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As Brexit negotiations loom closer, British holiday-goers and the travel industry are beginning to fret about the future of European travel.
Before a British passport no longer means free and easy movement in Europe, seize the opportunity to experience the cultures of the UK’s European neighbours with an activity holiday that embraces its authenticity.
Some on your own, most with a local host or tour operator, I’ve collected the top activity holidays to try in each member of the European Union (in alphabetical order):
Yodelling and singing in the Alps
Channel your inner Julie Andrews on a singing and yodelling adventure through the Alps. You’ll get to see the Austrian side of the famous mountain range while bringing the hills alive with the sound of your music.
Even if you don’t think you can sing, local guide Christian Eder is convinced that everyone can, and he’ll try his hardest to teach you… all while wearing traditional Austrian kit.
Gastronomic charms in Bruges
Instead of wallowing in the EU headquarters in Brussels begging them to take us back, take the short train journey to Bruges, the charming, medieval village full of Belgian treats – literally.
With the Choco Story museum, Freidt (‘French’ fries) museum, multiple chocolate shops, waffle stands, fresh mussel dishes in nearly every restaurant, and the last Belgian-owned brewery, your tastebuds will thank you for making this trip, even if your diet will not.
Wine tasting in the Balkans
While France or Italy may come to mind first when you think of the drink of the gods, Balkan-based Bulgaria actually boasts some amazing white wine varieties and has a booming wine tourism industry.
You can see for yourself with a range of weekend to week-long vineyard tours and wine tasting courses.
Sail the Dalmatian coast
The Dalmatian coast calls all wannabe sailors with its spectacular, historic cities and fabulously clear Adriatic waters. Sailing holidays take you along the coast, stopping in all the cultural hotspots but granting plenty of time to earn your sea legs.
Republic of Cyprus
Channel your inner yogi on the beach
Cyprus equals all inclusive holidays, beach breaks, and relaxation galore – so a yoga holiday fits into this tranquil programme of events perfectly. As the third biggest island in the Mediterranean, it offers up sea views and plenty of sandy spots to practice your headstands.
Christmas cross country skiing
The Czech Republic makes an ideal winter holiday destination. Its meaty stews, dumplings, and warm soups are just the thing to thaw you after an active day of downhill or cross country skiing.
Then, you can pop into Prague for a peek at the Christmas markets and stunning decorations.
Learn a gateway Nordic language
The Nordic languages – Danish, Swedish, and Norwegian – are beautifully different, yet amazingly similar. Luckily for wannabe linguists, learning one aids in understanding and even speaking another.
For a chance to see a beautiful city, visit Copenhagen in November for a Danish language holiday. Spend some time in the classroom and the rest exploring the artistic streets, ethnic restaurants, and Christmas markets of this northern city… just be prepared for darkness to fall around 4:30 in the afternoon.
Bog-shoeing… yes, you read that right
Like snow-shoeing, bog-shoeing replaces snowy landscapes with boggy lakes. For €120, you can spend the day hiking and bog-shoeing through Estonia’s Kõrvemaa nature reserve. If you’re up for a swim, you can also bring your swim gear and take a dip in one of the 30 lakes dispersed throughout the reserve.
Capture the Aurora Borealis on more than an iPhone
Few places in the world have a bird’s eye view of the Northern Lights phenomenon like that of northerly Finland. Though it may get dark before 4pm, it’s worth it to have the world’s most spectacular nightlight slashing through the sky.
Keen photographers and nature lovers can get it all, and learn to shoot in low lights on a specialised photography tour.
Concocting your own signature scent
Though you may automatically think ‘wine,’ ‘cheese’ or ‘cooking’ when you think of France (and you can easily find holidays that let you partake in those things!), you may not know that a small town along the Cote d’Azur is actually the birthplace of Chanel No. 5 and a massive perfume making industry.
Now that you do know, you can visit for a three-day perfume making holiday and come away with your own signature scent.
If you haven’t yet made this world-renowned, beer-drinking, party-loving, costume-wearing German bonanza, now’s your chance.
Strap on your lederhosen and prepare to gulp boot-fuls of booze, all while celebrating with 6 million other beer and pretzel lovers. If you don’t feel like planning, you can always join a package tour to get your fix.
Painting island life on the coast
The Greeks have always been known for their appreciation and creation of beautiful art, making the plentiful and stunning Greek Islands the perfect muse for an art holidayof your own. Mix painting excursions with beach days and breezy meals by the sea, and return with handmade souvenirs and lifetime friends.
Cycling the ‘Blue Danube’
If you weren’t a nerdy piano student like me, you may not get the ‘Blue Danube’ reference, but don’t worry, the song about the Danube river is irrelevant. What matters is getting to spend 14 days crossing three European borders cycling along Europe’s second longest river.
