Walk, cycle, kayak or horse ride around some of the continent’s most stunning and remote corners
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.
Long distance treks, Balkans
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.
Wildlife adventure, Spain
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 4×4 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.
Sea kayaking, Estonia
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.