Travel is not always about galleries, city tours, pubs and trains. Sporty chaps love to travel – and most of our travellers love their outdoor activities. Here are some of the best places we’ve found to get hot and sweaty, worldwide.
Scotland – famous for Braveheart, haggis and tartan, as well as the odd tipple. But did you know it’s also famous for some great sports as well?
Golf was first played in Scotland around the 15th century and it still is a big part of the country, with some of the most famous golf courses anywhere in the world. The Old Course at St Andrews is said to be the ‘home of golf’ – it’s a mecca for golfers worldwide. Stand on the famous 700-year-old Swilcan Bridge, between the 1st and 18th fairways, where some of the world’s most famous professional golfers have had their farewell photos taken. As it’s a public course, you can enjoy a round, but watch out for Hell Bunker on the 14th hole! Many a golfer has watched their career tank after falling foul of this one!
Or hiking, as they say overseas. Try Kvaløya (Whale Island) in North Norway for a sense of space, breathtaking mountain views and low clear light quite unlike anywhere else in the world. Great for the soul. But be warned – the summer mosquitoes are as big as wasps, and the weather can be unchancy. So go after August, and wear your thermals and wet weather gear.
Find out more about Kvaløya and North Norway at http://www.virtualtromso.no/tinfo/37-main-tourist-attractions/164-surroundings.html
Or you could hike the national park of the Cinque Terre, in the Liguria Coast region of Italy. The Cinque Terre is a series of 5 villages, preserved in their original state as farming villages, connected by steep mountain trails. You can walk from village to village, or venture up into the mountains. Afterwards, you can enjoy amazing pasta, pizza and wine at any of the trattorias. And if your feet give out, there’s always the train!
Try cycling the high passes and river gorges of the north-west mountains of Vietnam for some spectacular scenery, challenging climbs and amazing cultural experiences. Vietnam has recently become one of the best-known places in the world for challenging rides, and you can fuel up on authentic Vietnamese food as well (there are no McDonalds within cooee!)
Or if you prefer Europe, there’s the Kranjska Gora trails in Slovenia. 60% of the country is woodland, and the forests have some of the best hunting trails and riding paths in Europe
Or, if straight-out killer rides are more you’re thing, there’s always the Cape Epic race, South Africa, which attracts some of the best mountain bikers worldwide. Held each year towards the end of March, it routes through 800 km of the unspoilt North-Western Cape. Not that you’ll see much of it – you’ll be too busy pedalling!
Check out the stages of Cape Epic at http://www.cape-epic.com/stages.php
If you’re just after a climb, but not gunning for Everest, start a little lower in India with the Aravali hills (Dumdama, Dhauj and Nuh), all near Delhi. The Aravali hills are the oldest mountains in the world, made of hard granite, and there are many ancient palaces and forts hidden in the mountains – so you can take in some sightseeing too. The winter months are the best season to go.
Or if you’d like to combine your climb with some beach time, try Ao Nang, Krabi province in southern Thailand, where beginners and experienced climbers alike can be challenged with spectacular limestone cliffs here, or on the nearby Railay peninsular, accessible by longboat.
Closer to home, there are spectacular places to climb in New Zealand. Whether you’re a rock star or a beginner, Queenstown has a range of climbs to suit every ability and fitness level. Wye Creek, about 18km from the town, has over 100 climbs and the views are simply amazing.
For more information, visit Climbing Queenstown at http://www.climbingqueenstown.com/