Ten weekends in Europe's great outdoors
The swish Hotel Baia di Nora is a 20-minute drive up the coast from Chia. The hotel gives onto a private, white-sand beach (from £160 half-board).
Bear-watching in Slovakia
If you go into the woods of the High Tatras, be prepared to find one of the largest mammals on the continent. The Eurasian brown bear has disappeared from much of Europe, but in this mountain range that separates Slovakia and Poland, you have some of the best odds of seeing the magnificent animal in the wild. Exodus runs a three-night Bears of the High Tatras trip with rangers who guide you on walks to the remote valleys that bears are known to visit (£899 per person including accommodation). Two of the trips are in June, when bears are busy stuffing themselves after their winter hibernation. The other two are in September, when they turn their attention to autumn berries. Other inhabitants of the Tatras include deer, chamois, wolves and lynx, but whatever you end up spotting, this mountain wilderness is a glory in itself.
Alternative accommodation can be found at the 17th-century hotel Sabato (from £40).
Cycling the Tour de France in Corsica
In the 99 times the Tour de France has run since the first race in 1903, it has passed through almost every part of France, but has somehow missed Corsica. For the 100th race this year, more than 200 cyclists will begin the 2,088- mile route on this mountainous Mediterranean island. Even if you’re no Bradley Wiggins or Victoria Pendleton, Corsica’s azure coastline and fragrant scrub-covered hills are a dream to explore by bike. Europe Active offers a three-day self-guided tour departing from Bastia, with your luggage transferred between stops (from £190 including hotels, plus bike rental from £40). Corsica’s roads will be busy around 29 June, but make a mini-tour of your own around April and May or September and October, and you’ll benefit from the island’s pleasantly warm shoulder seasons.
Hiking a volcano in Iceland
Hekla is one of Iceland’s most prolific volcanoes, having erupted five times in the past 70 years. For much of European history, it was believed to be a portal to hell, with the cries of the damned escaping from within. Naturally it draws hikers curious to see what all the fuss is about. Arctic Adventures organises six- to eight-hour hikes up its lava-strewn slopes (£150 per person including pick-up from Reykjavík). It’s an excellent way to appreciate the Icelandic landscape at its rawest, and from the top you can see Vatnajökull – Europe’s biggest glacier. If you need to blow off some of your own steam afterwards, you’ll be in good company with the runtur – Reykjavík’s famous weekend pub crawl.
Guesthouse Sunna is close to Reykjavík’s landmark Hallgrímskirkja church (from £50).
Sailing in Sweden
Few cities have an archipelago to their name, and surely none are so well loved as the 24,000 islands and skerries scattered beyond the Swedish capital of Stockholm. Close to the city, you’ll find wooded islands with summer villas posed discreetly here and there, and towards the fringes of the archipelago, where the Baltic Sea takes over, jaunty red-painted cabins cling to bare rock. Vaxholm is a short ferry ride from Stockholm, and makes the perfect base from which to set sail (boat £165 per person, for two to 10 people). An experienced captain is on hand, but otherwise it’s you and your crewmates who’ll be keeping the wind in the sails on a day-long trip, or an overnight tour, sleeping on a six-berth yacht. A dip in the icy Baltic is a vital part of a day’s sailing.
Waxholms Hotell is opposite the harbourfront on Vaxholm (from £125).