Adventurous vacation workouts
One of the biggest travel trends in recent years is the rise of the fitness vacation – trips for those who want to burn calories, stock up on vitamin D, and recharge their batteries, all at the same time.
Luckily, it has been scientifically proven that adventure vacations are good for you. Combining time off with the natural boost of fun and exercise really gives the system a powerup.
Citing many years of research, Johanna Danielsson, Partner, COO and Director of Travel & Tourism at Kairos Future, says the growing interest in fitness vacations is partly due to an increased focus on exercise and health in society, and that it also represents a return to the public health values of the 1930s. Back then, people traveled in order to revitalize themselves, preferably with the help of a spa visit and perhaps some invigorating walks. Then came those years of vacations that were more about partying and lazing by the pool than feeling fit.
“Nowadays vacations are once more about recharging your batteries for everyday life, and less about indulging yourself,” says Danielsson. “In the past it was all health resorts, spas, and enemas, but now we enjoy a Mediterranean diet while we try to get in shape through a fun range of activities.”
In the status update era it has also become increasingly important to fill your vacation with exciting experiences. An Instagram picture from the top of Sweden’s highest mountain, Kebnekaise, or a hiking trail in Nepal is probably going to get more “likes” than a picture of your toes buried in the sand.
Nature is also a great stress reliever. Research carried out at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences shows that a daily trip to a forest containing deciduous trees reduces mental illness and stress. If you are the least bit interested in the outdoors, this probably comes as no surprise.
Most people agree that you think better on a mountainside, in the woods, or swimming in the sea. In fact, nothing clears your head like climbing to the top of Kebnekaise in Sweden, biking in Berlin, or hiking in Majorca. And those are just the beginning. Time for an adventure.
Every mountaintop is within reach if you just keep climbing.
If it is your dream to climb the highest mountain in Sweden, Kebnekaise, then you’d better get a move on! The South Peak is melting and getting lower every year, meaning that the far more challenging North Peak will soon be the highest point in Sweden.
Your journey to the summit begins at Kebnekaise mountain lodge. A guided tour will take you from here up the eastern route, an adventure that involves relatively easy climbing.
The Kebnekaise massif is home to a large number of peaks, glaciers, and climbing routes. You will also find some easy hiking trails, such as the one to the Tarfala Valley – one of the most beautiful places in Sweden.
Getting there: Take the bus from Kiruna to Nikkaluokta. After that, you will need to hike the last 19km to the mountain lodge.
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The Dolomites, Italy
The Dolomites lie in northeastern -Italy and consist of several mountain ranges offering 18 peaks above 3,000 meters. The landscape is made up of jagged mountain peaks, narrow valleys, and green Alps, and there are climbing routes suitable for all abilities. Beginners can start with Via Ferrata, the famous “iron road,” which was built during the First World War. There are around 200 different routes to choose between, from simple half-day climbs to week-long endurance tests.
Climbing courses can also be arranged in conjunction with the Swedish Climbing Federation.
Getting there: From Munich or Milan, continue by train to Bolzano, where buses depart to many of the villages scattered throughout the Dolomites.
Muscle-toning, lung-expanding, low-impact swimming: it might be the perfect sport.
Ask swimmer Michael Phelps about his favorite pool and you can be sure the Beijing National Aquatics Center comes high up on the list, because that’s where the American won eight Olympic gold medals in 2008 – making him the most successful Olympian of all time. The Aquatics Center is also where a total of 25 world records have been set, leading the venue to be dubbed the “Aquatic Hall of Fame.”
Today, the spectacular building, which is also known as the Water Cube, is home to China’s largest marine adventure park – making the Cube a fabulous experience for the whole family.
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If you want to combine a city break with summertime swimming, then London is an unbeatable destination. There are several newly renovated outdoor pools, many of them in the attractive art deco style, such as Brockwell Lido or Tooting Bec Lido in South London. The latter is England’s largest freshwater pool, measuring 90 x 30 meters.
