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Where Adventures Await: Five Must-Visit Destinations for Outdoor Family Holidays in Europe

Are you dreaming of a family holiday in Europe filled with outdoor adventures? Look no further than these five stunning destinations, where nature's wonders await at every turn. From the sun-soaked beaches of Sicily over the steaming springs of the Azores to the rugged beauty of Portugal's Alentejo region, each location offers a unique blend of outdoor activities that are perfect for families looking to explore the great outdoors. On top of outdoor family fun and adventure, you will also be able to immerse yourself in culture, history and culinary delights - the ultimate mix for a perfect family adventure holiday and to please them all!

Family Hiking in the mountain; The Small Adventure Company - Adventure and Family Holidays in Europe

1. Sicily, Italy

Sicily, the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, boasts a diverse landscape that is perfect for outdoor enthusiasts of all ages. From the towering peaks of Mount Etna and the nature parks in the hinterland to the pristine beaches that line its shores, Sicily offers endless opportunities for outdoor adventure.

What to do?

Explore the rugged beauty of the island's east coast, where you'll find picturesque beaches with crystal-clear waters ideal for swimming and snorkeling. Hike along the stunning coastline of the Zingaro Nature Reserve, where cliffs meet the turquoise sea, and discover hidden coves and ancient watchtowers. In western Sicily, families can explore the fascinating ruins of the ancient Greek city of Selinunte or venture inland to the Madonie and Nebrodi mountains for scenic hikes, wildlife spotting, or an exciting rubber boat tour in the Tiberius Gorge. If you have more time, be sure to take the ferry and get to the unspoiled Aeolian Islands off the north coast of Sicily, with its active and dormant volcanoes, rugged coastlines, crystal-clear waters, and lush vegetation. The islands attract with their diverse range of activities and attractions and being close to each other they are perfect for island-hopping. 

Why Sicily is perfect for families? 

Sicily's mild climate, varied landscapes, and rich history make it an ideal destination for families looking to combine outdoor adventure with cultural exploration. From family-friendly hikes on volcanic slopes, cycling tours through ancient history or water-fun on the Mediterranean waters, Sicily has a lot to offer and will not leave anybody bored. Besides, its culinary offers from delicious street food and gelato to fresh granita and irresistible cannoli will seduce young and old for sweet moments. 

Cefalu, Sicily; The Small Adventure COmpany - Adventure and Family Holidays in Europe

2. Alentejo, Portugal

Nestled in the central-western part of Portugal, Alentejo is a region of rolling plains, cork oak forests, and charming whitewashed villages. Known for its warm hospitality and delicious cuisine, Alentejo is the perfect destination for families looking to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life and reconnect with nature.

What to do?

Explore the rugged beauty of the Costa Vicentina with its stunning cliffs and sandy coves, perfect for beach combing and picnicking. Hike or bike along the Rota Vicentina, a network of scenic trails that wind through coastal dunes, oak forests, and traditional villages, offering a glimpse into rural Alentejo life. For a unique experience, embark on a jeep safari through the Alentejo countryside, spotting wildlife and enjoying panoramic views. Don't miss a visit to the historic town of Odemira, where you can wander the cobbled streets and soak up the local culture.

Steeped deep into ancient history, Alentejo also offers plenty of opportunities for cultural and historic explorations. Follow in the footsteps of Moors and Roman, venture through picturesque medieval hilltop villages and immerse in traditional Portuguese customs and heritage, visible in crafts, arts, architecture and the rich culinary traditions.

Why Alentejo is perfect for families?

With its laid-back atmosphere and amazing coastline, Alentejo offers families the chance to enjoy together a relaxing holiday in an alluring natural setting. Dive deep into history, enjoy the culinary delights and let off steam on family-friendly outdoor adventures, like kayaking, family-friendly hikes or cycling tours. Take time to relax and adapt to the slower way of life while fully enjoying quality time with the family.

Cycling in Alentejo, Portugal; The Small Adventure Company - Adventure and Family Holidays in Europe

3. Madeira, Portugal

Madeira is a volcanic island known for its lush, green landscapes and rugged coastline. The island is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts, offering everything from hiking and mountain biking to surfing and snorkeling. But also its capital town and pretty village are worth exploring.

What to do?

Discover the charming capital of Funchal and enjoy a thrilling toboggan ride from Monte to Funchal in a wicker sled. Explore the island's unique irrigation channels on family-friendly levada walks, offering stunning views of Madeira's landscapes. Relax and swim in the natural volcanic pools of Porto Moniz, offering a safe and enjoyable swimming experience. Visit the traditional town of Santana and its triangular-shaped houses with thatched roofs or relax on one of Madeira's beaches such as the golden Praia da Calheta. Madeira is also excellent for snorkeling, you can spot moray eels, starfish, and barracudas while exploring the clear waters around Madeira. And with water temperatures between 19 and 25 degrees, it is never really cold!

