With winter on the retreat, it’s time to dust off that backpack and start planning your next big trip. Looking for a little inspiration? We’ve picked out six incredible adventures to spice up your 2014 bucket list.
Bike Mallorca’s mountains
Best for: couples
Forget the fine sand beaches and buzzing nightlife joints – Mallorca’s real appeal lies further inland, in the two rugged mountain ranges that march across the northwestern and eastern portions of the island. A spider’s web network of rocky single tracks combined with lush scenery and huge sea views make this one of the best places to mountain bike in Europe. Hire a set of wheels from Tramuntana Tours (Calle de la Luna 72, Port Soller, +34 971 632 799) in the heart of the Serra de Tramuntana to explore Balitx Valley’s thigh-busting olive terraces and the pine forests of Sa Comuna, or cycle between mountain huts amid the more gentle undulations of the Serra de Llevant. Some of the secret bays around Cala Tuent can only be reached by foot or by bike, so you should have the clear waters all to yourself. It’s already warm enough to swim in spring, and the mountain paths are fringed with carpets of wild flowers, making this the ultimate romantic escape.
Walk an Alpine glacier
Best for: experienced hikers
Looking for a high-altitude challenge but can’t spare the time for Mount Kilimanjaro or Everest base camp? Some of the world’s best trekking is just a short flight away, in the awe-inspiring Alpine peaks to the east of Geneva. One of the most adventurous ways to explore this spectacular region without being an ice axe-wielding mountaineer is to walk the Aletsch Glacier. Winding for 23 kilometres through the heart of the UNESCO-listed Jungfrau-Aletsch-Bietschhorn site, this is the largest glacier in the Alps and hiking its entire icy length takes between two and three days. This isn’t a trek to attempt alone unless you’re highly experienced, but Grindelwald Sports (Dorfstrasse 103, +41 (0)33 854 1280) can organise guided experiences. If you’re keen to take on a trekking challenge but prefer creature comforts to cold weather and crampons, the 66-kilometre Valais Wine Route meanders through valley vineyards between Martigny and Loèche, passing plenty of cosy chalet hotels and rustic eateries along the way.
Get wet and wild in Jersey
Best for: families
A cross between swimming, scrambling and cliff diving, coasteering is the UK’s newest and fastest-growing adrenaline sport. Pembrokeshire, Cornwall and Dorset all have fledgling coasteering scenes, but the top place to indulge in this pioneering adventure activity is the Channel Island of Jersey. Sheltered Grève De Lecq Bay on the island’s northwest coast is a mecca for coasteering newbies. Absolute Adventures (St Brelades Beach, +44 (0)77 9773 6411) offers inductions to the sport for all ages, which gently explore the underwater swim troughs and secret beaches around the bay without negotiating any hair-raising coastal terrain. If you’re happy to push your comfort zone, the Gorselands route on Jersey’s southwest coast and the rocky causeway leading up to Corbière Lighthouse both represent heart-pumping coasteering challenges. Or why not sample some of the other wet and wild adventures that Jersey has to offer? Kayaking, kitesurfing, scuba-diving, sailing, wakeboarding, windsurfing, waterskiing and paddle boarding are all popular here.
Best for: adrenaline junkies
Most tourists know Granada as a cultural haven dominated by one of the world’s most beautiful Moorish palaces, but for rock bunnies the city represents just one thing: world-class climbing. With the lofty peaks of the Sierra Nevada on one side and the sport climbing crags of Los Cahorros, Alfacar and Los Vados on the other, this is a hub for climbers of all abilities. You don’t have to be super experienced to tackle the limestone crags around Granada. Organisations such as the Rock Climbing Company (Villanueva del Rosario, +34 952 742 962) offer inductions to beginners, and a balmy climate combined with an abundance of bolted climbs makes Spain a far better place to learn the sport than the UK. Los Cahorros, Alfacar and Capileira all have plenty of routes for beginners, while Lagos and Los Vados are more suited to intermediate and experienced climbers. If you want to explore Granada’s mountainous scenery without scaring yourself silly then the Sierra Nevada is also criss-crossed with spectacular walking paths. The Beas de Granada and Güéjar Sierra routes both combine adventurous trekking with world-beating views.
Saddle up in the Algarve
Best for: families
Galloping along a deserted beach has to be one of life’s most thrilling experiences. The Algarve offers horse-riding holidays with a difference – not just because its bridle paths wind through olive groves, along sandy beaches and through postcard-ready Portuguese villages, but because Portugal’s native Lusitano horses are among the most beautiful and best trained in the world. Steer clear of the trekking centres based in built-up areas, and instead opt for a more remote location. The New Forest Lodge (Serra de Espinhaço de Cão, Corte Pero Jaques, +351 917 934 864), on the edge of the Costa Vicentina National Park, is an hour’s drive from Faro Airport and offers cookery workshops and wildlife safaris alongside its riding holidays for all levels. Keen riders looking to improve their technique can book lessons with some of the top riders in Spain at Real Picadeiro dressage centre in Pêra (Vales de Pêra, +351 282 313 040).
Kayak the Isle of Man’s coastline
Best for: wildlife enthusiasts
Sea kayaking is a relatively new activity on the Isle of Man, but this scenic little island in the middle of the Irish Sea is already recognised as one of the best places in the world to enjoy the sport. From the tortured cliff formations of the Calf of Man to the secluded bays around Niarbyl, kayakers can explore more than 160 kilometres of pristine coastline. Remember to pack your binoculars, too – the Manx waters teem with seals, dolphins and basking sharks, with colonies of puffins, choughs, guillemots, razorbills and kittiwakes to keep twitchers happy. Experienced paddlers can hire kayaks from 7th Wave (Strand Road, Port Erin, +44 (0)1624 836 366), and if you’re new to the sport then The Venture Centre (Lewaigue Farm, Maughold, +44 (0)1624 814 240) and Adventurous Experiences (Ballabrooie, Patrick Road, +44 (0)1624 843 034) both offer taster sessions. An overnight kayaking experience, taking in a wild camp on one of the island’s sheltered beaches, is the ultimate Manx adventure.