Extreme Travel | Adventure Sports

Top 15 Euro adventures

Expert's guide to Europe's most challenging short-stay trips
© Cea, Flickr

Want to head off on an adventure but don’t have much holiday left? Fear not. WideWorld asked top adventure travel writer Sarah Woods, author of 101 Adventure Weekends in Europe, to let us in on 15 of her favourite spots.

Snow Rafting – Slovakia

East central Slovakia is punctuated with the jagged beautiful peaks of the high Tatras, a breathtaking Alpine ridge that draws over five million visitors a year. Rugged trails snake through an awesome series of gorges, rapids and waterfalls. It is snow rafting that is capturing the imagination of non-skiing winter visitors keen to get a kick from the slopes: bouncing at speed down a snow-crusted mountain slope, propelled by a catapult-style bungee. All of the most reputable snow rafting operators are registered with Satur tourist agency.

For more information visit www.slovakadventures.co.uk

Hiking Transylvania – Romania

As part of the Alpine-Carpathian-Himalayan system of mountains, the Romanian Carpathians boast an extraordinary range of peaks in an impressive and spectacular scenic expanse rising from glacial lakes. Visit the Carpathians from April to September and a stunning array of flora-scattered meadows, alpine forests and valley boast a plentitude of colour. Hiking maniacs keen to push themselves to the max should follow the rugged hiking paths and trails around Bran castle, a magnificent red-turreted fairytale tower built around 1377.

For more information visit www.transylvania.co.uk/hikingtours

Glacial Diving – Silfra, Iceland

It has been dubbed the coolest place to dive on earth. Mist-shrouded glacial waters and brooding ancient lava beds typify the rugged terrain. Offering an ethereal ambience of an unworldly aquatic land, diving in Silfra is a surreal, dizzying experience. This gaping underwater canyon is filled with water filtered by porous volcanic rocks, ensuring gin-clear sparkling waters. The result is a space like dreamy weightlessness that has an intergalactic quality as you dive into its icy depths.

For more information visit Iceland Excursions at www.icelandexcursions.is

Off-Road 4×4 – Tallinn, Estonia

Daredevil Estonia is increasingly billed as Eastern Europe’s extreme sport adventure playground. A host of purpose-built off road centres on Tallinn’s rural outer fringes offer full-day and half-day 4×4 packages that combine undulating rugged terrain, plunging ravines and muddy pools. Tours run all year round (even in a drenching downpour) so be prepared for a mud-splattered soaking. Sludgy slopes on a forested backdrop ensure a rigorous off-road challenge through Estonia’s gateway from the city to the countryside beyond.

For more information visit Tallinn Tourist office at www.tourism.tallinn.ee

Via Ferrata – Verona

Ascending a Via Ferrata (iron way) near Verona requires swapping a city love for a place of conflict, yet there is something thrilling about leaving Verona – the city of Romeo and Juliet – behind, to head to the site of WW1 trenches. The fixed steel cables and metal ladders of Via Ferrata open up the most rugged trails of the Dolomite Mountains, where trenches, dugouts and other wartime relics can be found alongside many of Italy’s 60 or so Via Ferratas. Perilous scrambles and death-defying drops characterize the iron way’s challenges.

For more information visit the website at www.viaferrata.org

Abseiling – Rotterdam

Urban abseiling has fast become a modern extreme sport phenomenon. Capturing the hearts and minds of adventurers keen to explore the most challenging concrete jungles on the planet. Rotterdam’s tallest tower is also Europe’s highest abseiling challenge and a gathering point for thrill-seekers keen to experience the ultimate sightseeing kick. Just a glimpse of the Euromast soaring towards the heavens prompts an involuntary stomach-lurch of excitement. Breathe in, exhale and after a thumbs up, you’re off, while waving bystanders offer similar levels of vocal encouragement. It’s time to abseil inner-city style.

For more information visit www.euromast.nl

Canal Surfing – Munich

A rather surprising fact about Munich is that it has a cult-status surfing scene. Thanks to a tributary of the mighty river Isar, surfers have been heading there since the 1970s. Although the crashing surf may lack the sun-drenched glamour of California or Hawaii, the clear water surges in spectacular fashion. In the peak of summer more than 300 surfer dudes descend on Eisbach. Surfing crests and powerful riverine currents test their mettle to the max. Munich’s river-surf Mecca is located on the Eisbach (Ice Creek).

