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The European adventure destination index

The appeal of an adventure is something many of us feel. For some, it’s the time spent in nature; for others, it’s the desire to test their mind and body. Whatever your reason for wanting to get away, your next adventure could be closer than you think.

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The European adventure destination index headerThe European adventure destination index header

That’s why the team here at Uswitch.com have been scouring Europe and the UK for the adventure destinations that are available. From skiing to surfing, ice climbing to sky diving, and everything in between, here are the European adventure destinations that are only a click away.

The best country in Europe for adventure

With an entire continent to choose from, including the UK, what’s the best country in Europe to book an adventure holiday or break? And what kind of activities are available? 

Using online booking platform manawa.com, we discovered that there are over 2,000 adventure activities that can be done in more than 30 countries and islands in Europe and the UK. To find out which country was the best in Europe for adventure, we counted the bookable adventures in each country over a range of different adrenaline-fueled activities.

Table showing the European adventure destination indexTable showing the European adventure destination index

Owing largely to its vast, Alpine mountain ranges and over 2,000 miles of coastline, France is the country with the most opportunities for an adventure in Europe. With 687 bookable locations across all 13 activities, France was head and shoulders above the rest of the pack.

In fact, France has more bookable opportunities for your next big adventure than the next three leading countries on the list (Spain, Italy, and Portugal) put together. And this is before we factor in French territory Corsica, with 15 adventure activities to book in its own right. 

Across twelve of the thirteen adventure activities we looked at, France yet again dominated; with only sailing having more locations in Greece.

Table showing the most common activity in each countryTable showing the most common activity in each country

With so many adventure opportunities to book, it’s clear that France is the leading country in Europe for adventure. Owing largely to its opportunities for both watersports and rock climbing, Spain was second on the list. Meanwhile, Italy was third. Again, like France, this is largely due to the mountainous regions in the north of the country, and the large lakes and incredible coastline. 

Despite not having mountains on quite the same scale at Mont Blanc or the Matterhorn as playgrounds for adventure, the UK came a respectable eighth out of thirty-six on the list of the most adventure-laden countries in Europe.

The best adventure destination in the UK

If you’re looking for a bit of an adventure but don’t want to travel to Europe, the UK has a number of great activities you can try, no matter where you are located including Canyoning, Kayaking, Mountain Biking and Surfing. 

Using data sources including Manawa.com, we discovered that there are 65 bookable places around the UK offering wild adventure sports that are perfect to explore on a warm summer's day. However, for those who don’t mind a spot of rain, there are plenty of options in some of the UK’s best loved destinations that are perfect for adventure sports all year round. 

With over 10,000km of Scottish coastline, it's no surprise that Edinburgh topped the list as the best destination in the UK for wild adventure sports. The area has 13 different sporting destinations to choose from, with canyoning proving the most popular. 

For those who love surfing, taking a trip to Cornwall and visiting one of its stunning beaches or surfing schools can be a great way to let out your wild side.

With over seven different destinations to choose surfing lessons from, including Holywell and Fistral Beach, you will be well on your way to riding those waves in no time. 

If you find yourself wanting an adventure in Wales  with more than just surfing as an option, Pembrokeshire has rock climbing facilities for those who think they can handle the challenge. 

Where to try adventures in the UK year-round

Although it may be the dream of many, the reality is that few of us get to spend our time travelling the continent seeking adventure. And even the adventure destinations in the UK often rely on the perfect meteorological conditions, which can be unpredictable, and seasonal at best. 

However, here in the UK, adventure lovers have made the comparative lack of bookable natural locations a virtue. With a number of artificial, indoor and controlled locations created across the country, adventure lovers can go and enjoy their chosen sport virtually all year round - and in relative safety. 

Map of UK Cities with the most adventuresMap of UK Cities with the most adventures

From classic sports like skiing and snowboarding on the dry slope to the more imaginative indoor skydiving and even ice climbing, there are now hundreds of purpose-built locations across the UK. So if you want to try your hand at your next adventure sport before ever setting foot on a plane, here are just a few of the locations you can visit:

Already neighbouring the Peak District to its East, Manchester has as many indoor adventure locations as any other UK city. Skiing and snowboarding can be enjoyed virtually every single day of the year at Chill Factor(e) indoor slope. And right next door is indoor skydiving experience iFly, where the only planes you’ll see are those landing at the nearby Manchester Airport. 

