A - Don’t go for it if you are afraid of heights
B - For participants with a different level of expertise
C - If you don’t mind very cold temperatures
E - Slow travel
F - Spotting something unusual
G - Vestiges of past eras
H - Walking on very unusual terrain
I - You might get sick eventually
The Persians named Cappadocia “the land of beautiful horses” after its wild mountain ponies – and the striking landscape of deep canyons and strangely shaped rocks is perfect for an unusual horseback adventure. Ride Worldwide has an eight-day group trip that crosses plateaux, canters along valley floors and explores remote villages. With up to six hours in the saddle each day, it’s best for intermediate riders and above. Riders camp each night in a tipi (putting them up themselves), and dine in traditional style on kilims and rugs in the central tent. There’s also an option of guesthouse or boutique hotel accommodation.
A walking and cycling trail, the Via Dinarica, launched two years ago and runs for 1,000km from Slovenia’s Dinaric Alps in the north to Macedonia, via Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro and Albania. There are three options: the high mountain White Trail, the Green Trail, which is ideal for cyclists, and the easier Blue Trail, along the Dalmatian Coast. Local company Green Visions has tailor-made guided trips on the White Trail, and a Best of Via Dinarica group hike through Montenegro and Bosnia.
The Iberian lynx once roamed over half of the Iberian peninsula. Today it’s the rarest cat in the world and only found in two locations: the vast, coastal Doñana national park south of Seville, and the rugged Andújar natural park in the north of Andalucia. There’s plenty of adventure to be had in both parks – from 4x4 safaris to guided hikes – but for a good chance to see the elusive lynx, The Travelling Naturalist has a seven-night, expert-led group trip to both parks, where visitors also learn about conservation, and might spot other wildlife such as mouflon wild sheep and Spanish imperial eagles.
With ancient forests, high mountains and Unesco-protected villages where life hasn’t changed for centuries, Transylvania offers one of Europe’s last great wildernesses, and plenty of fascinating history and culture, too. Adventure doesn’t need to be fast-paced; British firm The Slow Cyclist has new group and independent trips for 2016, lasting from three days to three weeks. Its four-day Enchanted Saxon Transylvania trip covers 90 miles, from the Saxon village of Cund south-east to Viscri at an unhurried pace with plenty of time to stop at local homes, visit shepherds on hilltops and discover little-visited historic sites.
Estonia’s Baltic coast is wild and unspoilt. Many of its 1,500 islands, which were used in the 1950s for Soviet military testing, are now wildlife havens. Explore by kayak, paddling between islands with eerie remains of Russian watchtowers and abandoned farmhouses, and prolific birdlife. Adventure operator Reimann Retked offers several kayaking group trips, with hikes and camping on remote isles. Its two-day Prangli and Kolga Bay Islands tour visits four islands, with a stay on Prangli, still home to about 150 people. Scuba diving is an option on some trips.
Mountain walkers have plenty of options in Europe, with countless adventurous routes (Switzerland alone has over 30,000 miles of marked trails). For a less expensive alternative to the Alps, try Slovakia’s High Tatra, which runs along the border with Poland, offering dramatic walks with 20 summits of over 2,500m in just 26km. The soaring views of rocky peaks, lush valleys and sparkling lakes are reward for burning thigh muscles. To plan an independent trip, slovak-republic.org has details of routes and hotels. Alternatively, Utracks offers a new challenging guided eight-day group hut-to-hut trip: a head for heights and ability to walk with your own backpack for up to eight hours a day is recommended.
With its mix of mountains, fjords, remote villages and quiet coastal roads, Norway is a strong contender for an adventurous self-drive. Go in summer when the days are long, pack a tent and wild camp along the way (it’s legal here, though there are great campsites and cabins, too). Among the most spectacular drives is from Bergen north to Trondheim which includes a stretch on the Atlantic Road, with eight bridges linking islands, and the chance to spot seals and whales. It’s about 430 miles, and winds through the longest road tunnel in the world and the zig-zag bends of Trollstigen. Fly back from Trondheim or, time-permitting, head back to Bergen via Sogndal. Norwegian flies to Bergen and Trondhein from Gatwick.
Horse riding in Cappadocia, Turkey.
Photograph: Keren Su/Corbis for The Guardian
Text 1 – B
Text 2 – F
Text 3 – E
Text 4 – G
Text 5 – A
Text 6 - I