You can pay boatloads to do it as a package, or plan the route yourself. Regardless, you’ll end in gorgeous Budapest with sore legs but a pretty cool story to tell.
Castles and countryside
Once you’re done cycling Hungary, fly over to Ireland for another bit of cardiatric fun. While it might feel more fitting to simply do a week’s worth of pub crawling and Guinness-drinking, Ireland is known for more than beer and leprechauns.
Its luxury castles and countryside make the list. And this five-day cycling tour lets you see both (and have a pint, or three, of Guinness along the way).
Pasta, pizza and gelato-making
It probably doesn’t get more stereotypically Italian than pasta, pizza and gelato, so it felt only right to choose a cooking holiday that encompasses learning how to make all three. My guess is, it will be molto, molto delizioso (and also really beautiful because, well, Italy).
Ride into the Balkan sunset on horseback
Spend your choice of three to seven days saddled up and riding through the forests and along the beaches of Latvia. Starting in the country’s capital city, Riga, venture out with an equestrian friend (and a group of other riders) to discover the natural beauty of the Balkans.
Swim the land of 3,000 lakes
The Minnesota of Europe, Lithuania has over 3,000 lakes and a freshwater swimming holiday seems like a pretty good way to experience them. This one gives you four days of freshwater fun.
If getting your feet wet isn’t your thing, you could also consider simply kayaking or canoeing the length of the country via different lake and river channels.
Castles, Luxembourg City and some lush hiking
Luxembourg may be small, but it manages to pack five extraordinary castles into 1,600 square miles. And lucky you, they are now tourable in one day on a guided tour through the country.
For a more active pursuit, consider hiking and biking the top trails – Mullerthal and Escapardenne – of the country after a visit to fascinating Luxembourg City.
Take to the waves (or explore beneath them)
The Maltese Islands of Malta, Comino and Gozo – wedged between Sicily and North Africa – just makes sense for a sea kayaking or diving holiday, with a sunny climate, rocky landscape and crystal clear waters.
Gozo – Malta’s less crowded little sister and a great base for your trip – takes you back in time. Paddle the diverse coastline past caves, into hidden coves and under natural sea arches on a week-long kayaking trip. Or, dip below the surface to explore shipwrecks, underwater tunnels and caves, and meet the local sealife.
Van Gogh, tulips, and bikes, oh my!
Choose between man-made or natural beauty in this forward-thinking European country. On anart gallery tour, you’ll pop in and ogle several notable galleries across the country. Or, take to a bike (like most Dutch do) and cycle through the blooming tulip fields.
Unleash your inner survival instinct
A land of deep and diverse history and cultural cities, take to the equally stunning countryside for a spot of bison and wolf tracking, plus kayaking and hiking. Nature-lovers will adore it, though culture vultures get their fix too with stops in vibrant Krakow and historic Warsaw.
Surf at Europe’s westernmost beach
Hang ten on Baleal Beach, Europe’s most westerly point, on a surfing holiday or short break with one of the amazing surf schools in the area. It’s also a good chance to explore the Algarve and maybe stop by Lisbon or beautiful Porto in your free time.
Dracula and Transylvania tour
Live the original vampire story on a tour to Count Dracula’s lair (aka medieval castle). Live re-enactments of ‘killing the living dead’ may thrill you or simply teach you a bit of the fiction of the time.
Either way, you’ll also get to see the significantly-less-freaky-and-more-charming Romanian countryside on the trip.
A seriously snowy adventure
Embrace the cold for a week in the stunning Tantra mountains of Slovakia. A winter week there hits all the right snow-covered activities, from skiing and snowboarding to dog sledding and sleigh rides to snow shoeing through a smuggler’s pass.
Sky or water exploration
Adrenaline addicts might opt for air-tourism in Slovenia, which hits #5 on the top 10 paragliding sites in the world.
Those who prefer their feet solidly on the ground (well, sort of) can instead try the hottest watersport trend – stand-up paddleboarding or SUP. This grand circle tour takes you from Ljubljana to the Alps to the coast and back again in just under 11 days.
Flamenco guitar or dance lessons
All the things one must do in Spain: eat tapas, drink sangria and dance the fiery Flamenco. If that isn’t enough, you can learn Spanish, too.
Dog sledding in the Arctic circle
Live out your own version of Balto or Snow Dogs by spending six days sledding through Sweden’s Arctic Circle with your own team of Siberian huskies.
You’ll stay in cabins along the way, sometimes with those famous Scandinavian saunas… and did I mention a whole team of huskies to hangout with?
Whatever your feelings about the Brexit vote, at this point in time it’s better to leave the comfort of your home for some EU travel experiences before tighter restrictions make it more sensible to remain. See what I did there?
Any activities I’ve missed or thoughts you want to share (about activity holidays, not Brexit), feel free to drop in a comment below.