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Top 10 activity holidays in Europe
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Mountain biking in Finale, Italy
You think Italy and you think warm nights spent strolling around an ancient town, sipping Barolo and relishing the good life. This is all true but it overlooks the country's burgeoning reputation as an extreme sports destination. One of the most perfect places to head if you want to combine beautiful beaches and culture with white knuckle experiences is Finale Ligure, a mecca for both rock climbers and mountain bikers. The Mountain Bike Lodge in San Filippo has trails running right up to its front door and offers guiding and bike hire as well as affordable accommodation. With 150 trails, routes for beginners as well as advanced and the town of Finale a pedal away, you can ride as hard or as soft as you like.
• Camping from €19pppn (£15.60) and rooms from €39pppn including station pick-up. mountainbikelodge.com
Rock climbing in Corscia, France
Sardinia has a justified reputation for its rock climbing but its oft-overlooked neighbour, Corsica, also puts on a good show, especially for people new to the sport. Based in the town of Corte in the centre of the island, Altiplani has a week-long guided rock climbing course designed to take you from confident beginner to completer of one of Corsica's multi-pitch routes. The course is limited to six people to maximise coaching time and participants will climb at a number of sites in the centre of the island as well as on its coast.
• From €689pp including half-board accommodation, transfer to climbing spots, coaching and equipment if required. altipiani-corse.com
Triathlon training in Morzine, France
There are activity holidays and there are holidays that will make you more active than you thought possible. Triathlon training in the French Alps with a crew of professional athletes falls into the second category. The D-Squad, including athletes Jodi Stimpson and Aileen Reid, are a group of Olympic and World Championship medallists who use Morzine as their European summer training base. For one week you can join them for structured coaching and training sessions picking up invaluable tips and advice as you slog your way through inspiring Alpine scenery and their incredible training schedule.
• €795pp including full-board accommodation, training, coaching and airport transfers. tri4thealps.com
Learn Spanish and hike the Camino de Santiago, Spain
It has been shown that learning a language is often made easier if you study while moving. Responsible Travel has taken this a step further by working with a local language school, offering Spanish lessons as you walk sections of the Camino de Santiago in the Picos de Europa. Each day you walk the route for up to five hours, during which time you also have three 50-minute practical Spanish lessons, giving you the tools to chat confidently with people in the communities along the way. You won't complete the whole route in six days (it usually takes three months) but you will get to walk classic sections and see the rich wildlife on offer.
• Six nights from £415pp B&B. responsibletravel.com
Pack rafting in Finland
Travel light, travel far. It's a mantra Hendrik Morkel takes very much to heart in his work taking people backpacking around his adopted home country of Finland (he's half-German, half-Dutch). This year he is running two beginner courses in pack rafting to help service your escapist fantasties. Pack rafts are lightweight boats that can fold into your backpack, so you can really explore the wilderness, by using them to navigate rivers, rapids and lakes instead of doing everything on foot. Hendrik's three-day course will take you from learning the fundamentals of pac krafting and wild camping to paddling class II whitewater. He is also running seven-day expeditions in August for more experienced rafters.
• Three-day beginner course in western Finland €500pp. hikinginfinland.com
Longboarding in Galicia, Spain
Skateboarding and surfing have long had a close relationship, with the evolution of modern skateboarding owing a lot to the style and ethos of its watery counterpart. Art Surf Camp in Galicia puts this relationship at the centre of two of its holidays by teaming up with the Longboard Girls Crew and combining surf lessons in the morning with longboard skate lessons in the afternoon, where you learn how to carve, cruise, race and slide on closed roads, with different inclines for different abilities. There are also other activities including yoga and table tennis to help you wind down after all that adrenalin. Camp prices include all equipment for both surfing and skating, five nights' full board accommodation and insurance.
• 25-30 August and 31-5 September €450pp. longboardgirlscrew.com
Wellbeing booster in Dubrovnik, Croatia
Learning how to relax is much harder than it sounds. Wellbeing Escapes has tackled this long learning curve for you with its wellbeing booster break, combining personal training sessions with holistic massage, spa services, use of a sports centre and healthy breakfasts, all within a stone's throw of the Dubrovnik Riviera. When all that healthy stuff gets too much and no amount of yoga is going to align your chakras, the historic city of Dubrovnik is on hand to provide some cultural relief.
• Four nights' B&B accommodation, spa, fitness consultation, massage, facial and personal training session for £399pp. wellbeingescapes.com
Yoga in Puglia, Italy
The great thing about most yoga retreats, if you're going on one to shed a few pounds, is that the prices will shock your body into dropping a stone automatically. However yogaonashoestring.co.uk aims to make them more affordable by gathering a variety of teachers in a host of locations running yoga holidays throughout the summer. Its September trip to Masseria della Zingara (the house of the gypsy) in Puglia houses you in a beautiful and restful 18th-century building surrounded by olive groves and cherry trees and offers two yoga classes a day as well as opportunities for bike rides, beach time and the chance to explore the area. To keep the price down even more you can also camp.
• £650pp for twin sharing or £450pp camping, full-board, both with three meals a day. yogaonashoestring.co.uk
Multi activities in Gozo, Malta
Gozo, snuggled next to its bigger sibling Malta, may be a tiny island (just 14km long) with a sleepy demeanour, but it packs a big activities punch. The ascents are not Alpine, but Gozo's mountain bike trails still offer technical challenges and its Sibit route – sustainable interregional bike tourism – runs round the entire coastline. For water babies, it offers some of the best diving in the Mediterranean, and sea kayaking is a peaceful way to explore the island's myriad coves. Off the Map Travel will tailor-make your trip, with activities hand-picked from local tour operators and companies and accommodation in rustic farmhouses.
• Seven nights' accommodation from £599pp based on four sharing, including airport transfers, a day sea kayaking, half a day cycling and half a day rock climbing. offthemaptravel.co.uk
Crafts and walking in Serbia
If your idea of activity is somewhat more sedate than plunging down a hill on two wheels, Blue Plum Escapes may have the holiday for you. Based in the wine valley of Zupa, Serbia, you stay in a restored 200-year-old hamlet and the week consists of daily pre-breakfast yoga sessions followed by hikes in the countryside – as lengthy or as gentle as you like – and cookery lessons. You'll also get the chance to study various crafts, including weaving, knitting, crochet and pottery. And to relax.
• £665pp including accommodation, food and all workshops. blueplumescapes.com
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010
A) Mountain Biking, Finale (Italy)
B) Rock Climbing, Corsica (France)
C) Triathlon Training, Morzine (France)
D) Spanish on the Camino de Santiago (Spain)
E) Pack Rafting (Finland)
F) Longboarding, Galicia (Spain)
G) Wellbeing Course, Dubrovnik (Croatia)
H) Yoga, Puglia (Italy)
I) Activities, Gozo (Malta)
J) Crafts and walking in Serbia
Match the destinations above with the sentences below:
1) You can hire bikes, as well as sunbathe and enjoy the sights.
2) You can hop from one place to another, improving as you go.
3) You will be taught by experts in an amazing landscape.
4) Exercise body and mind at the same time.
5) You must take as little as possible.
6) Learn to master different, but related, activities.
7) Try some more relaxing activities, as well as straightforward tourism.
8) A cheaper way of doing something that is usually far more expensive.
9) Visit a small area with a lot to offer.
10) Learn traditional skills, as well as yoga, and gentle exercise.
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