For outdoor lovers, Europe's backcountry is a dream. The world's second smallest continent is the most centrally located and packs quite a punch, strewn with history and riddled with tales of empires past. From remote hiking trails to alpine slopes, whether you vacation in summer or winter, there is sure to be excitement calling your name. And if you get tired of adventure? There's always Belgium beer, Swiss chocolates or crepes to be had at the swanky corner cafe.
Speed Skating and Bobsledding - Austria
Europe has hosted the Olympic games 28 times, more than double any other region (North America has had 12) and thus some of the best athletic facilities in the world reside here. Feel the guts and glory surge through your veins as you live your own gold medal moment. Made up of three ice rinks, the speed skating oval in Austria is open only to experienced skaters, but the bob sledding track in Igls lets anyone fly down the 1,270 meter long course. For a ride that takes less than a minute, it'll truly take your breath away.
Reindeer Games and Safaris - Finland
If you ever wanted to see your Christmas fantasy come to life, Lapland is the place to do it. Aside from the more relaxed activities like viewing the Northern Lights, sending a post card from Santa's mailbox and shopping in the Arctic Circle, pretend you're the big man himself by taking a sleigh ride or reindeer safari via snowmobile. You can even earn your international reindeer driver's license if you master the snowy terrain.
Caving and Cave Cycling - Gibraltar, Serbia, Slovakia, and Slovenia
The caves in Europe are some of the largest, deepest and most unique in the world. Hidden behind the iron curtain dance Mediterranean grottoes intertwined with history and prehistoric paintings. Lower St Michael's Cave in Gibralter is one of the favorite spots for a three-hour guided tour that includes minor rope climbing and scrambling. The Slovak Republic is another popular caving spot even though only a handful of their 3,800 caves are open to the public. For a more unique underground adventure, Slovenia offers cave cycling, where participants ride through a former lead mine in Mežica, near Mount Peca.
Rambling - Ireland
It's no secret that Ireland's lush green landscapes and rolling hills are a thing of beauty. If you want to do more than look and marvel at your own pace, rambling is the official term for walking in Ireland. There are more than 100 looped paths to choose from that include short, easy strolls or day treks that require hiking boots and sticks. Just remember you are in Irish country so don't forget to bring water to hydrate (with a side of whiskey for good measure).
Sol Buggy and 4x4 Excursions - Spain
If you are unfamiliar with the term, a sol buggy is a two-seat quad bike meant for off-road, all terrain adventures. Perfect for exploring the valleys and woodlands of Marbella and Costa del Sol, splash through shallow rivers, surge up gorges and take in the sights on a distinct nature tour. Not for the faint hearted, I hope you don't mind a bumpy ride because your adrenaline will be pumping a mile a minute.