For more information visit Munich Tourism at www.muenchen.de

Canyoning, Caving and Potholing – Mallorca

The Sierra de Tramuntana runs for 88km (55miles) in the northeast of the island, from Andratx to the pretty bays of Porto Pollenca. This is a superb hiking terrain, with a network of well-marked paths to choose from. Prime challenges include the trails of Torrente de Pareis and the Cavall de Bernat Ridge. Expect Mallorca’s mix of canyoning, caving and potholing to provide every rock-fuelled thrill imaginable, and instructor John Hind has the pedigree of a caver who knows his stuff. Tour prices include all equipment and transport.

For more information visit www.rocksportmallorca.com

Snowboarding – Wroclaw, Poland

Poland’s Sudeten Mountains offer a host of sporty challenges providing excellent skiing and snowboarding on some thrilling terrain. Several organized tours will shuttle you and your board to giant slalom courses and take offs. The expansive Karkonosze and the cloud-shrouded Gory Stolowe (table mountains) provide some striking scenic contrasts. During winter snowfall, the Sudeten Mountains take an otherworldly guise, as deep drifts add curves and softer edges to the serrated skyline of this spiky ridge. Conditions are good, offering some gently contoured stretches for newbies keen to stay within their comfort zone.

For more information visit www.karkonosze.pl

Bobsleighing – Budapest, Hungary

Budapest’s extreme sports scene may lag a little behind Prague and Riga in blood and guts, but bobsleighing has ensured the city has retained its place on the adventure map. Budapest’s bobsleigh tracks are based around 40km (25miles) from the centre of the city, so tours run at around four hours. Budapest’s snow-free runs are completed on a wheeled model with five times heats deciding the winning streak. Hurtling down a custom-made sled run at 50km (31 miles) tests nerve and focus.

For more information visit www.budapestinfo.hu

Ice Swimming – Kemi, Finland

Renowned throughout Finland as a town of ice and sea, Kemi is the gateway to Lapland adventure where snow-bound treks and snowflake dreams come true. At just 30 degrees north of the Arctic Circle, Kemi is every bit the rugged expedition hub, frequented by sledge-drivers, reindeers, husky trains and snowmobiles. Simply slide into a skin-tight orange thermal wetsuit and slide into the sea to float alongside giant chunks of ice. Taking a dip in the Gulf of Bothnia’s frozen waters is the ultimate Arctic Thrill.

For more information visit Sampo Artic Icebreaker at www.sampotours.com

Mountainboarding – Cyprus

Hot, arid weather ensures numerous off-road trails in Cyprus are usable pretty much year round, a real boon for mountainboarders looking for a buzz 365 days a year. Snaking slopes twist and turn, following the gradient around Parekkisha and Fionikaria where diehard boarders are truly tested on some of Cyprus’ most demanding downhill tracks. Today the Limasol region, with its thrilling multi-level slopes and traffic-free tracks is the hub of island’s burgeoning mountainboard scene.

For more information visit www.extremecy.com

Trail Running – Bordeaux

Lush, green terraces of saluting vines offer jaw-dropping views of handsome, wooden-shuttered chateaux that are home to vintage-stacked cellars. On a map that reads like a five-star wine menu blessed with the most famous Bordeaux vineyards, the jogging trails of the region provide an exhilarating way to delve into the region’s culture. Urban joggers used to super-smooth asphalt should be prepared for the thrill of rugged inclines and muddy descents as they criss-cross some of France’s most magnificent hiking country.

For more information contact [email protected]

Mountain Biking – Bern, Switzerland

Few days on a mountain bike are as perfect as those on scenic, long, challenging downhill stretches of rocks. Switzerland- a mountain bike idyll with its rough terrain and perilous outcrops, requires bags of energy off-road, while rattling, loose-stone mountain trails demand maximum skill and control. Swiss mountain bike routes are great for riders who enjoy remoteness and self-reliance far from civilization. Long, full-day treks combine cross-country downhill and free-riding often with some street runs thrown in for good measure.

For more information visit Bern Tourist office at www.berninfo.com

Land Yachting – Bruges, Belgium

For a chance to ride three times faster than the wind, head to West Flanders, the birth place of Land Yachting and a land of gently contoured rolling sand. The beach resort of De Panne is inextricably linked with the racing Land Yachts crafted by the brothers Dumont. A blueprint for Land Yachting, West Flanders offers a model for the rest of the world to follow, with world class craft and stiff sea breezes hemmed by extraordinary waves that allow you to clock up record speeds. Wide, empty, open sands ensure obstacle free racing conditions too.

For more information visit: www.lazef.be


101 Adventure Weekends In Europe by Sarah Woods is published by New Holland, priced £9.99 at Amazon.