Why Madeira is perfect for families?

Madeira’s mild climate, stunning scenery, and large variety of outdoor activities make it an ideal destination for families looking to enjoy the great outdoors together. The whole island spreads a sense of adventure - from family-friendly hikes in the spectacular mountains, whale and dolphin-watching tours, snorkeling, swimming in lava pools or once-in-a-lifetime swimming with dolphins adventure, Madeira is sure to feed your adventurer while - thanks to its smallish size - also allowing to unwind and spend quality time with the family.

View over Porto Santo, Madeira, Portugal; The SmalL Adventure Company - Family and Adventure Holidays in Europe

4. The Azores, Portugal

The Azores, an archipelago of nine volcanic islands in the North Atlantic Ocean, is a nature lover's paradise. Each island offers its unique blend of natural beauty! The most frequently visited island is Sāo Miguel, boasting a myriad of attractions and exciting things to do, from historical monuments and authentic villages to countless sportive activities and opportunities to learn about the cultural traditions of the island.

If you're in for a slight detour you can hop to the neighboring island Santa Maria, known as the "island of the sun." Thanks to its warmer and drier climate it has a very varied nature, and you find all kinds of colors around the island: white sandy beaches, green pastures, vineyards, whitewashed houses with red roofs, and multi-colored flowers.

What to do? 

The island is dotted with hiking trails suitable for all ages, leading to stunning viewpoints and hidden waterfalls. You can’t miss out on a hike to the stunning Sete Cidades crater lake. Families can also enjoy whale watching, dolphin spotting, and swimming in natural volcanic pools. Adventurous families can go on a snorkeling adventure with the majestic local manta rays on Santa Maria Island or embark on a canyoning excursion in Nature Park Ribeira dos Caldeirões.

The volcanic heritage of the islands is visible and touchable on almost all the islands, but Sāo Miguel takes the lead on geothermal adventures. Explore the geothermal area at Furnas with the steaming hot springs and bubbling pots, relax in the thermal water at Terra Nostra Baths or enjoy the lush green scenery from the natural hot pools at Caldeira Velha or enjoy the coastal Piscinas Naturais Caneiros at Mosteiros.

Why The Azores are perfect for families? 

With its untouched natural beauty, the Azores offer the chance to experience the wonders of nature up close. The Azores are also known for their sustainable tourism efforts, making it a great destination for families looking to connect with nature responsibly. Every corner of the islands screams outdoor adventure, from scenic hikes, natural swimming spots, dolphin and whale watching adventures, canyoning and coasteering - the only thing you need to be worried about is that you will not be able to fit everything in! Want to explore more than just Sāo Miguel? No problem, regular, short and affordable flights between the islands make it easy to travel around and to discover the different sides of the islands. Check out our Azores family adventure holidays for itinerary suggestions and inspiration.

Villa di Franco Islet, Sao Miguel, Azores, Portugal; The Small Adventure Company - Adventure and Family Holidays in Europe

5. Algarve, Portugal

The Algarve, Portugal's southernmost region, is known for its stunning beaches, dramatic cliffs, and picturesque fishing villages. But also its lesser-visited countryside is full of attractions and pretty towns to discover.

What to do?

Visit the historic town of Lagos, take a boat trip to the stunning caves of Benagil, or simply relax on one of the Algarve's many beautiful beaches. Sagres is the westernmost town of the Algarve and is the ideal destination for those who appreciate nature’s austere beauty. The enormous waves of the Atlantic Ocean that batter the cliffs and bays attract many experienced surfers to Sagres. Rio Formosa Nature Park is a protected wetland area known for its beautiful lagoons, marshes, and barrier islands. It offers a perfect setting for kayaking and SUP, with calm waters and a chance to observe a variety of bird species and marine life. The verdant slopes of the mountain range 'Serra de Monchique' offer plenty of nature trails that invite for relaxing family walks.

Why Algarve is perfect for families?

The Algarve's warm and sunny climate makes it an ideal holiday destination for families looking to soak up the sun and enjoy quality time together. Besides, it offers an array of family-friendly accommodations for all budgets. 

Whether you're looking to hike through lush forests, explore ancient ruins, or simply relax on the beach, these five destinations offer something for every outdoor-loving family. With their stunning natural beauty, plenty of outdoor activities, and warm hospitality, they are sure to provide you and your family with a vacation you'll never forget. So pack your bags, grab your loved ones, and get ready to experience the great outdoors!

Sea kayaking at Lagos, Algarve, Portugal; The SmalL Adventure Company - Adventure and Family Holidays in Europe

Check out our full list of Family Adventure Holidays to various destinations across Europe, all customizable and possible to be tailored to your specific needs, and find some adventure inspiration in our destinations.


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