But it doesn't end there in Manchester. Dirt Factory is an indoor mountain biking facility, offering a safe place to learn and practice your skills on two wheels. It’s currently between locations, with its temporary home near Manchester city centre closing in 2021, and a new site on the horizon. 

Meanwhile, the Welsh capital, Cardiff, also had four bookable indoor adventure spots, including white water rafting, paddle boarding and skiing. 

Apps that help you get the most out of your adventure

One of the most appealing parts of booking adventure is getting away from the pressures and stresses of day-to-day life. And, let’s be honest, that includes the idea of leaving your phone at home. 

But before you figure out what combination of buttons actually turns your phone off as opposed to just putting it to sleep, taking a smartphone along with you can not only be helpful, it might even be essential. 

At the heart of any adventure is an element of risk. So being able to contact emergency services, mountain rescue, the coast guard, members of your group if you’ve become separated, or even just a local taxi firm if the unexpected happens, is essential. 

As such, save the essential numbers for the location you’re visiting onto your phone before you go. Make sure your phone is fully charged before you set out each day. And if you think your battery might not last, it’s worth packing a small, portable charger. 

Wherever your adventure takes you, ensure your mobile is as ready as you are by following our smartphone holiday checklist. It’s also worth checking the latest information on mobile data roaming charges, to minimise your chances of coming home to a phone bill bigger than the mountain you just climbed. 

There are also a whole host of apps you can download to get the most out of your adventure, whether you’re skiing in Chamonix, surfing in Sintra, or kayaking in Cardiff. Here are five free apps for both iOS and Android that we’d recommend downloading ahead of any adventure.

MSW Surf Forecast

Useful for: checking and forecasting coastal water conditions around the globe

If you’re heading to the ocean to surf, kayak, paddleboard, or any other aquatic activity, it’s important to know what conditions you’re going to be faced with. The Magic Seaweed (MSW) app gives live reports and forecasts of conditions for thousands of locations all over the world. More than 150 live webcams display localised conditions in real-time, while data shows important information like wind speed, and water temperature. Extended forecasts will even predict conditions 16 days in advance. 

Outdooractive

Useful for: GPS and navigating trails, including offline maps, around the world

While there are plenty of really good mapping and GPS apps to choose from, Outdooractive is designed specifically for adventurous trails in forests, hills, and mountains.

Formerly known as View Ranger, Outdoor active is free (although there is a charge for the subscription-based Pro access) and features extensive and clear maps that don’t require your mobile data as the maps are cached on your device. 

First Aid by British Red Cross

Useful for: learning and delivering essential first air

Should somebody get seriously hurt, the sooner they receive good quality first aid, the better. Having a first-aider around is always advisable, but the First Aid by British Red Cross app is like having a full basic medical course in your pocket. 

Intuitively laid out, which is essential in a crisis, this app has written instructions as well as videos that can talk you through giving essential first aid to a casualty. All the information is hosted on the app, so data isn’t required for it to work.

TripWhistle Global SOS

Useful for: Alerting emergency services if you’re in trouble

Do you know the equivalent of 999 in France? How about Switzerland? Or Greece? If things go wrong on your adventure, TripWhistle is an app that can dial local emergency services in almost 200 countries with just a touch of a single button. It dials directly from the app and uses GPS to show you your exact location so you can pass that information on.

Google Translate

Useful for: communicating with people who speak another language

It’s always good to try to pick up some of the local languages wherever you're travelling. But when you need to communicate something quickly to somebody, are you really going to remember that GCSE German? 

Google Translate is an easy to use app that does exactly what it says on the tin. It can translate 103 languages by typing, 60 of which work offline. If you’re alone and need to read directions, it can translate 37 languages via your camera. And if you’re part of a conversation, the app can handle two-way instant speech translation. Très Magnifique.

