and breakfast accommodation, airport transfers, and marine presentations; dolphinconnectionexperience.com
Kitesurfing in Spain
You can lounge around on a beach all day but where’s the fun in that? Tantrum Kitesurf is based in the windy and sunny town of Tarifa on Spain’s south-west coast meaning you’ve got ample conditions to get to grips with this fast-moving sport. A week-long immersion course includes unlimited instruction and promises to have you whizzing up the learning curve faster than you can yell “big wave!”.
• Eight nights from €795 including accommodation, instruction, all kit hire, transfers to the beach and insurance; tantrumkitesurf.com
Hiking in Romania
Hikers looking for a more off-beat challenge than the Alps need look no further than the Fagaras range. The mountains form an incredible ridgeline offering amazing views of glacial lakes and steep valleys. Walks Worldwide has an eight-day trek with accommodation in mountain huts and including two days spent trekking in the Piatra Craiului national park, home to wolf, bear and lynx. Safe to say you’ll get your outdoor fix.
• Eight days from £655pp departing 8 September and including accommodation, all meals, mountain guide and airport transfers; walksworldwide.com
Northern Lights in Finland
One for romantic types. You don’t have to wait until the freezing depths of mid-winter in order to witness the aurora borealis although that may make rubbing noses seem a bit more logical. Take yourself off to the remote Finnish village of Nellim on the Russian border and spend your evenings searching the skies while your days are spent hiking through hundreds of acres of wildness, pausing for picnics created using local produce. You can even pan for gold nearby which could turn it into a very successful holiday indeed.
• Four nights from £1,345pp including return flights from London, accommodation on a B&B basis, some meals, airport transfers and specified activities; theaurorazone.com
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