Rail Itinerary: Outdoor Adventure Activities in Europe

Interesting cultural breaks abound in Europe, as do relaxing resort holidays and tranquil island escapes. But would you prefer to get your adrenaline pumping while experiencing some of the best sights of the continent? This itinerary of outdoor adventure activities is just the thing you need.

Outdoor adventure activities

  1. Surfing / bodyboarding: Sagres, Portugal
  2. Skydiving: Barcelona, Spain
  3. GR 20 hiking trail: Corsica, France
  4. Mountain biking: Florence, Italy
  5. Whitewater rafting: The French Alps
  6. Paragliding: Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland

1. Surfing / Bodyboarding: Sagres, Portugal

Ease into the outdoor adventure activities with a few legendary waves in Portugal. The capital city of Lisbon is an accessible transport hub serviced by dozens of airlines, including low-cost carriers, making it a good starting point for your rail journey. There are dozens of legendary surf spots throughout the country, but the Algarve region in the south has a high concentration of legendary breaks, beautiful beaches, and is easily accessible by rail from the capital city.

Insider tip: Don’t forget to explore other interesting activities to consider in the area, including whale and dolphin watching cruises and scuba diving.

How to get there by train: There are regular high-speed trains from Lisbon to Faro in the Algarve. From there, several trains travel out west. But to get to the more remote surf spots you may need to rely on buses or taxis for the last few miles.

2. Skydiving: Barcelona, Spain

Barcelona may be better known for its late night parties and bustling beaches. But in recent years it’s become a popular destination for amateur and experienced skydivers. Companies such as Saltamos SkyDive BCN and Skydive Empuriabrava offer options for all types of jumpers within easy reach of Barcelona, whether you’re looking to complete an advanced course or just tick a 3000-meter jump off your bucket list.

Insider tip: During the peak tourist season it pays to book ahead. If you know you’ll want to jump more than once, then consider buying a bundle of more than one jump up front to save on costs.

How to get there by train: If you want to reach Barcelona from the south of Portugal, you’ll need to take a short bus ride across the border to Seville. From there, regular trains will carry you up to Barcelona, usually via Madrid. Alternatively, head back to Lisbon and catch the overnight Trainhotel Lusitania to Madrid, and connect through to Barcelona. 

3. GR20 hiking trail: Corsica, France

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Do you want to add a hike to your list of outdoor adventure activities? Head through to Southern France by train. It’s a scenic ride with lots of potential stops. One of Europe’s toughest and most breathtaking hiking trails, the GR20 on the island of Corsica, is within easy reach from the mainland. The GR is a marked footpath that crosses the island roughly north to south. It takes you across incredible scenery and along sheer cliff faces over the course of approximately 112 miles. It’s not for the faint of heart – or those with a fear of heights – but it’s a rite of passage for many adventure hikers.

Insider tip: There are dozens of other shorter variations to explore if you’re not up for the full trek. This includes the popular three Mare a mare (from sea to sea) and Mare e monti (from sea to mountain).

How to get there by train: There are regular trains from Barcelona along the coast through to the south of France. Aim for the city of Marseilles or Nice, from where you can catch a high-speed ferry to Corsica.

4. Mountain biking: Florence, Italy

If you’re looking for diverse mountain biking options, hop on the ferry and head straight to Tuscany. You’ll find a wide range of trails suitable for all skill levels that expose you to some of Tuscany’s best scenery. And when you feel like your legs can’t carry you any further, the world-famous city of Florence is the perfect place in which to catch your breath.

Insider tip: Take a look at the Wikiloc website if you’re looking for a good breakdown of trails.

How to get there by train: Take the Bastia ferry towards the Italian city of Livorno. From there, there are regular connections through to Pisa, Florence and the rest of Tuscany.

5. Whitewater rafting: Alps, France

After a few days relaxing in the Italian countryside, it’s time to head to a higher altitude and take to some snow-fed rivers in the French Alps. If you’re after some of the best whitewater rafting in Europe, head to either the Isère or the Doron de Bozel rivers. You’ll find a range of river-based activities that cater to a variety of adrenaline junkies.

Insider tip: Franceraft offers a range of rafting and river trips, and can also arrange for other activities such as mountain biking and paragliding.

How to get there by train: Break your rail journey with a stop in Milan. From Milan, there are regular trains to Chambéry-Challes-les-Eaux. You’ll need to complete the last few miles by taxi or by arranging a pickup with your rafting company.

6. Paragliding: Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland

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End your whirlwind adventure itinerary in one of the most idyllic meccas for adventure sports in all of Europe. The small village of Lauterbrunnen has been attracting base jumpers and fans of high altitude paragliding for years. When you see just how dramatic the scenery there is, you’ll understand why. Even if you’re not up for leaping off a cliff, there are beautiful hikes, rides and dozens of rail-based adventures.

Insider tip: The nearby town of Interlaken is another popular adventure sports destination. Given its size and better accessibility it’s often slightly better value and easier to get bookings.

How to get there by train: Continue north towards Lake Geneva, and pre-book a seat on the GoldenPass route for the most scenic arrival into the town of Interlaken. From Interlaken, Lauterbrunnen is a short privately operated train ride away.

It’s not hard to find outdoor adventure activities in Europe. And if you’re looking to experience a range of cultures, scenery, and activities, then you can’t go wrong with this rough outline. Head off with a Eurail Global Pass in hand, and you’ll be able to float between these countries with ease (and some adrenaline)!

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