How to book your adventure online safely

Thousands of people book a trip away each year that have a number of exciting opportunities for adventure sports. But if you’re worried about the risks that come with booking online, we have provided some handy tips on how to help you subside those worries and enjoy your next adventure stress-free.

1. Do your research

Before making a booking online, one of the best ways to make sure that you avoid any kind of scam is by doing your research. Compare broadband deals and look to see where you can get the safest and secure network at home, instead of booking your stay on a public network.  

Also, If a website doesn’t look legitimate or images are low resolution, it could be a sign that fraudsters are looking to scam you out of money. To avoid getting stung, make sure you research the company that you are booking through and also look out for any trusted reviews or other feedback from people who have used the site for a booking. 

2. Look out for offers that look too good to be true 

When booking a holiday or adventure, it can often be so easy to get swept up in the idea of a really good deal that could save you a ton of money when you’re away. But wait. Does the offer seem too good to be true?

There are ways that you can check. Special offers that have strict terms and conditions that would make the offer void or hidden extras that can lead to extra costs later are a sign that the offer you are looking at might not be real. To avoid getting caught up in these deals when booking, look for clues to prove whether the site you are using is legit or has secure payment methods.  

3. Always read the terms and conditions when booking 

Terms and conditions are often long and boring, making it tempting to hit the accept button without actually knowing what you are agreeing to. 

Before committing to a flight or a new adventure sport, make sure to read the fine print so you are aware of any extra costs you might expect to pay should anything go wrong. It may seem tedious but it could save you a headache further down the road. 

4. Be careful how you pay

This may seem like an obvious one, but the way you pay online can be a great way to stay safe online and avoid fraud. 

If the company you’re booking with asks you to pay by bank transfer or by cheque, the chances are they’re looking to take more than they are really asking you for. 

Whether you’re booking a holiday villa or a surfing lesson while you are away, always pay online via credit or debit card. That way you will always be protected by your bank or card provider. You can also look for a padlock next to the URL that shows the website is encrypted. 

5. Call the company or get in touch with the owner to confirm your booking

If you’re still worried about whether or not a booking that you have made or want to make is legit, one of the best ways to put your mind at ease is to get in touch with the owner or agent who you are planning to book through. 

If your email bounces, or you can’t get through to someone on the phone, the website could be a scam. To avoid this, call the customer services team on the website to check how many reservations the property or location has had in the past. 

Methodology

We produced a seed list of European locations and the number of adventure activities that could be booked in advance there. We used manawa.com as the source for this information. 

The best country in Europe for adventure

Using data from individual activity landing pages on manawa.com, we discovered what adventure activities were available to book in Europe and the countries in which they could be done. For each adventure activity, we counted the number of bookable locations that are available in each country. 

We then calculated the sum of every location for every activity in each country. This gave us the total adventure activities in each country and therefore allowed us to decide the leading country for Adventure in Europe. 

The most commonly bookable adventure in each country

Using a seed list of nations from manawa.com, we counted how many individual adventures could be booked in each country using the specific landing page for each activity. By doing this, we could see which adventure activity has the most bookable locations in each country.

The best city in the UK for adventure

Using data from activity landing pages on manawa.com, we discovered what adventure activities were available to book in the UK and the cities in which they could be done. For each adventure activity, we counted the number of bookable locations that are available in each city. 

We then calculated the sum of every location for every activity in each city. This gave us the total adventure activities in each British city and therefore allowed us to decide the leading city for Adventure in the UK. 

Where to try adventures in the UK year-round

We created a list of the leading locations in the UK where people wanting to book an adventure activity could do so, and be largely assured of being able to travel and have the adventure they want. 

Doing so meant excluding destinations including coastal surf schools that are reliant on specific weather conditions to create waves to be able to surf. Where possible, we focused on indoor facilities, specially created and/or controlled outdoor centres. Some locations shown are under development or are between locations.

The publications used to create the seed list are:

https://www.redbull.com

https://www.mbuk.com

https://redoriginal.com

https://www.nationalwhitewatercentre.co.uk

https://get-climbing.thebmc.co.uk

https://whitelines.com

https://wavegarden.com/locations

https://peellandp.co.uk

https://www.ukskydivingadventures.com/locations