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10 adventure holidays in the UK and abroad

We know that travel is especially difficult right now. But alongside the latest COVID-19 travel advice and updates, we want to continue to inspire you with new travel content so that when the world opens its doors again, you'll be ready

After spending much of 2020 in lockdown – and the start of 2021 looking like more of the same – we’re more than ready for adventure holidays in the UK and abroad. Restrictions at the moment are strict, with a nationwide UK lockdown underway until mid-February at the earliest, but it doesn’t hurt to dream and to plan. With this article, we want to give you the inspiration you need to book the trip of a lifetime once travel (at home and overseas) opens up again.

If you do travel, it’s important to stay safe by observing the usual social distancing and hygiene rules. Don’t fly if you have any symptoms of COVID-19, and take out a good insurance policy before your trip. This is best practice for adventure holidays anyway, but during the pandemic it’s even handier as it should protect you if you need to cancel. Or if your destination gets removed from the FCDO’s travel corridor list.

All of these recommendations are hopeful ones meant to inspire your future trips. Always check government guidelines before planning or booking travel.

Top 10 adventure holidays in the UK and abroad

  1. Kayak the Great Glen Canoe Trail, Scotland
  2. Go dune bashing in the Empty Quarter, Abu Dhabi
  3. Go canyoning in Brecon Beacons National Park, Wales
  4. Hike the Seven Rila Lakes, Bulgaria
  5. Stargaze in the Atacama Desert, Chile
  6. Surf Europe’s best waves in Peniche, Portugal
  7. Learn to sail around paradise islands, Greece
  8. Cycle the Causeway Coast, Northern Ireland
  9. Scramble to the summit in the Lake District, England
  10. Climb an active volcano, Italy

1. Kayak the Great Glen Canoe Trail, Scotland

Scotland's lochs are are an incredible destination for an adventure holiday in the UK

Starting at Fort William and ending in Inverness, the Great Glen Canoe trail flows for 60 miles through some of Scotland’s most breathtaking and remote scenery. It includes smooth sections of man-made waterways like the Caledonian Canal and Laggan Corridor as well as vast open water lakes like Loch Lochy, Loch Oich and Loch Ness (watch out for the monster). Give yourself three to five days to complete the trip. Accommodation is available along the route, but in Scotland, wild camping is perfectly legal. Why not pack a tent and make a real adventure out of it?

Note: Scotland has local protection levels in place. Don’t travel under lockdown unless for essential reasons. Before booking or travelling to your highland adventure, check the Scottish Government’s advice and guidance.

2. Go dune bashing in the Empty Quarter, Abu Dhabi

Dune bashing is a great adventure holiday abroad, and inolves driving through the desert

The Rub’ al Khali (Empty Quarter) is the largest expanse of sand in the world. Its miles of fine golden sands are piled into dunes hundreds of feet high, perfect for bashing up and down in a 4×4 car. You can enjoy a desert safari as a day trip from Dubai, but lots of guided tour companies offer overnight experiences. Sleep under the stars, ride camels at dawn or try your hand at sandboarding down the steep, smooth sides of the soaring dunes.

3. Go canyoning in Brecon Beacons National Park, Wales

Canyoning involves climbing up steep gorges and waterfalls

Climbing rock walls, leaping from boulder to boulder, swinging over river rapids and leaping from waterfalls is all in a day’s work during a canyoning trip. The Brecon Beacons National Park in Wales is one of the best places in the UK to try your hand at it, thanks to its landscape of deep gorges, waterfalls and rivers. If you want to take your adventuring one step further, add on a day to explore the underground cave networks in the Fforest Fawr UNESCO Global Geopark.

Note: Wales has its own COVID-19 alert system. Before travelling or planning a trip to Wales, check local government guidance. Remember that domestic holidays are banned under lockdown.

4. Hike the Seven Rila Lakes in Bulgaria

Located in the highest mountain in the Balkans, and just a short hop from Bulgarian capital Sofia, the four hour hike around the seven Rila lakes is an excellent way to add adventure to your European city break. There’s a cable car that brings you to the start of the hike, or you can hire a car and drive up. Once you arrive, the real climb starts, taking in each lake one by one from the lowest (aptly named Lower Lake) all the way up to the highest (The Tear). From there you can look back down and see all seven lakes spread out below you.

