Europe's 15 Top Adventure Destinations
From sky-blue seas and rugged mountain ranges to snow-dusted ski fields and Alpine hiking trails, this list of Europe's 15 top adventure travel destinations has something for every type of intrepid globetrotter. Where will you go?
1. Dalmatia, Croatia
If sailing on open seas of turquoise blue, wild swimming in crystal-clear waters, and crashing over the swells to find hidden coves is your idea of a real adventure, then Croatia's sun-kissed Dalmatian coast might just be the perfect adventure destination for you. We've been running YachtLife tours in this gorgeous corner of Europe for years now, and we never tire of hiking the Biokovo Mountain or exploring the fir-spotted isles of the Adriatic.
2. The Dolomites, Italy
Flaunting their UNESCO World Heritage tag and enviable location on the edge of the Austrian Alps, the Dolomites are surely amongst Europe's most handsome mountains. They are crossed by some of the most famous long-distance hiking trails on the continent, too, like the Via Ferrata and the Alta Via Uno to Belluno. And that's not even mentioning the skiing, which clocks up thousands of kilometers of piste from Corvara to Cortona.
3. Chamonix, France
The original Alpine skiing destination in Europe and the privileged host of not one, but two Winter Olympics, Chamonix is surely a chart-topper when it comes to adventure travel. Hidden in the high French Alps, it's overlooked by none other than the Mont Blanc massif – the tallest peak in western Europe. That's home to glaciers and hiking trails and lookout points aplenty. Don't forget the camera!
4. Bodrum, Turkey
Bodrum is hailed as the yachting capital of the Aegean Sea, which is amongst the top yachting destinations on the globe – think hidden coves and pearly-blue waters to rival even the Caribbean. That’s one of the reasons we love sailing this way on our YachtLife Med trips, crisscrossing the seas to discover the rugged bays of Gokova and Gulluk and other whitewashed fishing villages along the way.
5. The Tatra Mountains, Poland
One of the top destinations for skiing in Poland and a veritable hiking mecca come the summer months, the Tatra Mountains are packed with fir-clad valleys and soaring peaks. The trails weave and wind out from the charming town of Zakopane, and shoot up to the high Giewont summit that overlooks Slovakia from the north. In the winter, Kasprowy Wierch and Bialka are both snow-dusted ski fields – the perfect place to don the salopettes.
6. Lake Bled, Slovenia
Ah Lake Bled: The jewel in Slovenia's crown. This shimmering, sparkling Alpine lake in the Julian ranges might be popular with adventure travelers, but don't let that put you off. You can hike and swim in the freshwater, wonder at pretty Baroque churches, go boating and – in winter – even ski under the moonlight between the rugged peaks. Yep, all that and more just one hour away from the capital at Ljubljana!
7. Rila, Bulgaria
While the small mountain town of Rila might be best known for its UNESCO-tagged monastery, there's also no doubting the adventure possibilities that arise with the rugged mountains that surround the town. Dressed in fir trees and crisscrossed by oodles of walking paths where very few ramblers go, it's the perfect place for those in search of an off-the-beaten-track hiking holiday; one that conquers the 3,000-meter high summit of Musala along the way.
8. Iceland…all of it!
Iceland is a veritable playground for adventure types. From north to south, this beautiful country is carved through by fjords and slashed with snow-clad coastal mountains. You can laze in bubbling hot springs like the Blue Lagoon, and wonder at the crashing waterfalls of Seljalandsfoss and Gullfoss – seriously, they are awesome! And that's not even mentioning the glacier hikes and volcano treks…
9. The Pyrenees, Andorra
The Pyrenees might just be one of the most breathtaking sections of the famous Camino trail – an iconic medieval pilgrimage route that goes all the way from England to the city of Santiago de Compostela in Spain. The mountains are exceptionally beautiful in the small country of Andorra, where the ski fields of Arcalis and Pal offer winter entertainments, and there are oodles of winding hiking paths for the warmer months.
10. Cairngorms, Scotland
It doesn't get much wilder than the Cairngorms National Park – at least as far as the British Isles are concerned. These undulating fells of windblown peaks rise and fall with thistle-peppered fields and dashes of fir forests. Lochs hide between the ridges and there are bothies (real-stone huts) waiting on the trails for walkers. In the winter, there's also a ski resort open, offering the only downhills runs in the entire of the UK.
11. Jungfrau, Switzerland
Just one soaring mountain ridge away from the mighty Eiger (the home of the challenging North Face climb), the Jungfrau peak rises to a whopping 3,500 meters above sea level. Although there's the Jungfraubahn cog railway all the way to the summit these days, it's much more adventurous to hit the hiking paths, conquer the crevasses and scale the monstrous massif yourself. Once you're at the top, sweeping panoramas of the Swiss Alps await on all sides!
12. Andalusia, Spain
Whether you come to Spain's gorgeous southern region to cycle the high passes of the Sierra Nevada, ski the pistes of the mountains (yep, skiing in Spain!), trek amongst the pueblo blancos (beautiful whitewashed villages), or swim in the beaches of the coast, you're bound to discover adventure here!
13. The Silver Coast, Portugal
Calling all board riders, the Silver Coast is Portugal's surfing mecca. Enjoying the brunt of the strong Atlantic swells, it runs all the way from Lisbon city in the south to the cliff-backed beaches just shy of Porto in the north. It's prime wave territory, with towns like Peniche and Figueira da Foz offering up reliable tubes and left-to-right beach breaks throughout the whole year.
14. Otztal, Austria
Okay, so it's true that we could probably have picked any of the Alpine valleys that shoot off from Austria's central belt and listed it here. But Otztal is worthy of a special mention, if only for the wealth of summertime hiking routes that go across to Italy from Obergurgl, and the duo of glaciers that are on offer to skiers until late in May some seasons! You'll simply never tire of exploring these gorgeous peaks…
15. Cappadocia, Turkey
Surround yourself with otherworldly rock formations and ancient troglodyte settlements by delving into the dusty reaches at the heart of Anatolia. This is where Turkey's bubbling hot springs and shining beaches on the Aegean give way to rock-ribbed ranges of carved mountains, Colorado-esque canyons and toppling hoodoos the likes of which you've never seen before. It's prime horse riding territory, and perfect for hot air balloon excursions. Talk about adventure travel!
Of course, there are oodles of more amazing adventure travel destinations in Europe. If you would like to add one to this list, be sure to make your voice heard in the comments below. Or, if you think it's time you headed out and explored the wilder reaches of the continent, be sure to check out LBW's offering of trips there.