More enticing to those who are a little scared of the water is London Fields Lido in Hackney, a 50-meter heated outdoor pool. If you prefer your water natural and chlorine-free, there are swimming ponds on Hampstead Heath, while the Serpentine in Hyde Park provides one of Europe’s most urban swimming experiences.
And there’s more to come: next year an artificial pool – the Thames Baths – is planned to open in the middle of the Thames.
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These boots are made for walking.
Mont Blanc massif, France/Italy/Switzerland
Mont Blanc is not just Europe’s highest mountain (outside the Caucasus), it is a 25-km-long mountain massif with 400 peaks. Mont Blanc trails travel through France, Italy, and Switzerland, and hiking this region is an astounding experience. While it can be exhausting, the rewards are worth it. And if you’re a beginner you can choose an easier path lower down.
A good starting point is the Val d’Aosta, on the border between France and Switzerland. From here you can hike among Europe’s highest vineyards and taste the wine of Cave de Vin Blanc et Morgex. If you want you can end your trip with a feast at Ristorante Le Grenier, the best gourmet restaurant in the region.
In recent years Majorca has invested heavily in hiking tourism and there are now several kilometers of hiking trails in the Tramuntana mountain range offering varying degrees of difficulty. Offering every-thing from easy walks through orange groves or wide paths lined with fig and olive trees to culturally interesting tours along the ancient pilgrimage routes, you can also try tougher hikes above the tree line on the island’s highest mountain, Puig Major (1,445 meters).
A great base for exploring the island on foot is the charming artists’ mountain village of Deià. There are several great hiking trails nearby, including one that goes to the town of Sollér. From here you can also do the “Coast Classic” hike – 10km of beautiful terrain, ending at Cala Tuent beach.
Stay overnight at one of the island’s many fincas (rural hotels) or refugi (a kind of hikers’ hostel), where you can also grab a good meal.
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Small-town charm and rich cultural life are what attracts visitors to the Norwegian coastal city of Bergen – but there is also magnificent wilderness right on the doorstep. The Fløibanen funicular will whisk you off to the wild countryside in just seven minutes, with marked forest and mountain trails awaiting you in the surrounding hills. One of the most popular tours is Sjubergsvandringen, a 35-km-long full-day hike with great views of the city.
Bergen is also an ideal destination if you want to combine hiking with something more adventurous, like climbing, mountain biking, or rafting.
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Add these to your bike-it list ...
Europe’s best urban cycle path runs right through Berlin. Here you can follow the historical 160-kilometer-long Berlin Wall Trail, which is divided into 14 sections of between 7 and 21km in length, making it easy to adapt your tour to how you are feeling on the day.
If you want to see the East Side Gallery, the longest remaining section of the Berlin Wall, follow the seven- kilometer loop from Potsdamer Platz to Warschauer Strasse. The trail also includes sections that travel along leafy canals and through woods on the outskirts of the city – far away from the hustle and bustle.
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The Strandvejen route from Copenhagen to Helsingør is among the stars of the Danish coastline, with attractions such as the Bakken amusement park, the Karen Blixen Museum, and the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art scattered along the way. It’s also a route made for traveling on two wheels. As you pedal along, you have the Baltic Sea on one side and grand residences, lush rose gardens, and Arne Jacobsen architecture on the other. The bike lanes are wide, mostly flat, and you are never far from a cozy fish restaurant or bathing area. The cycle path also runs alongside the Danish trains, so if you get tired of pedaling you can always get on the train with your bike for a couple of stops.
The route can be completed in a day, but if you want to have time to stop at some of the fishing villages and beaches along the way, you should give yourself two days.
Once back in Copenhagen, there’s no need to park your bike – the city is one of the most bike-friendly in the world.
Text: By Annika Goldhammer Illustrations: Rebecca Elfast
Published: December 6, 2018