The level of desired activity an active holiday involves varies from person to person. For some people an active holiday needs to involve several hours of heavy sweating every day, while others are looking for an altogether easier affair, with spells on the beach, at historic attractions or in restaurants broken up by leisurely sporting pursuits that are all about enjoyment.
Whether you fall into one of those categories or somewhere in between, we have a terrific European holiday suggestion for you. Scroll down and you’ll find some of the best active holidays the continent has to offer. And if you’re looking for something closer to home, then check out our round-up of the UK’s finest active breaks.
Take The Ultimate Sledding Trip
A team of huskies pull you across the snowy tundra and frozen lakes of Swedish Lapland while you gaze up at the Northern Lights. How does that sound for a winter holiday? Pretty damn good, we think you’ll agree. While the huskies do take on the bulk of the work, dog-sledding is quite a physically demanding activity, but you don’t need any prior experience of it to take an eight-day trip with Nature Travels, which will teach you everything you need to know to get by.
Book with Nature Travels | From £1,432pp
Go Climbing In The Frankenjura
Located in northern Bavaria, the limestone area of the Frankenjura offers some of the best climbing in Europe, with all levels of experience accommodated for by the vast area of crags to clamber up. Hire a car so you have easy access to both the best climbing spots and the array of small village pubs serving up superb local beers. Best to sample those after climbing, not before.
Canoe The Sella River
The Sella River runs through Asturias in northwest Spain and if you have even a passing interest in canoeing you might well have known that already, because it’s one of the sport’s hotspots. The International Descent of the Sella River is an annual canoe competition that has run on the first Saturday of August since 1930, and you can join the hordes of paddlers taking on a 20km stretch of the river then, or head to Asturias another time and enjoy the river without the crowds.
Cycle Along The Loire
Cycling in France is hardly a novel suggestion, but it’s fair to say that not even the pros who power through the Tour de France every year have managed to sample all the delights that the country has to offer those on two wheels. BSpoke puts on an incredible variety of tours around France, and its Rivers of the Loire eight-day trip stands out as an ideal blend of cycling, sightseeing and wine-tasting. You ride 25-50km a day (apart from a climactic 63km on the final day) along scenic country roads, which allows plenty of time for other activities like visiting historic chateaux and sampling the produce of famous wine-making areas like Chinon and Saumur.
Book with BSpoke | Tour and flights from £1,495
Hike The Via Dinarica Trail
Long-distance trekking in Europe doesn’t get better than this route, which runs for 2,000km through the Dinaric Alps in the Balkans, passing through Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Albania along the way. Until employers offer a very generous amount of annual leave, most people won’t hike the whole shebang in one go, so the big decision you’ll need to make is which stretch of the trail to sample. One of the most popular sections runs from Sutjeska National Park in Bosnia and Herzegovina to Durmitor National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site, in Montenegro. Along the way you’ll have the chance to summit Bosnia and Herzegovina’s highest peak – the 2,386m Maglić – and raft in Tara Canyon, which is the deepest in Europe.
Go Wild In Crete
Wildfitness puts on seven-day breaks that are designed to put you back in touch with nature, as well as allowing you to sample local cuisine and explore the area under your own steam. It’s a great way for city-dwellers in particular to clear their head and the active parts of the trips show off the best of the countryside. There are several locations to choose from but our pick is the Crete trip, set in Milia in the mountains on the west of the Greek island, which offers the chance to trek up and down peaks, clamber around gorges and swim in turquoise seas. And when you’re not out exploring there are cookery workshops using fresh ingredients so you can master some Mediterranean dishes to make when back in Blighty.
Book with Wild Fitness | Seven nights, shared £1,575pp, single £2,500pp
Horse Riding In The Dolomites
Share the load of your activity with a trusty steed by signing up for a couple of weeks of horse riding in the stunning Dolomites mountain range in northern Italy. There are plenty of farms and stables where you can find a gee-gee fit to carry you and your gear around the spiky terrain, and the stables themselves regularly put on events and other activities you can try when you start a feel a little saddle-sore.
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Nick Harris-Fry is a journalist who has been covering health and fitness since 2015. Nick is an avid runner, covering 70-110km a week, which gives him ample opportunity to test a wide range of running shoes and running gear. He is also the chief tester for fitness trackers and running watches, treadmills and exercise bikes, and workout headphones.