Personal favorites: outdoor adventures edition

Pico do Arieiro, Portugal | Photo by Tim Roosjen via Unsplash.
Pico do Arieiro, Portugal | Photo by Tim Roosjen via Unsplash.

Personal favorites: outdoor adventures edition

by Jessica Zen
Stripes Europe

There’s nothing like getting outside and exploring a new country. The sun shining on your back as you experience new sites, smells and architecture. While I love a good shopping trip, nothing really compares to spending some quality time outside. These seven adventures rank at the top of my list for the best ways to spend the day outdoors. Before you pack up and head out for any one of these adventures, be sure to double-check the current and local travel restrictions and closures. 

Horseback riding in the ocean
Kos, Greece

Crystal clear sparkling blue water, the warm sunshine beating down on your back, mountainous islands just barely visible in the distance and nothing but you and a horse, and perhaps a friend or two. Salt Lake Stables, located between the seaside towns of Tigaki and Marmari, is the perfect place for all levels of experience riders to go for an epic adventure along the coast, and even into the ocean!

Pico do Arieiro to Pico Ruivo hike
Madeira, Portugal 

When the websites say that this hike is particularly difficult, they mean it. It’s 10.4 miles of stairs, up and down, over and over again. Nothing is particularly technical, but if you aren’t in good shape, the steps will suck the life force right out of you! At the end of this hike, my watch said that I did 23 flights of stairs. But it’s totally worth it. The views on this hike were phenomenal. You can start at the observation deck on Pico do Arieiro and look out over the vast mountains and valleys. On the hike, you’ll wander through long, pitch-black tunnels and overlook the glittering ocean. 

Romantic Christmas Fair at Gut Wolfgangshof
Anwanden, Germany

Nestled in an idyllic setting of Franconian half-timbered buildings, the ambiance of this Christmas fair is nothing short of magical. Lights, torches and candles glisten in the moonlight to illuminate the scene of holiday cheer. Over 120 vendors sell their lovingly made goods in various locations on-site, including in quaint wooden huts, a historic cowshed, in the hayloft and in the pillard grain hall. A windmill stands tall over the fair, adorned with twinkling lights while visitors bundled up against the cold crunch through the snow, taking in the sights. 

Dog sledding 
Tromsø, Norway

Where better to learn the art of mushing than in Norway with a team of your own dogs? Get Your Guide offers the perfect half-day of dog sledding tour. You can either ride in the sled or drive your own team of six dogs. The best part is getting to know the dogs, and there are over 200! Play with the puppies or sit around the fire and listen to the dogs “talk.” For lunch, you’ll be served reindeer stew (vegetarian option available). The tour bus will pick you up at the Radisson Blu hotel and drive you approximately 30 minutes to your destination. 

Open Air Museum 
Salzburg, Austria

The Salzburger Freilicht Museum (Open Air Museum) is an incredible place to wander around in the beautiful mountains and experience the rich heritage of rural Salzburg. View farmhouses, barns, antique equipment and much more. There are also restaurants where you can grab a bite to eat. This location is great for children, as they can run around outside and get plenty of fresh air.  

Keukenhof Gardens
Lisse, Netherlands

Just outside of Amsterdam is one of the most beautiful gardens you will ever have the pleasure of laying eyes on. There are so many colorful tulips you won’t even know where to look first. The master gardeners here create incredibly intricate designs and patterns with the flowers that are sure to stun you. Be sure to plan at least a half a day here to take in all the sites and scents. And don’t forget to try the strawberries at one of the kiosks. They’re divine. This is the perfect spring getaway! 

Blarney Castle and gardens
Cork, Ireland

Blarney Castle is one of Ireland’s greatest treasures. At almost 600 years old, this castle attracts millions of visitors. Perhaps the biggest draw to this area is the opportunity to kiss the Blarney Stone, which is said to bestow the gift of eloquence. However, don’t miss the opportunity to see the rest of the magnificent castle and the magical gardens that cover over 60 acres. 

There’s nothing quite like an epic outdoor adventure. There are so many fabulous opportunities throughout Europe, regardless of where your tastes lie. Whether you want to wander through a garden, explore a castle or gallop on a horse down the beach, you’re sure to find something to suit your style.

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