5 European adventure destinations

5 great European adventure destinationsWith its old world styling and modern luxuries, Europe isn’t typically the first place that comes to mind when adventure travelers are searching for their next destination. But there are plenty of adventures to be had on the European continent as well, and here are five fantastic places to do just that.

Chamonix, France
One of the top mountain destinations not only in Europe, but the entire world, is Chamonix. Located in eastern France, the town sits at the base of Mount Blanc, the tallest peak in Western Europe, and is a mecca for skiers and snowboarders in the winter. Chamonix is also a popular spot for climbers year round as well, and there are numerous rock and ice climbing routes throughout the area. Alpine mountaineers are drawn to the region thanks to the many snow capped peaks to conquer and with hundreds of miles of single track in the area, mountain bikers have found plenty to enjoy as well. Chamonix is also one of the starting points for the famous Haute Route, a 110-mile long trek through the Alps that is amongst the most spectacular hiking routes in the entire world.

Zermatt, Switzerland
The mountain village on the other end of the Haute Route is Zermatt, Switzerland, another destination that is popular with the skiing and mountaineering crowd. Zermatt sits in the shadow of one of Europe’s most well known peaks, the Matterhorn, which cuts a distinctive profile in the skies overhead. Climbers come to challenge that peak as well, but less adventurous visitors can take a train to the summit to experience the breathtaking views too. There are miles of hiking trails throughout the region as well, and thanks to the high altitude (Zermatt sits at 5315 feet above sea level) skiing is an option year round.

5 great European adventure destinationsSpitsbergen, Norway
Located at the extreme northern end of the Svalbard Archipelago in Norway, Spitsbergen is an island paradise for the adventure traveler looking for some arctic fun. The region is a popular destination for cross country skiing, snowshoeing, and dog sledding, all of which are options for most of the year. Surrounded by the Arctic Ocean, as well as the Greenland and Norwegian Seas, Spitsbergen is also a great place for sea kayaking, although hiking through glacier caverns may be the most unique reason to visit. The island is a popular stop-over for cruise ships and it is often used as a launching point for expeditions headed into the Arctic as well.

Karlovac, Croatia
Located in central Croatia, Karlovac has the unique distinction of sitting near the confluence of four rivers. That makes it a fantastic, if lesser known, destination for paddlers looking for a variety of challenges. The Dobra River, for instance, offers an amazing canyon to run, with challenging whitewater in the spring and early summer months. The Mreznica, on the other hand, features a series of interconnected lakes with a number of waterfalls to either portage or drop, depending on your skill level. The city also offers unique glimpses into Croatian history and culture, and its location allows for day trips to great hiking trails or sea kayaking spots along the coast as well.

Urtijëi, Italy
Located in the Italian Dolomites, an offshoot of the Alps, Urtijëi is yet another mountain village that is long on charm and even longer on adventure. The town serves as a perfect base camp for rock climbers, base jumpers, and backpackers looking to explore the picturesque Dolomites which extend throughout the northeastern part of Italy. The region’s via ferrata trekking routes range from easy to frightening depending on the path you take, and in the winter months the mountains offer a less crowded alternative to other European ski resorts.

There you have it! Five great European destinations to help you get your adventure travel fix. Anyone of those places will provide plenty to see and do, and each is a beautiful outdoor playground just waiting to be explored.

[Photo credits: Zermatt Photos, Moroder via WikiMedia Commons]



Explorer attempts solo balloon flight over North Pole

Explorer Jean-Louis Etienne already has two solo expeditions of the North Pole under his belt. First was his 63 day hike by foot back in 1986. Then in 2002, Etienne drifted alone on the Artic Sea for four months in a specially-designed research pod. Now the determined explorer is planning the third part of his solo Artic exploration “trilogy,” with plans to pilot a helium-air balloon back over the Artic for a 15-20 day adventure.

Using a ship based on the Breitling Orbiter, the first balloon successfully piloted around the world in 1999, Etienne plans to spend his trip raising awareness of the shrinking of the world’s polar ice caps. Along the way the voyager will also be taking a number of scientific measurements, including CO2 levels and readings of the earth’s magnetic field. This is not Etienne’s first attempt to balloon his way across the Arctic. His first try in 2008 ended disastrously when his ship was smashed by high winds.

[UPDATE] Etienne’s journey kicked off earlier this morning, launching from a remote island called Spitzbergen off the Northern Coast of Norway. Let’s wish him luck in his journey.

Climate-change Tourism: Warming Planet Unveils New Tourist Destinations

“Climate-change tourism” is something we’re going to be hearing a lot more about in the near future. In fact, it’s already here in some parts of the world.

What is climate-change tourism exactly?

That’s when a traditionally frozen arctic wasteland like Greenland suddenly starts to warm up, shed its ice, and become hospitable. As a result, tourists who used to shun such frigid environs are now beginning to explore far more northerly than ever before.

In fact, according to a recent article in The Herald, Spitzbergen (Norway) has now “become the Tenerife of the north” as more and more wealthy tourists flock there to enjoy calving glaciers and warming environs. As a result, tourism has doubled in the last ten years.

Tragically, scientists estimate that the “melting glaciers and icecaps” along the Svalbard archipelago where Spitzbergan is located are “responsible for 0.3mm of the 2.2mm annual rise in sea levels.”

Hello Svalbard, goodbye Micronesia!