5. Stargaze in the Atacama Desert, Chile

The Atacama Desrt in Chile has sthe clearest skies on Earth

After being surrounded by the same four walls for most of last year, it’s natural to crave adventure holidays in the UK and abroad. One of the best places to shake off that cooped-up feeling is the Atacama Desert in Chile. As well as wide open spaces, the desert is known for having the clearest night skies on Earth. Sleep under the stars during a camping then wake up bright and early to enjoy the desert’s many natural attractions. Watch geysers erupt at sunrise, bathe in thermal pools or manhandle meteorites at the museum in San Pedro.

6. Surf Europe’s best waves in Peniche, Portugal

The coast of Peniche, Portugal

Because it’s basically a peninsula, Peniche always has an offshore wind – making it one of Europe’s most reliable surf spots. The beaches that stretch along the coast are world famous, especially Supertubos: it hosts a stage of the World Surf League tour every October. You don’t have to be a seasoned pro to enjoy surfing in Peniche, however. During summer (May to September) the waves are tame enough for beginners. There are lots of surf schools, camps and retreats dotted along the coast so you can learn to hang ten from the experts. Some also offer yoga, so you can stretch it out after a long day on the board.

7. Learn to sail around paradise islands, Greece

Yachts resting in the turquoise waters of Greece. Sailing is one of the best adventure holidays in the UK and abroad

What better way to go island-hopping than as the master of your own boat? Learning to sail is a great way to spend an adventure holiday in the UK and abroad, but one of the best places to do it has to be Greece. The bright blue skies, warm Mediterranean waters and abundance of paradise islands make it a great place to get to grips with yachting basics. Look for Royal Yachting Association (RYA) accredited courses; once the holiday is over, you’ll take home an ICC qualification to show that you’re a competent sailor.

8. Scramble to the summit in the Lake District, England

Striding Edge, a popular destination for scrambling in England's Lake District

Scrambling is basically rock climbing but without the ropes, hooks and special footwear. Challenging and fun, it’s essential if you want to enjoy some of the Lake District’s most incredible views. One of the best places to start is Striding Edge, which is beginner friendly but still exciting. There’s exposure on both sides so you get sweeping views of the landscape around you as you scramble your way to the top. If you enjoy it, you can take on more scrambling by descending via Swirral Edge. There’s an easier path back down the northside of the mountain, too.  

9. Cycle the Causeway Coast, Northern Ireland

The Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland

The 23-mile cycle route from Castlerock to the Giant’s Causeway takes in a long stretch of Northern Ireland’s Atlantic coast. Well-signposted, and mostly traffic-free, it’s relaxing way to have an adventure in the UK. On the way you’ll whizz through beach towns like Portrush and past the majestic ruins of Dunluce Castle before reaching the Giant’s Causeway itself. Once you arrive you can choose from three walking trails to reach the world-famous stone formation. The clifftop Runkerry Trail is one of the most peaceful, and on most days you can see all the way to Scotland.

Note: Northern Ireland has its own COVID-19 safety measures in place. Before taking a trip across the Irish Sea, check the latest regulations and guidance from the Northern Irish government.

10. Climb an active volcano, Italy

Stromboli Volcano in Italy, one of our top destinations for an adventure holiday in the UK and abroad

Can it get more adventurous than climbing a volcano? Stromboli, an Aeolian Island, is basically Mount Etna’s smaller but more volatile cousin, sitting off the coast of Sicily. This hike is a great option for night owls, as most tours begin in late afternoon so that you arrive at the summit for sunset. After watching the sun dip into the Tyrrhenian Sea, you’ll be treated to an impressive all-natural firework display courtesy of Stromboli’s magma eruptions.

Adventure holidays in the UK and abroad will return soon

There are so many things to look forward to once travel opens back up again, and we hope this has given you some inspiration for future adventures. Remember that restrictions will ease across the UK at different times – so always check local government guidelines before planning. It’s also important to check the FCDO’s travel corridors list before you book flights.

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