Hit mountains, coastal areas, lakes, rivers and gorges with these holiday ideas
Explore 11 of Europe's best summer activity breaks
Walking, cycling, kayaking, sailing, diving or clinging on for dear life while climbing a via ferrata – the opportunities for active breaks in Europe are dizzying in their variety. It’s helped enormously by the sheer number of mountain ranges crammed into the continent – the Pyrenees, Alps, Balkans, Tatras and Caucasus – not to mention the wildly diverse coastal areas, lakes, rivers and gorges. Mix and match activities on a multi-active holiday or just stick to the one you prefer the most.
Walking in Albania
If you’re looking for a new definition of remoteness, join this trek through Albania’s Accursed Mountains. Also known as the Albanian Alps, this mountain range in the country’s northern corner is wedged between the borders with Montenegro and Kosovo, and is as wild as you can imagine. KE Adventure Travel has a nine-day hike that starts dramatically enough with a boat trip through the fjord-like Lake Koman, and carries on through the Valbona Valley towards the tiny village of Theth. Accommodation is in simple village guesthouses, and mules will transport your luggage along the rough mountain tracks. The holiday, which runs from June to September, costs £615 (Dh3,031) per person, and includes accommodation, all meals, a guide and transfers from Tirana.
Via ferrata in the Dolomites
The Dolomites are among Italy’s most breathtaking wonders, with their jagged peaks taking on a pink tinge in the sunshine. Rather than doing a traditional hike through these glorious mountains, strap yourself in for a trip along the via ferratas. These “iron paths” were created during the First World War to traverse these forbidding peaks, and nowadays you can climb them while wearing a safety harness and helmet. Dolomite Mountains has an eight-day guided trip, classified as moderate to challenging, that starts in glamorous Cortina d’Ampezzo and ends in Alta Badia. The starting price of €1,790 (Dh7,729) per person is based on four people travelling together and includes bed and breakfast accommodation at the start and finish, mountain refuges along the way, equipment, breakfast and some dinners. A self-guided option is also available. The trips run from mid-June to mid-September.
Sailing in Croatia
Get to know Croatia’s jewel-like islands along the Adriatic coast by learning how to sail with Sunsail, which runs courses for novices and intermediates. Complete beginners can take the five-day RYA Competent Crew course, while intermediates can spend five days on the RYA Day Skipper course to gain the experience needed for flotilla holidays. Based in the small port of Marina, 20 kilometres west of Split airport, the courses run from April to November and cost from £574 (Dh2,829) to £777 (Dh3,830) per person. The price includes accommodation on board the boat, along with most meals.
Active family holiday in the Spanish Pyrenees
As the spotlight turns on French Pyrenees during the Tour de France in July, head over the border to discover the Spanish side of this sprawling mountain range. Explore has a family activity holiday based in a riverside hotel in the Catalan town of Sort – a handy sport for activities in the Aigues Tortes National Park and the Noguera River. Along with hiking and mountain biking, you will get the chance to try white-water rafting, canyoning and abseiling. The starting price for this eight-day holiday, which runs in July and August, is £655 (Dh3,229) per person, and includes accommodation, breakfast, transfers from Barcelona airport and guides. Activities are arranged and paid for locally. The minimum age is 8.
Kayaking in Montenegro
Away from Montenegro’s hot spots of Kotor and Budva is the untouched wilderness of Lake Skadar, the largest lake in the Balkans. Get a close-up view of this wondrous pristine landscape on a kayak or a canoe during a five-day holiday run by Undiscovered Montenegro from April to August. You will be camping by the shores of the lake and learning how to fish and forage. Prices start from £595 (Dh2,933) per person, and include accommodation, equipment, meals and transport. The company also offers yoga, walking, multi-activity and birdwatching holidays from its base near the village of Virpazar.
Walking in Georgia
Hikers who like a challenge can get into the mountainous heart of Georgia on a 10-day guided trek with Walks Worldwide. Starting in the capital, Tbilisi, you will carry on deep into the Caucasus Mountains until you reach the Atsunta Pass at 3,430 metres, passing sleepy medieval villages along the way. There are departures in July and September, and the price of £1,585 (Dh7,815) per person includes accommodation (tents and guesthouses), most meals, a guide, main luggage transport and overland transfers.
Cycling in Slovakia
Better known as a ski resort, Jasna in Slovakia’s Tatra Mountains has been expanding its summer activities and offering good-value breaks. Jasna Adventures has launched a new five-night cycling package through the unspoilt mountains for mountain bike and road cyclists, mixing mountain climbs with scenic long-distance rides. For £463 per person (Dh2,283), you get four days of guided cycling, and will be based at the company’s Dragon’s Lair chalet, with breakfast, on-road support and transfers from Poprad-Tatry airport.
Hiking and yoga in the Austrian Tyrol
The Alpine splendour of the Austrian Tyrol makes a heavenly backdrop to morning yoga sessions – followed by a hike through some of the region’s most spectacular scenery. WearActive Austria offers holidays combining yoga and hiking at its MoaAlm mountain retreat in the south of the country near Lienz. Running from June to September, the seven-night holiday costs from €850 (Dh3,670) per person, and includes accommodation, most meals, yoga sessions, guided hikes and transfers to Lienz.
Diving in Malta
The clear, calm waters of Malta and its sister islands Gozo and Comino offer some superb diving and glimpses into a fabulous marine world. Choose from easy dives for beginners to tougher explorations for experienced divers, taking in submerged wrecks, reefs, underwater tunnels, the Blue Hole of Gozo and the Blue Lagoon of Comino. Go Dive Malta offers a three-day Padi open-water diver course for €410 (Dh1,771) per person, while more experienced divers can go deep diving or wreck diving.
Skiing and biking in the French Alps
If you haven’t had enough skiing over the winter, head to Les Deux Alpes (www.les2alpes.com), which has the largest skiable glacier in the French Alps. Get your fix on the snow in the morning, then swap skis for a mountain bike to hit the trails, which you can access from cable cars. The glacier is open from June 23 to August 26, and the mountain-bike park stays open until September 1. For something more sedate, try the large range of hiking trails, or just flop in the clean waters of La Buissonniere swimming lake. Peak Retreats has seven nights’ bed and breakfast at the Hotel Cote Brune, which has an outdoor pool and spa, from £473 (Dh2,333) per person. The nearest airport is Grenoble.
If the thought of gruelling mountain climbs is too much, but you still want to cover a lot of ground, try the new Five Countries Cycle holiday by UTracks. During 10 days, you follow the course of the Meuse River and the Vennbahn Rail Trail through the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Luxembourg and Germany. Starting in Maastricht, you ride through the Ardennes forest and past Europe’s largest castle at Sedan in France. Running from May until September, the holiday costs from £895 (Dh4,447) per person, and includes nine nights’ bed and breakfast, equipment, luggage transfers, route maps and notes. There is also the option of renting electric bikes.