Offering a diversity of outdoor pursuits from skiing and glacial trekking to wildlife safaris and surfing, urban explorers and outdoor voyagers both flock to Europe every year in the thousands to venture into the great wide open.
From the mountainous heart of the continent to sun-soaked coastal towns, hopping across this 2% of the Earth’s surface offers all intrepid individuals a host of adventures to dive into, but with so many to choose from, it can be hard to know where to start. To help you, we’ve compiled a handy bucket list of the very best in bold and beautiful quests. Here are 9 outdoor adventures in Europe to try at least once:
1. Horseback riding and hot air balloon riding in Cappadocia, Turkey
While its geographical identity as European is hotly debated daily, straddling the continents of Europe and Asia makes Turkey a bridge between West and East, and because it offers such awesome adventures, it’s made our list.
The Persians named Cappadocia as “the land of beautiful horses” after its wild mountain ponies, so naturally, horseback riding in the striking Anatolian plains amongst deep lunarscape canyons and rose-coloured valleys is one of the top things to do in the Turkish city.
Finish off the evening with a sunset hot balloon ride to admire the picturesque panoramic plateaus and palette of dusky pink, orange and cream hues that paint the sky.
2. Diving in Grüner See, Austria
A park that likes to disappear under water every spring, Grüner See is the ultimate wild swimming experience that cannot be missed. Grab a diving mask and live out all your Atlantis dreams in this submerged garden at the foothills of Austria’s Hochschwab mountains.
An unusual natural phenomenon caused by the melting snow which increases the lake level each year, it transforms into a swimming pool from a luscious, tourist-packed emerald lawn.
3. Hot springs in Saturnia, Italy
A small town located in the municipality of Manciano in Tuscany, the hot springs of Saturnia are made of several springs stretching from Mount Amiata to reach the quaint fishing village of Talamone and archaeological ruins of Roselle.
The milky sulphureous waters were well-known by the Etruscans and Romans for their therapeutic and relaxing properties, with legend dictating that its springs are born at the exact point where Jupiter’s thunderbolt fell in a battle against Saturn — hence the name!
If that’s not reason enough to visit, after soaking in the creamy spring, the refreshing waters cascading from Cascate del Mulino and Cascate del Gorello waterfalls are the picture-perfect place for posers looking for a post on Instagram.
4. Diving in the Silfra Fissure, Iceland
Immerse yourself in a unique underwater world filled with unmatched water clarity and swim between the Eurasian and American continental plates.
Located in Þingvellir National Park in Iceland, the Silfra Fissure is one of the top dive sites in the world that allows divers to submerge in glacial waters at the point where two divergent tectonic continental plates meet. Filtered over decades by Iceland’s volcanic basaltic rock, it’s said that the water is some of the cleanest that you will ever taste on Earth, so take a sip during your snorkel.
Not only can you touch two separate continents during a dive here, but the cool water is typically visible over 300 feet in most parts, making it home to some of the clearest, bluest and most beautiful water in the world.
Depending on the time of year, pair a dive with an expedition to Gjabakkahellir cave in the same UNESCO-recognised national park to hike through a lava tube which was created by a river of red-hot glowing magma that reached up to 1800°C thousands of years ago.
5. Reindeer sleigh riding in Lapland, Finland
Follow in the footsteps of the Sami people and tour Lapland in the traditional way; on a reindeer-pulled sleigh to hunt the Northern Lights dancing about Finland’s clear Nordic skies.
If coming face to face with Prancer, Vixen and Rudolf isn’t enough, embark on a husky safari and don’t miss the chance to mush your own pack of dogs. Feel the crisp wind in your face and hold on tight as a gang of husky paws dashes you across the Arctic wild on a safari to sample the sights of Scandinavian snowscape.
6. Riding a gondola in Venice, Italy
The most iconic experience of Venice, aside from wearing a traditional papier mâché mask and dancing at the Grand Ball during Carnevale, is taking a ride down the Grand Canal in a gondola passing some of the most famous landmarks, including Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute, Accademia Bridge and Fenice Theatre. It can be pretty pricey, but it’s well worth it.
While you’re in the city, don’t miss a day trip to the little colourful island of Burano or Murano located in the Venetian Lagoon, famous for its artistic glassblowing technique which dates back to the Roman Empire. Take a tour to a factory to make acquaintance with a Master Artisan who will teach you the tips and tricks you need to know to create the world renowned souvenirs.
7. Hiking in Cinque Terre, Italy
What could be better than hiking through rugged and remote fishing villages to escape back to old-world Italy? A trek through the UNESCO-listed Cinque Terre will spoil you to breathtaking vistas of the iconic candy-coloured houses overlooking the Italian Riviera.
Consisting of five well-known, unique fishing villages perched over the sea in Liguria, the whole region encompasses the smallest Italian National Park called Parco Nazionale delle Cinque Terre. Covering roughly 3.4 miles that include rough stone steps, wild tracks and paved sidewalks, the trek is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that cannot be missed.
8. Climbing 587 steps in Santorini, Greece
Located on the southern tip of the Aegean Sea, Santorini is arguably the most spectacular of all of Greece’s 6,000 islands.
Built on an active volcano, Santorini is well recognised for its brilliant blue roofs and domed buildings, which can be adored by climbing the 587 steps rising from the old port of Skala to Thira, the clifftop capital. And if climbing isn’t your thing, saddle up and ride one of a hundred docile donkeys to the summit to enjoy stunning unrestricted sunsets soaking the Cyclades island group.
While there are a host of hillside adventures to choose from, jump into an off-roader and explore the untamed countryside of wild vineyards and picturesque whitewashed villages. The Santo Winery, in particular, is one of the best places to get a Greek wine education, as it offers an 18-wine tasting flight. That’s right, 18 different wines to be slurped with cheese against a spectacular view.
9. Walking 100 feet above sea level in Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland is one of the world’s most beautiful countries, never mind just Europe, and it’s home to a host of nature-based adventures for explorers to enjoy.
Among all of its treasures, Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge is an adrenaline pumping experience not to be missed. Located near Ballintoy in County Antrim, the bridge spans 20 metres and is suspended almost 100 feet above sea level.
First erected by salmon fishermen in 1755, the bridge connects to the cliffs by a rope bridge across the Atlantic Ocean to reach Carrick-a-Rede Island, home to a single building — a fisherman’s cottage.
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