Beautiful beaches, tempting seas, mountains, lakes and rivers – Mediterranean Europe is a magnificent outdoor playground. Activities run the gamut from gentle strolls to tough mountain hikes, and from windsurfing and scuba diving to mountain biking, paragliding and white-water rafting.

Cycling

Cycling opportunities abound across the region – tourist offices can usually provide maps and local information.

  • The best time for cycling is generally spring when the weather is sunny but not too hot and the countryside is at its most colourful. In summer, resorts in the Alps, Dolomites and Pyrenees offer excellent mountain biking.
  • Never underestimate the effects of the heat. Always cover your head (helmets are mandatory in some countries) and make sure you drink plenty of fluids. Sunburn can be highly unpleasant and heatstroke very serious.

Diving

The Med's warm waters, with their abundant marine life, underwater caves and sunken shipwrecks, are ideal for diving. Throughout the region there are hundreds of diving centres offering everything from beginners courses to trips exploring wrecks. Most dive schools hire out equipment.

Extreme Sports

Hang-gliding, paragliding, caving, canyoning and hydrospeed (boogie boarding down a river) are among the adventure sports available across the region.

  • Adventure sports are popular in Slovenia and the Balkan countries with a growing number of ecotourism groups offering tailor-made activity packages.
  • Climbing is also popular, particularly in the Alps, where the icy slopes attract mountaineers, rock climbers and ice climbers.

Hiking

Keen hikers could spend a lifetime exploring Mediterranean Europe's many trails.

  • As a rule spring and autumn are the best periods.
  • Between June and September, the region's mountain chains offer stunning hiking with mountain refuges providing accommodation on many of the longer, high-altitude routes.
  • While most high-level mountain paths are only open in the summer, there are possibilities for hiking in the winter snow.
  • Contact tourist offices for information on routes and local guides.

Kayaking & Rafting

The region's lakes, rivers and reservoirs offer ample opportunities for water-sport lovers. In mountainous areas, kayaking and white-water rafting provide thrills (and possibly the odd spill). Bosnia & Hercegovina, Montenegro and Slovenia are popular destinations.

Skiing & Snowboarding

Winter sports are big business in southern Europe, and each year thousands take to the pistes to ski (downhill or cross-country), snowboard and snowshoe.

  • For a ski holiday you'll need to budget for ski lifts, accommodation and the inevitable après-ski entertainment. You'll save a bit by bringing your own equipment, but often not enough to compensate for the hassle of lugging it around with you. As a general rule, cross-country skiing costs less than downhill.
  • The ski season traditionally lasts from early December to late March, though at higher altitudes in the French and Italian Alps it may extend an extra month either way. Snow conditions vary greatly from one year to the next and from region to region, but January and February tend to be the best, busiest and most expensive months.

Surfing, Windsurfing & Kitesurfing

  • Windsurfing is one of the most popular of the region's water sports. It's easy to rent sailboards in many tourist centres, and courses are usually available for beginners.
  • Surfers can strut their stuff too, with excellent waves on the western seaboard off the coast of France, Spain and Portugal.
  • Kitesurfing is also readily available across the region.