As well as being one of the world’s most fascinating destinations for history, culture and gastronomy, Europe is also an adventurer’s playground. From the heights of the Alps to sparkling French coasts, the abundance of natural beauty provides countless opportunities for outdoor sport lovers.
Skiing in the sun: Zermatt, Switzerland
Hotel Monte Rosa
There’s nothing more liberating than carving down Zermatt’s wide-open glaciers at heights of 3,800 metres, the rest of the world stretching below you. Based in southern Switzerland, the mountain resort is renowned for its skiing, boasting the highest year-round ski area in Europe. Powder hounds can take to the slopes in a bikini in the summer, taking in captivating views of the imposing Matterhorn peak as they glide. After an action-packed day, Zermatt’s lively après-ski scene is the ultimate way to recharge and relax.
Where to stay: Dating back to 1839, the Hotel Monte Rosa was opened in the centre of the village by Alexander Seiler. More than one and a half centuries later, the award-winning ‘Belle-Époque’ hotel stands as an exquisite treasure among majestic Alpine settings.
Surfing in the Bay of Biscay: Ile de Ré, France
Where to stay: The only thing that beats Ile de Ré’s morning sun, is viewing it from Le Richelieu SPA. Overlooking the ocean, this 5* boutique hotel is the perfect antidote to the hustle and bustle of city life.
Mountain biking serenity: Arezzo, Italy
Castello di Gargonza
Set your compass to Arezzo to begin your next outdoor adventure. In the heart of Tuscany, there’s everything from hiking on forest trails to horse riding experiences. Summer-time brings flocks of keen cyclists and mountain bike lovers to the region, thanks to a 62km cycle route that runs close to Arezzo all the way to Chiusi. Since it’s almost all flat, you’ll be able to cruise through the blissful Tuscan wild at a smooth speed. Along the way, you’ll discover an 18th-century sluice gate, earth-wall houses and an impressive bridge over the Canale Mestre.
Where to stay: Embrace true Tuscan spirit with a stay at nearby Castello di Gargonza – a 13th-century fortified village with an award-winning castle hotel and apartments enclosed within. Mountain bikes are available from the hotel reception, free of charge.
Hiking in the Alps: Guttannen, Switzerland
Alpinhotel Grimsel Hospiz
It’s difficult to think of a better location than Guttannen for hiking. Ascend Europe’s steepest funicular, which takes you to a natural paradise with an incredible mountain hike and the glorious Gelmer Lake. Hike up to the Trift suspension bridge, where you’ll be rewarded with a breathtaking view of the lake and glacier. Explore UNESCO World Heritage landscapes, visit the famous ‘Sherlock Holmes’ waterfall and wander through ancient gorges. For natural outdoors appeal, it’s hard to beat.
Where to stay: Centuries-old Alpinhotel Grimsel Hospiz nudges one of Guttannen’s many azure lakes. It was the first electrically heated hotel in Europe and is mentioned in documents dating back to 1142. Today, it offers nature lovers unadulterated luxury in unbeatable settings. Rest your hiking legs in front of the fire with a bottle from the seductive wine cellar before sinking into a sumptuous bed for the night.