With summer underway and the school holidays fast approaching, many parents will be planning family holidays across Europe.
The continent’s vast array of cities, areas of natural beauty and famous landmarks make it an ever-popular holiday destination. But it can still be challenging to find a getaway that will keep the entire family happy while abroad.
A world away from sightseeing and city dwelling, an adventure holiday is a great way to see some of Europe’s most captivating scenery while ensuring that all ages are catered for.
Activities from hiking and biking to white water rafting and kayaking provide entertainment during the days, with evenings spent among rolling hills, soaring mountains, quiet countryside or scenic stretches of coast.
With such a wide range of things to do and places to go, it can be difficult to know where to start when planning the perfect adventure holiday. Fortunately, several providers offer packages that take care of the planning for you; we’ve rounded up some of the best.
Find the Northern Lights in Rovaniemi
Rovaniemi is the capital of Finnish Lapland and the self-styled ‘Hometown of Santa Claus’, home to a Santa Claus Village that makes it a great option for younger kids (or anyone who particularly likes Christmas). Perhaps even more alluring than the promise of visiting Saint Nick is the potential to see the Northern Lights; with dark skies and lack of light pollution in the surrounding area, the ‘season’ in this Finnish town lasts from mid-August to early April.
A holiday in Lapland brings the opportunity to go on reindeer sleigh rides, husky adventures and snowmobile excursions, as well as ice fishing and Northern Lights expeditions. Activities Abroad offers trips across Lapland (including the Swedish part); its ‘Pick and Mix’ Rovaniemi package even includes a three-night stay in an Aurora Cabin at the Apukka resort. You can choose from a range of additional activities (with prices ranging from £50 to £180 per person), while the package, starting from £915pp, incorporates airport transfers and six meals during the holiday.
An Alpine adventure in France
While the region is more famed for its winter ski offerings, the French Alps are a spectacular choice for an activity-filled summer holiday too. Among the best towns is Chamonix, where Alpine atmosphere meets more traditional architectural styles. Almost as popular in summer as it is winter, this busy town sits near the foot of Mont Blanc, the tallest mountain in Western Europe (standing at 4,809 metres). Surrounded by towering peaks, glassy lakes and extensive greenery, it is also home to over 217 miles of trails. Kids can be kept busy on gentle hikes and cycle rides, while the one of the world’s highest cable cars – the Aiguille du Midi – can take you up to 3,842 metres, with breathtaking views of the surrounding Alps.
Inghams offers a Chamonix package recommended for families with children and teens. Prices from £629pp for seven nights, B&B, including flights and transfers plus two guided walks and a ‘Chamonix Valley Card’ that gives holders free travel and discounted rates at attractions. Additional optional excursions include e-biking, rafting, canyoning, rock climbing and even paragliding with a professional pilot.
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Walking in Wales
If the family enjoy sweeping coastal views and long walks interrupted only by frequent beach visits, look no further than Pembrokeshire. This southwestern corner of Wales is home to the dazzling, 186-mile long Pembrokeshire Coast Path, which takes you along dramatic, rocky cliffs and stretches of fine golden sand. A closer-to-home alternative to other holidays, trips here offer a blend of adventure and the traditional British seaside resort holiday.
Celtic Trails provides several package walking holidays across the UK and Europe. Its Pembrokeshire Coast offerings cover various sections of the path, from the 110-mile section between Amroth and Herbrandston to the 15-mile stretch between Newport and St Dogmael’s. For a pleasant introduction to the area that won’t be too taxing, opt for the ‘Gateway to Pembrokeshire’ package; it covers 15 miles from Tenby to the village of Manorbier, covering a quintessential British seaside town and pristine stretches of beach. From £345pp, with a £10 pp supplement for July and August holidays, including three nights’ accommodation, B&B, and two days of walking.
