Photograph by Ben Welsh, Corbis
Cycle the Tour de France
The world's premier long-distance cycling event is for pros only—but there's nothing stopping you from enjoying some of the world's best bicycle routes by following the Tour de France's annually changing path from dizzying mountain passes to the charms of France's sunny Mediterranean coast. Many outfitters provide logistical support for cyclists who want to ride some or even all of the legendary stages of “Le Tour,” and some packages combine rides with VIP spectator access to the real race. Independent cycling options abound thanks to charming communities and welcoming locals all along the French Riviera.
Windsurf in Turkey
Turkey's beautiful coastlines and clear waters draw legions of visitors each year, but those looking for reliable winds tend to descend on a scenic, formerly sleepy fishing village called Alacati. Between May and October north winds blow reliably here across a turquoise bay on the Cesme Peninsula. Competitors of the Professional Windsurfers Association hold World Cup events at Alacati, which lend the town a festive flavor, but the area may be best suited to beginners, and the area’s surf schools thrive.
Dive Into Alexandria's Classical Past
Few dives can match those to the sunken treasures offered in and around Alexandria, Egypt—a glimpse of ancient civilizations from the pharoahs to the Romans. Sites like the sunken City of Cleopatra, in today's harbor, allow divers to explore statues, amphorae, columns, and even ancient buildings. Shipwrecks in the region date from ancient times to World War II. While some dives are “experts only” and visibility can be a problem, even beginners can get their feet wet in this watery corner of the ancient world.
Ski the Abruzzo
Fun in the Mediterranean sun needn't always include sand and surf—snow sports also thrive not far from the lapping waves. Italy's Abruzzo region, with its long Adriatic coastline, offers great skiing, surprisingly reliable snow, and picturesque villages stocked with topflight eateries. And visitors to Abruzzo will share slopes like Roccaraso and Campo Felice with far more Italians than tourists, who are typically drawn to the more famous Alpine resorts to the north. In fact most of Abruzzo reflects a quieter corner of Italy—a rustic throwback to an earlier era that's also evidenced by far lower prices.
Kite Surf Tarifa, Spain
Europe's southernmost port town is perched on the Strait of Gibraltar and draws kite surfers to a dozen or so beaches well situated to feast on howling winds funneled through the strait. A wide selection of schools can help even newcomers to the sport get up and running in relatively short order. If the wind dies down travelers can flee Europe via a fast catamaran that reaches Tangier, Morocco, in under an hour.
Hike the Atlas
For Europeans and North Americans, hiking in the Atlas Mountains offers stunning scenery paired with cultural adventure more akin to treks in Asia's Himalaya than to the more familiar mountain communities on the Med's northern shores. North Africa's dramatic mountains are home to the vibrant culture of the Berbers, an independent-minded indigenous people who took to the hills during ancient Arab invasions. Today the Berbers welcome weary walkers with their famed mint tea.
Sail the Greek Isles
The Mediterranean is a sailor's paradise, with potential routes as limitless as the enchanting anchorages along these sunny, history-laden shores. Hopping between Greece's thousands of islands allows sailors to create a classical cruise matching their own time frame and tastes—from the archaeological treasures of Delos to the vineyards of Santorini. Commercial cruises of every size, length, and focus—from ancient civilizations to scuba—are available for those who prefer to let others take the tiller.
Sea Kayak Croatia
Charming, ancient harbors dot Croatia's stunning coastlines and islands, which take a backseat to no other Mediterranean shore, and a wilder side can be found in Kornati National Park, where campers bed down on islands used by herders for 2,000 years. Paddling coastal Croatia's almost unimaginably blue waters leads wanderers through a delightful maze of more than 1,200 islands. Some 70 of them are inhabited, and like Croatia's mainland communities, their culture reflects the country's intriguing location between Central Europe and the Balkans.
Get Wet in Slovenia
The River Soca is a stunning strand of emerald-green water that rises in Slovenia's majestic Julian Alps and passes by its legendary Triglav Mountain before pouring into the Adriatic Sea across the Italian border. Rafters and boaters happily ply the Soca's course, but the river's valley also gives access to prime canyoning country in gorges like the Sušec, Fratarca, and Mlinarica. These wet and wild canyons invite the well equipped to leap, swim, and slide their way through an idyllic mountain landscape of pools and waterfalls.
Climbing in Corsica
Sunny Corsica is known as “the mountain in the sea,” and this French island with an independent spirit backs up that boast with prime landscape for boldering, rocky scrambles along the famed GR20 trail, and even ice climbing—all no more than half an hour or so from the warm waters that lap the island's shores. In fact, deep-water soloists regularly test their mettle on cliffs where a fall means a plunge into the sea's briny depths. More than 50 Corsican summits top 6,560 feet (2,000 meters). The rugged beauty of its summits, and the wide diversity of climbs to be found in such a small place, qualify the island as something of a well-kept climbing secret—for now.
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World Heritage Sites in Europe