Watersports in Croatia
Emerald waters meet white sands and the waterfront promenades of cities such as Split on Croatia’s Dalmation coast, making it an idyllic setting for water sports. The sea plus the Cetina River are where you can try rafting, tubing, sea kayaking and wild swimming (be sure to check out the area around Gubavica Falls as well as the beaches). Land-based activities, meanwhile, include ziplining, canyoning, beach days and visits to places such as Split and Trogir.
Responsible Travel provides a Croatian adventure itinerary in Split, with all the above activities covered. From £995pp, for a four-night stay in a four-star property (excluding flights).
Island-hopping in Greece
For a slightly different adventure, take to the seas around the Greek islands of the Cyclades. Numerous days of sailing await you there, weaving in between islands such as Mykonos and Santorini while making daily stops for activities both on land and at sea, from island walking tours to snorkelling. Swimming, hiking and general ‘island exploration’ are the main activities here, complemented by the turquoise Aegean waters and rugged, sun-drenched islands as far as the eye can see.
For your own personal Odyssey, try Responsible Travel’s ‘Cyclades Sailing and Walking Holiday’ package. The seven-day tour starts in Naxos and takes you to islands including Amorous, Iraklia and Paros, with evening strolls, mountain hikes, bay-side swims and meze dinners galore. From £726pp for seven days’ accommodation on a yacht, B&B, plus a skipper and walking guide, and use of snorkelling equipment. Flights excluded.
Camping in Spain
Stretching across a section of Spain’s northern coast, the province of Asturias contains rugged mountains, jagged cliffs, serene lakes and tranquil coast – the ideal backdrop for a camping trip. Common activities here include hiking, swimming, water sports, mountaneering, caving and canyoning. Places of interest include Ribadesella, Cudillero and Llanes on the coast, Cangas de Onis inland, the Picos de Europa National Park (some of which is located in the southeast of the region) and the Cabo Vidio cliffs.
There are numerous campsites in the Picos, near the coast and everywhere in-between, so it makes sense to do a tour of the towns and mountains mentioned above if you have the time. Camping Picos de Europa Avin offers camping and bungalows in the National Park near Cangas de Onis (€8 per adult), while Camping Ribadesella, l’Almuravela and Camping Las Conchas (€9, €7.30, €7 per adult respectively)are among some of the most popular campsites near the respective towns.
Cycling in the Austrian Lake District
Located just to the east of Salzburg, the Austrian Lake District – known as the Salzkammergut – is a land of calm blue waters and lush green hills punctuated by picturesque Alpine towns and villages. Taking in Alpine scenery, swimming in clear lakes and visiting places like the Unesco-listed Hallstatt would be great options for any holiday, but the region’s lakeside roads, country lanes and cycle paths perfectly lend themselves to trips by bike (with plenty that are suitable for the whole family).
Inntravel offers an Austrian Lake District package, comprising a week-long cycling circuit covering over 100 miles at a relaxed pace. You’ll begin with a 25-mile loop of St Gilgen, before making your way to Hallstatt via Mondsee, Seefeld and St Agatha, with a variety of distances covered each day. Other than the route, the daily itinerary is left up to you, but optional activities include boat rides, museum tours and spa visits. From £1,240pp for seven nights, B&B, including three dinners and bike hire. Excludes flights.
Geographical gems in Iceland
Iceland’s dizzying range of natural landmarks includes incredible waterfalls, vast glaciers, remarkably colourful lava fields and snow-capped mountains, all loosely linked together by an extremely convenient ring road around the country. The presence of this road means that, given sufficient time, you can see almost all the sights and cities in Iceland in one grand, sweeping trip.
This is exactly the idea on Regent Holidays’ ‘Full Circle Fly-Drive’ package – a 14-day tour of the country that begins and ends in the capital, Reykjavik. It takes in five waterfalls, two National Parks, Europe’s largest glacier and dozens of mountains and volcanoes, with walks, hikes, climbs, swims and other forms of exploration all encouraged. Prices start at £1,995pp for 13 nights’ accommodation, B&B, flights and car hire.
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